Lawrence ‘Butch’ Morris

Nublu Orchestra & Butch Morris @ Lisbon
Nublu Orchestra & Butch Morris @ Lisbon
Photo by Joao M. Nogueira (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Lawrence ‘Butch’ Morris (February 10, 1947 - January 29, 2013) is an American composer/musician who created the conducted improvisation method known as ‘Conduction.’

In his own words Conduction is:

The practice of conveying and interpreting a lexicon of directives to construct or modify sonic arrangement or composition; a structure-content exchange between composer/conductor and instrumentalists that provides the immediate possibility of initiating or altering harmony, melody, rhythm, tempo, progression, articulation, phrasing or form through the manipulation of pitch, dynamics (volume/intensity/density), timbre, duration, silence, and organization in real-time.

He isn’t interested in strictly specific gestures. In fact, he says that he uses only around 36 gestures, and rarely uses most of them. In one session he might use as little as 3 gestures.

I show musicians how to interpret symbolism, what they do with it is up to them.

To me, it seems as if he gives the players a lot of breathing room. He’s strict with how to shape the music, but not with controlling it every moment.

Butch Morris has a distinct sound in his conductions, similar to how composers write in their own signature styles. He has often said that he’s interested in using conducting as a means to instruct music that can’t be written down. An interesting factor to this is that he frequently uses unique gestures. One such gesture is called ‘panorama.’ Where he waves his baton around and groups of players within a specific radius of his baton, must play or stop playing as the baton passing them by. The effect sounds very much like Butch Morris’ own music. It’s not only the idea of the gesture, but also the movements of his arms during this specific gesture that brings to life a kind of music that only belongs to Butch Morris.

Before performances, he strictly disciplined every ensemble he has worked with. Teaching and training them his philosophies of conduction. For example, when teaching his ‘panorama’ gesture he insists that the players provide total content, not merely quick little noises. He’ll heavily rehearse it while instructing the players how to adjust themselves to the improvisation, how to properly follow the conducting and the possibilities of a performance.

Another characteristic of Morris’s conducting is how he patiently milks ideas. He’s not in a hurry to jump around from kind of information to the next. He’ll stick with one idea and develop it, construct it, mold it to create a piece of art. To use a piece of information and develop it.

Videos

Lawrence ‘Butch’ Morris demonstrating and lecturing on ’Conduction:’

Lawrence ‘Butch’ Morris rehearsing a large ensemble:

Official website: http://www.conduction.us


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