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Monday, September 19, 2016

The Scratch Orchestra - "London, 1969" (Die Stadt) Limited Edition of 500, vinyl 10"


The first time I heard of "The Scratch Orchestra" was in a Brian Eno interview, around the time he was in Roxy Music.  I have always been intrigued by this project, which as legend has reported, was organized by the British composer Cornelius Cardew.   With a name like that, I knew he had to be fantastic.  The other co-founders were Howard Skempton and Michael Parsons.  "London, 1969" is the recording of the first concert they gave in '69 at Hampstead Town Hall.   

First of all, one doesn't know which side is one or two - so that obviously doesn't make a huge difference.  Nor do the two selections have titles.  Which probably fits the Scratch Orchestra motif of everything is equal.   The actual rules of the orchestra are that anyone can join, graphic scores were used instead of musical ones, and oddly enough, concerts are assigned in reverse seniority, so that means the newest member has a stronger say in the programming.  Which comes to this record.   Eighteen year old Christopher Hobbs (then a student of Cardew's) designed or headed this specific concert that took place on November 1, 1969.  

This album, in a particular style, is ground zero for British avant-garde music and its (non) musicians. Five or six years later, most of the composers/music makers became hooked up with Brian Eno's label, Obscure Records.   I have listened to it twice, and basically it resembles John Cage and David Tudor's "Variations IV."  A mixture of radio sounds, and what I presume is tape loopings.  It's a fantastic little record.  Someone should re-issue it again.   Love the pigeons on the front and back cover as well.