Cornelius Cardew

Cornelius Cardew, Score for Treatise, 1967, adaptation for the documenta Halle, vinyl on glass windows
, Collection Horace Cardew and Edition Peters, installation view, documenta Halle, Kassel, documenta 14, photo: Nils Klinger

Treatise is a graphic score, com­posed without reference to any system of rules governing the inter­pretation. It was begun in 1963 and is still incomplete; the hundred pages that are ready at present represent slightly over half the whole piece. The length of the score is the justification for the absence of an interpretative system; the graphic material is treated in such an exhaustive manner that an inter­pretation (musical or otherwise) is able to emerge quasi­unconsciously in the mind of the reader in the course of reading the score. Any number of musicians with any instruments can take part. Each musician plays from the score, reading it in terms of his individual instrument and inclination. A num­ber of general decisions may be made in advance to hold the per­formance together, but an improvi­satory character is essential to the piece. An appreciation or under­standing of the piece in performance should grow in much the same way as the musicians’ interpretation. Orientation is slow, in proportion to the length of the piece, but it is spontaneous, since no specific orientation is prescribed.

—Cornelius Cardew, “Treatise: Résumé of pre­-publication performance,” in Treatise Handbook, Edition Peters London, copyright Hinrichsen Edition Ltd. (1971)


In the case of Treatise a line or dot is certainly an immediate orientation as much as the thread in the fog. For immediately it stands in relation to the thick central staveline, which would correspond in some way to the track made by the man walking. This “subject line” is essential; any other references, such as page size, would be totally arbitrary. Note the disconcerting effect of broken staves in Winter Music

In the Treatise the score seems not representational. No rules of representation. Except the central line represents perhaps the performer or a single line of thought…

Treatise: What is it? Well, it’s a vertebrate…

A musical score is a logical construct inserted into the mess of potential sounds that permeate this planet and its atmosphere. That puts Beethoven and the rest in perspective!

—Cornelius Cardew, “Treatise: Working Notes,” in Treatise Handbook, Edition Peters London, copyright Hinrichsen Edition Ltd. (1971)

Posted in Public Exhibition

Thälmann Variations and We Sing For The Future! / The People United Will Never Be Defeated!

by Cornelius Cardew and Frederic Rzewski

The People United Will Never Be Defeated! is a set of 36 variations on the melody of the Chilean popular song “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” by Sergio Ortega and Quilapayún (1973). The song…