Writer Phil England compiles tracks to accompany his article about Victor Schonfield and Music Now, featured in The Wire 416
In the 1960s and 70s, promoter and manager Victor Schonfield made a significant contribution towards the presence and development of experimental and improvised music in London. His concert society Music Now hosted performances by the likes of AMM, John Tilbury, Scratch Orchestra, and more. Read Phil England's eight page article on Schonfield and Music Now in The Wire 416. Subscribers can access it digitally via the online archive.
From The Great London Concert
This recording comes from Ornette Coleman’s first London concert in 1965, which Victor Schonfield arranged at the free jazz pioneer’s request with just three weeks’ notice.
From Sonatas And Interludes
Schonfield acted as an agent for pianist John Tilbury from the mid-1960s. This is a recording from 1975 of Tilbury performing Cage’s prepared piano suite, which Schonfield described as “his big bread and butter piece”. Tilbury was also an early champion of the work of Morton Feldman and Christian Wolff.
“February Piece 1959”
From Cornelius Cardew Piano Music 1959–70
Schonfield also acted as an agent for Cornelius Cardew – the UK’s foremost experimental music composer at the time. His early compositional focus was on indeterminate music, including his 193-page graphic score Treatise.
“Later During A Flaming Riviera Sunset”
Schonfield managed the free improvising group AMM from the spring of 1966, soon after they decided on a name and Cardew had joined. This piece comes from the recording sessions for the group’s Elektra Records debut but was not included on the original release.
“John Latham Version 5”
From The Early Years 1965–1967 Cambridge St/ation
AMM played various underground events and happenings around this time and they shared the bill with Pink Floyd on more than one occasion. “I was dead keen on shoving AMM at anybody that might be receptive,” Schonfield told me. This is an extract from the recently unearthed improvised soundtrack recorded in 1967 for (but ultimately not used) for artist John Latham’s film Speak. Read what David Toop had to say about the session here.
“In C” (excerpt)
From In C
Music Now, Schonfield’s non-profit organisation devoted to promoting new developments in music, held their inaugural concert series in May 1968. The opening concert featured the UK premiere of Terry Riley’s In C as well as La Monte Young’s Death Chant.
Cornelius Cardew & The Scratch Orchestra
“Paragraph 2” (excerpt)
From The Great Learning
This section of Cardew’s The Great Learning was premiered during a seven hour Music Now event at London’s Roundhouse along with works by Cage, Young, Wolff, George Brecht, Terry Jennings and Eddie Prévost.
From Source: Music Of The Avant Garde
From Sonic Arts Union
Music Now organised the first UK appearance of US composer-performer collective Sonic Arts Union at which both of the pieces above were performed. The group returned to the UK in association with Music Now to play at the US Embassy in 1971. Schonfield also arranged a short tour for the group.
Music Improvisation Company
“Its Tongue Trapped To The Rock By A Limpet, The Water Rat Succumbed To The Incoming
The Arts Council’s New Music Officer Keith Winter asked Schonfield to organise pilot tours of new music around England for what was to become the Arts Council’s Contemporary Music Network. To this end Music Now organised tours for Music Improvisation Company (Derek Bailey, Hugh Davies, Jamie Muir and Evan Parker) and a version of John Stevens’ Spontaneous Music Ensemble performing his The Source suite. This recording comes from 1970, the same year that these tours took place.
Sun Ra & His Intergalactic Research Arkestra
“Black Forest Myth”
From It’s After The End Of The World (Live At the Donaueschingen And Berlin Festivals)
One of Schonfield’s most cherished achievements – despite it turning into a financial crisis – was organising the first European tour for Sun Ra And His Arkestra. This recording comes from that 1970 tour.
“Pilgrimage From Scattered Points On The Surface Of The Body To The Brain, The Inner Ear, The Heart And The Stomach” (excerpt)
From Not Necessarily “English Music”
Music Now organised several concerts for Cardew’s anarchic Scratch Orchestra despite the Arts Council’s reluctance to fund amateur musicians. This recording is from a Music Now production at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on 23 May 1970.
Peoples Liberation Music
“There Is Only One Lie, There Is Only One Truth”
From Gods And Monsters: Technology And Personality In Contemporary Music
In the mid 1970s Music Now presented several concerts with a Marxist-Leninist influence after several of the key practitioners turned their backs on their earlier experimental work in an attempt to reach more people with explicitly political music. This recording is from the Cornelius Cardew Memorial Concert in 1982 after his death by an unknown hit and run driver the previous year.
La Monte Young
“Composition 1960 #7”
Performance by VENI Academy in Slovakia in 2016
Today Schonfield remains a keen fan of improvised music and is continuing work on his
book entitled My Jazz Favourites. He enjoys John Tilbury’s all-night performances of music
by Morton Feldman and has a great affection for this early work by La Monte Young, which
consists of just two notes held for a very long time. “Ah!” he told me beaming. “You can
bury me to that any day of the week!”