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February 25th, 2008, 04:22 PM
All Things Anthony Braxton!!!
This is a thread about multi-
instrumentalist/composer Anthony
Braxton. Please share your thoughts,
comments, and stories! To start things
off, here is a bio on Braxton...
Biography by Chris Kelsey
Genius is a rare commodity in any art
form, but at the end of the 20th century
it seemed all but non-existent in jazz, a
music that had ceased looking ahead
and begun swallowing its tail. If it
seemed like the music had run out of
ideas, it might be because Anthony
Braxton covered just about every
conceivable area of creativity during the
course of his extraordinary career. The
multi-reedist/composer might very well
be jazz's last bona fide genius. Braxton
began with jazz's essential rhythmic and
textural elements, combining them with
all manner of experimental
compositional techniques, from graphic
and non-specific notation to serialism
and multimedia. Even at the peak of his
renown in the mid- to late '70s, Braxton
was a controversial figure amongst
musicians and critics. His self-invented
(yet heavily theoretical) approach to
playing and composing jazz seemed to
have as much in common with late 20th
century classical music as it did jazz,
and therefore alienated those who
considered jazz at a full remove from
European idioms. Although Braxton
exhibited a genuine -- if highly
idiosyncratic -- ability to play older
forms (influenced especially by
saxophonists Warne Marsh, John
Coltrane, Paul Desmond, and Eric
Dolphy), he was never really accepted
by the jazz establishment, due to his
manifest infatuation with the practices of
such non-jazz artists as John Cage and
Karlheinz Stockhausen. Many of the
mainstream's most popular musicians
(Wynton Marsalis among them) insisted
that Braxton's music was not jazz at all.
Whatever one calls it, however, there is
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no questioning the originality of his
vision; Anthony Braxton created music
of enormous sophistication and passion
that was unlike anything else that had
come before it. Braxton was able to
fuse jazz's visceral components with
contemporary classical music's formal
and harmonic methods in an utterly
unselfconscious -- and therefore
convincing -- way. The best of his work
is on a level with any art music of the
late 20th century, jazz or classical.
Braxton began playing music as a
teenager in Chicago, developing an early
interest in both jazz and classical
musics. He attended the Chicago School
of Music from 1959-1963, then
Roosevelt University, where he studied
philosophy and composition. During this
time, he became acquainted with many
of his future collaborators, including
saxophonists Joseph Jarman and
Roscoe Mitchell. Braxton entered the
service and played saxophone in an
Army band; for a time he was stationed
in Korea. Upon his discharge in 1966, he
returned to Chicago where he joined the
nascent Association for the
Advancement of Creative Musicians
(AACM). The next year, he formed an
influential free jazz trio, the Creative
Construction Company, with violinist
Leroy Jenkins and trumpeter Leo Smith.
In 1968, he recorded For Alto, the first-
ever recording for solo saxophone.
Braxton lived in Paris for a short while
beginning in 1969, where he played with
a rhythm section comprised of bassist
Dave Holland, pianist Chick Corea, and
drummer Barry Altschul. Called Circle,
the group stayed together for about a
year before disbanding (Holland and
Altschul would continue to play in
Braxton-led groups for the next several
years). Braxton moved to New York in
1970. The '70s saw his star rise (in a
manner of speaking); he recorded a
number of ambitious albums for the
major label Arista and performing in
various contexts. Braxton maintained a
quartet with Altschul, Holland, and a
brass player (either trumpeter Kenny
Wheeler or trombonist George Lewis)
for most of the '70s. During the decade,
he also performed with the Italian free
improvisation group Musica Elettronica
Viva, and guitarist Derek Bailey, as well
as his colleagues in AACM. The '80s saw
Braxton lose his major-label deal, yet he
continued to record and issue albums on
independent labels at a dizzying pace.
He recorded a memorable series of
duets with bop pioneer Max Roach, and
made records of standards with pianists
Tete Montoliu and Hank Jones.
Braxton's steadiest vehicle in the '80s
and '90s -- and what is often considered
his best group -- was his quartet with
pianist Marilyn Crispell, bassist Mark
Dresser, and drummer Gerry
Hemingway. In 1985, he began teaching
at Mills College in California; he
subsequently joined the music faculty at
Wesleyan College in Connecticut, where
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he taught through the '90s. During that
decade, he received a large grant from
the MacArthur Foundation that allowed
him to finance some large-scale projects
he'd long envisioned, including an opera.
At the beginning of the 21st century,
Braxton was still a vital presence on the
creative music scene.
Reply With Quote
February 25th, 2008, 04:38 PM
I'm still a Braxton newbie, but I find him both fascinating and baffling. I want to
learn more, but it doesn't help that there are about a bajillion recordings to
choose from, many of them pricey multi-CD sets.
I once took a girl on our first date to a show called "The Boston Braxton
Project", consisting entirely of Braxton compositions. (The only performer I can
remember is Taylor Ho Bynum. Unfortunately I forget the names of the other
players.) Her tastes ran more towards top 40 and Cantonese pop but she was a
real good sport and made it through the whole show. Probably should have just
taken her to a movie though.
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February 25th, 2008, 05:03 PM
A discography of Anthony Braxton music:
1968 3 Compositions of New Jazz-Delmark
1968 For Alto-Delmark
1969 Anthony Braxton-Affinity
1971 Together Alone-Delmark
1972 Saxophone Improvisations, Series F-America
1972 Town Hall (1972) [live] -Pausa
1974 In the Tradition, Vol. 1 -Steeple Chase
1974 In the Tradition, Vol. 2 -Steeple Chase
1974 Quartet Live at Moers New Jazz Festival-Ring
1974 Duo, Vols. 1 and 2-Emanem
1974 First Duo Concert [live] -Emanem
1974 Trio and Duet-Sackville
1974 New York, Fall 1974-Arista
1974 Live at Wigmor-Inner City
1975 Five Pieces (1975)-Arista
1975 Anthony Braxton Live-Bluebird
1975 The Montreux/Berlin Concerts [live]-Arista
1975 Live -RCA
1976 Creative Orchestra Music 1976-Arista
1976 Elements of Surprise: Braxton/Lewis Duo -Moers
1976 Duets (1976)-Arista
1976 Donaueschingen (Duo) 1976 -hatART
1976 Quartet (Dortmund) 1976 [live]-hatART
1976 Solo: Live at Moers Festival -Ring Records/Moers Music
1977 Four Compositions (1973)-Denon
1978 Creative Orchestra (Koln) 1978-hatART
1978 For Four Orchestras-Arista
1978 Alto Saxophone Improvisations (1979)-Arista
