The Scratch Orchestra at 50: Notation and Performance

The Scratch Orchestra at 50

For more information

  • This event has taken place
  • Tel: +44 (0)1937 546546
  • Email:
  • Full Price: £15.00 Member: £15.00 Under 18: £10.00 Other concessions available

‘Every sound has a note’

What does it mean to ‘write’ music? How do visual cues shape and define a musical performance? To coincide with our exhibition, Writing: Making Your Mark, we delve into the world of 1960s and 70s experimental music, where the boundaries between sound and sign blur.

In June 1969, Cornelius Cardew published a draft constitution for the Scratch Orchestra, setting out his vision for an ensemble formed of ‘a large number of enthusiasts pooling their resources... and assembling for action (music-making, performance, edification)’. To mark 50 years since the founding of the Scratch Orchestra, we explore the many approaches to notating musical events in works for and by the group. Incorporating text instruction, graphics, and elements of conventional music notation, these scores give expression to exciting new worlds of artistic possibilities. What’s more they encourage a communal approach to performance, often accessible to people with a wide range of musical abilities.

Dr Jane Alden (Wesleyan University) introduces some of these works and practises, and shows how they fit within the wider context of experiments in music notation by the likes of John Cage and others – as well as overlapping with other artistic disciplines of the time.

Afterwards, Max Reinhardt talks to original members of the Scratch Orchestra, Carole Finer, Michael Parsons and Howard Skempton about their experiences of creation, notation and performance within the group. The evening concludes with a realisation of a Scratch score by all – whatever your musical background!

Arrive early to see and hear more examples of the Scratch Orchestra repertoire: members of the Vocal Constructivists perform in the Knowledge Centre foyer from 18.15.


Name: The Scratch Orchestra at 50: Notation and Performance
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: Full Price: £15.00
Member: £15.00
Senior 60+: £12.00
Student: £10.00
Registered Unemployed: £10.00
Disabled: £10.00
Under 18: £10.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546