Ep007: Matt Butler on Improvisational Music as a Seed for Change and Community

By November 8, 2016Podcast

On this episode, Dr.G is joined by the highly unusual musician, activist, and conductor, Matt Butler. Using a rotating cast of celebrity musicians, he created Everyone Orchestra that has spawned a new genre of improvisational and participatory music. Everyone Orchestra has toured the world at some of the largest music festivals featuring a constantly revolving roster of musicians, including members of the Grateful Dead, Phish, The Fleckstones, Living Colour, Dave Matthews Band, Thievery Cooperation, and many other star-studded musicians.  In this rare interview, Matt takes us on an exclusive behind-the-scenes view of Everyone Orchestra. He shares with us how music serves as a universal language to unite people of all backgrounds, stories of his greatest roadshow adventures, how improvisational music has spawned a new genre of music in the shared economy.  All this and more on today’s episode. Now, That’s Unusual.

 About Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the founder and conductor of Everyone Orchestra, a rotating cast of musicians who collaborate on stage to create completely original music in the moment. He began his career in music touring extensively as the drummer for the band Jambay in the 1990’s. Butler conceived EO in 2001 with the goal of creating an innovative experience that spans musical genres and connects people via the universal language of music. EO appears at music festivals as well as individual shows and benefit performances around the country.

Key Interview Takeaways

“There are no mistakes, only opportunities.” The joy of improvisational collaboration is in the unknown, but the musicians must be willing to take risks. Butler likens the experience to playing sports: A play might go perfectly and result in a long gain, or any number of variables could make that same play unsuccessful. Everyone Orchestra “aims for moments of perfect musical synergy,” but sometimes something weird happens. And that’s okay.

Inspiration for a project might come from a mashup of influences. Butler credits several experiences with giving him the idea for EO. A friendship with novelist Ken Kesey, the experience of coaching tennis, his mother’s relationships with world famous orchestra conductors and an open-mic night in India are among the influences that led him to conceive of EO and create an experience that involves audience participation, improvisation, composition, as well as the excitement of sports.

Artists are attracted to participate in Everyone Orchestra because it affords them the opportunity to nurture their creativity in a new way. Prominent musicians like Steve Berlin of Los Lobos and Adrian Belew (who played with Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel among others) cite the newness of the experience and the exhilaration of improvisation as selling points. “It is good for your creative soul.”

Music has the potential to help heal and foster empathy because it brings people together. Butler hopes to expand Everyone Orchestra to include a diverse group of international musicians with the intent of employing the universal language of music to spark change. There is a spiritual element to creating in the moment with a group of people, and the EO experience exemplifies how we can get along and work together.

Learn More About Matt Butler






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