Morris Pert

Resident archivist Jack Dangers uncovers an album by British composer and session percussionist Morris Pert

Morris Pert was a Scottish composer, percussionist and pianist whose work straddled the worlds of classical, jazz rock and electronic music. He was a sought-after collaborator who played with the Japanese percussionist Stomu Yamash’ta in the early 1970s and became more heavily involved in the jazz-rock scene as the decade progressed, joining Brand X for their second album in the late 1970s. His career as a high-profile session percussionist took off at around the same time, and he appeared on albums by Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Wings (and later Paul McCartney), Mike Oldfield, Bryan Ferry and Talk Talk, to list just a few of his credits.

Pert’s album, ‘The Book Of Love / Fragmenti I / The Ultimate Decay’, was released on a label called Chantry in 1982. The lead track ‘The Book Of Love’, which is subtitled ‘Sixteen Illuminations On A Medieval Manuscript’, was commissioned by the BBC for the percussionist Gary Kettel and had been broadcast on Radio 3 in 1981.

The track I really like is ‘The Ultimate Decay’, which takes up all of side two. It’s got dense organ clusters, bells, ring-modulated voices, electronic noises and tones – everything you could hope for. It’s tape music with an avant-garde vocal group called Electric Phoenix, who commissioned the piece for the 1978 St Bartholomew’s Festival of 20th century music.

They’re really interesting too. The group split from Swingle II to popularise their repertoire of amplified voices and electronics and to perform Luciano Berio’s vocal compositions. I’d never heard of them, but I discovered them through Morris Pert.

Pert released one other album under his own name before this one, ‘Luminos / Chromosphere / 4 Japanese Verses’, in 1975. It includes another entire B-side-hogging composition from Sun Treader – the name of one of his projects. His piece, ‘Eoastrion Op 30 For Eb Clarinet And Tape’, features on a compilation called ‘Contemporary Clarinet Volume 2’, another Chantry release from 1978. But the best album is ‘The Book Of Love’, which is just him. He would create pieces using tape and when he performed live, would play along with the tapes.

Pert spent the last part of his life living in Balchrick, which lies about as far to the north-west of Scotland as you can get. He built a studio there and continued composing, his work inspired in part by the symbolism of the Picts who inhabited the country over a thousand years ago and whose rock carvings survive to this day. He died at home in 2010, aged 62.

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