1978 NW5-9M4: For Trio-Arista
1979 Performance (9-1-1979) [live]-hatHUT
1979 With Robert Schumann String Quartet-Sound Aspects
1979 Seven Compositions (1978) -Moers
1980 For Two Pianos-Arista
1980 The Coventry Concert [live]-WestWind
1981 Composition No. 96-Leo
1981 Six Compositions: Quartet-Antilles
1982 Open Aspects (Duo) 1982-hatART
1982 Four Compositions (Solo, Duo & Trio) 1982/1988-hatART
1982 Six Duets (1982) -Cecma
1983 Composition No. 113 -Sound Aspects
1984 Prag (Quartet-1984) [live]-Sound Aspects
1985 Seven Standards (1985), Vol. 2-Magenta
1985 London (Quartet-1985) [live] -Leo
1985 Quartet (London) 1985 [live] -Leo
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1985 Seven Standards (1985), Vol. 1-Magenta
1985 Six Compositoins (Quartet) 1984 -Black Saint
1986 Five Compositions (Quartet), 1986 -Black Saint
1986 Moment Prcieux [live] -Victo
1987 Six Monk's Compositions (1987)-Black Saint
1987 ... If My Memory Serves Me Right -WestWind
1988 19 (Solo) Compositions (1988)-New Albion
1988 Victoriaville 1988 [live] -Victo
1988 2 Compositions (Jarvenpaa) 1988, Ensemble Braxtonia -Leo
1988 Voigt Kol Nidre -Sound Aspects
1988 London Solo (1988)-Impetus
1988 The Aggregate-Sound Aspects
1989 Eugene (1989)-Black Saint
1989 Seven Compositions (Trio) 1989 -hatART
1989 Vancouver Duets (1989)-Music & Arts
1989 2 Compositions (Ensemble) 1989/1991 -hatART
1989 Eight (+3) Tristano Compositions, 1989: For Warne Marsh -hatART
1991 8 Duets: Hamburg 1991-Music & Arts
1991 Duo (Amsterdam) 1991 [live] -Okka Disk
1991 Composition No. 107 (Excerpt, 1982)/In CDCM Computer Music Series,
Volume 10 -Centaur
1991 Composition No. 98-hatART
1992 Wesleyan (12 Altosolos) 1992 -hatART
1992 (Victoriaville) 1992 [live]-Victo
1992 Composition No. 165 (For 18 Instruments)-New Albion
1992 Willisau (Quartet) 1991[Pt. 2] [live]-Leo
1993 Duets (1993)-Music & Arts
1993 9 Standards (Quartet) 1993 [live]-Leo
1993 Trio (London) 1993 [live]-Leo
1993 Twelve Compositions: Oakland, July 1993 -Music & Arts
1993 Quartet (Santa Cruz) 1993 [live] -hatART
1993 Charlie Parker Project 1993 -hatART
1993 Duo (Leipzig) 1993-Music & Arts
1993 Duo (London) 1993-Leo
1994 Composition No. 174: For Ten Percussionists, Slide Projections,
Constructed Environment -Leo
1994 Small Ensemble Music (Wesleyan) 1994 [live] -Splasc(h)
1994 Duo (Wesleyan) 1994 -Leo
1994 Knitting Factory (Piano/Quartet) 1994, Vol. 2 [live] -Leo
1995 11 Compositions -Leo
1995 10 Compositions (Duet) 1995 -Konnex
1995 Performance Quartet -hatHUT
1995 Octet (New York) 1995 -Braxton House
1995 Solo Piano (Standards) 1995 -No More
1995 Four Compositions (Quartet) 1995 -Braxton House
1995 Knitting Factory (Piano/Quartet) 1994, Vol. 1 [live] -Leo
1995 Seven Standards 1995 -Knitting Factory
1995 Two Lines -Lovely Music
1996 Composition No. 192 -Leo
1996 Composition No. 193 [live] -Braxton House
1996 Tentet (New York) 1996 [live]-Braxton House
1996 Live at Merkin Hall-Music & Arts
1996 14 Compositions (Traditional) 1996 -Leo
1996 Composition No. 102: For Orchestra & Puppet Theatre-Braxton House
1996 Composition No. 173 -Black Saint
1996 Sextet (Istanbul) 1996 -Braxton House
1997 Composition No. 174 for 10 -Leo
1997 Silence/Time Zones -Black Lion
1997 4 Compositions (Quartet) 1995 -Braxton House
1997 Amsterdam 1991 [live]
1998 Compositions No. 10 & No. 16 (+101)-hatHUT
1999 Duets (1987)-Music & Arts
1999 Ensemble (Victoriaville 1988) -Victo
1999 4 Compositions (Washington D.C.) 1998 -Braxton House
2000 Composition No. 94: For Three Instrumentalists -Leo
2000 Nine Compositions (Hill) 2000-CIMP
2000 Quintet (Basel) 1977 [live] -hatOLOGY
2000 Ten Compositions (Quartet) 2000 -CIMP
2001 Compositions/Improvisations 2000 -Barely Auditable
2001 Composition No. 247 -Leo
2001 Composition No. 169 + (186 + 206 + 214)-Leo
2001 8 Compositions (Quintet) 2001-CIMP
2001 Four Compositions (GTM) 2000-Delmark
2002 This Time -Get Back
2002 (Coventry) 1985 [live] -Leo
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2002 (Birmingham) 1985-Leo
2002 Duets (Wesleyan) 2002 -Innova
2002 8 Standards (Wesleyan 2001) [live] -Barking Hoop
2002 Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997, Vol. 1 [live] -Leo
2002 Solo (Koln) 1978 -Leo
2003 Two Compositions (Trio) 1998 [live]-Leo
2003 Solo (Milano) 1979, Vol. 1 [live] -Leo
2003 Anthony Braxton [2003] -Sunspots
2003 Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997, Vol. 2 [live] -Leo
2003 Solo (NYC) 2002 [live] -Parallactic
2004 Solo (Milano) 1979, Vol. 2 [live] -Golden Years
2004 Duo Palindrom 2002, Vol. 1 -Fuse
2004 Duo Palindrom 2002, Vol. 2 -Fuse
2004 Triotone [live] -Leo
2005 Donna Lee -America
2005 Shadow Company -Emanem
2005 2 + 2 Compositions -482 Music
2005 Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997, Vol. 3 [live] -Leo
2005 4 Improvisations (Duets) 2004 -Leo
2005 20 Standards (Quartet) 2003 -Leo
2005 Concept of Freedom -HatOlogy
2005 London 2004 -Leo
2006 Victoriaville 2005 [live] -Victo
2006 Live at the Royal Festival Hall 2004 -Leo
2006 Compositions 175 and 126 [live] -Leo
2006 Duo (Victoriaville) 2005 -Victo
2006 4 Compositions (Ulrichsberg) 2005: Phonomanie ... -Leo
2006 Braxton at the Leipzig Gewandhaus [live] -Music & Arts
2006 Dances and Orations -Music & Arts
2006 Eight Compositions -Music & Arts
2006 Phonomanie, Vol. VIII -Leo
2006 Quintet (London) 2004 -Leo
2007 Trio (Glasgow) 2005 [live] -Leo
2007 Glasgow 2005 [live] -Leo
2007 Solo Willisau -Intakt
2007 Victoriaville 2007 [live] -Victo
2008 12+1 Tet [live] -Victo
2008 Live at Yoshi's 1997, Vol. 4 -Leo
2008 Duets -Rastascan
2008 Live at Yoshi's, Oakland, 1993 -Music & Arts
Reply With Quote
February 25th, 2008, 05:10 PM
The 80s band with Crispell Dresser and Hemingway that toured the UK is a good
place to get into him. The records of this band are available as double cds for
around 20 sterling
Some of his stuff is "jazz" eg. Circle, Conference of the Birds, In the Tradition.
The 80s band (above) can be "jazzy", but some isn't jazz. I think he and
Marsalis would agree on that point!
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February 25th, 2008, 05:14 PM
My suggestion in regards to first recordings would be: "3 Compositions of New
Jazz", or "For Alto"...both on Delmark and readily available at an affordable
price. "3" is a small group recording and "Alto" is his first solo saxophone
recording. I love all of his Arista releases, but they may be difficult to obtain...got
a turntable? You appear to live in Boston, so you're lucky to be in such a great
music town...check the used record stores for gems! For more recent stuff, you
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Originally Posted by apricissimus
I'm still a Braxton newbie, but I find him both fascinating and baffling. I want to learn
more, but it doesn't help that there are about a bajillion recordings to choose from, many
of them pricey multi-CD sets.
