Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Chadwick Jenkins

Committee Members

Geoffrey Burleson

Norma Carey

Andrew Tomasello

Subject Categories

Ethics and Political Philosophy | Music Performance | Music Theory | Other Arts and Humanities | Political Science | Politics and Social Change


Theodor Adorno, Subject-Object, Culture Industry, Scratch Orchestra, MEV, Graphic Notation, Free Improvisation


In the late 1960s, socialist composers, Cornelius Cardew and Frederic Rzewski, each established ensembles with the purpose of performing works consisting of experimental forms of improvisation. By employing group improvisation, and including untrained, non-musicians within their performances, they strove to use these ensembles as a model for society itself; this model includes a dissolution of the hierarchy among performers and the barrier between performer and audience. Improvisation helped music resist commodification by the culture industry or appropriation by authoritarian regimes for the purpose of propaganda. This dissertation aims to explore how Cardew and Rzewski constituted effective socialization and political action within two works: Cardew’s The Great Learning (Paragraph 1) and Rzewski’s Les Moutons de Panurge.

This dissertation explores the complex relationship between politics and art, particularly, how art maintains its autonomy while also being political. The political and compositional backgrounds of these two composers is examined in order to gauge their intentions within these works and evaluate the political efficacy of the resulting compositions. This is accomplished by examining the scores as well as various studio recordings and live performances. This dissertation proposes that it is only within performance that the relationship between improvisational choices and political efficacy is revealed.