AMN Reviews: Joe Morris – Perpetual Frontier: The Properties of Free Music

Joe Morris: Perpetual Frontier: The Properties of Free Music [Riti Publishing]

Perpetual Frontier is guitarist/bassist/educator Joe Morris’s comprehensive description of and reflection on the practice and principles of free music. As such, it is a lucid exposition of free music rooted in the jazz tradition, and a welcome addition to the literature on improvised music.

The book represents something of a summa of what Morris has experienced and learned during several decades of participation in improvised music as both a performer and a teacher. His purpose in writing the book is to provide the means for practicing improvisers to keep pushing the music forward in order to ensure that its frontier is in fact perpetuated and not hardened into an impassable boundary. But he also wishes to provide a way in for those beginning to engage the music whether as creators or listeners. By explaining the mechanics and structures of free music in plain language, Morris performs the useful service of demystifying a kind of music that often can seem baffling to those not directly involved in it.

The book is clearly organized into four sections and is plainly written, reflecting Morris’s experience as an instructor at Tufts, the New England Conservatory and the Longy School of Music of Bard College.

The first section contains a historical and conceptual overview of free music. While historically inspired by or otherwise associated with jazz, free music is, Morris argues, a kind of music that encompasses a variety of methods grounded in sources including, but not limited to, jazz. For Morris, the essence of free music inheres in the goal and practice of making music beyond the recognized conventions of established genres; still, the origin of this type of free music in jazz is of continuing relevance to the subsequent discussion.

The real heart of the book is the second section, an exhaustive analysis of the elements that make up free music. The section is logically structured into a set of major categories, each of which is then divided into a set of subcategories. These major categories encompass approach—that is, the overall attitude of invention that the free musician takes toward the material–melodic structure, pulse or rhythm, interaction among players, and musical form. The section is intended as descriptive rather than prescriptive–a catalogue of what can be done rather than a set of rules determining what should be done.

An interesting point to emerge from Morris’s analysis is the importance of patterned pitch sets—melodies—for the structure and development of freely improvised music. Melody here is the template, or malleable pattern, around which an improvisation can be organized and given coherence. Given this function, melodic patterns replace harmonic movement as the main structuring principle. Harmonies may arise, but as emergent properties of the underlying melodies. This is a defining insight, and one might say that here Morris identifies the point where free music branches off from jazz, while still retaining the ability to maintain a family resemblance to jazz.

Of course, freely improvised music is as much a matter of relationships among the players as it is of relationships among musical elements. Accordingly, the subsection on form contains a good discussion of the skills needed to play well in open forms—foremost among them listening, concentration, cooperation, and decisiveness. Decisiveness is particularly important; without it, free improvisation threatens to implode into playing that can’t sustain itself.

Morris follows the section on the elements of free music with one offering his analysis of four different approaches to organizing those elements. These four are Ornette Coleman’s Harmolodics, the Unit Structures of Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton’s Tri-Axiom Theory, and the type of free improvisation developed in Europe by musicians in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom. Morris’s analyses, particularly of the first three methodologies, provide useful insights especially for listeners hoping to gain a deeper understanding of how the music works.

The final section collects the replies to a questionnaire Morris sent to fifteen musicians associated with free improvisation. The questions, which are informed by the analyses and categories outlined in the preceding sections of the book, elicit an illuminating range of responses reflecting the diversity of forms and intentions that these musicians bring to their playing.

This Week at Cafe OTO

Paal Nilssen-Love
Paal Nilssen-Love (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From London’s Cafe OTO:

TUES 11 SEPTEMBER ’12 • 8PM • £10 advance / £12 on the door
with Evan Parker, Roger Turner
WED 12 SEPTEMBER ’12 • 8PM • £10 advance / £12 on the door
with Roger Turner, Pat Thomas, Steve Williamson

THURS 13 SEPT ’12 • 7.30PM • £7 advance / £8 on the door

DAVID THOMAS – The Book of Hieroglyphs’ • SAT 15 SEPT ’12 • 3pm – 5pm • FREE ENTRY

SAT 15 SEPT ’12 • 8PM • £10 advance / £12 on the door

SUN 16 SEPT ’12 • 8PM • £7 advance / £8 on the door

MON 17 SEPT ’12 • 8PM • £7 adv / £8 on the door

TUES 18 SEPT ’12 • 8PM • £7 advance / £8 on the door

WED 19 SEPT ’12 • 8PM • £12 advance / £14 on the door

2012 Sonic Circuits Festival Lineup

From Sonic Circuits:

Friday September 28

Lab II – 12noon

DC Premiere of “Romantic Warriors II – About Rock In Opposition”
United in their opposition to the music industry, a collective of European progressive rock bands started the “Rock In Opposition” movement in 1978 by organizing their own festival in London. This feature length documentary explores the origins of the RIO movement, and how its legacy continues to influence contemporary bands throughout the world. The film features such bands as Henry Cow, Art Bears, Art Zoyd, Magma, Univers Zero, Present, Aranis and many more. The film will be followed by discussion with Chris Cutler (Henry Cow/Art Bears) & the film directors Adele Schmidt & José Zegarra Holder.

Two programs of recent avant-garde films are organized around particular concepts––one relates to a sense of place, and the other deals with the notion of journeys. Found music, recycled music, collaborations with sound artists, experiments with the soundtrack, musique concrete, field recordings, acousmatic sound. What all the pieces have in common is the key element that sound plays in evoking these particular cinematic themes.

Lab II – 3pm

Film Program I – Sense of Place
Shambhavi Kaul: Place for Landing. Household landscape implodes and explodes into space as a child and its reflection are inscribed into a shadowy lunar patchwork.
Laida Lertxundi: Footnotes to a House of Love. A long dialogue between image and sound, between what appears on screen and what is left out of the frame. Notes on a broad and mysterious subject: love.
Paul Clipson: Sphinx on the Seine (Music by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma). Musing on a series of brief, but enigmatic images taken from around the world.
Tomonari Nishikawa: Tokyo Ebisu. Views from the platforms of 10 stations in Yamanote Line, from Tokyo Station to Ebisu Station clockwise.
Takashi Makino: Generator (Music by Jim O’Rourke). A response to the disaster in Fukushima visualises Tokyo as an eroding metropolis.

Lab II – 4pm

Film Program II – Journeys
Sylvia Schedelbauer: Sounding Glass (Music by Thomas Carnacki). A man in a forest is subject to a flood of impressions.
Takahiro Suzuki: 9214. The passing of a freight train from a different perspective.
Hey–Yeun Jang: (k)now (t)here. If dreaming is dangerous, its solution would be not less-dreaming but dreaming-all-the-time.
Fern Silva: Peril of the Antilles. Filmed at the beginning of November 2010 while the maker visited a friend in Haiti.
Ben Russell: River Rites (Music by Mindflayer). A trance dance water implosion, a newer line drawn between secular possession and religious phenomena.
Michael Robinson: And We All Shine On. A post-apocalyptic paradise broadcasts its hidden demons via layered landscapes and karaoke, singing the dangers of the mediated spirit.

Lab II – 5pm

Northern Machine
Fast Forty

Lang Theater – 7pm

Janel & Anthony
Tatsuya Nakatani & Vanessa Skantze
Mia Zabelka & Elise Passavant
David Behrman Ensemble

Saturday September 29

Lab II – 10am – FREE

Theremin Seminar presented by Arthur Harrison

Great Hall – 11am

Mercury Fools the Alchemist

Lang Theater – 12noon

Violet & Sylvia Schedelbauer
Arturas Bumšteinas & Liudas Mockūnas
Boris Bobby

Great Hall – 1:30pm


Lab II – 2:30pm

Jeff Carey
Apocalypse Trio
Gino Robair
Duo Heenan Kocher

Great Hall – 4:30pm

Lost Civilizations

Lab II – 5:00pm

Aki Onda

Lang Theater – 7pm

Kruingtjsen & other Super Hits
Otomo Yoshihide
Musique Noire (Chris Cutler & David Thomas)

