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Ensemble Europe 50:50 launch 2024 - an invitation

A revolutionary system that employs tacet/silence to shape the sound of improvisations within an egalitarian framework.
It replaces freedom with agency, agency to create an ensemble sound made by an ensemble.


An exciting project to participate in, to witness and to hear.

Ensemble Europe 50:50 will explore free improvisation in a large ensemble context. The Ensemble Europs 50:50 will use the ‘System 50:50 for improvisers` - where silence/tacet functions are used to bring space into the sound field. The result is a dynamic and shifting canvas of sound that allows small discreet sounds to be heard and deeper layers to be felt and expressed.

Phil Morton (Liverpool:UK) has developed System 50:50 for improvisers over a period of twenty years. There have been over 500 performance since 2018. The online ensemble `Blank Canvas Octet` has been meeting on zoom since May 2020. Phil Morton has proof of method, it works, it is rewarding.

This is an exciting musical and social development.

This project is commited to the principles of equal opportunities and eliminating discrimination in every aspect of our work. We strive to ensure that no individual or group is treated more or less favourably than others on grounds of ethnic origin, nationality, age disability, gender, sexual orientation, race or religion.

About the ensemble

  • The aim is to have regular sessions with an average attendance of twelve players,
    • to achieve this we will need some sessions with more than twelve players.
    • The modern busy life style will present an obstacle to regular attendances, so to achieve the target attendance we may need a contact list of 36 players!
      The good news, this is a good offer, system 50:50 works and works on zoom and Europe is a big place with a large population.
  • Worries about the high ensemble number and online fidelity issues.
    • System 50:50 use of tacet/silence to shape the sound field is unique and revolutionary. For example the piece of music that is improvised may have 12 improvisers involved but the deployment of the System 50:50 method create a sound field of three players. This does not eradicate fidelity issues and bandwidth glitches but the concerns are relagated to a status of being acceptable by `thinning` the sound with the 50:50 method. This has been tested online over 300 times, the outcome is acceptable, and zoom keeps on improving.
  • Genre, Free Ensemble Improvisation (music)
    • You need to have an awareness of the genre, if you are unsure, please google it, try wikipedia, checkout the media files within this website.
  • I wish to play: Is there an audition
    • Short answer: there is no audition,
    • Second: there is not an open door policy to anyone who wishes to attend either,
      a contradiction?
    • In the absence of set criteria that illustrates / indicates composure, competency in "free improvisation in music" the following milestones are submitted. Ensemble Europe 50:50 is looking for musicians who meet one or more of the following criteria.
      • Organised their own groups, gigs and tours,
      • Been invited to play at concerts outside their home town.
      • Have played outside their host country.
      • Have issued their won work work on CD/on-line
    • The above list is a bi-product, a cv, of the qualities we are listening for.
    • They refer to `free ensemble improvisation in music` not jazz, experemental music, something weird or other assciated art forms.
    • If they don't apply to you but you are still keen. OK, get in touch and talk about it.
  • To register please go to the `register` tab and: register.


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{Tab=About Phil Morton}

Phil Morton (Liverpool:UK) developed this system during a ten year, nay 20 year period. Phil Morton has been active in `free improvisation` as a player, promoter, teacher, since 1998 and as a listener since 1968. He commends this project `to the house` to the genre of free improvisation, as a unique methodology that unpicks the complexity of this music, its sounds, our reactions and emotions using a simple method. Phil Morton's personal belief is that System 50:50 is a gift that will keep on giving. A bold statement, it maybe a fallacy, or of substance, the research process will explore this and find out. If you would like to be involved, contribute, debate, whether you are local or global please make contact.

Phil Morton




The playing time during an Ensemble Europe 50:50 online session is 36 minutes.
The duration of the session maybe up to 1 hour due to sound checks, salutations and hello, and post session talk.

System 50:50

This is a project exploring free ensemble improvisation in music in a large ensemble context. It uses the ‘system 50:50` - where tacet/silence functions are used to bring cohesion to the sound field which can often become cluttered. The result is a dynamic and shifting canvas of sound that allows small discreet sounds to be heard and deeper layers to be felt and expressed. An exciting project to participate in, to witness and to hear.

What they say about System 50:50 for improvisers

Charlie Collins, improviser, Sheffield wrote on system 50:50 “Definitely something with LOADS of possibilities - the reaction in the car driving back was unbelievably positive - no one could remember playing in a large ensemble that was so "open". The openness allowed me to play quietly, which meant the dynamics were incredible for an improvising large ensemble.” -

Another point of listening comes from Simon Ross, Macclesfield. `System 50/50 works well - it’s a really good way to get a group to play effectively without egos, virtuosity, and shyness getting in the way. It is democratic, inclusive, coherent, leaderless, focused, there is room to think and time to listen, choices. It is less competitive and more cooperative. Ends well.`

It seems to me that any attempt to restrict what free improvisers play, presents a threat to the core nature of their music. Generally, 'To play or not play' is about as far as any predetermination can productively go, the player retaining (almost!) complete formal agency regarding when and what(s)he decides to play - Dan Goren Oxford Improvisers

`Sometimes in free improv it is just not working but we carry on in the hope it will get better, in system 50:50 if it (free improv) is not working one can select tacet and stop playing` Richard Harding, Liverpool. 2018

I want to buy 12 clocks, Maggie Nicols - Wales

It is democratic (Helon Conning, Liverpool 2018) upgraded to: System 50:50 is egalitarian by Phil Morton 2023

More information about system 50:50 here




Blank Canvas Octet Online play System 50:50 piece, titled rotation 1 - available on Bandcamp

The Blank Canvas octet
The nature and practice of free ensemble improvisation using System
Duration 6 minutes
Tacet 3 minutes
Free play 3 minutes
12 players


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