I once took a girl on our first date to a show called "The Boston Braxton Project",
consisting entirely of Braxton compositions. (The only performer I can remember is Taylor
Ho Bynum. Unfortunately I forget the names of the other players.) Her tastes ran more
towards top 40 and Cantonese pop but she was a real good sport and made it through the
whole show. Probably should have just taken her to a movie though.
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could try some of the Leo titles...I especially like the live Quartet titles with
Crispell/Hemingway/Dresser.
Did you get a second date with the girl?
Welcome to the thread!!!
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February 25th, 2008, 05:20 PM
If you haven't heard 'Dortmund', I'd definitely recommend that
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Originally Posted by apricissimus
I'm still a Braxton newbie, but I find him both fascinating and baffling. I want to learn
more, but it doesn't help that there are about a bajillion recordings to choose from, many
of them pricey multi-CD sets.
I once took a girl on our first date to a show called "The Boston Braxton Project",
consisting entirely of Braxton compositions. (The only performer I can remember is Taylor
Ho Bynum. Unfortunately I forget the names of the other players.) Her tastes ran more
towards top 40 and Cantonese pop but she was a real good sport and made it through the
whole show. Probably should have just taken her to a movie though.
I like good music. You like ****
Reply With Quote
February 25th, 2008, 05:25 PM
Here is a lengthy, but meaty interview...enjoy:
A Conversation with Anthony Braxton
with Volkan Terzioglu and Sabri Erdem
in Istanbul on Sunday, October 15th, 1995
text by Volkan Terzioglu
Below there is a conversation that I and Sabri Erdem had in Istanbul with
Anthony Braxton. Braxton was in Istanbul for Akbank International Jazz Festival
with his Sextet to perform his Ghost Trance Compositions. He also had a
seminar on the vocabulary of the music. He and the Sextet toured Istanbul and
we found opportunity to talk to him for one and a half hour. I also have the
video recording of the conversation. Many times I tried to get the confirmation
for, but I could not manage. Therefore this may involve several
misunderstandings, mistakes which had been unavoidable. Intentionally I am
calling the below text a conversation instead of an interview, because I think that
this is not formal enough.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Terzioglu - Well, Mr. Braxton, first of all I would like to begin with the subject of
jazz criticism. I know that in 70's you had very strong feelings against jazz
criticism. Because there have been some misunderstandings that critics have not
even listened to the music thoroughly and what is the description of a jazz critic
has been answered that, once you have 10 jazz records, then you can be a
critic. Do you remember that?
Braxton - Yes, for me the question and subject of Jazz Criticism has been a
complex subject for me for something like 30 years. I remember in the early
1960's, after reading record reviews of John Coltrane's music in Down Beat
magazine, I remember even then that I did not agree with them...
Terzioglu - the recordings with Eric Dolphy?
Braxton -the recordings with Eric Dolphy, the recording Ascension, the recordings
after Giant Steps as Mr. Coltrane's began to change, many of the jazz
journalists would say "No, this is not jazz, this is...
Terzioglu - ... anti jazz
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Braxton - ... hate music, anti jazz and when they wrote about Mr. Coltrane's
music, they would write very negatively and for me even in that time period, I
felt something is wrong, there is the definitions of the musicians who talk about
their music and then there is the definitions of the journalistic communities. They
are completely separate definitions when Mr. Coltrane recorded the record "A
Love Supreme", well he was talking about the love of the Creator and Universal
Love, not just sexual love, political love and in the last 30 years, we have seen
even "A Love Supreme" converted to a market place philosophy. And this has
been consistent with the history of journalism and the criticism and the criticism
with the music.
There have been complexities based on several reasons : 1. the inability of the
jazz journalistic community to understand the meta-reality of the music on its
own terms. 2. there has been an inability to understand the intellectual agenda of
the music and no recognition of the real intellectual agenda of the music and of
course 3. there have been the political complexities related to market place
philosophies, Albert Ayler's music perceived as not commercial enough for
market place.
Terzioglu - I knew that he could not find any opportunity to make records and
John Coltrane helped to get him market place by Impulse Records.
Braxton -Yes and this has been part of the struggle that in my opinion began in
1920's with the recording industry and the establishment of race records,
country and western music. They separate all of the various categories of the
music. This was established in the 20's, 1910, as part of the emergence of the
new technology of the recording industry and the related business complex that
would surround the music. And so for me, 1965 it was in that period that I begin
to recognize profound differences between how the musicians talked about their
music and how the journalists write of the music. And this problem is still with us
today although it is complex. The music from the Association for the
Advancement for the Creative Musicians (AACM) period, even in the black
community, even among African Americans is not understood. It is complex and
African Americans have not been so interested in jazz music since Charlie Parker.
No one wants to talk about that. But America is an interesting country, because
it has so many different people and yet at the same time because it is such a
young country, we have not been able to find the healthiest balances so that all
selections, sectors of the community can express themselves and make the
definitions and value systems and spirituality understood and so the music we
call jazz is in the middle of these problems. Jazz for me came about because of
the need for individual creativity, for group creativity and for connection to
spiritual intuitive thoughts and creativity. Ever since the emancipation
proclamation in America that freed slaves, we have seen in America a long
journey, the story of post slavery movements and how creative music and
dance and painting and art is connected to human aspiration and creativity. On
one hand and on the other hand, you have the jazz music complex, you have
the classical music complex, you have the control on the popular music
machinery that makes millions and billions of dollars. The music we call jazz does
not make billions of dollars like rock'n'roll or popular musics, but it makes
enough money for the jazz business complex to continue to release the records
to bring about a situation where you have a group of musicians who say "well,
we are jazz people" and they record them and they can play their music. The
definitions with the music are reserved for the power structure, for the political
structure. The intellectuals in America use jazz for many different things. Jazz is
used to say "I'm black, I'm black, I'm black", Jazz is used to say "I'm hip, I'm
hip, I'm hip", Jazz is used to sell instruments, to produce instruments. Magazines
like Down Beat magazine, published once a month and there are many different
jazz magazines and in the last 20 years, we have seen jazz to come into
academia and so and even high school and you have young people playing what
they call jazz. All of these connects with the music industry, however it gets
complex because, for me much of the music that we call jazz in this time period
does not correspond necessarily to what jazz used to be. For instance, when I
was coming up in Chicago, if you want to learn how to play jazz, you go to
sessions and there will be opportunities for the musicians to play and learn the
repertoire. The understanding was this: mastership in Jazz meant you have to
find your music, your own music...
Terzioglu - own an individual sound
Braxton - You have to find your own sound. It was not enough to find your own
sound. It was not enough to imitate Charlie Parker. It was not enough to imitate
John Coltrane. Rather the aesthetic reality of the music insisted that each person
must find or discover self realization about themselves and to evolve one's own
sound and to find your life in your music. This was what jazz was. If complex,
the music that we call Bebop came about because of the post World War II
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vibrational factors. You had in 1945 another migration of African Americans from
the Southern part of the America, up to the North part from places like
Mississippi or Alabama, a great influx of African Americans will go to Chicago, to
Detroit to Philadelphia to Saint Louis. In that time period, the challenge was to
move away from the Southern part of America where there were segregation
concepts of separate but equal which really involved inequalities to African
Americans and from that point a migration took place after World War II. That
migration also involved African American men and women who would begin to
think about the music from political perspective, from a philosophical perspective
from many different connections where in the 30's and 40's the emphasis in the
music was directed towards big bands and orchestration. Suddenly after World
War II, emphasis would be redirected back to the individual and the era of the
virtuoso for soloists would begin. Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie's music
would mark a change from an orchestra group music to small groups that would
emphasize solos and the individual. This change in my opinion was part of a
composite phenomenon that they concern not just the music but the literature,
the journalism. A new group of writers would evolve asking questions of African
American life, asking questions of America, what is America?, asking questions
about what is world...
