Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Morse, Michael (William)
Morse, Michael (William), bassist, composer, educator, author; b. Northampton, MA, 10 January 1948. He grew up in New Brunswick, New Jersey. His parents, Roy Earl Morse (b. 1916), and Mary Farrell Morse (b. 1919) were both scholars/teachers. His brothers are Timothy Roy Morse (b. December 1948), a master brewer, and Andrew Leonard Morse (b. 1952), a computer programmer.
Michael studied bass with Gary Peacock, 1964-65, Warren Grim, 1965, Rudolf Watzel, 1965-66, and Dennis James, 1972-73. He attended McGill University, 1966-71, and York University, 1982-84 (MFA in ethnomusicology and PhD in music sociology). His spouse is trombonist, singer, actor Jo-Anne Kirwan Clark (b. 1951). They have two children, Timothy Edward Morse (b. 1987), a drummer, trumpeter, and Molly Isabelle Nancy Morse (b. 1991). Morse is American-born, but has lived in Canada since his university days. Born the eldest of three brothers in 1948 to academic parents, he grew up in New Jersey, not far from New York City, and was exposed as a young man to the great jazz music of the early 1960s. Encouraged by Bill Evans and George Russell, he took up the bass, studying first with Gary Peacock, later with Warren Grim. During high school, he began composing, studying harmony and theory by correspondence with Berklee College. A year in Germany led to extensive orchestral experience, and further bass study with Rudolf Watzel. Michael began conducting the school choir and orchestra, and had some lessons with Friedrich Tilegant of the Southwest German Chamber Orchestra. Upon returning to the university at McGill in Montreal, he concentrated on comparative literature and philosophy. After graduation he performed and taught in Montreal for ten years, playing every type of music from Brahms and Dvorak to Haitian folk music, disco, TV commercials, and, always, jazz in its many incarnations. Lured to Toronto in 1980, Michael continued an active musical career, and began graduate study, first in ethnomusicology, and eventually sociology and social theory. His studies culminated in an M.F.A. (An Analytic Study of Thelonious Monk's 'Round Midnight), M.A. (Heidegger and Poetic Rhythm), and PhD (The Tune in Jazz as a Social Process - Prolegomena to a Sociology of Music). Michael has taught at York and for several years in the Cultural Studies Programme at Trent University, developing original conceptions for music history and sociology courses, as well as introductory cultural theory and a history of avant garde movements. He has also taught humanities at Humber College, George Brown College, Centennial College and musicianship courses at CAMMAC summer music camp. Michael premiered an ensemble of top Ontario musicians on October 11th this year, The Dignity of Labour Ensemble, dedicated to playing his arrangements and compositions. He has appeared in the last year with the Dialogic Duo, the Toronto Jazz Duo, Bill Westcott, Bob Clegg's Octet, John Brown Trio, Judy Marshak, Rick Stephenson, The Endangered Species Big Band, Jennifer Peck, Geordie MacDonald and the Painkillers, Glen Hall Duo, Trio, and Quintet (featuring Roswell Rudd), The Georgian Bay Dixielanders, Myk Freedman's Quartet Quartet, the Freeworks Band, Morgonn Ewen, Sonora, RedShift, OutSource, and more. He has recorded recently with Trio Muo, Brenda Scott, Sonora, The Freeworks Band, and composed and performed music for the acclaimed CBC Stratford Festival Series production Guthrie on Guthrie, featuring Colin Fox. Work proceeds on a further CBC production, based on the work of Franz Kafka.
Michael continues to be close to his music-loving brothers Timothy and Andrew, and jazz-fanatic Dad. He was happily married to Jo-Anne Kirwan Clark, who continues a busy career as an actor at the Shaw Festival and elsewhere. Their children are Timothy, 15, and Molly, 12, who are interested in every sport known to humanity and animals, respectively. Neither of them have the faintest idea who the Spice Girls are.
Glen Hall & OutSource: The Roswell Incident; Rick Stephenson: His Way, A Commemoration of the Art of Frank Sinatra; Glen Hall Qunitet: Live at the Bamboo!; CBC Stratford Festival Series starring Colin Fox: Guthrie on Guthrie (1998, composed and performed by Michael Morse)
Some Recent Lectures and Publications:
Rhythm, Musical Time, and Society - A New Sociology of Music. White Cliffs Media, September 2003
"Synecdoche and Jazz Improvisation: A Contribution to Musical Rhetoric," Poiesis, Spring 2002
"Music Theory and the Time of Nazism," Music and Nazism International Conference, October 1999
"Clarinet," "Piccolo," entries in The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, edited by David Horn and John Shepherd (forthcoming)