When censorship of a BBC Prom was not fake news


As a counterpoint to the latest manufactured Brexit controversy it is worth retelling* the story of a BBC Prom that was actually censored. The Great Learning: Paragraphs 1 and 2 by Cornelius Cardew was scheduled for performance at a 1972 Prom. The work, which sets translations of Confucius by Ezra Pound, generated genuine controversy before its performance. What the BBC management did not know is that Cardew - seen above in proselytising mode - had revised the work in line with his hardening Maoist views. This meant the revised version came complete with his politically motivated programme note and banners for display in the Albert Hall with the message "Apply Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung thought in a living way to the problems of the present". A typically unsatisfactory British compromise was eventually struck between BBC controller of music William Glock who had bravely programmed the work and Cardew. This resulted in an emasculated twelve minute excerpt from The Great Learning: Paragraph 1 being performed without slogans or polemical programme note. In 1972 an audacious choice of repertoire generated the controversy. Today it is fake news which generates the controversy.

This post is based on a 2010 Overgrown Path article. Other sources include Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished by John Tilbury. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.

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