Phil Morton (Musician)

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Phil Morton (born 1954, in Liverpool) is a musician who has worked mainly in the field of free improvisation since the 1992. He has been active consistently during that time as a promoter of concerts of freely improvised music in Liverpool and the north, providing hundreds of playing opportunities for both local and international musicians.


Phil Morton photo Mark Jones

Early years

Early interest in `free improvisation`

Phil Morton's first contact with what is known as `free improvisation` was Charles Fox `jazz today` programme BBC Radio 3. On hearing the sounds and music of, Barry Guy, Paul Rutherford and Derek Bailey his response at the age of 13 was: they are doing that deliberately to annoy me. It was not a pleasurable sound, but interesting. He is still interested. He would buy the magazine `Musics` at the radical bookshop `News from nowhere`. He speculates his first `improv gig` was Alterations featuring Steve Beresford, Peter Cusack, David Toop and Terry Day and attended the workshop too.

In the mid-sixties, in the low `teens` years PM attended a Sun Ra Arkestra concert at Liverpool University. The Arkestra went through their complete repertoire, PM speculates this was a tight band, well rehearsed and at the height of its power. It was an epiphany. Forty years later this specific gig was given a whole page in the Wire magazine. During this period he also witnessed The Scratch orchestra, John Tilbury playing John Cage, Cornelious Cardew ( false memory?)

In the late seventies, he formed and rehearsed a quartet that played only five notes from the twelve-note scale or list. Originally a steal from `the gamelan system` the notes for each piece were in fact picked by single (rotating) member of the band using the following criteria; guesswork, random, prior knowledge. This is an early example of his habit of applying `constriction` to open up the music. PM played double bass in this group.

In the 1980's in Liverpool PM contributed to the management and delivery of `Liberty Hall` a social club for non-aligned socialists, anarchists, and feminists initiated by Bob Dent of `News From Nowhere`. Liberty hall presented: talks, films, theatre groups, live music, washed down with beer and a disco. PM assissted in all areas of activity. He presented: Lol Coxhill, The Feminist Improvisation Group, Mike Westbrook Brass Band. This was a viable and profitable project.

1992 - citation required - met Phil Hargreaves and suggested they work on an opera called `Australia has no dead heart`, opera was a fashionable idea at the time. There was no opera, but PM/PH rehearsed for FIVE YEARS (citation required) then recorded click, launched Frakture, and the rest is history

Frakture years

Frakture 1997 - 2014 initially conceived as a `music club` or space developed into a creative arts Organisation nay a `creative industry` .

The numbers: up to 500 sessions between 1997 - 2014. 49 Centrifuge events, 49 Blank Canvas events, 117 Frakture events, 13 Frakass events, 55 Concerts in `a festival format`, 38 `Splash gigs`, 124 workshops. Important: PM did not do these events alone.

More citation required,


  • Click - Bonehouse, with Phil Hargreaves - Bandcamp link
  • Cracked - Bonehouse with Phil Lucking - Bandcamp link
  • Swung Dash - by Swung Dash
  • Frakture Big Band, live at the Cornerstone
  • Frakture Big Band, double CD - `Angel of the Ressurection` and `Birds of America`
  • Soundcloud - Phil Morton audio player, a culling of pieces Soundcloud link


Groups, that had an on-going status at the time and not just a `one night stand`.

  • Bonehouse
  • Swung Dash
  • The Frakture Big Band
  • Instant Expansion
  • Pecha Kucha

PM is currently Feb 2018 rehearsing,

  • Hedge, with Andy Hodges
  • System 5050 ensembles.

Not many really. Apologies if I omitted important examples.

Guitar Style

  • Extended techniques. Non-tuned guitar string arrangement, guitar as a percussion object, plectrum substitutes. Guitar as object to attack surfaces.
  • Prepared guitar techniques used include: Third bridges, socks, twine/string, files, massage rollers, metal chains, found objects, crocadile clips, knitting needles & other string inserts, ebow, Plus contact microphone events. Prepared plectrums and Plectrum subsritues, eg rock, slates, found objects, egg slicer. Bow (double bass)
  • Timbral and chordal.
  • Dual pick up arrangement, that is the conventional `guitar pickup` and a `contact pick up` inserted under the bridge, plus the acoustic sound of the guitar delivering three outputs that are mixed in real time.

