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Preview: What's my name?

What's my name?

My last name is Morris. And also Matis.

Last Build Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2015 17:46:31 PDT


Blowhards in DC

Sun, 20 May 2012 05:30:03 PDT

The last two weeks have featured a surprising amount of circular breathing.

Starting with Ned Rothenberg, who was outstanding as usual. He played a duo show with Ayman Fanous (5/11 at a church in Foggy Bottom).  He did one solo piece on alto sax, as well as duos making use of shakuhachi, clarinet, and bass clarinet. Amazing stuff. His new solo clarinet record ("World of Odd Harmonics" on Tzadik) is also excellent. Here's a sample - not from this concert, but recent and similar material:

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="" width="400">

Then International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), (5/17 at Atlas) whose program included a solo bassoon piece that required circular breathing. During that passage, the performer made a porcine snort with each breath. I wonder if that's a function of how much air it takes to work a bassoon vs. a sax or trumpet?

Then Travis Laplante and Peter Evans (5/19 at Back Alley Theater): The final piece of Laplante's set was a long theme and variations form built on a long chant like melody - rendered beautifully in "normal" tones then used as the basis for a series of intense psuedo-polyphonic episodes. I think this is the studio version, it's only the tune that he opened and closed the piece with at the show:

allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="100" src="" style="display: block; height: 100px; position: relative; width: 400px;" width="400"><p>&amp;amp;amp;lt;p&amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=""&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;The Tear Dam by Travis Laplante&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;</p>

Peter Evans performed what seemed like a quartet for two trumpets, elephant and whale. He played all the parts himself simultaneously on one trumpet.(image)

Low End String Quartet: commissioning

Sat, 17 Mar 2012 14:31:27 PDT

The Low End String Quartet is commissioning two new pieces, to be premiered in Reston, Virgina on April 14th.

One piece is coming from cello superstar Zoe Keating. The other is from experimental guitar virtuoso Sarah Lipstate (aka Noveller).


I'm having some trouble embedding the video here... so you have to click the link to see the video about our project. We're doing a kickstarter-style fundraiser, but on a different platform. One that comes with matching funds and is nonprofit so donations are tax-deductible.

Learn more and join in here:

Repetition Meditation 1

Sat, 27 Aug 2011 12:19:39 PDT

(object) (embed) Repetition Meditation 1 by Jonathan Matis

Here's a demo of a new piece I'm working on. It's scored for 2 electric guitars and 4 horns. The recording uses fake horns. I'm on the prowl for live human horn players who might help me make an actual recording.

Score is posted here.(image)

New Release: On the inevitability of loss

Tue, 09 Aug 2011 05:00:03 PDT

Listen and download via bandcamp.This is a set of four dark and somber pieces for bass clarinet and cello. (There should be a lot more music written for bass clarinet and cello. Bass clarinetists and cellists should be forming duos all over the place. They could name their group, "Dark and Creepy." In a perfect world, that would happen.)It's not really designed for live performance, but was conceived for realization in the studio. To play it live would require 3 bass clarinetists, at least 5 cellists, and guitar. Most of those people would sit around not playing for most of the time. So, maybe better to think of it as duo pieces, with a few overdubs allowed.I had the idea in the back of my mind for a long time to write duos for those two instruments. They sound so great together. Also, in certain registers, they sound almost identical. I don't think you can find a more homogeneous pairing of wind and string instruments?The first and last pieces of the set are actually the same. First time, done by bass clarinet (with two overdubs), then the work closes with the same material performed by the cello. Track two is a straight-up acoustic duet (without overdubs). Track three is the emotional core of the work, and has the densest sound palette. On that one, I was aiming for something Godspeed You! Black Emporer-esque, but missed and wound up someplace else.Compositionally, all of the music is kept very simple. Partly because of my own simple-mindedness, but partly as a means of maintaining a sense of austerity to balance the dark emotional tone. I ripped off an excerpt of a very old chant melody from the Russian orthodox church, probably inaccurately. There's also a Russian lullaby tune that appears (most clearly in track 2). It also has a dark quality, but at the same time has a sort of naive innocence to it. Most of the other original material is made using the octatonic scale (or what jazz players call the diminished or half-diminished scale). Stravinsky seemed to like it, and he proved again and again that it pairs nicely with Russian folk tunes, so it seemed like a safe bet. And it was.Most importantly, the score includes a great deal of improvisation. The best parts of what you hear were not invented by me, but by the super talented and lovely people that played the piece. They totally killed it. It's a little bit disingenuous to slap my name on there like I "own" it. But I did.The credits:Composed by Jonathan Matis. Performed by: Ben Redwine: bass clarinet Natalie Spehar: cello Gordon Withers: cello section on track 3, first solo on track 4 Jonathan Matis: ambient guitar on track 3 Mixed by T.J. Lipple Produced by Jonathan Matis and T.J. LippleRecorded in Jon's basementIf you're curious, the score is available here. [...]

