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Standout Track: No. 1, “Paintbrush,” a composition for bass, cello, violin, and electric guitar that manages to condense minimalist music’s sprawling scope into four minutes. By stroking a paintbrush against his strings, guitarist/composer Jon Morris creates a gentle drone that creates a foundation for gradually unfolding melodies.
Musical Motivation: After spending several years as a member of the free-jazz focused D.C. Improvisers Collective, Morris—who also runs the local chapter of the American Composers Forum—wanted to pursue a project with a bit more structure. Also, he wanted to rock. “I got a couple of records by that band Sunn O))),” he says, referring to the Stephen O’Malley’s eardrum crushing outfit. “I wanted to write a string quartet that sounded like drone metal.” So Morris recruited a stand-up bass to emphasize the low-register, threw in guitar for some extra weight, and let the concept evolve from there. “We kind of missed the [drone metal] target,” he admits. “Instead it’s become something of its own.”
Cash Advancement: Low End String Quartet is made up of skilled professional musicians, and unlike some rock musicians, they expect to make money. “In the beginning the concept was that this should be pro and people get paid,” says Morris. After the group’s initial show, which was gratis, Morris committed himself to finding funding for the group. That was in 2007. “It made everything take a year longer than it should have,” he laments. “The time I spent writing those proposals, maybe I should have just written the music.”