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Lawrence D. Morris ORT-Orchestra della Toscana: Holy Sea

This elegantly packaged two-CD set contains three of Butch Morris’ most compelling Conductions to date. Recorded in 1996, Holy Sea documents the first encounter between Morris’ improvisational conducting methods and a European classical chamber orchestra. The 21-piece ORT-Orchestra della Toscana impressively handles the demands of Morris’ approach; its keen articulation and well-calibrated ensemble balance are constants in this volatile work, whether the issue at hand is pristine, Satielike surfaces or cataclysmic eruptions. Additionally, Morris deftly integrates the technical wizardry of J.A. Deane and DJ Otomo Yoshihide to enhance the continuously morphing swirl of textures. Deane’s live sampling of the orchestra creates distorted mirror effects, while Yoshihide mixes spoken word and choral recordings, frequently giving the proceedings a spectral quality.

Morris’ Conductions are blissfully beyond category. However, annotator Alessandro Cassin’s assertion that “Conduction is a method, not an aesthetic” is a bit like saying the same of black and white photography. There is an aesthetic at work here-a vital one.

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