bonus track: bass clarinet & guitar duo

Fri, 10 Jun 2011 13:21:33 PDT

I'm working on some new music, commissioned by a dance company. It's written for a sweet duo: bass clarinet and cello. I love the way those two instruments sound together.

The recording sessions have gone very well. Hiring awesome players is definitely the way to go. They got everything done in one or two takes.

We got through the solo bass clarinet music so fast that we had some time to spare before the cellist arrived; so we did a short little improv track together. This won't be included in the dance piece, so from my (metaphorical) editing room floor to you:

(object) (embed) Bass Clarinet - Guitar duo by Jonathan Matis

Ben Redwine: Clarinet
Me: guitar
mixed by TJ Lipple

Please enjoy.(image)

We love the saddest songs.

Wed, 08 Jun 2011 17:45:37 PDT

Navel gazing is unamerican.
Amnesia is patriotic.
Together we forget.
Together we repeat.
Together we struggle.
Together we talk ourselves out of failure.

Our favorite songs are the saddest ones.
We love the story of realizing we were wrong all along.
We love that song. We can't get enough.
We hate that story.
We refuse to listen to that story.
We love that song.

We love the songs about sadness and suffering.
About longing and loss.
About wanting and wanting.(image)

Low End String Quartet at Kennedy Center - video

Tue, 01 Mar 2011 18:30:30 PST

title="YouTube video player" width="400" height="255" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

see the whole concert here.(image)

Upcoming show: Low End String Quartet, Sept 21

Tue, 07 Sep 2010 13:25:07 PDT

Our next performance of the Low End String Quartet is coming up soon:
Tues. Sept. 21
at Strathmore Mansion in Rockville, Maryland.

We're performing along with Fennesz (from Austria) and Janel & Anthony + Arturas Bumsteinas.

Very exciting. They told me that this show will sell out. Click here for tickets ($20).

Anthony, of Janel & Anthony, was my guitar teacher last year. He's amazing. So is Janel. There are many reasons to attend this performance. The music being at the top of my list. Check the links above and enjoy.
See you there?

Facebook event page: click here and RSVP, invite your friends, etc, etc.


Low End String Quartet: live

Wed, 26 May 2010 15:48:26 PDT

(object) (embed)

Recorded live last week at "Word Free DC"


I think I get ice cream now.

Fri, 07 May 2010 13:07:28 PDT

It's been a crazy few weeks, work-wise, and is shaping up to remain crazy for at least two more... but I just finished a whole bunch of things that all had to be done at the same time. What just happened?
  • In the last two weeks, I got four proposals submitted to my county arts council. (They have all of their deadlines for the year in a three-week period, which is really awesome) Two from my nonprofit, and two from me as an individual artist. This year, I successfully delegated one of the Improv Arts proposals (thanks, Daniel!). We'll see if any of them work, but if funded we might:
  1. do after-school shows at Joe's and the College Park Community Center;
  2. hire a marketing strategy consultant to help us figure out how to put together all the different threads of our organization's communications - which is now a huge clusterf***;
  3. "commission" myself to develop more solo repertoire - so I can do more concerts like the one I did back in March;
  4. and take composition lessons from Alexandra Gardner.
  • I finished up a big job that had a very short timeframe: producing original (recorded) music for a dance / theater show that goes up next weekend. I'm really happy with the results, and the process. This one had enough of a budget that I was able to hire some great people to play on it, I recorded all the live tracks at home, then took it to a professional studio and got it mixed right. The end result is nice. Sounds so much better than what I can do by myself in my home project studio. (for info about the performances next weekend, see facebook event)

  • That job led to a booking for Low End String Quartet: we're doing "street performances" on May 15/16 in Reston, Virginia as part of the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival. Our regular cellist is out of town that weekend, but I lined up Gordon Withers to join us again (he played with us at Comet last summer) and the contract and associated paperwork is all done done done. We'll be at Reston Town Center's "South Market Promenade" Saturday, May 15, at noon, 2:45pm, and 4pm; Sunday, May 16, 11:30am. Free free free. Hopefully the weather will be nice.

