Performance: 11th July 2009, Leytonstone Festival
Conventional musical performance often requires a lot of training. In Cornelius Cardew’s piece The Great Learning though, untrained performers take part in a far more unusual form of music making. Written in the late sixties, this mammoth six and a half hour work uses a diverse collection of sound-sources including stones, whistles, cushions, organ, and a chorus of massed voices chanting the philosophical writings of Confucius. The joy of The Great Learning is that it encourages untrained performers to make their own music, rather than simply using them as a musical force. This results in an originality and participation more akin to folk music than the more elitist values of composers from the first half of the twentieth century.
The length of this piece often restricts performances to only a few of its seven paragraphs, but the Leytonstone Festival 2009 featured the rare opportunity to experience the entire piece on one day, with the performance shared between two local churches, the Green Man Roundabout, the Quaker meeting house and the old Woolworths Store. People from the local community joined with performers from further afield to create a new realisation of this unique improvisational journey.
The performance took place on July 11th in five venues across leytonstone:
Paragraph 1: St Andrews Church 10.30-11.00
Paragraph 2: Green Man Roundabout 11.30-12.30
Paragraph 3: Quaker Meeting House 13.00-14.00
Paragraphs 4 & 5: St John the Baptist Church 15.00-18.00
Paragraphs 6 & 7: Woolworths 19.30-22.00
Here is a google map of the venues: Great Learning
The event was a great success, with many people getting involved in the performance. There are now recordings of the whole performance available to download:
There is further information about the performance and piece available below: