Farewell to a visionary musician and musical thinker
January 29, 2013 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Sadly, it's time to say farewell to a unique and visionary musician and musical thinker who developed and articulated an extraordinary method of directing large-ensemble improvisation with a method that he dubbed "conduction". Mr. Butch Morris has left us, but his ideas will surely reverberate in the hearts and minds of creative musicians and lovers of creative music everywhere.
posted by flapjax at midnite (10 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I was privileged to have personally experienced Butch's conduction on a few occasions, as a member of Jemeel Moondoc's Jus' Grew Orchestra, a loose assemblage of musicians who used to play every Thursday night back in the early/mid 1980s at a little gallery/music spot in NYC's East Village called Neither/Nor (on 6th Street between avenues C and D). Butch would do conduction for the group whenever he was available. It was absolutely great to be a part of that, if only briefly, and I cherish the memory. Apart from his brilliant musical personality, he was a warm, friendly and very engaging person for whom I had the highest respect. RIP Butch Morris.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:35 PM on January 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

The video in the last link makes him seem very endearing and wise. Thanks for this post.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:36 PM on January 29, 2013

I thought maybe I would see him in person one day.

posted by moonmilk at 7:39 PM on January 29, 2013

From the link for "Revelation" (his ideas) he says,
I love to hear a wonderful orchestra interpret a classical piece, but that's been done to death and there's not a whole lot of revelation going on because the door's not open to revelation. Where are the doors? You can say the band was hot, the band was deep, but where are the doors to revelation? Where are the doors?
A friend's wife is a known new music composer and conductor. She puts on a number of concerts, salons, and events in San Francisco, among other cities, and I go when I can. It's not the kind of sonic experience I would have previously called "music," but it's *always* an experience I'm glad I had. As Butch says: it opens doors to revelation. It's meditative; you *have* to live in the moment because your brain can't anticipate the mode, the changes, the rhythm. This is one of the best explanations or ways into new music I've heard. Thank you for sharing, and sad to have only discovered this artist.

Open the doors, Butch!

posted by smirkette at 7:41 PM on January 29, 2013

I saw him casting spells out in front of the David Murray Big Band one amazing night twenty-two years ago, transforming a nondescript banquet room in Hartford, CT into the left ventricle of the heart of music. Afterward, he and Craig Harris and a few other ferociously talented players hung out in the hallway talking music to pretty much anybody (i.e., me) with an attitude of pure generosity and common love of The Thing.

Thank you, Butch, from me and my younger self. Godspeed.

posted by Kinbote at 8:38 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

More obits coming in: Chicago Reader and New York Times.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:07 PM on January 29, 2013

posted by quazichimp at 11:04 PM on January 29, 2013

Butch Morris had some really interesting ideas about different ways to organize sound. Though his work certainly built on others' previous efforts, he really developed conduction into its own unique thing.

Given that it has been such a singular mode of expression, I hope others will be able to carry on, and build on his ideas in turn. I know he taught his techniques personally to many students, but is there any documentation of his system of gestures available online? Reading about the few described in the NYT obit linked above makes me want to know more about the whole pallette, how it was conceived, how the gestures fit together, etc.

Also, not for nothin', but someone on Twitter noted today that Morris, violinist Billy Bang and saxophonist David S. Ware all served in the US military in Vietnam, and all died of cancer.

posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 12:21 AM on January 30, 2013

posted by zaelic at 12:33 AM on January 30, 2013

Didn't ever get the chance to see him perform, but have enjoyed his recordings. Thanks for noting.
posted by larrybob at 10:20 AM on January 30, 2013

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