  • I'm working hard promoting "Word Free DC" on May 21st. That's proving to be a challenging task, but today we got some love from The Pink Line Project. Hopefully we'll get some more mentions around town in the coming weeks.
I'm also delighted to be back on my bike after a week. The weather is perfect and my nuts don't hurt! Yay!

Now I'm going to Island Style, where the non-dairy flavors still deserve the name "ice cream."



Thanks, mom.

Mon, 22 Mar 2010 08:14:03 PDT

(image) So, I have a concert coming up on Saturday. I'm performing, as well as three other bands. There's an "event" set up in Facebook for it. My parents are coming. See that 2nd comment above? It's on the event's "wall" on Facebook. That's my mom saying "We wouldn't miss this for the world! You are the best!"

Thanks, mom. That's not embarrassing at all. Really.(image)

Matis solo concert: March 27

Sat, 20 Mar 2010 07:42:11 PDT

I'm performing a solo recital as part of an upcoming Sonic Circuits event. I'll be playing one of my own pieces, and several works by other composers. Strangely, I've chosen pieces that were all written in the 1970's.

Maybe see you there?


the details:
Seijiro Murayama, Chris Forsyth, Lost Civilizations, Jonathan Matis
When: Sat, Mar 27, 2010 7:30 PM
Where: Pyramid Atlantic, 8230 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910 [map]
Doors: 7pm. $8

[facebook event link](image)

Costa Rica Bike Trip

Tue, 16 Mar 2010 06:07:03 PDT

Costa Rica bike trip 2010

C and I went on vacation with C's parents... on a "bike adventure" in Costa Rica. It was great. (photo is link to gallery)

UPDATE: Another member of our tour group, Teri Darnell, is a much better photographer and she posted much better photos on her site.(image)

Apple Blossom

Tue, 19 Jan 2010 17:23:18 PST

This is a piece composed by Peter Garland in 1972. It's originally written for, "3 or more marimbas, played by 4 or more musicians."

I've arranged it for guitar(s). I'll be playing this live, solo, on March 27th. I haven't done a solo performance in years. For this upcoming show, I'm working on a few pieces by other American composers and this is the first one I've prepared. I'm going to tackle James Tenney's "Saxony" next, and I haven't decided but I might do one of Charles Amirkhanian's text pieces (Church Car is ready to go). I'll do one or two of my own pieces too...

This one could easily be done with a large group of guitarists, like 9 or more. That would be awesome. Maybe not as awesome as the original marimba version, but I don't play the marimba. For now, here's the version of just me, nine times.

mp3, 7:36 (7.0 mb)

More info about Peter Garland:
Kyle Gann
New Albion(image)

Happy holidays from DCIC

Wed, 30 Dec 2009 06:57:03 PST

DCIC is working on a holiday album. This is just a teaser for December 2010 - when our little project will be the hottest thing since yule log.

A few nights ago, I dug out a second parking space in front of the house and Mike came over to start work on this thing. Here are rough mixes of our first shot at the "o" section of holiday favorites.

Happy holidays!!!

O come, O come, Emmanuel (9:45, mp3)
O Holy Night (3:54, mp3)
O Tannenbaum (7:32, mp3)(image)

These are the ringtones you are looking for.

Tue, 15 Dec 2009 08:47:20 PST

Amuse your acquaintances.
Befuddle your bro's.
Confound your coworkers.
Delight your dorm mates.
Enthuse your enemies.
Faze your family.
Gratify your girlfriend.
Hook your hubby.
Irritate your in-laws.
and so on.

With the Dada ringtone you've always wanted.
And they're free!
These are amazing times we live in.

Bowling for Women [mp3] 249kb
Duodenum [mp3] 165kb
Soda Can Mambo [mp3] 136kb

For full versions of the songs, scroll down to "novelties" on my music page.(image)

Media Files:

Help the Low End String Quartet rock in schools

Fri, 04 Dec 2009 07:41:45 PST

Dear friends,

Next year, The Low End String Quartet is heading back to elementary school.

We didn't want to do it half-assed so we've been moving forward slowly and intentionally. Thanks to the Cafritz Foundation, our county arts council, and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, phase one is now underway: developing a kick-ass in-school concert program. We are working with an arts-education consultant and observing other performing artists in schools so we can do this thing right.

Starting in the spring of 2010 we will perform our first in-school shows, and audition for local school systems and related agencies.

Here's the thing... Many of our local schools don't have the money for performing arts programming. We've got a great product that can mean a lot to kids - but we need to reach 'em. That's where you come in. A few small gifts from a few kind people can make a big difference: allowing us to offer low-cost, high-quality performing arts experiences for young people.

We're doing our homework to make sure the show is engaging, participatory, memorable, exciting, and curriculum based. The kids don't even know it's "educational." They just know it rocks.

If we can get 10 people to give $50, we can give a local, under-resourced elementary school two free shows (one for K-2, one for 3-6 graders). That's all it takes. Easy!

Gifts to Improv Arts are fully tax deductible.
Click here to donate via
or "join the cause" on facebook.

I hope you have a great holiday season & happy new year!
Thank you so much.

P.S. We have a record out. We think it came out awful nice. You might like it. You can hear the whole thing (for free) and download (almost free) at bandcamp, or order an actual plastic copy that you can hold in your hot little hands (or gift wrap for holiday purposes) - only $7 if you buy it from Dischord.

Anorak and DCIC, Nov 21

Fri, 06 Nov 2009 11:36:24 PST

Thanksgiving is coming up, and then it's the holidays and everybody's got tons of stuff to do and no time and all that. Luckily we're not there just yet. Seriously. We are not there yet.Ok, yeah the clocks fell back and now it gets dark at five pm and boo hoo. But wait a second. Winter hasn't taken over yet. We are not there yet.I have an idea. Let's celebrate the last days of autumn, and do it up right. Before the shopping and stress and seasonal disorder and slush and don't wake me until it's spring. I've got a great idea: let's get together at a cool, fun, out-of-the-way kinda place and hang out for an evening. Even better, let's get some cool live music, too!Lucky lucky us. It just so happens that we've got a cool place, and a great lineup for a fun night:Anorak, a hard-to-classify trio of European improvisers (ok, one of them is from Baltimore, but she was living in Amsterdam and met the other two) will be in town. The DC Improvisers Collective (DCIC) will play too.Anorak is a cellist, a pianist, and a drummer. They are doing neat stuff. You will probably like it. DCIC has a special lineup that night, featuring Vattel Cherry on bass and Ed Ricart on guitar, plus their regular trio of sax, guitar, drums. The music will be hot.Show is at the artdc Gallery / Lustine Center in the Hyattsville Arts District. Hyattsville is a happening little place - just up the road from DC (really, not far) and just down the road from College Park.Blurbage about the bands below. Show is pay-what-you-like so don't worry about the money. Just think about the fun we're gonna have.When: Saturday, November 21.Doors at 7:30pm, music promptly at 8:00pm.Where: artdc / Lustine Center5710 Baltimore AvenueHyattsville, MD 20781 ensemble Anorak unifies musical and cultural backgrounds in an exploration of texture and sound-worlds unique to its piano/drums/cello instrumentation. Anorak’s work is informed by the jazz, contemporary, and classical vocabulary, but inspired by foregoing stylistic practice in exchange for open, impulsive, and raw exposition of sound and energy. Improvisers Collective:The DC Improvisers Collective (DCIC) is a trio exploring the intersection of jazz, contemporary composition and rock music. Their current lineup features Ben Azzara (drums), Jonathan Matis (guitar), and Mike Sebastian (reeds). These musicians come together from diverse backgrounds, bringing experience from performing in rock bands and jazz groups, as well as post-classical composition. Drawing on the visceral energy and immediacy of rock music, along with the spontaneous creativity and subtlety of the jazz tradition, DCIC is able to forge new music that possesses both great intensity and mindful nuance.http://dcic.alkem.orgCheck out our new record, a live album featuring Greg Osby: [...]


