The Legacy of Cornelius Cardew

Harris, Antony (2011) The Legacy of Cornelius Cardew. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.


Download (27MB)


Any direction modern music will take in England will come about only through Cardew, because of him, by way of him. If the new ideas in music are felt today as a movement in England, it's because he acts as a moral force, a moral centre. Feldman, 1967: 43.

These words, uttered by Morton Feldman in 1967, are often cited in the literature surrounding Cornelius Cardew but their veracity is rarely discussed. The extent to which Cardew has been a central figure and force for new ideas in music forms the backbone to this thesis.

This thesis attempts to identify and define a 'Cardew aesthetic': a framework of underpinning principles and values that inform an approach and attitude towards music making. This is achieved through an exploration of Cardew's work, starting with his formative experiences with Stockhausen, the European traditions and his growing sympathies with John Cage and the American experimentalists. The thesis discusses Cardew's developing ideological awareness informed by his work with the Scratch Orchestra, and his ultimate rejection of the avant-garde and experimentalism, and his commitment to Marxism. The thesis identifies the significant threads and traits apparent across this diverse body of work. It argues that they represent a new way of approaching musical activity, and that this is the legacy of Cornelius Cardew.

The thesis then discusses the extent to which this legacy has influenced and informed a range of individuals and groups within a range of contexts. The thesis concludes by suggesting that Cardew was not only a central character in the development of 'new ideas' in the 1960s and 70s but that the Cardew legacy continues to inform practice and thinking, and continues to act as the moral force and centre of which Feldman speaks.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
February 2011Completed
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cardew, Cornelius, 1936-1981
Subjects: CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-02 - performing arts > CAH25-02-02 - music
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Richard Birley
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2017 11:52
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:54

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


In this section...