Terzioglu - the existence
Braxton - what is existence and how we felt in existence. This aspect of the
music in the 90's is not understood. More and more, since what I call the 6th
restructural cycle movement that have been Albert Ayler; the 1st cycle being
New Orleans, 2nd cycle Chicago, 3rd cycle New York, 4th cycle Kansas City, 5th
cycle bebop, Charlie Parker, 6th being Albert Ayler, 7th cycle being the AACM and
the music I am a part of. So by 1950, the intellectual reality of the music had
already started to change. There were problems. The problems with the
journalists in my opinion involved the significance of definition as well as the
complexities of wrong definitions. In America it is always been fashionable even
in the early periods, for European Americans to look at African American music
and think in terms of entertainment - "Oh, this is happy music, these guys play is
nice and happy and they are happy, everything is happy"...
Terzioglu - The sweating brow concept
Braxton - The sweating brow. More and more the musicians themselves will say
"wait a minute, there is more to the music than entertainment, there is more to
the music than how Leonard Feather writes about the music, there is more to
what we do than the jazz poll concept that comes every year". Many of these
strategies were market place strategies, they had nothing to do with the music
and so by 1960 with the 6th restructural cycle, musics as personified by the
music of Albert Ayler, this was a very complex time in the 1960's in America.
Three assassinations, President Kennedy, Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy; at the
same time, the Vietnam War, at the same time riots all over America in effect
the events of the decade in the 60's which make it possible for musicians like
myself to ask the question "What's happening?". We had a new, fresh
opportunity to begin again, a fresh opportunity to explore the music separate
from the market place being able to control the definitions of the music and for
me that is part of the importance of the 6th restructural cycle musics. That it
was an opportunity to clean the mirror, which is the expression in America, to
start anew and to create music that would 1. unify the composite spectrum of
the creative trans-African musics, 2. that would unify the American musics, 3.
that would unify a service of platform to solidify a world culture, and 4. that
would be a part of a composite movement for world change and re-evaluation
that would encompass the changes brought about in the modern era from
nuclear physics, from Einstein, changes that would incorporate mythology,
composite mythology changes, that would take into account the new
technologies, television set where we can turn on the television set and see
Istanbul immediately, we can put on the record and have music from Japan, we
can turn on the radio, we can hear music from Rio De Janeiro and we can see
the people in Rio De Janeiro. All of these matters will effect the aesthetic reality
of the music. And from that point the musicians would begin to ask their own
questions, but the market place would have many problems. For a period of 20
years, the market place has been looking for ways to make this music a market
place commodity. It was only with the neo classic movement that came about in
the 1980's where the market place after 20 years was able to come back into
the music...
Terzioglu - with Wynton Marsalis
Braxton - with Wynton Marsalis, many of the younger African American who
were come up who went to the university. This is interesting. Wynton with
classical people and the jazz people as well as his father. Then he went to New
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York and studied at Juilliard and while he was studying, it was obvious that he
was talented as a stylist, technician at CBS records Doctor Frank Butler, an
African American who became an A and R man at Columbia...
Terzioglu - A and R man? what is that?
Braxton - This is the man who makes the decisions about what musicians they
are going to record.
Terzioglu - OK
Braxton - and so they chose Wynton Marsalis, they kicked out Woody Shaw.
Terzioglu - I see, a new commodity has arrived
Braxton - A new commodity, not only had a new commodity arrived, but a new
commodity whose understanding of reality was just like the market place, in
terms of jazz is jazz and everything else is different, we just want to play jazz,
we gonna play jazz just like Charlie Parker starting from 1945 and ending for
around 1963 with Miles Davis group with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock. This
group in effect would say this. African American culture starts at New Orleans
and ends at 1963 and restarts again at 1980 and goes forth and from 1960 to
1980, this is not jazz, this is not black, it is anti jazz (laughter). Political
implications of that position is profound because it is taken for granted that
every other group can learn from any group it was (wants?) to learn from. But
the market place is the same. No, no, no! African Americans start here, stop
here and you can not go outside of that. So if that is true, the jazz is dead. Jazz
is like European classical music from Monteverdi stopping at maybe Wagner.
Wagner gets kind of complex, but certainly Mahler and, but of course we know
that Europeans continue to evolve their music post Schumann, post Wagner,
and went into the modern era. But it is always ironic that everyone is doing this.
The market place says "No, African Americans stays right there". And so
connected with the same subject is a profound split in the African American
community itself. A split that says in one hand you must play the Blues, you
must play Bebop, you must think like Malcolm X, not DU BOIS but the 60's
writers many of the African American nationalists like Amiri Baraka who came to
the fore 1960's. It have an alliance with Joe Hammond and Columbia records
when they say, "No, no, no", black must be here and then on the other side you
have an African American middle class and upper class that has sent his sons and
daughters to the University, they come out as professionals and they are not
interested in Blues, they are not interested in jazz, but maybe now, they might
like the new neo classic jazz. They wear suits and for this group when they see
the Art Ensemble of Chicago, they say "they are painting up and they are playing
this African music, I don't like it". And so suddenly you see the Black Community
divided into many different sections fighting with another and that is here and
then on top of that the composite market place which controls all of the
information. It is very interesting.
Terzioglu - Well, in University, in Economy classes they taught us the
demand/supply curves
Braxton - Yes, yes and the same is true for music even now. They say music
works like this. This is the sound, you have the system, you must play right,
perfect pitch, you must have the good technique, but they never talk of the
importance of life, the importance of ....
Terzioglu - existence
Braxton - existence and learning yourself, and the fundamental laws that relate
to music, science, astrology, the building blocks, the real building blocks. They
don't talk about the real building blocks, they talk about style, and they make
style "God".
Terzioglu - Relating to your music, as far as I listened to your music, I did not
listen to your any Trillium operas. I want to refer the vocals, that are too much
related to spirituality, and as far as I know, you use vocals firstly, they tell
words. Because I remember "For Trio" record with Joseph Jarman, Henry
Threadgill and Roscoe Mitchell, you use your voices but they are not
understandable words. As far as I know they are orchestral pieces as well,
opera; the significance of them. I mean I could not understand the Ashmenton,
Bubba John Jack,...
Braxton - Yes ...
Terzioglu - Can you give some clues that we would understand them ?
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Sabri Erdem - Spiritual wholeness between operas and your three degree
system; image musics, language musics and poetic language and their
implications with these 12 system. For instance Zaccko figure and I read an
article showing the parallels with you and Wassily Kandinski, the painter, he has
the Saint George figure fighting against pure rational, pure logical world
representing his view, his spirituality...
Terzioglu - Because it is too abstract to put into words...
Braxton OK, Trillium, let me talk you about Trillium. When completed will be an
opera complex that will consist of 32 - 36 separate act that can fit together in
any order. At this point, I have completed Trillium A, Trillium M, and Trillium R.
Trillium is the second degree of the philosophical system Tri-axium. Joe Fonda
has one of the books Tri-axium.
Terzioglu - Yes, but unfortunately, it has been impossible for me to..., I mean in
two days ...