Mon, 02 Nov 2009 08:45:28 PST

Halloween at our house was a dud this year. Rainy weather and a street light that went out made our house unpopular with trick-or-treaters. Oh well. Our pumpkin worked out pretty well, though! Scary spider.(image)

Another million-dollar idea

Fri, 30 Oct 2009 11:41:19 PDT

Outsource the "honey do" list and associated nagging. Allow a third party to keep you and your spouse on task with home maintenance chores. You have a weekly phone call with a honeydew manager. If you didn't do what you were supposed to do, on schedule, then they hire a contractor for you.

Think of the marriages that could be saved. And the money that could be made, no?(image)

Another million-dollar idea

Fri, 30 Oct 2009 11:41:52 PDT

'Thread bare"
Recession-themed line of underthings.
For example:
  • Pajama bottoms that say "TOXIC ASSET" across the tush
  • Boxer shorts that read "Too big to fail"
  • a few items in a gift set, named "Stimulus package"
Who do we sell this to?(image)

Church Car

Tue, 13 Oct 2009 08:40:23 PDT

Been a while since I posted any recordings here... I just made this one, although it has been on my mind for a long time. Charles Amirkhanian has written a whole bunch of great text-sound pieces (Eigenvalues does one called "The Mad Hymn" that's all in Hawaiian) and this is one of my favorites. It's written for two voices; Amirkhanian recorded it by himself and now I have a similar "karaoke" version in my iPod for live performance. I have no idea where I might perform such a thing, but now I can.

The piece has lots of great odd-meter rhythms that tickle my math-rock nerve just so. Which reminds me, a few weeks ago I learned to play Terry Riley's "In C" for a performance at a party put together by a friend who runs a classical chamber ensemble. It's about time I actually got that score under my fingers. That piece is the godfather of math-rock in my opinion. It was fun to learn it, and interesting to play it with a group for the first time. Learned some things about what to do (and what not to do).

While I'm rambling about recent musical endeavors... I played two shows last week with Daniel's dance company. He put together a multi-cultural version of "My ocean is never blue" with three other dance companies. Now we can finally put that piece to rest after three years. Two of the other companies used live music, and I was able to quickly throw together some ideas for how we could all play together, which was fun. The show was presented by the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts and the University of Maryland. Nice to play in such a nice venue. Sound was good, and they provided snacks for the performers. I was also able to ride my bike to work for one of the shows.

DCIC has a few shows coming up, November 4 at Bossa, and November 21 in Hyattsville. More info coming soon.

Things are moving ahead with the Low End String Quartet, too. We got two small grants from the Prince George's County Arts Council: one for commissioning new music from me; one for an event at Joe's in Mount Rainer next spring. We're finally starting our project to develop an in-school show for kids. That's going to be an interesting adventure, hopefully. So far, it's just been logistics and grant writing. Looking forward to actually starting the work.

Hope you enjoy "Church Car." As always, would love to know what you think.

[if the attached file doesn't work for you, click here to play in your browser. Or click the blue play button next to the headline at the top of this blog post](image)

Hamilton Street, West Hyattsville, Maryland

Mon, 28 Sep 2009 10:45:18 PDT


Some photos I took in my 'hood, 9/25/2009.(image)

New Album: DCIC with Greg Osby "Live At Warehouse"

Tue, 01 Sep 2009 05:05:00 PDT

(image) In August 2006 (don't mind the typo on the album cover), we put on a concert at the Warehouse Theater. They were renovating at the time, and from the street it looked like the place was closed.

The show opened with a set by Joe Lally. Accompanied by Jeff Barsky on guitar, he shared songs from his debut solo album, "There to Here." The we played, with Greg Osby. For real, us with Greg Osby.

It was a high point for DCIC, and luckily we recorded the show. There's some description of the actual music on the album page. One track is available for free, and the whole thing is only $5.(image)

I am published (again?)

Thu, 27 Aug 2009 06:00:39 PDT

This time it's an article I wrote about a Jimmy Giuffre record. It went up today at the IndiePit blog.(image)