The Plovdiv Scratch Ensemble (PSE) borrow their name from the legendary U.K. avant-garde group The Scratch Orchestra formed by Cardew himself. During the Night PSE would present 193 minutes from the Treatise based on 193 pages from its manuscript in the open space of the Roman Odeon and that would be their first public performance. About the music and the images, the work and the repetitions, we will talk to Nima Gousheh, the Plovdiv Scretch Ensmeble’s leader.
How did you discover the Treatise?
I was introduced to it for the first time by my composition professor at Goldsmiths College. Goldsmith at that time was perhaps, to the best of my knowledge, the only promoter of Cardew’s music due to the fact that several of his colleagues and comrades were teaching there. Cardew was moderately known in the British academia but he was either not widely studied or was completely neglected. At Goldsmiths, however, there was a lot of Cardew activity.
Going back to my first encounter with Treatise, our professor gave each group of student one page of Treatise and gave us 15 minutes to organize a performance of it. The experience which was for all of us, completely new and unfamiliar, was surprisingly exciting and liberating and has been ever since an outcome that none of us expected before we attempted the exercise.
It’s a very special work, but is it unique?
Yes, it is special but not at all new, but in some ways it is unique. Graphic scores had been around in different formats and forms, what was unique about Treatise was the proficiency with which every aspect was delivered and its size of course. No one had given such seriousness to graphic score to create such massive piece. It was like the Wagner’s Ring cycle of the Graphic Scores. He dedicated four years to it and he did most of it several times before he arrived at the final format.
The result is not only visually beautiful but also vividly musical.
However Cardew perfected the graphics. He basically did the best that was possible in this area. Nobody was created such a big work of graphics and in such beauty and in such consistency. He worked on it for four years for the whole thing and it’s unprecedented – nobody has spent so much time on graphics in such serious manner, and nobody has been so successful, and nobody has been so musical as well in the actual image. When you look at it, you can hear music.
When I looked at the piece I didn’t hear any music.
If it is your first encounter with such ideas, naturally it would appear completely alien to you. You can perhaps appreciate the aesthetics of the images but not the music. This is because ordinarily people are better educated visually than aurally. We are exposed to all kinds of images in our everyday life. But not all kinds of music or different understanding of music. However, if you spend more time studying it like any other subject, you will appreciate it better and gradually it will change its appearance because then you would understand it better.
Treatise, like any conventional score, requires of the performer dedication and commitment. Once you do that, then you will start to hear the music.
And it’s not only music but it’s also a performance, gestures.
Yes, it could be everything, anything. And when he published it, he didn’t even write one word of explanation. Perhaps he wanted to avoid restricting it to any particular medium. Because music itself doesn’t have to be sound only, anything rhythmical can be musical; anything that has movement in it can be musical, elements of music exist not just in the audio world.
I recently came across a recording from 1967 which apart from being the first recording of it is perhaps the very first comprehensive performance of it as well. With the assistance of Cardew himself although he did not take part in the final performance. When he completed the first 120 pages he took them to Prague and presented it to some Czech musicians whom he new previously. I cant remember their names right now, however these two musicians spent months working on it and performed all the 120 pages live continuously lasting about 2 hours. So I dont think he was exclusively thinking of untrained musicians, but inclusive of them. We also know from this performance that Cradew preferred the piece to be prepared and well rehearsed. Many prefere to improvise on it as well.
How long does it take for you to work on it?
Well, each time I’ve done it according to the resources we had such as people, space, time and so on. Each time it takes a new direction. Each time is different from the last. Each person looks at it differently. This time it is going to take a long time because we are going to do the impossible, which is to do the whole score, the entire 193 in one 193 minutes performance on the night of the galleries. It is a daunting task and we are all scared, but wonderfully scared.
What about the conducting the people, the music?
There is no conductor. In some ways there isn’t even a single composer. Each performer is a composer, performer and conductor. This puts huge demand on the individuals. All the musical decisions are democratically decided in the rehearsals. And I am not talking about the “Western Democracy” either. No. Propper democracy were there is no tyranny of many over the few.
How many performers will take part?
Right now we are six but we are hoping to have the Detska kitka choire to join us on the night. This means there is going to be at least more than 15 performers.
What about the rehearsals?
We have done several, but in September we will try to do it as often as possible, ideally every day.
We have devised a system were individuals can work on their own parts on their own without attending all the rehearsals.
In the Night of museums and galleries Treatise is part of open-space projects. How do you feel about performing in such conditions?
For this particular performance of Treatise we have considered the space and have included it in the piece. And thus it is ideal for us. All the environmental noises and commotions around the performance will be part of the music. I personally cant wait to hear the results.
How many people at most can work on it at the same time?
As many as people like. There is no restriction and that’s the other great thing about it. It can be played even by a single performer.
How can you describe it in three words?
I just need one word – liberation.
Author: Raflin Sarkisyan
NIGHT PF MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES – PLOVDIV 2011
10-12 General Gurko St.
20:00 – 20:30
Open Air Concert – The Detska Kitka Choir (Municipal Children’s Complex) – Program from the 57th International Competition for Habaneras and Polyphony in Torrevieja, Spain – Conductor: Yana Deliradeva.
20:30 – 01:00
Treatise by Cornelius Cardew – sound performance – Plovdiv Scratch Ensemble (PSE) and the Detska Kitka Choir.
The Plovdiv Scratch Orchestra (PSE) borrow their name from the legendary U.K. avant-garde group The Scratch Orchestra formed in the late 1960’s by Cornelius Cardew. The first performance in Bulgaria of Cardew’s masterpiece was also the PSE’s maiden performance. The musical intentions of the PSE are similar to these of the original Scratch Orchestra, but they do not share their political aspirations. The Treatise would be the PSE’s first public performance, led by Nima Gousheh.
The PSE will present 193 minutes from the Treatise based on 193 pages from its manuscript, which Cardew penned between 1963 and 1967. The performance involves a great deal of free interpretation, since Cardew substituted traditional notation with drawings and a set of signs.
The Treatise is part of the platform Open Call for Projects of the Open Arts Foundation.