Treatise

For the ‘W serves imperialism‘ exhibition (January 2018), DNK ensemble interpreted and performed a number of pages of Cornelius Cardew‘s seminal Treatise. In a pitch black space, the ensemble (Reinier van Houdt, Koen Nutters, Seamus Cater & Martijn Tellinga) managed musical instruments, speaker drivers and sine tones, mobile playback/recording devices, an array of objects and a battery of torches and headlamps. The graphical scores were mapped to the time structure of the performance, to the spatial organisation within the hall and translated into a range of ways to handle instruments, equipment, objects and lights.

Given its lack of any formal musical structure, Treatise has been the subject of both discussion and praise: ‘Cardew purposely was ambiguous when writing about Treatise and left very little by way of instructions for its performance – essentially leaving the “reading” part of the equation entirely up to the performers. This makes for a very dangerous and unique moment in musical history. Even at the apex of John Cage’s profession of freeing composition from the ego of the composer, there still existed an element of a sanctioned “correct” performance of his work. With Treatise as much of this last vestige of the composer was removed from the field of play and the piece, if treated respectfully and with the rigor it demanded, forced the musicians to take part in a social atmosphere of collective creation.’ – John Tilbury

Hear a full recording of the performance: