Lawrence "Butch" Morris

Burning Cloud

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This three-movement "meditation" on the environment was recorded during a break in the Total Musik Meeting of 1993 in Berlin. This 53-minute work -- in three titled movements -- is played on cornet by Morris; trombone, flute, and a myriad of electronic devices by Deane; and Ninh using every kind of metallic instrument he can get his hands on. And while it's true that this music is "outside," it is only in the context that it is improvised and played outside normal time signatures and notions of rhythm, meter, and timbre. But it possesses all those things too. In this way it is inside: inside the focus of meditation and music. It is intimate, quiet, subdued, reflective, and yet full of the kind of searching that only three musical masters in search of speaking to each other can take. In "Ozone-Burning Red," Morris takes the lead with long, whispered lines almost rolling out of his cornet and Deane uses an electronic backdrop to illuminate his playing before entering with a trombone, while Ninh shimmers cymbals and gongs with his fingers and brushes to illustrate the solemnity of the collective's purpose. When the tempo begins to accelerate, it is because rhythm dictates a literal change in the weather and becomes the means by which thunder can be heard. When the second movement, "Burning Blue," is ushered in, Deane and Morris share the short, contrapuntal phrases that offer the utterance Ninh needs to paint his backdrop. Again, even in its angriest moments, the work is hushed, contemplative, and purposefully restrained. There is lyricism at play here that the ear doesn't pick up at first; harmonics shift back and forth between the three instruments and the static electrical effects boxes Deane plays his trombone through for more "voices." By the end of the last movement, "Burning Yellow," everything fades into an invisibility symbolizing the place where birth and death intersect, both figuratively and musically. Music as we know it has been completely deconstructed, taken back, stripped from its framework and even the architecture of improvisation, undone all the way back to primordial (not even basic) sound that hangs in the mist where something once might have been -- though the listener is not sure -- and something may be again. Only a few raw cries from the cornet at the very nadir of this work allow for a sliver of light in the darkness where everything is blind, everything is frightened, and everything is equal. This work is a monument to these three musicians' total willingness to communicate with each other, led by forces they didn't even understand when they were creating this masterpiece.

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