Braxton - No, no, I just want you to see the connection, it is connected to Tri-
axium which is the philosophical system. And in Tri-axium, I tried to build a
thinking system, a system of thought that does not tell anybody what to think,
but rather it gives people different ways to look at things and then you find your
own way. Because I think philosophy should not tell people what to think as we
move to the third millennium, but it should help people to find their way and let
the people find themselves what they think. With the opera complex Trillium,
what I try to do was to take the philosophical arguments in the Tri-axium
writings and to expand the particular arguments into story form to discuss the
arguments and so the category of works that I call Trillium is really a context of
dialogues in the same way that played on would adopt thesis - antithesis form ...
Erdem - Dialectic
Braxton - Dialectic to have a discussion, I would try to extract arguments from
the Tri-axium writings and make stories and so Trillium B talks of transformation,
world transformation; Trillium M is a story based on value systems as it relates
to four of the schematic designs, schematic arguments from the Tri-axium
writings. Maybe when we finish talking, or before we leave Istanbul ask Fonda
for the Tri-axium writings, I will show you what I mean when I say schematic so
that you can understand how the form of schematic looks. That is ...
Terzioglu - Do you have anything that you meant, in this book (showing the
book "Mixtery")?
Braxton - No, I don't think so, nothing with the schematics, no. And so, Trillium,
each opera tells the story of an argument, and in every opera, there are three
primary arguments and one secondary argument. And in the future after you are
able to look at Tri-axium, I will send you a cassette of Trillium A which was
recorded...
Terzioglu - I will be delighted ....
Braxton - will send it in a couple of weeks, I had a performance of Trillium A in
1985, in the University of California at San Diego. I also had a performance of
one half of Trillium M in London and we did the same music in New York as well
and I will send that to you as well as Composition 175 which is opera but is not
in the Trillium System, it's in the story telling system, it is another category, but I
will send that to you as well.
Terzioglu - Could you give some clues about story telling and image musics?
Braxton - OK, and so Trillium is designed for the complete classical orchestra,
with 12 singers, each singer has an instrumentalist that works for the singer and
each singer has a dancer that works, the understanding being in my system I am
trying to make a composite esthetic music where the sound, the color, the
gesture, the movements are the same and ...
Terzioglu - Opera means gesture as well, there is mise-en-scene...
Braxton - Yes, gesture and intention in our work and plus I am talking of gesture
in the sense of particular movements. Sitting movements, arm movements,
different movements of the arm. I am seeking with my system to map
parameters, to map various parameters whether it is arm movements, body
movement, the saxophone player, he plays movements (he shows some
saxophone playing positions) that kind of movements.
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Terzioglu - I see
Braxton - My hope is more and more because it is impossible to get the classical
orchestra groups to give me a performance, I am thinking more and more of
having a giant tent, like circus tent and have my own tent and then do the
operas inside of the tent.
Terzioglu - So, you mention about the instrumentalists, that classical music
orchestras will not perform?
Braxton - This has been the problem.
Terzioglu - Is this the question of a place of performance, because you
mentioned about a tent?
Braxton - For the last 10 - 15 years, 20 years, I have been begging, begging the
classical performing spaces to help me by performing some of the orchestra
music, or performing the operas.
Terzioglu - You mentioned about Lincoln Center, in an interview, if you had been
the manager of the Lincoln Center, you would choose your own instrumentalists,
well, you like best. Is it related to Trillium operas' performances?
Braxton - If there were possibilities to perform my music at Lincoln Center, they
have the musicians, they have the money, they have the space, but rather than
perform modern operas, the established structure is based on the performance
of the early operas, the early European operas. It is just very complex and very
difficult for a living composer to get a performance, especially for a composer,
like myself who is an African American who goes his own way. I am looking to
do my operas from a self reliant perspective. More and more I am thinking in
terms of I will just do it myself, look for ways to have a small cheap
performance. It could be very nice for me because I do not have to have a
100000 dollars for a grand performance. I need maybe 5000 dollars, I can make
little small scenes (?) and have the singers.
Terzioglu - It is same everywhere in the world, because I have some friends who
are composers, young composers, and they can not even have the opportunity
to find an orchestra even a small orchestra, an ensemble to perform their
compositions.
Braxton - This is a universal problem (laughter)
Terzioglu - And the philosophical thoughts and spirituality...
Erdem - Before that I want to ask you an additive question, you said when they
are performing, they have some gestures, do you expect a kind of education for
that like performing with their bodies, with bodies, for this performing, do they,
the performers need an education, instruction, a period of instruction or
workshop ...?
Braxton - They need much instruction, much workshop. They have to, the
musicians who will be performing in the operas must learn the system of my
music, not the classical orchestra, the classical orchestra for the Trillium operas
have normal notated music, that they understand. But the singers, the solo
instrumentalists and the dancers must learn the system of my music. More and
more it's becoming impossible to simply meet a musician and say "OK, we
wanna music playing and let's go play". It is becoming impossible. I have to have
musicians who are interested in learning the system in my music. It might take a
year, it might take two years, but there is a system that must be understood at
this point to really play the music and so for your question much preparation ...
Erdem - Are there some kind of school, like your lectures in Wesleyan University,
some kind of series of lectures or some kind of, new kind of education because
music education and body movement education, if I understand correctly, must
combine and get into each other, so I think when you are talking to us, it needs
another kind of education, more complex kind of education...
Braxton - Yes, yes...
Erdem - besides music...
Braxton - Last year I formed the Tri-centric Foundation and the Tri-centric
Foundation...
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Terzioglu - Ted Reichman just mentioned about it.
Braxton - It was formed exactly because what you have raised, because of your
idea for the need to have a platform, a school to begin to teach the musicians
about the new systems. Tri-centric Foundation in the Future will seek to
promote the study of my music. It will also be a platform to help other
composers, especially young men and young women who are serious about
their music, who are starting out, somebody has to help these people and I
would like to hope that the Tri-centric Foundation will continue to expand; it is
very young right now.
Terzioglu - A non-profit organization, Isn't it?
Braxton - Yes, yes and also the Tri-centric Foundation was put together to help
me the Tri-centric Orchestra which is something like 40 people. We will play two
nights in a 6 day festival in the Knitting Factory in November an my hope is to
hold this group together. Right now Trillium A and Trillium R is being copied and
my hope is by next year, we can start to form Trillium R which I am very excited
about.
Terzioglu - I wish that we had that performance right in Turkey.
Braxton - Oh, I wish so of course, but it is crazy, very difficult, but I will send you
cassettes of one Trillium A and one half Trillium M
Terzioglu - And the spirituality, the characters, Ashmenton, Bubba John Jack?
Braxton - The characters, I try to find 12 names, 12 character types that would
reflect the characteristics of composite earth, there is the sun dance character,
sun dances, a compilation of native American tendencies Ojuwain, Bubba John
Jack, a certain kind of American... ... let me back up a little bit and talk about the
aesthetics of the characters. My hope is to build a music system that can be
looked at as far as it is city-state analogy, it is continental analogies, it is planet
analogies, and the solar system in galactic analogies. Now on the plane of city-
state, if we can imagine a continent with 12 different territories, 12 different
lands and each land has a group of people, it is from that point that the
Ashmenton character is really related to Ashmenton country which is really
related to language number 2 and the system that I am trying to build is a
system of 12 lands but with 3 roads, one road of stable logic connections,
another road of water connections, so improvisational connections and then
another connection of symbolic connections. My hope is to for the city-state
analogy to have a music moving through different rounds of architectonic
tendencies and ancient thoughts about life and death and marriage and friendship
and change, I would like to with my system, build a microcosm model of the
universe and the energies in the universe. The stable logic energies, the
vibrational energies and the emotional energies. And so the characters are
compilations of an attempt to not account (?) for different experiences because
I don't know enough for that but only to have 12 characters that will give me
the possibilities to connect into different zones, and so I can tell different kinds of
stories, a story from the sun dance mentality will be different than the stories
from the Ashmenton mentality in terms of language, fundamental language form
and form states and arguments. What we call the mythologies, I am seeking to
build my own context of mythologies and to have it based upon principal
constructs as I understand the subject of mythology and of course I have much
more to learn.
