MUSIC: HISTORY, SURVEYS & THEORY

PUBLISHER
Soberscove Press

BOOK FORMAT
Paperback, 6.75 x 9 in. / 232 pgs / 30 color / 80 bw.

PUBLISHING STATUS
Pub Date
Active

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D.A.P. Exclusive
Catalog: SPRING 2020 p. 80   

PRODUCT DETAILS
ISBN 9781940190235 TRADE
List Price: $28.00 CDN $39.00 GBP £25.00

AVAILABILITY
In stock

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SOBERSCOVE PRESS

The World's Worst

A Guide to the Portsmouth Sinfonia

Edited by Christopher M. Reeves, Aaron Walker. Foreword by Gavin Bryars. Text by Christopher M. Reeves.

Featured image is reproduced from 'The World's Worst.'

Butchering the classics through avant-garde amateurism: the Portsmouth Sinfonia embodied the joyous collectivism of 1970s British counterculture

In 1970, galvanized in part by the musical experiments of avant-garde composers Gavin Bryars, John Cage and Cornelius Cardew, students at Portsmouth College of Art in England formed their own symphony orchestra. Christened the Portsmouth Sinfonia, its primary requirement for membership was that all players, regardless of skill, experience or musicianship, be unfamiliar with their chosen instruments. This restriction, coupled with the decision to play “only the familiar bits” of classical music, challenged the Sinfonia’s audience to reconsider the familiar, as the ensemble haplessly butchered the classics at venues ranging from avant-garde music festivals to the Royal Albert Hall. By the end of the decade, after three LPs of their anarchic renditions of classical and rock music and a revolving cast of over 100 musicians—including Michael Nyman and Brian Eno—the Sinfonia would cease performing, never officially retiring.

The first book devoted to the ensemble, The World’s Worst: A Guide to the Portsmouth Sinfonia examines the founding tenets, organizing principles and collective memories of the Sinfonia, whose historical position as “the world’s worst orchestra” underplays its unique accomplishment as a populist avant-garde project in which music, collectivity and humor all flourished. The unorthodox journey of the Sinfonia unfolds here through interviews with the orchestra’s original members and publicist/manager, magazine publications, photographs and unseen archival material, alongside an essay by Christopher M. Reeves.


Featured image is reproduced from 'The World's Worst.'

PRAISE AND REVIEWS

author of Henry Cow: The World is a Problem

Benjamin Piekut

This incredible book should serve as a guiding inspiration for every future shambolic disaster born of love.

Daniel and Brett Sundheim Cheif Curator, Institute of Contemporary Art/ University of Pennsylvania

Anthony Elms

The historical accounts and remembrances herein are full of contradictions, pleasures, jokes and awkward moments between performers and audiences that always steer toward inclusion and veer from cynicism and pessimism.

author of The Grid Book

Hannah B Higgins

The Portsmouth Sinfonia's sincere efforts to play the classics (on instruments chosen without the benefit of performer schooling) yielded nothing less than an as-yet-unsurpassed, unbridled joy for audience and musician alike. These key texts offer insight into the group dynamics and social and cultural relevance of the project and reminded this reader that the history of experiments in music includes a wealth of joyful paths not taken and worthy of revisiting.

author of Pick Up the Pieces: Excursions in Seventies Music

John Corbett

The ramshackle texture, the historical context, the sense of humor, the egalitarianism, all the ways in which their world was one of radical potential—The World's Worst presents the Sinfonia in all its lumpy glory.

director of the Colloquium for Unpopular Culture, New York University

Sukdev Sandhu

What a teeming, joyful tribute to the Portsmouth Sinfonia this is. The World's Worst is a paean to art school experimentalism, to the creative value of amateurism and accidents, to the idea that conceptualism can also be anarchic and funny.

Ursula

Eileen Cartter

[The] World's Worst is a spirited collection of documentary ephemera, archival photographs, and liner notes that captures [the] Sinfonia's unlikely legacy as a soundtrack for a populist avant-garde.

The Wire

Abi Bliss

The World's Worst wisely avoids [...] single-string interpretations. A marvellously polyphonic and fittingly dissonant tribute.

