Paul McCartney attends a performance of experimental music in London

Thursday, September 15, 1966
Timeline More from year 1966
Royal College of Art, Knightsbridge, London, UK

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On this evening, Paul McCartney attended a performance of experimental music, by the group AMM (featuring composer Cornelius Cardew), at the Royal College of Art in London. The audience, which numbered fewer than 20 people, was invited to participate, and Paul made occasional sounds, tapping his beer mug with a pencil and scraping at a radiator with a coin.

The whole thing was about listening to ambient sound. Cardew was a pupil of John Cage, so the whole point was that any sound could be meaningful if you pay attention to it – paying close attention to the sound of traffic outside the window, people’s breathing and people shuffling their feet and then making interventions by banging on the piano or winding up a little wind-up toy.

Barry Miles – From MOJO, November 2022

[…] Far better was [AMM’s] weekly sound workshop held in a basement room of the Royal College of Art, where the audience sat on the floor and a musical piece could last for hours. Sue and I took Paul McCartney to one, early in 1966, to hear John Cage’s theories of random sound put into practice. At this concert the closest Cardew got to playing the piano was to tap its leg with a small piece of wood. Paul joined in by running a penny along the coils of the old-fashioned steam radiator and, after the intermission, used the penny to carefully tap his pint glass beer mug. Afterwards, commenting on the performance, he said, ‘You don’t have to like something to be influenced by it’, but he told the organiser Victor Schonfeld, ‘It went on too long.’ Cage’s influence was to show itself in the Beatles’ music later in a number of subde ways.

Barry Miles – From “In The Sixties“, 2003

About the group AMM, from Wikipedia:

AMM is a British free improvisation group that was founded in London, England, in 1965. The group was initially composed of Keith Rowe on guitar, Lou Gare on saxophone, and Eddie Prévost on drums. The three men shared an interest in exploring music beyond the boundaries of conventional jazz, as in free jazz and free improvisation. AMM never achieved widespread popularity, but have been influential in improvised music. Most of their albums have been released by Matchless Recordings, which is run by Eddie Prévost. In a 2001 interview, Keith Rowe was asked if “AMM” was an abbreviation. He replied, “The letters AMM stand for something, but as you probably know it’s a secret!”

About Cornelius Cardew, from Wikipedia:

Cornelius Cardew (7 May 1936 – 13 December 1981) was an English experimental music composer, and founder (with Howard Skempton and Michael Parsons) of the Scratch Orchestra, an experimental performing ensemble. He later rejected experimental music, explaining why he had “discontinued composing in an avantgarde idiom” in his own programme notes to his Piano Album 1973. […]

In 1966, Cardew joined the free improvisation group AMM as cellist and pianist. AMM had formed the previous year and included English jazz musicians Lou Gare, Eddie Prévost, Keith Rowe, and one of his first students at the Royal Academy Christopher Hobbs. Performing with the group allowed Cardew to explore music in a completely democratic environment, freely improvising without recourse to scores. […]

Last updated on May 9, 2024

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