Cornelius Cardew

The avant-gardist to the avant-garde, one of the most important figures of 20th-century sound art as interpreted by the established Sanatorium of Sound Ensemble


A pioneering force in the world of experimental music, left an indelible mark on the avant-garde movement of the mid-20th century. Born in 1936, he received formal training at the Royal Academy of Music in London and studied under Karlheinz Stockhausen, where he first dabbled in serialism and electronic experimentation. In the 1960s he radically transformed his approach. Rejecting avant-garde elitism, he shifted towards a more socially engaged stance. One of his seminal works, Treatise, stands as a testament to this evolution. A graphic score devoid of conventional notation, challenges interpreters to navigate its visual complexities, emphasising collaboration and improvisation. In addition to his groundbreaking compositions, he co-founded the Scratch Orchestra, an experimental musical ensemble aimed at democratising music creation. The collective embraced a diverse range of influences, reflecting the composer’s belief in the communal nature of artistic expression. His foray into politically charged compositions, notably The Great Learning, underscores his conviction in the transformative power of music as a tool for societal change. During this year’s edition of the Festival we will delve into the impact of the Treatise composition on the experimental music landscape.

Sanatorium of Sound Ensemble plays "Treatise" by Cornelius Cardew (Judith Hamann, Giuseppe Ielasi, Gerard Lebik)
Mar 24, 2024 -- 13:00

Created between 1963 and 1967, Treatise is a graphic musical score consisting of 193 pages of lines, symbols and a variety of geometric shapes. This monumental work by Cornelius Cardew is an introspective journey into the nature of time and rhythm, inspired by Wittgenstein's concept of Tractatus logico-philosophicus.


Just as the philosopher explored the limits of language and its relationship to reality, Treatise becomes a kind of 'treatise of sound', provoking reflection on our perception of time and rhythm. In Treatise, time ceases to be merely a linear sequence of events, becoming a dense network of relations and experiences, just as in Wittgenstein's philosophy, where meanings are formed in context. This non-linear perception of time is reflected in abstract symbols and shapes that remind us of the relational nature of reality.

Treatise provokes interpretation and exploration of sound, just as Wittgenstein provoked reflection on language. Like language, which reflects our perception of the world, rhythm in Treatise manifests itself as a fundamental element of human existence, providing a starting point for introspection on existence and the meaning of life.