Phil Morton (Musician)

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Phil Morton (born 1954, in Liverpool) is a musician who has worked mainly in the field of free improvisation since the 1992. He has been active consistently during that time as a promoter of concerts of freely improvised music in Liverpool and the north, providing hundreds of playing opportunities for both local and international musicians.


Introduction

Phil Morton photo Mark Jones


Early years

Early interest in `free improvisation`

Phil Morton's first contact with what is known as `free improvisation` was Charles Fox `jazz today` programme BBC Radio 3. On hearing the sounds and music of, Barry Guy, Paul Rutherford and Derek Bailey his response at the age of 13 was: they are doing that deliberately to annoy me. It was not a pleasurable sound, but interesting. He is still interested. He would buy the magazine `Musics` at the radical bookshop `News from nowhere`. He speculates his first `improv gig` was Alterations featuring Steve Beresford, Peter Cusack and Terry Day and attended the workshop too.

In the mid-sixties, in the low `teens` years PM attended a Sun Ra Arkestra concert at Liverpool University. The Arkestra went through their complete repertoire, PM speculates this was a tight band, well rehearsed and at the height of its power. It was an epiphany. Forty years later this specific gig was given a whole page in the Wire magazine. During this period he also witnessed The Scratch orchestra, John Tilbury playing John Cage, Cornelious Cardew ( false memory?)

In the late seventies, he formed and rehearsed a quartet that played only five notes from the twelve-note scale or list. Originally a steal from `the gamelan system` the notes for each piece were in fact picked by single (rotating) member of the band using the following criteria; guesswork, random, prior knowledge. This is an early example of his habit of applying `constriction` to open up the music. PM played double bass in this group.

In the 1980's in Liverpool PM contributed to the management and delivery of `Liberty Hall` a social club for non-aligned socialists, anarchists, and feminists initiated by Bob Dent of `News From Nowhere`. Liberty hall presented: talks, films, theatre groups, live music, washed down with beer and a disco. PM assissted in all areas of activity. He presented: Lol Coxhill, The Feminist Improvisation Group, Mike Westbrook Brass Band. This was a viable and profitable project.

1992 - citation required - met Phil Hargreaves and suggested they work on an opera called `Australia has no dead heart`, opera was a fashionable idea at the time. There was no opera, but PM/PH rehearsed for FIVE YEARS (citation required) then recorded click, launched Frakture, and the rest is history

Frakture years

Frakture 1997 - 2014 initially conceived as a `music club` or space developed into a creative arts Organisation nay a `creative industry` .

The numbers: up to 500 sessions between 1997 - 2014. 49 Centrifuge events, 49 Blank Canvas events, 117 Frakture events, 13 Frakass events, 55 Concerts in `a festival format`, 38 `Splash gigs`, 124 workshops. Important: PM did not do these events alone.

More citation required, Full archive to follow in 2018

Discography

  • Click - Bonehouse, with Phil Hargreaves
  • Cracked - Bonehouse with Phil Lucking
  • Swung Dash - by Swung Dash
  • Frakture Big Band, live at the Cornerstone
  • Frakture Big Band, double CD - `Angel of the Ressurection` and `Birds of America`

Groups

Groups, that had an on-going status at the time and not just a `one night stand`.

  • Bonehouse
  • Swung Dash
  • The Frakture Big Band
  • Instant Expansion
  • Pecha Kucha

PM is currently Feb 2018 rehearsing,

  • with the trio, Mark Hanslip, Walt Shaw and Phil Morton.
  • Hedge, with Andy Hodges
  • System 5050 ensembles.

Not many really. Apologies if I omitted important examples.

Workshop & activity

Phil Morton experience in the design and delivery of workshop session dealing with creative processes and the act of listening is substantial, this has been achieved through his own work and through the experience of being in the shadow of the giants of the genre(s) such as: Maggie Nicols, Pauline Oliverous, Phil Minton, Eddie Prevost, John Hull and through the deep conversations held with all the improvisers who played at Frakture and at sometime sat his kitchen table.

PM has attended `Advanced Workshop Leadership` courses and a one year NVQ3 Arts project management course.

Snap out of it programme: workshops aimed at `unlearning mechanical ways of making music` (Maggie Nicols) Click - Jigsaw programmes, heuristic sessions (influenced by Eddie Prevost) were the artists perform then reflect and share their thinking about the experience. Soundwalks and sonic gaze: personal development through the act of listening, draw & spell that sound.

PM has delivered 13 voice workshops and on rare occasions PM has led dance sessions.

Projects commissioned by third parties

  • The Liverpool Biennial, Sonic Gaze 2005
  • Liverpool Hope University - Sound relay project 2004
  • The Long Walk, Liverpool, for More Music 2007
  • Invited speaker: Sound Practice, The 1st UKISC Conference on sound, culture and environments in 2001 at Dartington
  • Invited speaker, Matrix, Sheffield Hallam University, citation required.
  • Invited speaker, UCLan University, citation required, on improvisation.
  • 1 Article published in `Noise gate`.
  • The Dancing Games with Cheshire Dance.
  • BBC Broadcast - Radio Four, `The Listeners`

Project management and funding

PM has been involved in over 50 successful funding bids that have generated over £100k for the free improvisation in the music sector. he did not do this alone.

PM worked in a `cooperative business` for twelve years. Some people may say `collective`. The cooperative paid: wages, sick pay, maternity leave, and profit sharing.

Scale: Mainly micro events, plus festivals through to an International Festival, and a 15 session project for `young people` to experience the elements of acoustic ecology. PM speculates the later had a budget of over £10k and the weekend festival he knows had a budget of £5k plus.

The numbers: over 700 sessions since 1997.

  • 22 soundwalks
  • 49 Centrifuge events
  • 49 Blank Canvas events
  • 117 Frakture events
  • 13 voice workshops, vocal play
  • 13 Frakass events
  • 55 Concerts in `a festival format`
  • 22 Jigsaw workshops (Preston & Bangor)
  • 38 `Splash gigs`
  • 124 workshops.
  • 89 `Listening Room sessions` delivered with the help of Roger Parry.

Important: PM did not do these events alone.

Partnerships: The Bluecoat (2000 - 2014), Hope at Everton (Citation required), UCLan Preston (current)

External web pages & Social media links