"Any direction modern music will take in England will come about only through Cornelius Cardew, because of him, by way of him" (Morton Feldman, 1966)
"JOURNEY TO THE NORTH POLE was the first film to be made about Cornelius Cardew's Scratch Orchestra. Cardew was an experimental English composer who founded the Scratch Orchestra in order to liberate avant-garde music from the control of the bourgeoisie.The orchestra had no restrictions to its membership and was an anarchic mix of amateurs, students, workers, professional musicians and composers. They wrote and performed graphic scores, group improvisations and deconstructed versions of the popular classics. Cardew sought, idealistically, to take the orchestra to the masses, and this tour captures them performing, predominantly outdoors, in North-East England. This historically important film also features extracts from performances by the Scratch Orchestra before their political conversion, prophetically capturing the seeds of dissatisfaction within the orchestra being sown, and featuring Maoist Agit-Prop by improvisation guru Keith Rowe. Meanwhile Cardew,who was at this juncture too busy with Confucius to be bothered with Mao, is still convinced by the transformative power of art." (Luke Fowler)
CORNELIUS CARDEW (1936-1981) was, according to Robert Wyatt, "a real fountain of breathtakingly adventurous music". According to Kyle Gann, "No other 20th-century composer so vividly inhabited the overlap of music and politics as England's Cornelius Cardew". In his early 20s, he was an assistant to Karlheinz Stockhausen and helped him prepare the score for Carré. His own works include Treatise (1963-1967), a 193-page graphic score influenced by Wittgenstein's Tractactus, and The Great Learning (1971), a 7+ hour piece for organ choir and percussion that has been described as having "the character of a kind of Confucian mass." A member of the free improvisation group AMM, as well as a teacher of a curriculum-less course in Experimental Music at an adult educational college, Cardew also played an important role in introducing the work of composers such as La Monte Young and Christian Wolff to English audiences.
Later he would turn his back on experimental music, transforming the Scratch Orchestra into the Red Flame Proletarian Propaganda Team whose repertoire leant towards Chinese revolutionary and Irish folk songs. He then set up a rock band named People's Liberation Music. He died in a mysterious hit-and-run accident in 1981; six week earlier he had been arrested at the House of Commons for scattering leaflets and yelling 'This House stinks of racism' during a speech by Enoch Powell.
The screening will be prefaced by a specially-recorded introduction by LUKE FOWLER. A Turner Prize-nominated artist, filmmaker and musician based in Glasgow, he rediscovered Journey To The North Pole in the course of making his own film about the Scratch Orchestra, Pilgrimage From Scattered Points (2006).