Terzioglu - Coming to the poetic logics, image musics and collage musics, again I
want some clues to approach them by myself. I understand the language musics
that you showed in the workshop, after reading Mr. Graham Lock's "An
Approach to your Solo Work", what I want to ask first of all is that while
constructing these language types, the question was "How to proceed?", asking
to yourself and I understand that it was for your solo music, right?
Braxton - Well that was the original building blocks of the language music came
about because of the solo musics in improvisation. But after that, I have tried to
take the same information and then move it into the domain composition...
Terzioglu - any composition, orchestral, everything?
Braxton - any composition. Every composition I have written is connected to the
language musics, same for the operas. That is why yesterday in the lecture I
drew a cycle with my hand said that language music, then I drew a rectangle and
talked structure space music and I drew a triangle as a way to talk of ritual of
ritual and ceremonial music strategies started through improvisation which is
water and circle and from that point I started to create compositions with the
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same material and put it in the structure space, the rectangle where in the
rectangle space stable logics it is frozen, I can come back to it and it does not
change just like if we play a composition "How High the Moon" whenever we
come back to play it, it is still "How High the Moon", we can do something
different with it. To me this difference between improvisation and mutable logic
and stable logics and composition and then the next degree is to take the
improvisation and the composition, put it together and push it to the triangle,
and add intention, and with intention, I did not look for ways of creating the
music that has a summation logic; for instance in the language musics number 4
Ashmenton plays staccato lines "padada dududu dd dududu". Composition
number 37 for four saxophones also has a staccato line logic, this in the
composition that in 1974, I did with Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake and Hamiett
Bluiett. Later they would go on to ...
Terzioglu - The World Saxophone Quartet
Braxton - ... make World Saxophone Quartet, but composition number 37 was
the second degree of Language number 4. Now for an example, of the triangle, if
I would say "Ha ha ha ha - hallo, ho ho ho how are you", if I am stammer, this is
staccato line logic. So if I wrote in the opera, "Hallo, it is good to-to-to-to-to-to
see you", that would be an example of language 4 inside of the language logic of
the singer and that would be a way of using language 4 in a ritual construct. And
that would be an example of how an improvisation, something is taken and then
put into the structure space for just the abstract the abstract musics and then
into the concrete where people are talking and someone happens to be a
stammer. From the abstract to concrete, this for me is a part of the Tri-centric
approach.
Terzioglu - For the story telling, yes those are close parallel, I mean I began to
somehow understand the image musics, to perform story tellings, you are
talking about the stammer person, it is somehow story telling for me. Am I
right?
Braxton - Uhm, yes sir. There is another example, for instance in composition
113, for soprano saxophone that composition has a story as well and for
composition 113, there are 6 microphones all around and different heights and
the instrumentalist is turning and playing in different positions and there are also
12 melodic pitch sets. That represents humor, fear, anger, or something and the
instrumentalist is asked to re-enact the story of Ojuwain on a train, by chance
are you with me with this composition?
Terzioglu - No...
Braxton - It is available on Sound Aspects in America. It is composition 113 and
it is one of the story telling structures. This composition is story telling for the
individual separate from the Trillium actual opera musics.
Terzioglu - What about talking into instruments, I mean when I read the
interview with Mr. Graham Lock and you, at the end of the book, you were
talking about some performance, that you've done so far and you were talking
into saxophone.
Braxton - Yes.
Terzioglu - And there were jokes and the context has blown out and it is just a
question mark for me. How do you talk into the instrument?, in the literal sense
how could it happen ? Was it a story telling?
Braxton - More and more I am learning how to speak while I am playing, while
circular breathing.
Terzioglu - Yes
Braxton - The actual speech, the libretto of the speech is a story. Another
approach is to take on the character of Ashmenton and to speak. This approach
is akin talking in tongues. Have you heard that expression?
Terzioglu - Yes I read but could not understand...
Braxton - Talking in tongues is akin to in every person there are many different
people, many different aspects of every person and so you try to go that
person.
Terzioglu - OK, I see.
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Braxton - Just like being an actor, how an actor takes on someone else's
personality. What I'm trying to do is to take on the personalities of the 12 major
characters in my system...
Terzioglu - You talk in tongues of the ...
Braxton - of the characters. That's one approach. And the other approach is to
have actual librettos and have the musicians read and talk, how they talk when
they are playing. For me, this is going to be one of the areas to evolve in the
future, but already, I'm doing this talking to the instrument.
Terzioglu - The reason that you play alto sax solo, you don't play..., well is it
true that you play sopranino saxophone solos somehow?
Braxton - I've recordings of sopranino saxophone solos, but I prefer to use the
alto saxophone as my piano.
Terzioglu - As your piano?
Braxton - Yes, this is really like for me, the piano, my main instrument and I like
to challenge of playing one concert with only one instrument as opposed to one
piece on the saxophone, one piece on the flute; I play maybe a flute solo just
one composition but then do something else, but with the alto saxophone, I like
to have the whole concert, because it represents a real challenge for me and it is
also possible to show how language music works because there is no mirrors,
no magic. It's just one instrument playing music and you can begin to see and
hear the actual languages. For me as an instrumentalist and as an improviser,
this is a good challenge. And this is why I prefer the solo concerts only on the
alto saxophone.
Terzioglu - But it is true that language type musics can be performed on every
instrument
Braxton - Yes, yes
Terzioglu - But you prefer alto saxophone
Braxton - Only because, I have a special relationship with the alto saxophone.
Terzioglu - The sound of contrabass clarinet is very tragic.
Braxton - Oh, yes
Terzioglu - We'd like to hear other instruments that you play solo.
Braxton - I have a contrabass saxophone and one day it should ever possible,
I'd like to come and bring. I have a contrabass saxophone, a bass saxophone, a
baritone saxophone...
Terzioglu - Whole family, but not tenor I think...
Braxton - No, no I have tenor, tenor and baritone, I have F-sax. For me part of
the fun of being an instrumentalist is to play different instruments like you don't
want to eat chicken everyday (laughter). But for the instruments, I would like to
have diversity plus there is a different challenge for each instrument because
flute instrument is very different than the saxophone and the clarinet and the
contrabass clarinet very different from the sax, and so for me as an
instrumentalist, it gave a possibility to learn about the "LOW WORLD" (...
sounding a very low pitch...) and the "HIGH WORLD" (... sounding a very high
pitch ...). Two different strategies; this is part for me of the fun and challenge of
being an instrumentalist.
Terzioglu - I just watched a movie about Thelonious Monk. Some stupid person
asking him questions "Oh Mr. Monk, what do you think of yourself, as an
instrumentalist or as a composer" and Monk answers "Both" (laughter). About
the things that you do presently, I mean Ghost Trance, there is any transition?
