Morgan Packard has been working on electronic music in various forms for over a decade, using his classical and jazz training to inform what he does in subtle ways - whether it's drum and bass, a soundtrack for a modern dance performance, or his versions of abstract techno and ambient sound. While his music may be wrangled into the minimal category, he is actually eschewing minimal tropes in favor of highly wrought arrangements - fitting multiple sensibilities into music that could easily be mistaken for existing genres, though when explored carefully, hardly fits into any. Using the idea of techno/house/breakbeat music as a beginning, not an end unto itself, Morgan arrives at a sound which manages to include various ideas from the worlds of electronics, jazz, and classical in a manner that has no hint of experimentation, but rather a purposeful, concrete rendering of his vision - combining a composer's heart with a programmer's brain.
While paying close attention to looping structures, Morgan's orientation towards software programming has enabled him to alter the movement of these loops, to remove their inherent "loopness," without calling attention to the fact that this has happened. Every iteration of a loop has incremental changes, which over time becomes something entirely different from its origin. This constant evolution is due both to the software techniques employed and the hand guiding the results, which carefully nudges the arrangements into something that is paying homage to a host of techniques and styles that have come before it - taking those ideas and stretching them into new forms - adhering to certain guidelines, while ignoring most.
Morgan Packard - Moment Again Elsewhere - Anticipate 011
released October 2010 - CD / digital
Morgan Packard follows his Airships Fill the Sky album (Anticipate, 2007) with Moment Again Elsewhere, a culmination of a line of thought and musical practice. Using piano, accordion and saxophone along electronic textures, groovy, yet humble rhythms and the controlled chance of his homemade Ripple software, Packard searches for and finds a voice of his own. On many tracks he maintains a sense of bass-fueled club music while pulling it into an entirely other context, one that is far away from the dancefloor while letting the memories of it sway the results. The rhythms have a house/techno/breakbeat influenced feel but with less heft, with a bleepy downtempo character and movement without boominess, like four people clapping in their living room before heading out for the evening.
Through this, he creates a sense of minor drama, the kind that doesn't call attention to itself, but sneaks up on you with its haunting, focused sense of melodic timing. It's an honest electro-acoustic music, using old instruments in a manner that retains their identity rather than allowing them to become a sound source to be obscured and fragmented. These pieces flitter with electronic touch-points but do not adhere to them as the sole direction. This is one of the great strengths of Packard's music - to take his education and experience and use it to forge something new, to borrow from existing, codified ideas, and use those as a means of giving shape to his music, but as a guideline rather than a border.
This sense of finding the means to structure oneself makes perfect sense in the context of his choice to program an application environment in which to work (which he has dubbed Ripple). It's not that he has figured out how to utilize software to arrive at the desired process, but that he has created software in order to be more conducive to the way he wants to make music. The results reflect the difference, with this album a product of not just sonic sensibilities but of the tools he has made to conform to a means of production.
On a different point on this continuum of programming for art, and as an extension of his collaboration with fellow Anticipate artist Joshue Ott (who performs visuals with his superDraw application and collaborated with Packard on the Unsimulatable DVD in 2007) the two recently released an app for the iPad/iPhone platform called Thicket. Combining their individual styles in interactive visuals and sound, respectively, they have increasingly been channeling their performance, production and programming expertise into a shared workspace that supports each direction, and Thicket is a mobile, multi-touch personalized version of this experience, another representation of Packard's melding of different, but related branches of practice.