System 50:50 an introduction

System 50:50 an introduction Shaun Blezard

System 50:50 The Accord

The system being offered here is called 50:50. 


The duration of the piece is agreed before the start of the performance..
A performer must play for 50% of the duration of the piece and remain silent for 50% of the duration of piece

Example; if the duration of the piece is 30 minutes, the performer plays for 15 minutes and is silent for 15 mins. Each player is free to choose when they play and when they are silent within the duration of the piece but they must have a 50/50 balance between playing and being silent. It is expected that each player will improvise their music, but other options could be explored.

Delivered by the primary and preferred time management option:

Mechanical chess clocks are required to facilitate the aim of the system. One of the pair of dials is called ‘tacet’ and the other ‘free play’.See image above. Each performer has an individual chess clock to monitor and manage their contribution. The performer plays when the ‘free play’ dial is running down and is silent when the ‘tacet’ dial is running down. Further modifications of the format can be explored (perhaps with duets sharing the same clock, or the ensemble split into two and sharing just two clocks) but the use of individual clocks to monitor the contribution of each individual performer is the original basic format.

You tube demonstration : URL LINK
Link to image of an adapted chess clock URL LINK

In the beginning:
The system was originally devised or created for use in workshops and for large ensembles playing free improvised music. The system can be used for ensembles of any size, and with any duration. The simplicity of the system management device ‘the adapted chess clock’ enables the delivery of a wide range of outcomes from the simple to the complex.

Current concert opportunities and ensemble descriptions:

  • Blank Canvas 50:50 Quartet.
  • Blank Canvas 50:50 Octet
  • Centrifuge 50:50 Octet
  • Centrifuge 50:50 Orchestra
  • Ad hoc small ensembles
  • Workshop and conference opportunities.

Future Complexities:
Variations of the basic format could include:

  • The number of musicians
  • The duration of the piece
  • The percentage split or ratio between “freeplay” and “tacet”
  • Two or more players sharing the same clock.

Services and support:

Phil Morton has twenty adapted chess clocks which are available to interested parties. System 50:50 is managed by praxis : arts and System 50:50 has access to the resources of praxis : arts.

What happens next: To express an interest:

  • to play in an ensemble using the system 50:50.
  • to develop the system in a workshop environment,
  • to manage and develop an orchestra using this system
  • to manage and develop an ensemble of any size, any location using this system
  • To chew the fat during a skype conference.

Contact Phil Morton : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. : uk:mobile 07999518582

Website: visit > go to the search option on the main menu bar > enter “system 50:50”

With thanks to:
Phil Morton has worked on this concept for some time - 10 years - but he acknowledges with thanks the recent input from the following : Martin Hacket (Oxford Improvisers), Robin Hartwell (Liverpool ) and the Centrifuge wiki-network (North).

System 50:50 Daccord!
P Morton : May 2017

System 50:50 - The Chess Clock

Made in Merseyside!