The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2018

All Issues
MAY 2018 Issue


Butch Morris. Photo: Enid Farber

“How do flies get on a ship?

- from Elia Kazan’s America America

“First you learn the instrument, then you learn the music, then you forget all that shit and just play.”

- Charlie Parker

“My whole area of art has always been addressed to working with other people…Ideas are not real estate.”

- Robert Rauschenberg

Butch Morris was a friend and a hard task master. When he started A Chorus of Poets, I and the late poet John Farris were asked to join. Being the rebellious, attention-deficit-type of kids we were, we quit during (not after) the first rehearsal. Learning the signals and following orders were just not in the mix for us. Here’s some pieces for Butch:

Conduction #Infinity (Out of Reach but Never Out of Touch) – for Butch Morris

Butch: his mischievous smile > stern look > open laugh > dapper apparel > a real dandy > like back in the days when > his midrange slightly twanged voice > everything I’ll say is clichéd pompous emotional > rubbed in ashes at times > such elaborate performance we produce sometimes for no one > the wind > trees > the rushing water > walking on hot coals to emit a portrait of pain > among the last & first budding flowers & weeds > his baton / those lighter than air dancing shoes > gentlemanliness > his overall attire that gruff little me admired so much > his NEATNESS > those dancing shoes those dancing shoes > that held him firmly in place > he passed the way neighbour- hoods pass yet always sustain their quality > personality > somewhere in the brick > the way seasons pass & are replaced always by hosts of new hustlers > new lovers> & he one of the last of the real of the real > a unique lover of the unique & loved by all > the unique & mundane alike > come again next fall > winter > spring > summer > come again in storm & dust > those dancing shoes that I wanted so much > last of the real of the real > dancing on indifferent waters…

it’s warm grey > a partial of a bridge floats between 2 buildings > bare trees blanket the river > a lifetime’s profound effect inspires the music’s language > qualities > progress > shared experiences on & off the bandstand > intelligence > compassion > passion > courage > contact > appreciation > special > gifted > interpersonal > shrewd > sharp always zeros in on feelings & strengths > brought out the best in all > presence > worked with nurturing > worked til the end > gave as he danced in those special shoes > baton wave®ing > all for the flight the stage the flow the all the legacy for the future to be taken > remarkably dignified > professional > though sometimes lost his cool > always taught with his presence > treated all as equals > a prime element of conduction > open direct validation > hey I’m with the band I’d feel sometimes > those dancing shoes that held him in place rooted to the NOW > truly always in the instance > makes you get it > get what he gets > the essence of the process > challenging > demanding > draining > gotta get it right > you knew when he knew he got it right > that smile the body relaxing > though he never felt secure > gave more than enough > but when he felt he failed or that he didn’t go far enough you saw it on his face & when he succeeded you saw it on his face > that smile > the baton relaxing > worked with every type of person > instrument in completely unique ways developed a new concept of world music taking it far beyond that simple term > far beyond the world creating a world of worlds > a clinician bridging 2 worlds 3 worlds endless worlds > how he made the musicians & instruments react/interact > musician & instrument becoming one > helped folks connect with their inner voice > understand & tap into their strengths > mixing their personal languages with his > travelling around the world like running up & down stairs > room heart mind journey commitment > the work always first > well maybe not always > nothing can stop this force even up to the end > radiates > a special relationship with everyone > heartbreaker with the skill to be a real human being > & so CHARMING > a charmer a lover > the more one let one self go the more one understood the concept he put forth both audience & orchestra > world traveler dandy handled his illness positively privately maturely > a mature guy this Butch > a child a dandy a flirt > the band became his family as did his friends & his audience > we all became his lovers of sorts > this perfectionist who rehearsed performed demanded > he left me his extra food coupons in Marseilles & a drawer full of vitamins too > & when I finally got the process his concept what conduction was wow I was up there with him expecting laughing scowling relaxing tensing up getting frustrated or getting HIGH > he was a one of a kind > his contributions will live on > he will & does have imitators but not duplicators > disciples even > filled with exploration > fiery dancey > shoes I want those shoes that dignified presence on the dance floor > as I said he was a hard task master but when he got the results he wanted everyone knew it everyone felt it everyone got it > transcendent > like dancing on different waters > bridging > expanding > building > a life partially hidden by the seasons > like dancing on different waters > last of the real of the real > spirit genius > genuine > scraping the sky with his wand > wandering into the void a partial of a bridge suspended between 2 buildings sunset a lifetime blanketed by a river of trees…………………….