Sunday September 30

Great Hall – 11am

Christopher S. Feltner
Canid & Borborygmus
Gum Yummy
safe 2
Layne Garrett

Lab II – 1pm

Dì Tuī Piàn Duàn / 遞推片段
Bushmeat & Gut Head

Great Hall – 2:30pm

DC Improvisers Collective (DCIC)
Colla Parte

Lab II – 3:30pm

Tag Cloud
Guillermo Pizarro
Red Spells Red
Immanent Voiceless
Bryce Eiman

Lang Theater – 7pm

Alec Redfearn & the Eyesores
Isabelle Duthoit & Franz Hautzinger & Zsolt Sőrés
Glenn Branca Ensemble

Free Jazz Blog Reviews

Peter Brötzmann at "Sonore" concert,...
Peter Brötzmann at “Sonore” concert, Lviv (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Free Jazz:

Stian Westerhus – The Matriarch And The Wrong Kind Of Flowers (RuneGrammofon, 2012)
Ensemble X – Metaimprovisor (Red Toucan, 2012) ****½
Culture Of Un – Moonish (Bocian, 2012) ****
James Falzone’s Klang! – Brooklyn Lines — Chicago Spaces (AllosDocuments, 2012) ****
Pão – Pão (Shhpuma, 2012) ****½
Bark! – Fume of Sighs (Psi Recordings, 2012) ****
Brötzmann/Satoh/Moriyama – Yatagarasu (Not Two, 2012) ****½
Peter Brötzmann & Jörg Fischer – In Wiesbaden (NotTwo, 2011) *****

Out of Your Head Brooklyn Fall Schedule

From Brooklyn’s Out Of Your Head:

As always these shows are 1st and 3rd Sundays at Freddy’s Bar and Backroom (627 5th Ave, South Slope, BK). Sets are at 9:30 and 11pm, always no cover but donations are encouraged and greatly appreciated.


SET ONE (9:30p)
Jonah Parzen-Johnson-reeds
Jonathan Goldberger-guitar
Sean Ali-bass
Will McEvoy-bass
SET TWO (11:00p)
Anna Webber-reeds
Ben Syversen-trumpet
TJ Huff-guitar
Dustin Carlson-guitar
Mark Ziegler-bass

10/7: Baltimore Exchange Day!!! (We welcome some close friends from our Bmore chapter of OOYH)

SET ONE (9:30p)
Eric Trudel-reeds
Josh Reed-trumpet
Sebastian Noelle-guitar
Blake Cramer-vibes
Noah Garabedian-bass
Flin von Hemmen-drums
SET TWO (11:00p)
Josh Sinton-reeds
Kenny Warren-trumpet
Matt Frazao-guitar
Landon Knoblock-keyboards
Jon Birkholz-keyboards
Devin Gray-drums


SET ONE (9:30p)
Adam Schneit-reeds
Sebastien Ammann-keyboards
Pascal Niggenkemper-bass
Noel Brennan-drums
SET TWO (11:00p)
Yoni Kretzmer-tenor sax
Joe Moffett-trumpet
Liz Kosack-keyboards
Mike Ross-drums


SET ONE (9:30p)
Drew Williams-reeds
Danny Gouker-trumpet
JP Schlegelmilch-keyboards
Keisuke Matsuno-guitar
Matt Rosseau-drums
SET TWO (11:00p)
Carlo Costa-drums
Kate Pittman-drums
Devin Gray-drums
Devin Drobka-drums


SET ONE (9:30p)
Patrick Breiner-reeds
Timo Volbrecht-reeds
Nico Soffiato-guitar
Tim Kuhl-drums
SET TWO (11:00p)
Curtis Sydnor-keyboards
Scott Colberg-bass
Max Jaffee-drums


SET ONE (9:30p)
Jacob Teichroew-reeds
John Tate-bass
Jesse Stacken-keyboards
Max Andrzejewski-drums
SET TWO (11:00p)
Jasmine Lovell-Smith-sax
Owen Stewart-Robertson-guitar
David Grollman-percussion

SET ONE (9:30p)
Jake Henry-trumpet
Brad Henkel-trumpet
Darius Jones-trombone
Matt Plummer-trombone
SET TWO (11:00p)
Nathaniel Morgan-alto sax
Ed Rosenberg-tenor sax
Dave Miller-guitar
Adam Hopkins-bass
Martin Urbach-drums/percussion

The Super Coda presents Yellow Back Radio Break Down at Spectrum on 9/14

From New York’s The Super Coda:

Spectrum – 121 Ludlow st. 2nd fl.
Doors @ 8p, performances 9p – late
Beer and Wine available for donation
5-15$ suggested donation for performers.

