Cardew was a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral for eight years, and he later studied at the RAM.
He received a scholarship from the RAM in 1957 to study electronic music in Köln. He served as an assistant to Stockhausen from 1958-60 and collaborated with him on the composition Carré. After a period as a graphic designer, Cardew became professor of composition at the RAM in 1967. Influenced by Cage and Tudor, Cardew was interested in the idea of performer participation in the creation of a work. He composed music that could be realized in several ways with notation that is a suggestion of the possible interpretations of the score. His most important work with this method is his graphic score Treatise (1963-7). In it, the performers must interpret the work as a sound version of how they see the score. This score can also be read as an abstract visual artwork. Cardew was also a frequent performer of the work of Stockhausen, Cage, Feldman and Wolff. Together with pianist John Tilbury, Cardew became known as a leading interpreter of experimental and indeterminate music in England. ~ Lynn Vought