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Cornelius Cardew, composer - John Walmsley, 1970

1 May 2012

Cornelius Cardew was an avant-garde composer and performer with a day job at a publisher. We took some pictures on the publisher’s roof and then went to Cardew’s favourite cafe around the corner. It was 1970 and I simply don’t remember who commissioned the shoot.

As a child, Cornelius Cardew was a Canterbury Cathedral School chorister and later attended the Royal Academy of Music. In 1957 he performed in the British premiere of Pierre Boulez’s, Le marteau sans maître before moving to Cologne to work with Stockhausen for three years. Stockhausen noted “I gave him work to do which I have never given to any other musician, which means to work with me on the score I was composing.”

While teaching an experimental music class at London’s Morley College in 1968, Cardew, along with Howard Skempton and Michael Parsons formed the Scratch Orchestra, a large experimental ensemble, initially for the purpose of interpreting Cardew’s The Great Learning. The Scratch Orchestra gave performances throughout Britain and elsewhere until its demise in 1972. It was during this period that the question of art for whom was hotly debated within the context of the Orchestra, which Cardew came to see as elitist despite its numerous attempts to make socially accessible music.

A founder member of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain Cardew was killed in a hit and run accident near his home in East London in 1982.

Using Google Image Search I found a frame from the shoot on a CD of Cardew’s music. I must have given Cornelius a print or two at the time and this had found it’s way to the publisher in San Francisco. In 2011 Morley College bought two large framed prints to go with an exhibition of work based on Cardew’s compositions.

John Walmsley is a freelance photographer who has worked for numerous magazines shooting mainly portraits. His final year project at Guildford School of Art on A.S.Neill’s well known alternative school was published in 1969 by Penguin Books with the title Neill & Summerhill: A Man and his Work. A Pictorial Study.. A part-time lecturer at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London for seven years, Walmsley was also photographer in residence at Digswell Arts Centre in Welwyn where he lived amongst other artists like, Lol Coxhill, jazz musician and Liz Fritsch, potter.

John is planning a number of eBooks based on his early work including Salisbury Repertory Company in the 70s (with an introduction by Maggie Smith) and a new edition of Neill & Summerhill: a Man and his Work.

Photographer since 1968, EPUK member since 2003.

See more work by John Walmsley

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