Round two of the Super Coda’s weekly Friday night Residency at Spectrum features legendary musician Jameel Moondock, legendary artist/musician Michael Hafftka, legendary noisemaker Crank Sturgeon, legendary performance artist Miles Pflanz, legendary guitar virtuoso Dave Scanlon….and Valerie Kuehne, who is feeling legendary only insofar as she appears to have memorized the entire libretto to Sweeney Todd.

There will be a surprise object/idea/quotation/foodstuff present for the artists to incorporate into their sets. Have an idea? message me at Collaboration is fun.

JAMEEL: Moondock’s unorthodoxies are deeply rooted in a knowledge of, and profound feeling for his craft. Moondoc’s heavily vocalized sound on alto combines the sharp edge of Jackie McLean with a gentleness of tone reminiscent of Joe Henderson. He manipulates timbre as expressively as Albert Ayler. The vivid animation and emotionalism of his playing again recall Ayler, along with another of Black Music’s great exponents, the South African musician Dudu Pukwana. Moondoc’s rhythmic concept, delivery, and sense of space are completely unique; his phrases slip and wobble prankishly, forming impossible, oblique shapes while somehow holding to a melodic line. Moondoc gives everything he does an old-world, future-world, other-world plurality. Moondoc is one of the most singular players in music, and one of its most eloquent and communicative storytellers.

MICHAEL: is a visual artist and musician. Hafftka’s artwork is represented in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Carnegie Museum of Art, Housatonic Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, and other public collections. Hafftka played piano as a child and now plays predominantly guitar. As Defective Chords Hafftka released on the Six Gallery Press label,, Deployment (2003), an instrumental duo with Adrian Morgan, Root (2007), a solo guitar, Feeding Goats (2011), an avant-garde ensemble with Arieh Scharnberg and Yonat Hafftka, A Sheltering Endless Motion (2012) with Yonat Hafftka and Victor Grinenco, and Dyad (2012) with Victor Grenenco. Hafftka joined Jandek for its most recent performances in NY. Hafftka is collaborating with musicians around the globe and has several projects in the works.

MILES: Miles Pflanz is a sculptor currently living Brooklyn, NY. Orphaned at age nine. High school varsity basketball MVP. Most significant performances site specific and not related to any institution

CRANK: Crank Sturgeon has been active in performance, installation, and sound art since the early 1990′s. A comical conceptualist, Crank is something of a misnomer: whether blending pun with the profane, or transforming the precious into an oil spill, a Sturgeon performance defies categorization. Accompanied by ridiculous costuming, pointed instructions and parables (gone awry), and even the occasional dirigible or two, these elements intertwine, transforming into space-defying interventions, and invariably involving audience participation. More than just possessing a predilection for the absurd, Crank wears the goggles of the perpetual optimist: infusing his processes with a classical struggle, and yet always with a leery salmon grin, awash in an undertow of delicious and celebratory noise…

DAVE: I was once a bear. Life for such an animal is simply preparing for winter and enduring it. In my animal mind it was decided that I would not stand for this continuous cycle any longer. I was going to find a way to hold back the approaching winter. After the winter thaw, spring, and early summer leading to the solstice. The first thing that would change is that my diet moved from roots to berries. The revelation occurred to me that if I continue on a diet of roots the summer would be unable to progress. As that summer matured and the berries ripened I would approach the plants with confidence and say “I have seen the creator.” Also, without the coming winter there was no need to hunt. Life can be sustained on roots if the body fat for hibernation is not needed. Throughout that summer as prey presented itself and my instincts said to hunt I restrained myself and softly said “I have seen the creator.” The days inevitably grew shorter. The foliage changed color. I saw that I had mistaken but sadly there was no time. I had not prepared for the winter. By the time the dropping temperatures forced me into hibernation I knew that my death laid ahead. As I passed the gods took interest. Touched by my faith and discipline but angered by the ignorance in it, the gods had me reborn in human form so that I may understand that the reason for my mistake was that I saw the world only in relationship to myself.