Scratch Orchestra
(1969–1974)

Scratch Orchestra, archival materials, installation view, Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Athens, documenta 14, photo: Mathias Völzke

Scratch Orchestra, archival materials, installation view, Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Athens, documenta 14, photo: Mathias Völzke

Scratch Orchestra, archival materials, installation view, Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Athens, documenta 14, photo: Mathias Völzke

Scratch Orchestra, archival materials, installation view, Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Athens, documenta 14, photo: Mathias Völzke

Documentation of ”The Scratch Cottage,” installation view, Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Athens, documenta 14, photo: Mathias Völzke

Documentation of ”The Scratch Cottage,” installation view, Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Athens, documenta 14, photo: Mathias Völzke

Documentation of ”The Scratch Cottage,” installation view, Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Athens, documenta 14, photo: Mathias Völzke

The Scratch Orchestra was founded in July 1969, growing out of a series of music composition classes held at Morley College London that were attended by avant-garde musicians as well as artists interested in exploring sound. Its Draft Constitution describes it as “a large number of enthusiasts pooling their resources (not primarily material resources) and assembling for action (music making, performance, edification.)” The Scratch Orchestra, whose members drew on varying levels of musical expertise, performed its music from scratch, often based on written instructions and graphic scores. The Orchestra played in town and village halls, universities, youth clubs, parks, and theaters. Due to the regularity of the performances during the Scratch Orchestra’s short lifespan (it was active until around 1974), it constituted a kind of musical community; an intense experience of playing, travelling, and living together.

—Howard Slater


Scratch Cottage, as installed in the exhibition Art Spectrum in London in 1971, was first conceived as a place to play—insulated from the context of “high art.”

My idea was to challenge the—often classically trained—musicians to construct a shelter with their own hands. The materials were recycled rough floor joists and old doors. Each musician or small group made a structural frame using the simplest of hand tools: hammers, saws, and nails. The frames were then bolted together to make a simple enclosure.

This approach countered fine art aesthetics with a basic level of collective material engagement. It referenced my research into self-built vernacular housing.

—Stefan Szczelkun

Posted in Public Exhibition