CONDUCTION IS: insert remove revert divert & move an entrance into
a trusting blind allegiance / a new kind of freedom / FREEDOM: to be one’s self yet to watch & listen / bridging space / dome of the rock / what’s inside the stone / infusing ideas with passion
             as the train of music moves  CONDUCTION
       as the clouds pile thru the speaker logic / wangle mangle  tingle / mingle
       pulsing portraits & unlimited possibilities / life melodies & solar flexes
weaving   charged miles / toward the greater journey / a way to shape / reshape
connect   instant graffiti   &   gratification   disconnect     reconnect
interlocking & unlocking / immediate social & musical network / FLOW /
the flame itself / right down to the bone / sweating glass of daydreams
diverse significant appropriate evening out / serendipitous / charged
                         moving & textural       /     evocative
        challenging conventional & traditional expectation / to respond to & transform
                                            that tradition    
                           powerful communicative & emotional
                 a new way in which music is composed & played  
                 something that makes one think spontaneously
resonating / interpretative / forward looking / significant / subversive / submersive
                                       a way to reshape audience expectation
textural / thematic / melodious / dynamic / tonal / repetitive / modulated / gentle
connecting the VAROOOOOMM KAZOOOOM & basic fabric pulsing harmonic waves
/ river into sea / sea to endless sea / learning / remembering / responding / tense fluidity
moving toward a greater journey / charged with miles of mobile invisible apparel
   crescendo-causing / punctuated / swelling / echoing / divergent / suggestive
                           rhythmic / thematic / orchestral / syncopated
                     melting bottomless constancy emotive & profound  
knowing soaring heartbeat   / interplay / breath / explosive inspired frenzy
aggressive floating tapestry “disappearing into concentrated bursts
                         appearing   reappearing     disappearing.”  
                 buzzing punctuation / punctuation is repeat repeat
smooth combative intuitive astonishing absolute energy     aspiring inspiring.
                                     syncopated free structure(d)  
                           rising rolling timeless currents of sound
                             resonant throbbing   pulsing   emotion
       unifying cadences gliding guiding arousing illuminating
suggestive / melodic / allowing swirling patterns / pulling and releasing,          
                       interpretative evocative moving demanding
a means to expand     contract         compress     express
a way of sticking together   a receding tide   an onslaught of waves
strength of vocabulary applied / spontaneous interpretation of the score / process /
        moving through sharp staccatos / subtle incomprehensible magic
             the elegance of a solo/ arpeggios / a wash of melodies
                         keeping the tonal thematic consistency  
                     foundations that support soaring beyond itself  
gentle currents that stir beneath
then explode in ultimate resonating tonal punches   devastating crescendos    
surrendering to the challenge there are no illusions left   to illuminate & create
                                                     ONLY REALITY
               sound & motion intertwined varied & self-perpetuating
the river conducted down to the sea / a stream of seen & unseen waves  
                                   the sea accepts the river
as the 2 mix & mingle / direct / hands on / alive / naked
               as the conductor of a train of thought moves circumstance
       as circumstance becomes unhinged by chance & discovery
               & the plick-aschwaaaaa & the schwoosh
dome of the rock & what is inside the stone whole & fragmented
unlocking the mind soul   spirit   heart   flesh   insides   &   outsides  
             transformative & transitional / expansive & extending
hot looming medium   finishing with brilliant beginnings / life melodies breathing
  no vista no horizon no end   river into ocean       ocean becoming sky.

I dedicate this to Cecil Taylor, who was a hero, friend, mentor, continuing inspiration, composer, improvisor, dancer, poet, crazy genius, and like Butch an uncompromising artist and human being who lived life on his own terms. May he reside in peaceful chaos and tell his stories forever.


Steve Dalachinsky

Poet/collagist STEVE DALACHINSKY was a long time contributor to the Rail. His book The Final Nite & Other Poems (Ugly Duckling Presse - 2006) won the PEN Oakland National Book Award. His latest CDs are The Fallout of Dreams with Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach (Roguart, 2014), and the book/CD Pretty in the Morning with the French art rock group the Snobs (Bisou Records, 2019). He was a 2014 recipient of a Chevalier de l Ordre des Arts et Lettres. His most recent books include Frozen Heatwave, a collaboration with Yuko Otomo (Luna Bissonte Prods, 2017) and where night and day become one—the french poems (great weather for MEDIA, 2018) which received a 2019 IBPA award in poetry.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2018

All Issues