Dedication to Cornelius Cardew
by Morton Feldman
Born in 1936, the British composer Cornelius Cardew was killed on 31st December 1981 near his home in Leyton, East London, by a hit and run driver. On 16th May 1982, the Cornelius Cardew Memorial Concert took place in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. The programme booklet for this event included essays, photographs, and bibliographical material about Cardew's life and work, plus a group of short tributes, entitled "Dedications", by some of his friends. These "Dedications" included the following note by Feldman (p26 of the booklet):
For an artist, it is not one's conscience, but one's talent, making cowards of us all. Cardew's courage to dismiss an earlier abstract artistry of his own is indeed heroic. His career bears a comparison to D. H. Lawrence. Both set aside an evocative use of the language of their medium for a kind of "message" of sorts. Cage in his own way did likewise. In this regard Cornelius Cardew is not in bad company. However, it is in a work such as The Great Learning which I feel Cardew found a unique equanimity of means between a musical poetry and his political beliefs - something akin to what Christian Wolff is doing with similar concerns. As perhaps the last indigenous esoteric composers surviving on this planet, I deeply mourn Cardew's death. He wrote beautifully about my own music and played it exquisitely. Perhaps we are not that far apart than one might think. There will always be ... Cornelius Cardew.
Morton Feldman, March 18, 1982