A Different Nature on 02/07/11
host: Andy Hosch /// This evening we bring you the third installment of a six part series on the music of composer and conductor Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris, recognized internationally as the principal theorist and practitioner in the evolution of Conduction, and a leading innovator in the confluence of jazz, new music, improvisation and contemporary classical music. Butch’s work redefines the role of composer, conductor, arranger and performer and bridges the gap between the composer, interpreter and improviser. Over the last 25 years Morris has led over 180 Conductions in cities around the world with ensembles of varying size and diverse instrumentation.
This series will continue on the 1st Monday of each month (with the possible exception of April, when it may be preempted by special Membership Drive programming). Also, I am arranging to do an interview with Butch Morris which we hope to air later in the series. So tune in and get ready to check out some truly amazing sounds. Visit Butch Morris's website at http://www.conduction.us/ and also go to http://blackfeb.com to learn about the recently released documentary film, "Black February" which follows a month long series of Conduction performances in New York during February, 2005 celebrating the 20th anniversary since of of Morris' first Conduction.
The following is an excerpt taken from the book Arcana II (John Zorn, et al.) as reprinted in the liner notes to the double CD "conduction/induction" (Rai Trade, 2007). I think it is very informative to hear, in Butch Morris' own words, his description of the principles of Conduction and of his overall artistic philosophy:
“For more than 20 years through Conduction, I have had the privilege to engage and enjoy, from the inside, this intermediate space between notation and improvisation, acquiring new skills and perspectives while doing so.
The context, of course, has been polarized by history and practice: musicians and musical communities bound by notation and musicians and musical communities bound by improvisation. Yet between them is the space where a potential for new life, an expansive range of expression that has gone untouched, prevails; and where ideals and ideas incubate for the continuum of the ‘musical’ canon.
Conduction®: a vocabulary of ideographic signs and gestures activated to modify or construct a real-time musical arrangement (of any notation) or composition. Each sign and gesture transmits generative information for interpretation and provides instantaneous possibilities for altering or initiating harmony, melody, rhythm, articulation, phrasing or form.
Conduction concerns transmission, communication and expression; a common ground where all culture and style cohabit, not only by way of their distinctiveness, but also in how each contributes, in the ensemble, to a unique encounter. More intimately, it concerns a capacity of musicianship for new skills with new principles.
The vocabulary of Conduction is symbolic information (directives: signs and gestures) that carry definition and meaning to propel musicians toward substantive understanding and achievement. It provides the precision and the focus needed to navigate music’s vast terrain.
The principles of Conduction foster, enhance and evoke the analytical reasoning of each musician’s history, knowledge, intelligence, experience, instinct, intuition, expression, will and fantasy as fundamental requirement.
In Conduction, the art of composition and the immediacy of performance become interdependent -- while the language of music cultivates and integrates all vernaculars and traditions open to, and in, the ensemble.
Results are ever present: enhanced musicianship; discovery of structure and substance in the arc of the performance; the evolution of a social logic based on new reciprocities between human and music, and between composer and conductor, conductor as composer, instrumentalist and conductor, instrumentalist and composer -- and audience, attaining new levels of momentary logic and new clarities about the character of the work itself.
Now, this bridge that Conduction builds between notation and improvisation fuels interest. For with it, I can identify, embrace and exploit the weaknesses and strengths of both together and depict, in the process, core limitations in either. Conduction also requires its realization in physical, rather than theoretical, form to facilitate (new) kinds of augmentation. The logic of circumstance(s) dictates the maximizing of encounter, and the musical and social structures that grow from such encounter.
Conduction is vivacious in that it draws on the full expanse of musical design while asking of its musicians that they refine their capacities beyond style and cultural aesthetic or social difference.
There are as many rewards as questions here but none, it seems, as significant as that which opens pathways, both individually and collectively; pathways shuttered previously by custom or fear. And I refer to the exclusionary focus of most musical traditions and to the fear of compromising identity.
Conduction, however, is not in contestation with given forms as much as it seeks to supplement them with a greater appreciation of possibility -- a capacity for dialogue uniquely spurred by the moments and movements that appear and vanish.
At the same time, by stripping away predispositions to value this or that in music, we also construct a mirror to the kinds of relationships that subsist in society, and the wherewithal of music to challenge and transform them; a community in microcosm that functions via this dynamic.
Conduction is neither method nor process, but practicum that reveals only in practice and through all its metaphorical concepts.
A sonic arena utilizing every tool in its arsenal to construct, deconstruct and reconstruct with and from the basic properties of pitch, duration, intensity and timbre. Primed by an ‘Extra Dimension,’ which motivates us to engage and respond within, as beyond, all territory, Conduction invokes a continuum that thrives in a real-time transmission of relationships and meaning; the spontaneity and precision that we need to ignite and combust order and organization within sonic thought.
From the conductor’s perspective, Conduction is the art of “environing,” the organization of surrounding things, conditions or influences. It is a technique to capture and discover sonic information, structure and sub-structure, meaning, implication and expression (as we construct together) -- all primary values in our pursuit of coherence and poignancy, and the immediacy of place.
From the perspective of the instrumentalist, the musician learns that Conduction is ensemble skill, and that Conduction’s criteria drive attentiveness, discrimination, understanding, perception and execution. Each sign in the Conduction Vocabulary has definition, yet within that definition each musician is obliged to qualitatively define its ‘content’. The descriptive (vocabulary) thus generates prospect; and by virtue of the definition attached to each sign, each interpretation evolves by progressive self-development through historical and momentary orientation.
To contribute to Conduction, the musician reveals explicit content within the evolving work. As such, musical flexibility and potential expand as we explore a new condition of liberty to foster individual and collective freedoms in real time.
A state of risk, certainly; a distillation of immediacy, no doubt; the incarnation of a step in the evolution of music that each musician embodies – this is a goal.
Conduction is an art that flowers in contradiction (for some), ambiguity (for others) and encounter (for all involved). By constructing, deconstructing and contrasting composition at will, we forge an intermediate space, both intensive and extensive, for the evolution of ensemble music, and for a new virtuoso thus versed.
In this way, Conduction opens a range of possibility previously unknown, just barely known or in what we know all too well. After all, Conduction is a way to explore music as we make it -- a probe to mine music and the ensemble at its most basic levels.
All in all, what we have here is the evolution of a model of empirical form;
a way to contribute to the musical continuum as possibility and a (new) musical responsibility where the collective determines the experience of symbolic sonic stimuli; where all forms of notation, improvisation, style and thought combine to establish a unique constellation of momentary logic (improvisation); where consciences can mature in a perfectly working precision that can never reach what is traditionally known as perfection.”
--LAWRENCE D. “BUTCH” MORRIS.