Braxton - Yes
Terzioglu - The first performance here in Istanbul, well no, not the first
performance, you put it on a CD, right?
Braxton - We, about two months ago, did a quartet recording of four Ghost
Trance structures. At this point, the material is in my office and it has not been
sold to anyone. My hope is to get this material out next year. And...
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Terzioglu - So, you recorded but not put on a CD, right?
Braxton - Yes, yes. It's just a, it needs to be edited and finished and mixed and
... Last night was the first actual performance of the Ghost Trance musics.
Terzioglu - What's the point of Ghost Trance in your work? Is that ... For
example, I think the Trillium operas as the point that you want to target at or
you have targeted at and the Ghost Trance a new music...
Braxton - Yes
Terzioglu - I must say that I'm just surprised because it's a new beginning and
totally, maybe not the correct word, but different from Trillium operas
Braxton - Uh, hum
Erdem - Because transformation, some kind of transformation
Terzioglu - Transition, trance, you know meditation
Erdem - Yes, meditation
Braxton - Uhhhhh, we would, both of you. The Ghost Trance musics will give me
a way to move into the trance music ways. I mean this is why I want to go and
buy as many CD's as much as I can of the Turkish Musics and the African
musics, the Indian musics as I seek to examine the House number 1 which is the
long sound. In India you have the Drone "Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm"
Terzioglu - Yes.
Braxton - The Turkish music have the dervishes, this is a trance music. There are
different kinds of African Trance musics. And I'm interested in the real, the very
long time it just keep going. The concept of Ghost Trance musics involve stream
of consciousness structures that are conceived based on the 12 constructs of
my system. In terms of stream of consciousness in the House of 1, stream of
consciousness in the House of 8, stream of consciousness in the different
Houses of the system. And meanwhile, once established, it becomes part of
mutable logic construct where the other compositions become on top of it,
improvisation .....(?) to it. In the same way, that the pulse track structures...
Terzioglu - Pulse track structures?
Braxton - Pulse track structures are structures that have notated music on
target time spaces, improvisation and the more notated music, and so on.
Unlike bebop, where you play "How High the Moon", the bass player plays the
chord changes and the drummer plays the time, but the pulse track structures,
you have with material open improvisation, with material open improvisation,
and, on top of that another notated piece and then someone detect a solo or
play a notated solo, mutable logic. Three different energies happening at the
same time. That was the beginning for me of the mutable logic musics, the use
of pulse track structures. I would ask you, are you with me with the Willisau four
CD set?
Terzioglu - No, unfortunately...
Braxton - Are you with me with 6 compositions of the Black Saint?
Terzioglu - No, I don't think so, but I have composition number 96, 100,
orchestral pieces, but I'm not sure...
Braxton - After we finish talking, I will tell you which CD's have examples and
should you find that material, you could hear the pulse track structures, mutable
logic musics. I mention that, because the Ghost Trance musics take this process
to another, to the next level where there is a stream of consciousness of
notated material, that's always happening. And these compositions put on top of
that, this improvisation put on that. And to listen to the music is not to hear just
one thing, but there are many things happening, so you can listen to this part of
it, this part of it or you can back up and you can hear all of it, but it is these
energies working in the same space and so the concept of Ghost Trance is really
a stream of consciousness music like the whirling dervishes that uses the 12
constructs from the language musics. It is like a solar system, a stable logic solar
system with improvisation happening in it and then with extra compositions
inside of it, like planets, so it's going around and all of the things so happen and it
gives a fresh sense of holistic (?) identity. This is what I am interested in.
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Erdem - Ghost implies spirit?
Braxton - That is the next aspect of it. I have been studying the music of the
native American Indians. And more and more I find myself influenced by their
spiritualism. And Ghost Trance for me is the beginning of seeking to retain the
memory of, well personal individuals, national individuals and spiritual individuals
and I feel that this approach will be part of an attempt to resurrect a fresh
platform for Gods and Goddesses, for heroes, for community heroes, for the
firemen and firewomen and the school teachers; Ghost Trance will be a way to
celebrate the memory of given individuals and thoughts.
Terzioglu - Ted Reichman and Roland Dahinden mentioned about the native
Indians. They should be the point of departure to the Ghost Trance.
Braxton - Uh, hu
Terzioglu - Maybe out of context, but I just want to ask about your lectures in
Wesleyan University. Do you mention about the philosophical thought and the
structural base? Do one have to be an instrumentalist to attend the courses?
Braxton - No...
Terzioglu - So, the target that you are going to at the end of the courses, is that
to form an ensemble to perform music? Is that true?
Braxton - At Wesleyan University, I have history classes, I teach the history of
African American music, I have taught the history of European music, I have a
class of history of women in creative music. I teach a class on music of John
Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Charlie Mingus. I used to teach orchestration but
since coming to Wesleyan, I have not taught orchestration. I have an ensemble
class and in the ensemble class, I use the materials of my system and I have a
seminar class, compositional seminar tutorial class where it is open for anyone
who would like to take it. If you are an architect or if you are only interested in
cooking food or if you want to make statues. And in the composition seminar
class, we talk about form, building blocks of form and I give analysis of my
music. I talk to my students about the music of Arnold Schoenberg and Karlheinz
Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis and in a year or so, I will talk to them about my
new Turkish whirling dervish musics, but I need a couple of years to study this
music, but whatever I learn or discover, I take to my students and start to share
with them not like I have all the answers, I'm not that kind of professor. I tell my
students I have no answers, but I have good questions (laughter)
Erdem - I have some questions about title drawings...
(...)
Terzioglu - I mentioned about a lady that has radio shows in official radio station,
when I talked to her at the first night you came here, she told me that she would
like to know and get some clues about the title drawings. She told me that she
would like to learn something about the title drawings. Since you know that they
are complex structures and as far as I've seen the latest compositions have
titles just like pictures, that have meanings...
Braxton - Yes...
Terzioglu - There is a town, there is a road passing by...
Braxton - Yes, yes
Terzioglu - There are signs...
Erdem - Flashes and lights...
Braxton - Yes. For the system of music that I have been trying to build every
composition has 3 names. There is the opus number, involving the order of the
compositions; there is the coded title, involving numbers and there is the graphic
title, involving the image. There are at least 6 degrees of the image titles. In the
beginning, in the early 60's, as I looked for a way to name my music, I
discovered that I did not want to write a piece of music and call it "The Sun
Came Over the Mountain" or "Braxton's Blues", so I would in the beginnings try
to have what I called the formula titles, by formula titles, I try to express sound
type, velocity, temperate date and to express my the ingredients of the
composition in terms of the formula of mixtures of relationships. Involving the
pitch, the geometric and geosonicmetric characteristics of the composition
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would be the formula titles. The next set of titles would be the alternative coding
titles. And by alternative coding titles, I'm referring to the decision of, to look for
extra-musical factors and include that in the paradigm for the composition. For
instance in the middle 60's my hero Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky would
playing chess and I try to factor chess moves as part of the compositional
process. I used friends initials and immigrated that into, I use astrology and
Number Theory in association and integrated that information into composition
and so that class of musics, I call the coding titles. Number 3, the schematic
titles. By schematic titles, I try to, in the graphic image, to express the
composite form state of the music, in terms of what was happening from
beginning to the end in the music.
Erdem - The relation, one of them is visible, the title graph drawings; one of
them audible, the music is audible. You listen to the music and you see the title
drawings...
