The Great Learning

“The Great Learning was one of British composer Cornelius Cardew’s most important works, a series of seven “paragraphs” with text from the writings of Confucius and scored for generally large numbers of both trained and untrained performers.

The last piece, “Paragraph 7,” for “any number of untrained voices,” is a lush and complex vocal sea. From a rich and heady underlying drone, individual voices emerge and recede (is that Julie Tippett one hears?) like waves cresting and falling back. The mass of voices becomes palpable and breathing like a single, multi-throated organism. One can easily imagine, in lesser hands, a composition like this disintegrating into a new agey mush, but this one succeeds wildly as a deep and probing conception, realized fully and with passion.”


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