Traveling with Electronics : Comprehending Conduction

I wanted to figure out how to make an orchestra

as flexible as an improvising trio.....butch morris




I am about to dive into an intensive three day workshop teaching Conduction - only this time rather than teaching an ensemble, I will be working with another conductor. 

My pre-production process has included reviewing the current draft of the Conduction Lexicon (for the upcoming workbook), as well as devouring all of the videos I could find online of the maestro in action. One of the best examples of Butch Morris in the act of explaining and teaching this revolutionary method of creating ensemble music in real time can be seen in the video at the bottom of this page. First there is an introduction - Butch comes on and answers some questions at 13:00 - and the action really starts at 28:00 - well worth a look (even though the audio sync derails).


I transcribed all of Butch's commentary for my own deeper comprehension and practice of a system that is as fluid as melting ice, and have included a few of the fundamental revelations here.


In the Words of Maestro Lawrence D. Butch Morris:


 - I wanted to figure out how to make an orchestra as flexible as an improvising trio. 


 - I did not want to limit my ideas to style and I did not want to limit my ideas to stylistic category. I wanted to work with musicians who wanted to explore the unknown.


 - In trying to find the language to talk about this whole idea, I started reading a number of other kinds of books, like physics books, thats where the terminology comes from - conduction - this transmission of information, this transmission of heat and energy. Thats what you see between me and the ensemble - energy. I'm transmitting information, they're giving it back. The more we do this the more this electricity flows, the more this music levitates, on it's own.


 - In the beginning, yes, I thought I was conducting improvisation. I'm not conducting improvisation, and I don't teach people how to improvise. I show musicians how to interpret symbolism.


 - When I say develop this idea, I'm not interested in a free improvisation, because that is not what this means - this means to develop something very specific.


 - You need musicians who will respond in a positive way. The worst thing that can happen in an ensemble is hesitation. It's demanding, there's allot to remember and there is allot of responsibility to take, in constructing these ideas.


 - The more I discovered the vocabulary I needed to say the things I wanted to say, the more I realized I could dispense with notation and only use the vocabulary. I only bring the structure to the ideas, the musicians supply the content. I'm setting up structure and transmitting ideas, only ideas.


 - I thought in the beginning I needed a sign to say this and a sign to say that and a sign to say that but really, I needed to find the strengths and the weaknesses of both notation and improvisation, and through finding the strengths and the weaknesses, that would dictate what the vocabulary would be. What exactly did I need the vocabulary to say that notation does not say. What could I produce in real time that neither improvisation or notation could produce in real time. That is how the evolution of the conduction vocabulary took place.


 - We don't rehearse what we are going to perform, I just show them what the possibilities are. A symphony orchestra rehearses what they are going to perform and chances are, they're going to perform it like they rehearsed it, we're not going to do that. There is allot of trust involved with this.


 - The more the musicians become comfortable with the vocabulary, the more they will give. The more they give, the better the ensemble will sound. The better the ensemble sounds, the higher the level of music we will make. The higher the level of music we make, the more joy we will experience, and joy is something I do seek in this music.



until next month then

safe travels.....dino