Robert Morris (composer)
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Work in music theory
As a music theorist, Morris' work has bridged an important gap between the rigorously academic and the highly experimental. Born in Cheltenham, England in 1943, Morris received his musical education at the Eastman School of Music (B.M. in composition with distinction) and the University of Michigan (M.M. and D.M.A. in composition and ethnomusicology), where he studied composition with John La Montaine, Leslie Bassett, Ross Lee Finney (Swift 2001)), and Eugene Kurtz. At Tanglewood, as a Margret Lee Crofts Fellow, he worked with Gunther Schuller. Morris has taught composition, electronic music, and music theory at the University of Hawaii and at Yale University, where he was Chairman of the Composition Department and Director of the Yale Electronic Music Studio. He was also Director of the Computer and Electronic Studio, Director of Graduate (music) Studies, and Associate Professor of Music at the University of Pittsburgh (Swift 2001). In 1980 Morris joined the faculty of the Eastman School of Music where he currently teaches as Professor of Composition. (He was chair of the Composition Department from 1999–2005 and before that a member of both the composition and music theory departments.) Other teaching posts have included positions at the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts, the Governor's School for the Arts held at Bucknell University, the University of Pittsburgh Computer Music Workshop, and the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood.
Morris has written music for a wide diversity of musical forms and media. He has composed over 160 works including computer and improvisational music. Much of his output from the 1970s is influenced by non-Western music and uses structural principles from Arabic, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, and early Western musics. While such influences are less noticeable in his more recent works, the temporal and ornamental qualities of Eastern music have permanently affected Morris's style. Moreover, Morris has found much resonance among his musical aesthetics, his experiences in hiking (especially in the Southwestern United States), his study and appreciation of Carnatic Music of South India, and his reading of ancient Indian, Chinese, and Japanese Buddhist texts. Among his present compositional projects is a series of the works to be played outdoors in a natural setting. Five of these works are complete and have been performed: Playing Outside (2000), Coming Down to Earth (2002), Oracle (2005), and Sound/Path/Field (2006), and Arboretum (2009).
In addition to his music, Morris has written three books and over 50 articles and reviews which have appeared in the Journal of Music Theory, In Theory Only, Music Theory Spectrum, Journal of the American Musicology Society, and Perspectives of New Music, contributing to theories of musical analysis and aesthetics, compositional design, and electronic and computer music. Morris was the recipient of the "Outstanding Publication Award" of the Society for Music Theory in 1988 for his book, Composition with Pitch-Classes: A Theory of Compositional Design, published by Yale University Press, and in 2001 for his article "Voice Leading Spaces" in Music Theory Spectrum 20/2. Advanced Class Notes for Atonal Theory, is available from Frog Peak Music. Morris is currently Co-editor of Perspectives of New Music and Contributing Editor of The Open Space Magazine. His most recent book is The Whistling Blackbird: Essays and Talks on New Music (2010).
- Swift, Richard. 2001. "Morris, Robert (Daniel)". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
- Brody, Martin. 2006. "Down to Earth: Robert Morris's Restaging of the Sublime". The Open Space Magazine, nos. 8–9 (Fall-Spring): 74–81.
- Dembski, Stephen. 1989. "The Context of Composition: The Reception of Robert Morris's Theory of Compositional Design". Theory and Practice 14–15:187–202.
- Forshee, Jon. 2004. "Reflex-Ions of Robert Morris' Four or Five Mirrors". The Open Space Magazine, no. 6 (Fall): 144–50.
- Lofthouse, Marcus, and Brian Alegant. 2002. "Having Your Cake and Eating It Too: The Property of Reflection in Twelve-Tone Rows, or, Further Extensions on the Mallalieu Complex". Perspectives of New Music 40, no. 2 (Summer): 233–72.