Embossed custom box holding more than 100 single A4 sheets by as many artists with (mostly) visual / conceptual scores written for The Great Learning Orchestra, including Arnold Dreyblatt, Ulrich Krieger, Mattin, Leif Isebring, Johanna Billing, and many more.
"When we started The Great Learning Orchestra around the year 2000, we were looking for music that could be played by a large group of musicians, many of whom could not necessarily read music. During the first years, we focused on experimental classics, such as Terry Riley’s In C and Erik Satie’s Vexations. In my search for new scores to play I came across pieces such as Composition 1960 #7 by LaMonte Young and some text scores by Christian Wolff and Cornelius Cardew (yes, we took the name for the orchestra from his work The Great Learning). After a while I started to see certain patterns and methods in the way music like this is composed, and found that there are ways to create music that is self-generating: by making a set of rules for how to interpret the information in the score. By using material that takes little space on a sheet of paper, it is possible to create music that goes far beyond that which comes out of a traditional score. In Composition 1960 #7, for example, you are given two notes, a B and an F sharp, along with the instruction: “to be held for a long time”. That’s all - but to be played, the musicians need to reflect on the philosophy behind intonation, just intonation and the natural harmonics created in the room while the orchestra is searching for a perfect open fifth. To write something that will generate itself, so the results are more expansive than the original written composition, you need some kind of open-ended framework. It can be simple as a list of questions, as in Cardew’s Schooltime Special:“Do you want to play a note?”, ”Can you hold it long? Yes? Hold it long”, ”Does the music set you in motion?” etc, etc. Otherwise, it can be philosophical considerations, as in Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening pieces. Or a photo, or a drawing - it’s not even necessary that it was supposed to be played at all.
I have always been interested in the daily chores; I love to be in the kitchen, not because I am a master of cooking. I like the rituals of daily life, and the use of different tools when I am preparing a meal and I like the meditation of washing dishes. I like pens and pencils that you can buy in the supermarket around the corner, and I like the intelligent simplicity of the A4 sheet. I like to believe that ideas go beyond the material, and that the narrower the rules, the greater possibilities they provide to open up a creative process. I came up with the idea of an A4-room in 2004 and started to invite composers, musicians, artists, writers, and anyone who might be interested, to create a score for the GLO, with one limitation: it must be written on one side of an A4 sheet. When we had around 30 pieces we started to build an installation where the audience could walk around the orchestra in a room and read the different pieces on the wall, whilst the orchestra were trying to interpret different scores.
The project evolved and we did lots of concerts, workshops, recordings and installations. A couple of years ago Thomas Elovsson got involved in the orchestra and since his background is from the art world, he invited a group of visual artists to participate in the project. The orchestra now had to deal with the interpretation of pieces which were not directly written to be played as a score, but to be transformed from a visual image into a sound piece. In rehearsals, we sometimes spent more time talking about interpretation than actually playing.
For me, these kind of rule-based scores question the hierarchic systems associated with composed music. The composer has to work with the concept and ideas, and leave the orchestration to the orchestra, the interpretation to the musicians who, in turn, must focus on listening, rather than using their trained skills to be part of a collaborative interpretation.
So here is a box with around 100 scores composed directly for The Great Learning Orchestra, or in some cases older pieces that we’ve worked on in collaboration with the composer. We haven’t played them all yet, and some of them might not even be possible to play. That’s OK with me. If you are interested in playing them, feel free - but please let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and it would be great to hear if you make a recording. If you are interested in our own interpretations you can visit the website a4-room.com where you can listen to many of the pieces."
(Leif Jordansson, Stockholm, August 2015)
see http://a4-room.com for more information