Butch Morris leads first Seattle 'conduction' a group concert made up on the spot


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Conductor Butch Morris concludes a 10-day Cornish College residency with a “conduction" a spontaneously directed ensemble performance unlike anything else. It takes place Saturday, March 6, at Poncho Concert Hall.

On paper, the practice that Butch Morris calls “conduction" sounds like a recipe for musical chaos. But after more than three decades, Morris is a maestro of spontaneously directed ensemble performance, an artist capable of transforming an ad-hoc group of musicians into a thrilling vehicle for instantaneous arranging and composing.

Using a system of graphics and gestures, Morris has honed a semaphoric vocabulary that allows him to shape a performance in real time, initiating or altering harmony, timbre, dynamics, melody and any other musical dimension. After leading hundreds of conductions around the world, he doesn't set out with a stylistic agenda, preferring to suss out his collaborators through rigorous workshops.

“Every situation is different," says Morris, 63, who concludes a 10-day residency at Cornish College of the Arts with his first Seattle conduction on Saturday at Poncho Hall.

“As I'm teaching the conduction vocabulary, I'm also learning the musicians, what they do and where they like to go musically. It's give and take all the way."

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This story appears courtesy of Seattle Jazz Scene.
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