Guitar Set up

  • Make: Framus, `f` hole acoustic arch top body guitar with pick ups, This was bought in 1972 for £16.00.
  • Two pick ups. with two out-puts to a mixer. One conventional guitar pickup supplied when made plus additional contact pickup added by the owner located under the bridge.
  • Live performance, there are two line outs from the guitar that are sent to a mixer.
  • Lexicon Jamman sampler . is employed and deployed via the mixer. The only jamman processor to be used and used. Phil Morton does not use `guitar effects` or have a guitar effects board.
  • Current amplifier (2019) : Roland AC-60 acoustic guitar amplifyer.

Accidents & Treatments

PM tag for listing and event copy is Phil Morton, accidents and treatments, He declines to use the word guitar. This witticism or irritation for some started in 1998 when Phil Hargreaves listed PM as `Phil Morton guitar and treatments` on the cover of the CD Click. Mr Morton liked this, he changed this to `accidents and treatments` as his performance either moves away from the guitar or changes the nature of the guitar so that the word guitar becomes irrelevant. The guitar is not always present, for example he had a phase (3-10 years) of playing the double bass, the content of some performance are dominated by objects (musical and not so). The upside of this is the tag line is that it brings consistency and simplicity to every listing.

Workshop & activity

Phil Morton experience in the design and delivery of workshop session dealing with creative processes and the act of listening is substantial, this has been achieved through his own work and through the experience of being in the shadow of the giants of the genre(s) such as: Maggie Nicols, Pauline Oliverous, Phil Minton, Eddie Prevost, John Hull and through the deep conversations held with all the improvisers who played at Frakture and at sometime sat his kitchen table.

PM has attended `Advanced Workshop Leadership` courses and a one year NVQ3 Arts project management course.

Snap out of it programme: workshops aimed at `unlearning mechanical ways of making music` (Maggie Nicols) Click - Jigsaw programmes, heuristic sessions (influenced by Eddie Prevost) were the artists perform then reflect and share their thinking about the experience. Soundwalks and sonic gaze: personal development through the act of listening, draw & spell that sound.

PM has delivered 13 voice workshops and on rare occasions PM has led dance sessions.

Workshop styles

  • Snap out of it - breaking habits, influenced by John Steven's Search and reflect
  • System 50:50 - Link-introduction to system 50:50
  • Click: Talk and play - simply play for 6 minutes then talk about what happened, influenced by Eddie Prevost session's and the Centrifuge, developing an aesthetic project
  • Acoustic ecology; sessions designed to explore the act of listening.
  • Developing an aesthetic are whole day events for free improvisers active on the concert circuit of the UK. more info here

Workshop exercises

Details to follow, a sample of exercises Phil Morton uses, exercises develop within his watch, are to be found on the improvisers networks online > Link-workshops exercises section

Projects commissioned by third parties

  • The Liverpool Biennial, Sonic Gaze 2005
  • Liverpool Hope University - Sound relay project 2004
  • The Long Walk, Liverpool, for More Music 2007
  • Invited speaker: Sound Practice, The 1st UKISC Conference on sound, culture and environments in 2001 at Dartington
  • Invited speaker, Matrix, Sheffield Hallam University, citation required.
  • Invited speaker, UCLan University, citation required, on improvisation.
  • 1 Article published in `Noise gate`.
  • The Dancing Games with Cheshire Dance.
  • BBC Broadcast - Radio Four, `The Listeners`

Project management and funding

PM has been involved in over 50 successful funding bids that have generated over £100k for the free improvisation in the music sector. he did not do this alone.

PM worked in a `cooperative business` for twelve years. Some people may say `collective`.

Scale: Mainly micro events, plus festivals through to an International Festival, and a 15 session project for `young people` to experience the elements of acoustic ecology. PM speculates the later had a budget of over £10k and the weekend festival he knows had a budget of £5k plus.

The numbers: over 700 sessions since 1997.

  • 22 soundwalks
  • 49 Centrifuge events
  • 49 Blank Canvas events
  • 117 Frakture events
  • 13 voice workshops, vocal play
  • 13 Frakass events
  • 55 Concerts in `a festival format`
  • 22 Jigsaw workshops (Preston)
  • 38 `Splash gigs`
  • 124 workshops.
  • 89 `Listening Room sessions` delivered with the help of Roger Parry.

Important: PM did not do these events alone.

Partnerships: The Bluecoat (2000 - 2014), Hope at Everton (Citation required), UCLan Preston (current)

External web pages & Social media links