The music box takes center stage in this exciting and novel CD by New York composer/pianist/instrument builder John Morton. Through the manual and electronic manipulation of composed music box mechanisms, layers of tones, surprising textures, and elegantly constructed figures are moulded into abstract melodies. Joined by Steve Hardwick, guitar, Ted Piltzecker, vibraphone, and Bill Blossom, bass, the altered music box becomes a distinct, expressive musical instrument: it intrigues the imagination and evokes the power of childhood musical memories.
Among the compositions on the CD is a suite from A Delicate Road, commissioned by the Greenwall Foundation and first performed at The Kitchen with dancer/choreographer David Appel; an early work, Slurry, for three clarinets; as well as stylistically diverse compositions that explore the rhythmic, enveloping sound of Morton's ingenious music boxes. For the past several years, John Morton has been focussing on the manipulation, alteration, and electronic processing of music boxes. Along with artist Jacqueline Shatz, they construct large scale music boxes using multiple, moving sculptures and numerous composed music boxes which are activated singly or simultaneously by the observer/participant. During Summer, 2001, they were in residence at the Kohler Factory in Wisconsin, creating music boxes in the Arts/Industry program.
"John Morton's music is fresh, fearless and outrageously original. It's at once soothing and disturbing. The thinking man's music box." - Claudia Marshall
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Bjork, with her album "Vespertine," wasn't the only one to rediscover the pleasures of music-box music in 2001. The composer John Morton's atmospheric instrumental pieces use the muscular plink of intimately recorded music boxes for repeating patterns and glassy textures, then breach the prettiness with dissonant guitar or sound processing that melts down the tinkling. "Slurry," a piece for clarinet trio, puts breath behind the contemplative and quizzical mood of the other compositions. - Jon Pareles
Ethereal, yet mechanical, full of strange rhythms and a little cockeyed, these manipulated music boxes produce magical sounds that bear listening to over and over. The results are stunning. - Cynthia Nadelman
ALL MUSIC GUIDE
"a very fine CD. Morton's music box goes beyond the novelty act." - Francois Couture
The innocent music box becomes a source of scintillating beauty in this strangely beautiful recording from John Morton. A wide variety of tones Morton conjures from the unassuming boxes for unexpected, angular melodies. By manipulating the delicate mechanisms both manually and electronically, Morton creates an otherworldly experience that echoes the disembodied, dream-like nature of distant, childhood memories." - Tom Schulte
SIGNAL TO NOISE
"The box mechanisms are fully integrated into the compositional textures, with the interplay between instruments expanding their sonic personalities. Hearing them in Duets makes them seem positively cosmopolitan!" - David Greenberger
Making music with music boxes, creating good pieces, simultaneously nostalgic and acerbic, occasionally pretty or mysterious. - Phil Curtis
Morton takes the music box and transforms it, sonically and electronically, into a landscape worth exploring…..the true essence of modern composition: brilliant, stunning, and suprising.