New PDF Version of Cardew’s The Great Learning

A few of you may have noticed that our supply of what is arguably the greatest British experimental piece, Cornelius Cardew’s The Great Learning, has been a bit patchy: sometimes in stock, then out of stock, then in stock again. Well, this has been fixed, thanks to Walter and Horace Cardew at Danny Dark Records, who have decided to issue a high-resolution pdf version of the score. We have this pdf version, which you can order from the EMC by visiting our Classic EMC Catalogue page. When you order it, we will send you the pdf. Just print it out on A3 paper (or the US or other equivalent), and Bob’s your uncle (well, you might not actually have an Uncle Bob — it’s a metaphor!): The Great Learning without postage and packing and waiting in for the postie, who never arrives….

There are many of us who would rather have the real thing, and some of us who say that we can get it all on line for free. So why should you order this piece in pdf? Here are some reasons:

  • It’s The Great Learning. Some may argue for Treatise to take the title of Cardew’s greatest work, or point to Cardew’s later, more politically engaged music. That’s fine; we don’t hold with the old Western-canon greatness beauty pageant. But The Great Learning sums up every experimental technique in the previous fifteen years before its writing. There are graphic, common-practice and text notations; there is minimalism and hard-core indeterminacy, dance and visual components.
  • It’s incredibly rewarding, even just to study. Even if you can’t get the 30-100 enthusiasts together to play it all, you can perform some of the Compositions from Paragraph 5 and the whole of Paragraph 6 with only a small group. If you can’t get anyone together, this piece will give you hours, days, weeks, years of delightful study if it takes your imagination. I still come back to this piece after writing about it, directing it and playing it more times than I can count (including the first complete performance in Britain at the Almeida Festival in 1984 and for Philippe Regniez’s film, Cornelius Cardew, in 1985) —and I still find new things.
  • No, really — it’s The Great Learning. I’m currently writing a blog entry on the performance of The Great Learning (upcoming), so I’ve been looking at the score facsimiles that appear on the web, which some people have been using for performance. Just a few weeks ago I found two sites that had put up what they claimed to be paragraphs of The Great Learning. For some reason the words had been altered on one of the Paragraphs on one site. Presumably the other site just copied the inauthentic version without knowing it was altered. Do you really want a cheap knock-off of The Great Learning or a bootleg version of the knock-off? To get the real deal for free or not much, go to a library that holds The Great Learning. Or order from us, or from Danny Dark Records. It’s your choice. The EMC doesn’t make any money from the sales; they are ploughed back into the running of the EMC, getting the odd piece or CD out when possible, and royalties are paid to the composers whose music is sold. 

If you haven’t seen The Great Learning in a while, I’d suggest taking out the Dumb Show, the event that begins Paragraph 5. Turn to our newly uploaded video of Michael Parsons demonstrating the Dumb Show, and follow along with the score. If you’d like more on The Great Learning, you might try my article in Jems (Journal of Experimental Music Studies).

Author: Virginia

Virginia Anderson is a writer who messes with the EMC Blog. She specialises in the study of experimental, minimalist, and free improvisatory music. She also plays clarinet, and has recorded on Zanja, Advance, and Rastascan Recordings, specialising in new works for Eb clarinet and free improvisation.