Tate Modern Performance

Earle Brown’s Calder Piece and Alexander Calder’s Chef d’orchestre

Earle Brown with Calder’s Chef d’Orchestre

Earle Brown’s notes for performers of Calder Piece

Tate Modern invites you to a rare performance of Calder Piece, composer Earler Brown’s sonic animation of his friend Alexander Calder’s mobile Chef d’orchestre.  

Brown, a major force in contemporary music and the American avant-garde since the 1950s, was the creator of open form, a style of musical construction greatly indebted to the works of Calder. 

Watch the performance:


In 1963 the two embarked on a musical collaboration, for which Calder made Chef d’orchestre, where four percussionists are ‘conducted’ by the mobile. Some 100 percussion instruments are employed in a performance where the movement of the sculpture is read by the percussionists, responding to the varying configuration of its elements. As well as functioning as conductor, the musicians actually play the mobile, making each performance both visually and musically unique. It was not until 1966 that the work was finished and Calder Piece was first performed at the Théâtre de l’Atelier in Paris, early in 1967. 

Calder Piece is one of kind and Earle Brown insisted that the music must never be independent of Chef d’orchestre. This major revival of a work not played for over 30 years is its UK premiere, performed by the percussion ensemble of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in collaboration with Gramophone Award-winning conductor Richard Bernas.  

November 1952, an abstract work by Brown entirely composed in graphic score, and fragments of his friend John Cage’s huge piece Atlas Eclipticalis, based on the star charts of the Southern Hemisphere, complete the programme.

The piece is one of a kind…It is my very deeply felt homage to ‘one of a kind’ Sandy Calder and to his life and work
Calder Piece program note, January 1980, Earle Brown 

Tate Modern

London SE1 9TG
Plan your visit


10 November 2015 at 18.30–20.00

15 November 2015 at 18.30–20.00

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