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Conductors Wanted: No Experience Needed
By Jorge Casuso
June 28, 2023 -- You don't need to read music or have experience conducting to shape musical improvisations at an open public workshop presented by Soundwaves in Santa Monica on Sunday.
The workshop -- which takes place from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Pico Library Annex in Virginia Avenue Park -- will teach how to use hand cues used by composers from Leonard Bernstein to Frank Zappa.
"Musicians of all styles and levels, on all instruments, are encouraged to participate," workshop organizers said.
"No experience is necessary and no sheet music will be used. Non-performers are welcome to watch and listen."
Prominent artists -- including New York avant-garde composer John Zorn and experimental jazz composer and bandleader Sun Ra -- have "used hand signs to shape live improvisation," workshop organizers said
The result is music that "uniquely combines their personal aesthetics with the players’ spontaneous contributions."
The workshop will teach participants some of the cues codified by performer/composer Lawrence “Butch” Morris, who began his career in Los Angeles working with jazz pianist and composer Horace Tapscott.
Morris called his method "conduction," which writer Ed Hazell described as "a technique for conducting improvisers and creating arrangements as music unfolds."
Morris participated in 50 conductions beginning in 1985. Fifteen of them, recorded between 1988 and 1995, were gathered in a CD box set released in 1995.
"At his best, Morris can shake players out of their old habits, or place a microscope on one aspect of a musician's artistry and build an orchestral fantasia around it," Hazell wrote.
Sunday's workshop will be led by Sean Sonderegger and Miller Wrenn, who have both "studied and performed with masters of conducted improvisation."
Sonderegger studied with Morris, Karl Berger, Anthony Braxton and Adam Rudolph, while Wrenn studied with Vinny Golia and Tyshawn Sorey. Both are currently professional musicians and music teachers.
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