The extraordinary life and accidental death of Cornelius Cardew in graphic scores and group improvisation. With guest artist Adrian Self.

"A strange yet compelling 'kind-of-opera'... The Song Company’s vocal flexibility and inventiveness is on display throughout the performance... (Limelight)

"engaging, intriguing, and provoking... a thought-provoking tale through the demanding complexity of Stockhausen, the harmonic richness of Miles Davis, and the anarchy of Cage and Cardew." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"There’s not much that can defeat The Song Company. This tight-knit group can sing, act and, most important, think their way around pretty much anything you can throw at them... The performances are, as you’d expect from The Song Company, wild and wonderful. They’re all fine singers but, more than that, they are sound artists... As a way of portraying this curious artist I found it superbly effective... The Song Company is one of the bravest ensembles around." (Harriet Cunningham)

Thurs 16 Feb | Yellow House Sydney | 7pm
Fri 17 Feb | The Street Theatre, Canberra | 7pm
Sat 18 Feb | Wollongong Art Gallery | 3pm
Mon 20 Feb | Deakin Edge, Federation Square, Melbourne | 7.30pm
Thurs 23 Feb | Newcastle Conservatorium | 7pm
Sat 25 Feb | The Independent Theatre, North Sydney | 7.30pm
Fri 3 Mar | Richmond School of Arts | 7pm

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Following Cardew's journey from bourgeois artistic revolutionary to post-Marxist populist, and finally his untimely demise in 1981 at the age of 45 in suspicious circumstances (having upset significant parts of the Establishment), this operetta-esque happening gives some hindsight to his turbulent times and upside-down thinking and brings together diverse and significant sounds from the third quarter of the 20th century in the first program in the 2017 season The Attraction of Opposites. Threads in the Accidental Plans story created with designer and writer Adrian Self include Cardew's Forrest Gump-like involvement with major developments in 20th-century music, the trajectory of radical left-wing politics cotemporaneous with the march of Reagonomics and the neocons, and the question of whether music and culture can still change the world today?

A Zelig or Forrest Gump figure who appears throughout important parts of postwar classical, experimental, and art-rock music, Cornelius Cardew was an authoratitive and compelling creator who consistently found inspiration in the collective, and spent a huge amount of effort enabling other people to grow and explore. The Song Company (occasionally with the audience) will perform versions in the style of or inspired by the different forms of music creation that Cardew either witnessed as they emerged – in the studios of Cologne or the apartments of Manhattan – or created himself. The dramatic drive of Accidental Plans is Cardew's struggle with musical authenticity, his battle with the concept of the authorial voice and the balance between the individual over the group/community, and ultimately his rejection of music for any purpose but instigating revolution – at great cost to himself.

It was possible to imagine a musician being killed by MI5 for his political activism in 1981 but somehow that doesn't seem possible now? Have we let our distrust of those in power and our own powerlessness become a shrug of 'oh dear'? Where are the big progressive ideas for change now? Was 1981 the "Sunset Not the Dawn"? And what is music for anyway? What does it mean to be the composer/writer of a piece of music? Is music a consolation, a way simply to forget societal troubles now, a means of escape rather than engagement? Or can music still change the world?

Program includes excerpts and works by Cardew (including audience participation):
We Sing For The Future (fragments)
The Great Learning – Paragraph 7
Revolution is the Main Trend in the World Today
Smash the Social Contract

plus performances of iconic 20th/21st-century pieces:
William Walton Set me as a seal
Karlheinz Stockhausen's rarely-heard Choral
John Cage 4'33"
La Monte Young Composition 1960 #7
Miles Davis Nardis
Stephen Cronin Swanston Street
Pharrell Williams Happy

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Adrian Self

Guest artist Adrian Self is a multimedia designer, artist, and writer practising for more than 25 years, whose work has been collected by many museums (including Tate Britain, MOMA New York, Peggy Guggenheim LA, and The V&A London), featured in a number of books and performed/exhibited in the UK, USA, Brazil, Argentina, Italy, and South Korea. Art Director for Soul Jazz Records/Universal Sound, Adrian has been responsible for the design and art direction for hundreds of book, records and films; as Consultant Art Director his clients include Apple, Microsoft, The ICA, Channel 4, Toyota, ITV, United Airlines, Fuji Film, and Manga Film/Island Pictures; as Chief Creative Officer for klangr he first worked with Antony Pitts on visualizing musical timelines. Adrian is also a sound artist/sound designer and curator/editor/publisher. "A unique symbiotic relationship between the typographic page and highly individualistic artwork" (EYE Magazine)