Butch Morris with the Free Zone / Sound Infusion Orchestra
Bowery Poetry Club, 10/17/04
Conduction No. 141: EMYOUESEYESE
Met Steve Dickison early at the BPC due to some conflicting time listings, so we got to see Morris warm his band up before the concert. His comments to the players were barely audible, but fascinating -- I think I overheard "why is there so much doubt…?" during a cue where he was trying to get fully extended duration from a full orchestra pedal chord. Certainly a valid question. I couldn't help wondering how much of an orchestration could be done by simply asking the orchestra questions?
Musicians kept filtering in up to the last second - there were at lest 16 on stage by the time they started. The piece began with Adam Lane on bass, rhythmically ping-ponging between the low and high end of the instrument while keeping a continuous melodic stream of variation going. The bass was an anchor and an engine for much of the piece. He was slowly joined by violin and cello -- an extended string texture over which Morris began to signal with flourishes and punctuations. Much of the piece used this method- some players creating static or repetitive structure over which dynamic layers would be superimposed.
The overlapping tonalities were dense, and hovered in a thick mid-low ball of dark gray energy that would transform into beautiful and somewhat nightmarish shapes, creating a constant counter-pointing feeling. It was beautiful and energetic, with a certain amount of anxiety shot through. Not unlike life in NYC.
When I followed the cues it was clear that Morris was tightly controlling the orchestra movement the entire time, though the overall feeling of structure also came across as pointedly dream-like in its logic, with a consistent sense of interacting elements of carefully interwoven particles and sheets: balanced volatility, mass and organization.