Washington Post

Michael Brodeur

This volume, edited by Christopher M. Reeves and Aaron Walker, collects photographs, posters, articles, correspondences, ephemera and essays from members of the orchestra, and is a lot easier to read than their music is to listen to. As Mortimore wrote, 'You may find a freshness and excitement in its simplicity. Or you may not.'

Artnet

It sounds like a prequel to Flight of the Conchords: In 1970, a motley crew of students...created an orchestra in which members could only play instruments with which they had no experience, for the purpose of performing “only the familiar bits” of symphonic classics...

LA Weekly

Shana Nys Dambrot

The first book devoted to the philosophies and recollections of the Sinfonia, the book — and accompanying playlist, compiled by Chris Reeves and Aaron Walker, complete with playlist notes — reconstructs the aggressively avant-garde musical group’s cheeky claim to fame as “the world’s worst orchestra.”

The World's Worst

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FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG

LACY SOTO | DATE 8/1/2020

Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles Bookstore presents a virtual launch event for 'The World's Worst: A Guide to the Portsmouth Sinfonia'

Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles Bookstore presents a virtual launch event for 'The World's Worst: A Guide to the Portsmouth Sinfonia'

Saturday, August 8 at 5pm PDT / 7pm CST / 8pm EST, join Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth LA Bookstore and Soberscove Press for a live stream with editors Christopher M. Reeves and Aaron Walker, in conversation with Tosh Berman, discussing the book The World's Worst: A Guide to the Portsmouth Sinfonia. This event is free with registration here: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/the-worlds-worst-a-guide. Email bookshw-la@artbook.com to order a copy of The World's Worst with 25% off and free shipping in the U.S. continue to blog


FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG

CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 5/15/2020

Need a little wit & daring in your so-called life? Here are four weekend activities that will liberate your spirit & open your mind

Need a little wit & daring in your so-called life? Here are four weekend activities that will liberate your spirit & open your mind

If you're like us, the time has come–if only for the safe space of the weekend–to GET LOOSE. Yes, we're still cooking at home. But that doesn't mean we can't use a facsimile of Dorothy Iannone's emotionally and sexually charged 1969 recipe book as our guide. And yes, many of us have been journaling conscientiously… keeping lists and tracking time. But this weekend, we're challenging ourselves to go further, taking inspiration from Eva Hesse's searching and searingly honest diaries, as well as the impassioned early love letters of John Cage to Merce Cunningham. Finally, we're breaking free of the stranglehold of "good" musical taste with this gleefully wrong playlist from the editors of The World's Worst: A Guide to the Portsmouth Sinfonia. (See the editors' absolutely essential playlist notes here!)
continue to blog


FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG

CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 5/15/2020

Listen to 'The World’s Worst' Playlist

Listen to 'The World’s Worst' Playlist

Compiled by Chris Reeves and Aaron Walker on the occasion of the publication of The World’s Worst: A Guide to the Portsmouth Sinfonia, published by Soberscove Press. Listen to the complete playlist here!
continue to blog


FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG

CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 8/7/2020

Tosh Berman on 'The World's Worst: A Guide to the Portsmouth Sinfonia'—a new adventure in its highest form

Tosh Berman on 'The World's Worst: A Guide to the Portsmouth Sinfonia'—a new adventure in its highest form

Featured image—of Portsmouth Sinfonia member Brian Eno and untrained yet "very dandified" conductor John Farley in the 1970s—is reproduced from The World's Worst: A Guide to the Portsmouth Sinfonia, published by Soberscove Press and launching on the west coast Saturday, August 8 at Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth Bookstore Los Angeles, where the editors, Christopher M. Reeves and Aaron Walker, will appear in conversation with Tosh Berman. In a YouTube book review, Berman cites the orchestra's "combination of British eccentricity, Fluxus-like behavior and avant-garde visual arts and music," situating it in not just classical, but punk, avant-garde and noise music traditions. "When we think of the classical world, we think of it always in good taste. Even if we don't listen to it, it's a symbol of proper taste." In contrast, the Portsmouth Sinfonia orchestra approached classical music as an adventure, Berman states. "And this book conveys this new adventure in its highest form." continue to blog


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