Improvising music series
Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris died of lung cancer on January 29, 2013. Because in this show I present the following musics.
Butch Morris / Lê Quan Ninh / J. A. Dean – Burning Cloud
This three-movement “meditation” on the environment was recorded during a break in the Total Musik Meeting of 1993 in Berlin. This 53-minute work – in three titled movements – is played on cornet byMorris; trombone, flute, and electronic devices by Deane and every kind of metallic instrument by Ninh.
And while it’s true that this music is “outside,” it is only in the context that it is improvised and played outside normal time signatures and notions of rhythm, meter, and timbre. And while it’s true that this music is “outside,” it is only in the context that it is improvised and played outside normal time signatures and notions of rhythm and timbre.
But it possesses all those things too. In this way it is inside: inside the focus of meditation and music.
It is intimate, quiet, subdued, reflective, and yet full of the kind of searching that only three musical masters in search of speaking to each other can take. In “Ozone-Burning Red,”Morris takes the lead with long, whispered lines almost rolling out of his cornet and Deane uses an electronic backdrop to illuminate his playing before entering with a trombone, while Ninh shimmers cymbals and gongs with his fingers and brushes to illustrate the solemnity of the collective’s purpose. When the tempo begins to accelerate, it is because rhythm dictates a literal change in the weather and becomes the means by which thunder can be heard.
When the second movement, “Ozone-Burning Blue,” is ushered in, Deane and Morris share the short, contrapuntal phrases that offer the utterance Ninh needs to paint his backdrop. Again, even in its angriest moments, the work is hushed, contemplative, and purposefully restrained. There is lyricism at play here that the ear doesn’t pick up at first; harmonics shift back and forth between the three instruments and the static electrical effects boxes Deane plays his trombone through for more “voices.”
By the end of the last movement, “Ozone-Burning Yellow,” everything fades into an invisibility symbolizing the place where birth and death intersect, both figuratively and musically. Music as we know it has been completely deconstructed, taken back, stripped from its framework and even the architecture of improvisation, undone all the way back to primordial (not even basic) sound that hangs in the mist where something once might have been – though the listener is not sure – and something may be again. Only a few raw cries from the cornet at the very nadir of this work allow for a sliver of light in the darkness where everything is blind, everything is frightened, and everything is equal. This work is a monument to these three musicians’ total willingness to communicate with each other, led by forces they didn’t even understand when they were creating this masterpiece.
- Butch Morris / Lê Quan Ninh / J. A. Dean – Burning Cloud (1996, CD, FMP, FMP CD 77)
- Ozone – Burning Red
- Ozone – Burning Blue
- Ozone – Burning Yellow
Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris – Conduction #70: TIT for TAT
The „Projections Sonores” organized by Hans Koch, a saxophone player from Biel, in September 1996 at the lake of Biel. Four times four duos made up of fifteen musicians, renowned names of the Swiss scene of improvized music and also some new ones, plus two formations of different sizes, one led by Lawrence D. „Butch” Morris and the other led by Jim O’Rourke, made up the programme from Monday to Saturday.
On Sunday both formations could be heard at the „Rote Fabrik” in Zurich. Separated only by intermission, they made their conceptual differences obvious. Butch Morris stands like a conductor in front of fifteen musicians organized symmetrically in three rows, right at back the electronics, the wings built of the drummers, the two guitarist in between, at the front the three strings and two bassclarinet, the vocals to the extreme left and right.
Jim O’Rourke on the other hand took only audible influence on the slightly smaller formation: as sound manipulator, hardly visible for the musicians and audience, from mixing desk in the darkness of the hall.
Conduction 70 – „Tit for Tat” was recorded in this place. Butch Morris gives clear signs which have to be learnt like a language by the musicians who have never worked with him before. Some of the Swiss musicians have already played in earlier conductions with him and are quite familiar with his methods.
Conduction #70 is one of the most provocative and strange works ever issued by Butch Morris. Morris unfolds the piece as a sonic construction first, with whisks of air coming through the horns and microphonic exercises. This is followed by a long, slowly developing series of short breathy phrases by the entire horn section and underscored by the guitars before becoming highlighted and accented by electronics and percussion. There are long pauses where silence comes to play as part of a tension-building device.
The cycle starts over with a new group of instruments, strings this time, creating a body of notes, nuances, and monosyllabic vocal utterances before being joined by the rest of the instruments in the orchestra.
This is ghost music. Morris knows exactly what he’s doing; his penchant for gradually developing dynamics and a slowly crafted harmonic structure are uncanny.
- Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris – Conduction #70: TIT for TAT (1998, CD, For 4 Ears, CD 927)
You can listen the show(beginning from 01:12):