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Morph

A musical play, suitable for any kind of improvising ensemble.

MORF 1, created in spring 2005 is a music piece where the course of events is defined by instructions written on cards. The resemblance to an ordinary card game is quite strong; the number of cards is 52, each member, or “player” has its own pile of cards to be played by certain rules. However, there is no looser or winner in this piece, or – more correctly – everyone’s a winner.

Description:
MORF 1 is the first of a series of composed improvisations which focuses on the balance between individuality and adaptation, slow process of change, and a quite big amount of openness concerning content and shape. The piece, in its basic form, consists of 52 “play cards”. On each play card there is instructions to follow and implement in a musical (or, in such case, other) action. The instructions often occur in pairs of contrast and are divided in two areas:

¤ Traditional musical parameters
(Loud/soft, high/low, fast/slow)

 ¤ Parameters concerning individuality and adaptation
(Follow/open)

Furthermore there are also a number of cards with a slightly different character. These are cards with the simple (or hard?) instruction “silence” and also some blank cards, ready to be filled with instructions made to
suit each specific situation.

Background:
I have always been interested in making structures for improvisations. For this piece, i wanted to create something that contains both playfulness and depth and I found the idea with the card game pleasant, flexible and very suitable. Since the creation of the piece, I have worked with it in many different situations, with professional musicians and with amateurs. Public performances have been held in Malmö, Hammenhög, Kristianstad, Luleå, Barcelona, Krakow, Poznan and Minsk. At many times I have worked with the piece as a part of my work as teacher of improvisation at
the Academy of Music in Malmö.

Artistic aspects:
One of the most significant characters of the piece is the possibility to a polyphonic, intricate, fabric of sounds, with the instructions from the cards individually interpreted by the musicians. Another character is the slow process of change, which is enabled by the fact that each musician, individually, working its way through the pile of cards.The musicians reside as long as they want on each card, and continues to the next one when they want.

Pedagogic aspects:
Of importance is the possibility to pedagogic aspects. MORF could be used by an ensemble that needs to work on a specific matter, such as communication, interplay, ability to listen, and explore new ways of thinking about, reacting to, and play improvised music together. On an individual level, the piece offers opportunity to develop the relation to the instrument, broaden the palette of sounds, and illustrate the hierarchy of sounds, the way it often is presented, and how one might look at this hierarchy from another angle, and maybe change that hierarchy a bit.

Furthermore, the piece offers the participants to take active part in finding the right formula of cards for the very specific moment. This is done, simply by removing or adding cards, with the result that the music and the interplay would change in a desirable direction.

Maybe have a discussion in the ensemble about how they reacted to the cards; which cards are easy to interpret and which cards are not?  Then maybe raise the question… “why is that so”…? What does it say about me as a musician that I find the card “open” as annoying and frustrating, while “follow” make me fell very comfortable. For another musician it might be the opposite.

Variations
During the years and the ongoing experience with this piece, working together with different kinds of ensembles, I often encountered a need to change the formula of the piece in order to reach the area that the ensemble need to develop.

Commonly is that an improvising ensemble with ab. 8 -10 musicians’ needs to work more with silence. Then we just add some more cards saying “silence”. Or it could be a group of very shy, polite and timid musicians that need to develop initiative, expression and energy. Then they might need more cards saying “loud”, “open” or “fast”.  

Every ensemble would work with the cards in a unique way, which makes it possible for the blank, unwritten card to come in use in a unique way. I have experienced ensembles that agreed to take some of the blank cards and turn them into cards saying “play like you’re drunk”, “hyperenergetic” and the more poetic “flower”.


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