In HEARING VOICES, his third album of electronic music with Ravello Records, Jeff Morris captivates the psyche with music that is equal parts space age and primeval. With Morris’s characteristic sensitivity, the collection harnesses the expressive power of digital glitches, sonic manipulation, and underneath it all, the human voice.
Today, Jeff is our featured artist for “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to discover his advice for young musicians… and keep an eye out for more new music from him this fall!
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
Well, I suppose I already do—I mean, my live sampling improvisations involve many collaborations, and I’ve worked with an exciting variety of artists in different disciplines. When we work together, we find ourselves ending up in creative places neither of us could have reached on our own. That’s what fascinates me most in my work: not to record the ideas that are already in my head but instead to discover what musical ideas still lie out there, waiting for the right circumstances to come alive.
What advice do you have for young musicians?
I think my students get the most from learning the difference between “audience ears” and “artist ears.” Music audiences often choose music how they choose clothes: to fit in with and to outwardly represent their personal identity. If you only see music in that way, then it makes sense why you wouldn’t touch certain kinds of music or might even be upset to hear them. It’s a big eye-opener when my students see how professional musicians appreciate many diverse styles of music and can find something they can take away from any musical experience. That’s one path to finding a unique musical voice. And seeing music as an opportunity for personal enlightenment, that’s a power that can benefit anyone.
Do you have any specific hopes about what this album will mean to listeners?
As far as meanings, that’s individual. I hope listeners invest enough in themselves to find meaning in this music. It’s too easy to say you’ve heard chipmunked voices and itchy glitches before and conclude that there is nothing new to be experienced here. Listeners will be rewarded when they recognize that having heard those sounds before simply means that they have entered our modern vocabulary, that different things can be said through them by different artists, and that there is more to be gained from music than simply responding to its surface.
What are your other passions besides music?
I enjoy cooking because I can focus intensely in the moment, tracking in my mind how the elements are transforming over time and balancing how they’ll all fit together in the big picture to culminate in a rich and rewarding sensory experience. I enjoy puzzles, feeling my intuition as it scans for opportunities to move things forward, feeling my intuition dance with logic to make all the pieces work together by the end. I enjoy watching television, taking in the words as well as their rhythm and tone along with the visual elements, considering how they leverage each other and also triangulate with other literature and life experiences, at multiple levels, to culminate in a unified but multidimensional experience. In the end, all my pursuits come back around to how I think about music.
What was your favorite musical moment on the album?
Even though I created all the software and made so many of the live decisions myself, there are always wonderful moments in my performances that leave me wondering how they could possibly have come about. For the sake of picking one, I’ll mention that the first track, “In the Middle of the Room” with Elisabeth Blair, was selected by the International Society for Contemporary Music to be included in its 100th World New Music Days. This is one of the longest running festivals in all of new music, and it’s highly selective. This year, only six works were selected to represent the US among 74 selections worldwide. It’s a compelling piece, and I’m proud the ISCM agreed and bestowed this honor!