Rehearsal report on Treatise

The challenge, as set out by Cardew, “Look at my question and answer it”.

We examined the topography: abstract geometrical shapes (circles, squares, rectangles, etc.); conventional musical symbols; numbers; and the horizontal middle line. Mostly executed in one or other of two pen widths (thick or thin)

John Tilbury mapped the score into 8 sections, based on frequency, scope and the visual presence of characteristic symbols (Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished, p. 232):

1: pp.1-19

2: pp.20-44

3: pp.45-88

4: pp.89-126

5: pp.127-144

6: pp.145-64

7: pp.165-78

8: pp.179-93


We looked through these chapters, with some agreement and some misgivings. I noted that others have proposed different divisions into “episodes” attempting to correspond to the chapters of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, which was the inspiration for Cardew’s Treatise.

We agreed that it will be helpful for us to divide the work into around 8 sections, with one or more tutti pages per section.

We discussed our modus operandi. Agreed it makes sense to see our work on a continuum where at one extreme we abide by pre-arranged rules (x/y axis, shapes/density determine dynamics/pitch/content) and at the other extreme we are all composers, using Treatise as a structure for our own ideas (sounding the sweetness of strawberries, in a sarcastic cloud, etc.). Work in the middle will be an infusion of agreed rules with creative imagination.

Expressivity can also be on a continuum, including gestures, choreography, etc.

We also discussed the possibility of seeing Cardew’s Treatise notation as commentary on silence.