This section of the blog contains interviews with collaborators and members of the orchestra.
Interview with Phil Morton, July 2017
On the 1st July the orchestra were joined by Phil Morton. A key figure for many years in Liverpool’s improvising scene and founder member of the improvising group Frakture. He brought his piece 50:50 for the orchestra to play at The Quaker Meeting House, Liverpool.
Can you explain the concept behind 50:50 and how the piece is structured?
PM. Concept: The improviser, provides content to a piece of work, music. This content should not exceed 50% of the total duration of the piece of work
Concepts: Free improvisers over-play
Originally the concept is: a workshop piece that makes the decision
making process and choices process, conscious, top of mind, liminal?
Current concept : time monitoring: everyone uses the same device during this research phase.
The musician can only play for 50% of the duration of the piece.
For example if the piece lasts 30 minutes: the max a musician can play in total is 15 minutes.
The fifteen minutes is the sum or aggregate of the playing time.
The musicians active contribution or content is directed by “free improvisation”: not by a score. Result: at any one time the active number of musicians playing will vary: including zero.
The concept is delivered by a physical, mechanical chess clock, with
two digital clock faces, one labled tacet, the other freeplay. Every
player has their own clock, which operated independantly. Be aware the current “System 50;50” has taken 10 years to develop.
The piece has been performed a few times now, what are your thoughts on it?
PM. After ten years, the research stumbled upon the use of the mechanical chess clock, this is a “break-through”, through the glass ceiling m oment . Martin Hacket of Oxford improvisers should be credited here. This is the gift that will keep on giving
It will work, define work:
aid research, provoke interest, provoke further questions, provoke cognitive responses, please one,
The evidence suggests it will work in all settings and variables.
You’ve played it various time lengths. Why have you done this? And is there a time length that you think works best? Why have you done this?
PM. Well, the simple answer is because one can. Another answer : it is research, so one can adopt a research approach, adopt a methodoloy: test it. Look at the variable, search & reflect, note and record the findings.
We can think about 50;50 : doing it, generates new insights.
The variable are:
Number of players [ and who they are ….]
Duration of the piece
Ratios : tacet to freeplay
The phrase “best” is currently best to be avoided. ○ It is research: the different settings
Duo – Phil Morton, Andrew L Hooker – no input mixer.
Trio – Phil Moton, John Pearson, Yashwashi Sharma
Quartet – The Liverpool Quartet
Octet – Blank Canvas octet
12 piece ensembles
Orchestral ( not done yet due to lack of access )
The different setting I believe will start to generate material that is
Particular: Responses specific to the setting, variables and people
Universal : responses common to all situations, people and
The concept – dialectical – might be used here.
Research so far suggests the above speculation is true.
What is the role of composition or structures for improvising musicians? Is it necessary? what does it bring?
PM The following is speculation, in the moment speculation ○ Composition is a musical system
Free improvisation is a musical system
PM – witticism –
There is nothing in composition that free improvisation can’t do
Some “outcomes” maybe easier to access via composition ○ There is nothing in free improvisation that composition can’t do
Some “outcomes” maybe easier to access via free improvisation ○ There are more than two ways of structuring music
Speculation,thinking on my feet, the role is to deliver the target or aim… ○ It really helps if you know where you want to go! And who with. ○ ……..
It’s well known that improvising musicians are not the most susceptible to being told what to do. Have Improvisors been positive or negative to the experience of playing 50:50?
PM: Not the space or place to answer this.
Statistically : highly positive, intenses, offered without asking, often simple very immediate – “I like the clocks”
Digital apps on digital devices & egg timers generated some negative responses
Positive: some reactions very very positive
Evidence not supplied. yet……