Improvisation Rites: from John Cage's 'Song Books'

to the Scratch Orchestra's 'Na

Author(s): Stefan Szczelkun
ISBN13/Barcode: 9781870736961

Documentation of collective practices 2011 - 2017. An inter-generational reprise of core Scratch Orchestra improvisational practices using written scores or 'rites' with 35 colour photographs. A unique documentation of collective processes. Historical insight gained through creative practice.


Availability: 14 In stock

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This is an account of collective improvisation performances in London, starting with John Cage's 'Song Books' and going on to, The Scratch Orchestra's previously unexplored collection of text scores from 1969 'Nature Study Notes'. The narrative is made from a collage of the emails, minutes of meetings, press releases, Facebook posts, documentary photographs and quotations from the scores which are woven together with writings by Stefan Szczelkun. It gives a unique insight into an inter-generational and collectively wrought reprise of these scores that are key to understanding the history of experimental music.

Most of the participants provided some text or graphic content to the book. I can only take credit for assembling it. I’d like to thank the wonderful photographers Martin Dixon, Dierdre McGale and Stathis Mamalakis. I should also mention that this whole process was self-funded on a shoe-string, as was the original Scratch Orchestra, and so is independent of art-world publishing influence or finesse.

"If you are interested in the role of experimental art in England as I am, then this book is worth a read." Simon Poulter UK

"I've read a very important book. For what my opinion is worth, I strongly recommend this reading!" Proposte Sonore  a.k.a. Giovanni Antognozzi, ITALY

“His culminating leap of faith to the assertion that improvisation rites might provide a ‘possible means to world change’ appears hopelessly utopian. But as a means to catalyse insight into the condition of our sensory awareness and our desires he may yet be proved in time to have a point.” Julian Cowley, The Wire 410

Additional Information

ISBN13/Barcode 9781870736961
ISBN10 1870736966
Author Stefan Szczelkun
Binding Paperback
Date Published 1 Jan 2018
Frequency No
Report Date N/A
Pages 168
Publisher Routine Art Co

Customer Reviews

“So sorry to wake you. But here is an apple from my garden…” Review by Michael
Fascinating exploration of the aims and intentions of The Scratch Orchestra, collected and compiled here by one-time Slippery Merchant, Stefan Szczelkun. Traced thru’ e-mails, magazine reviews and radio programmes, all the way from Cornelius Cardew’s initial concept, circa 1969 ~ through to a series of contemporary revivals circa 2011-2017 ~ featuring a mix of original Scratch members and new blood, and a sold-out performance at Café Oto, and beyond.
An intimate overview of the collaborative process and how the original ideas and ideals have weathered forty years on. Keeping true to the spirit of the rites in Cardew’s “Nature Study Notes” ~ and how various channels and “powers-that-be” still attempt to homogenise free thinking, or repackage it as commercial product. Or, to quote the late George Melly: “Revolt into Style”. And how to resist that.
Through Stefan’s notes and observations a picture emerges of a strong communal spirit, a sense of adventure, defiant in the face of assorted music moguls, oligarchs and newspaper proprietors who would keep us all subservient in our quiet little cages. Stefan Szczelkun is a firm believer in people, and The Scratch Orchestra’s dictum that anyone could participate, creating a freer dynamic between performers and audiences ~ all this comes across very clearly. I would advise anyone with an interest in early English experimental music (and how this can question and challenge pre-determined rules) to investigate this wonderful book.

(Posted on 17/09/2018)

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