Morton's Mobile [Composition No. 53]

Part of the motivation of my work with the London Improvisers Orchestra over the past 2 years has been the conviction that composed music (in every sense of the word) is possible for improvisers. Thus in addition to the more usual 'organisation of improvisation', my L.I.O. pieces have also included several which set out to have a very specific character - a recognisable aural identity as a composition - without throwing away the creative possibilities of improvisation. Morton's Mobile was inspired by hearing Madame Press Died Last Week At 90, Morton Feldman's orchestral composition of 1970. I was struck by the fact that this piece effectively consisted of three elements, combined in a way which suggested something of the flexibility of improvisation; it seemed to me that it should be possible for an orchestra of improvisers to create music with a similarly clear intent, using the free (mobile) combination of a limited number of predetermined individual elements. In addition, I also resolved that we would only explore these elements, and that neither conductor nor improvisers would get sidetracked by the possibility of more familiar improvising situations.

Thus the 'score' of Morton's Mobile consists of three specific musical elements, plus the option to improvise within context; individual musicians are cued by the conductor to realise one of these elements. If not cued, players listen - in some ways the most important role of all. Two of the three elements of Madame Press... appear in this piece (sustained sombre chords, a falling G to Eb major third), but the allocation, timing and development of elements are all improvised, by both conductor and musicians. In realisation the piece has to transcend its original inspiration and assume its own identity; I'm glad to say that the version on this recording is a particularly fine reading, and my thanks go to all the musicians for their patience, diligence and inspired improvising.

Morton's Mobile was written for L.I.O., and was first performed by them at the Red Rose Club, London, on the 6th February 2000

© Simon H. Fell 2000 

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