Braxton - Uhm, yes, but not necessarily in literal two dimensional sense, uhm,
schematic in the sense of the processes employ at the beginning, the processes
employ at the middle, the processes employ at the end for the person listening
to the music, it might not always be possible to see the actual processes unless
the person would analyze the compositions and analyze all of the components
of the composition, but more and more, I begin to move towards three
dimensional processes that would not always be audible. For the schematic
structures, well the major changes in the composition in terms of mass, density,
time is expressed in the titles. From the schematic titles, I moved into the
dimensional joins titles, and by dimensional joins, I began to try to factor
intention, spheres of intentions and zones of intentions, moving into a kind of
holographic construct. From the dimensional joins, I moved into the color titles
and part of the color titles and dimensional joins titles are the same. Because in
the same period, I began to factor color into the actual music moving more and
more into factoring body and color and extra musical paradigms. From the
dimensional joins, moving into the color titles, somewhere after that I began to
move into images. Image strategies have nothing to do with the actual
components of each little specific element, but moving into the mysteries of the
music, to the spiritual connections of the music. And so formula titles, coding
titles, schematic titles, the dimensional titles, the color titles moving to
holographics into total imagery titles, and that is how the titles have progressed.
More and more I am starting to try to use titles to express other dimensions of
connection, but the initial idea was I didn't want simply to say, here is a piece of
music "The Sun Came Over the Mountain" or "Braxton's Blues", rather I want it
...(laughter)
Erdem - One of the articles I read, character Zaccko appears on your title
drawings , they claim that (showing the title drawings of the compositions with
numbers, ..., ..., and ....)
Braxton - So we're moving to the image models now. These titles have nothing
to do, but the strict processes in a literal way. More and more by the time we're
moving into this zone of titles, I am seeking to have the visual image or visual
configuration of the processes, that's a summation logic as opposed to
dialectical relationship. And More and more, it moves to dreams into intuition,
into I finished the piece "Sun was that" "Three o'clock" or "what day is the day"
and "add up the numbers" or whatevers...
Erdem - In that kind of image, can we talk about the synthesis of the whole
piece or composition?
Braxton - No, because, if we do that, it would be like trying to decode or discuss
the mysteries like that. Uhm, by the time we moved up into, by the time
composition 102 was complete, the process of titling the musics can't be
communicated in a literal way anymore. It's moving something else and I'm just
going along with it but more and more I am not interested in rationalism. More
and more, I find that for me, future evolution will have to move into the
mysteries and the mysterious. Because I'm (NOT???) interested in music just as
the scientist. I'm interested to learn about myself, and I want to have a music
that has helped from the cosmics which is right even in the early periods. I did
not want to have serial processes or...
Terzioglu - Serial processes?
Braxton - Strict mathematical models, because I wanted to have a little room
each time for something unknown to come into the music.
Terzioglu - You're interested in known and unknown...
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Braxton - I'm interested in known and unknown and to talk about the titles after
96 -93 (?) some takes the title and puts it on the table and the titles have
moved away from the ingredients of the music. In the beginning the titles were
long sound, Major 4, short sound, Major 5, fortissimo here, later it became like
"well, alright, this block and this block" and later "this block" and then, later
"hmmmm", and later ......... and later ....... . More and more I'm looking for,
even now in the act of composing and the reason that Ghost Trance music is
important for me, I'm not interested just in the mind. I'm looking for something
past the mind. And the only way, I have discovered this far, to disk (?) with this
is to myself move towards the trance mentality so that something can happen
that's more than me. Because I'm not interested in me I just wanted to do the
work of the music and let the music do the work. And I try to shape it. But of
course at the same time, I continue my processes, but it's different now. I'm
looking for a music that expresses everything in one moment.
...
And so the processes of the titling more and more, it's just like composing the
music. Sometimes I sit and think about an image and then I try to understand
how every image has a logic factor. Let's say you see a horse walking. And then
there is a whole logic happening. How to take an image imprint and see the
fundamental logic constructs and use that to write the music. How to take an
idea that has nothing to do with music, like a boy who is trying to find his
mother. And take that and make a story and make a music and try to
understand what will the little boy be thinking or something. What would the Sun
Dance do in this situation, what will the character Ashmenton do. If use (?) a
mountain and went down in a car and then turning to a bird. What about the
early mythology with men with wings, men who are half men half horse. The
centaur, how can we find the music for that? Because all are coming back
anyway. The modern technology, the new DNA and genetic research may be in
the third millennia, if I can sail like that? We all grew up with much mythology and
talk about, you know the Ark, the flood, Angels and Devils?
Terzioglu - Noah's Ark, Yes.
Braxton - I want to with my work move into this behind the curtain of sound,
because I'm not interested anymore and writing a piece of music that is
intellectually so advanced and everyone would say "Oh! this is very smart", I'm
not interested in. I'm interested in the unknown and the known, and what I into
it. More and more, I think about forms and I don't even understand anymore. I
seek to learn about the real mysteries. And I would like to have my music reflect
the best part of my experiences and so the titlings all a part of that. More and
more, I'm seeking a music where the friendly traveler is playing and suddenly on
a screen, composition 105 flashes and the musicians will have like a road map.
Let's say, we gonna play some music and I'll give you a map, you a map, me a
map and the map says, start here and we end at the McDonald's in five hours.
And in your map you have different ways to go, and in my map I have different
ways. We can go anyway we wanna go. I won't tell you how to go. We'll all
choose our own ways. But we must find the keys each point and this is why I'm
trying to do with the titles and the process. The key here opens that door. You
have another trap door goes there, I'm looking for a music that does not in the
same way that the early masters, the early Turkish masters, the early masters
from this region were among the first to begin to study of number, of image, of
astrology and the position of heavens and the divine influences that's what I
seek to learn about. And this is not just Modern Western Rational Theory,
because for instance, even Modern Western Rational Theory has come to a point
that we can't go past, we talk about chaos theory, we talk about the universe
and black holes and the concept there are limits to the universe, Concepts of the
Big Bang, how did the universe start and what is a black hole and what is
matter? Uhm, I feel that the challenge of creative music is connected to this. And
that the next leap of knowledge might not be one plus one plus one plus two
plus this, but rather shuuuuuuiiiiop, tschiouuuuuv, a circle birth magic, I'm
interested in magic, gentlemen.
Terzioglu - I see.
Erdem - We are so much affected that we have to stop for a while (laughter)
Terzioglu - I wish we had the courses in Wesleyan University, I mean when I
talked to Mr. Roland and Mr. Ted, they always tell that "Yes, Mr Braxton, his
music is wonderful, understanding him, you know," they are very affected from
your courses, your point of views, your departure to your music...
Braxton - And I'm affected by them. I am and remain a professional student of
music and that's all I want to be, a professional student, because as a student, I
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can continue to learn, I have much to learn, there is much to do. I'm very
grateful to be born in this time period, because I'm born in this period so I must
be grateful. (laughter)
Terzioglu - Thinking about the past, at 70's, I think you were in London and just
in between the improvisers like Derek Bailey, Evan Parker and I have that
recording. If you have another opportunity to meet them, just to perform music,
improvise, will you join to such an environment? Because I read an that in
England, you were listening to John Stevens, Tony Oxley, and two or three other
performers, they were improvising and you were saying, "Look, this is too much
music".
Braxton - Oh, yes, yes.
Terzioglu - If you find an opportunity to meet them to perform, will you like to
play?
Braxton - Last week, I joined to Rova Saxophone Quartet with Evan Parker...
Terzioglu - Really...?
Braxton - and we had an improvisation. Yes, I am very interested in
improvisation, but, not only improvisation; as far as improvisation is concerned,
I would like one day to have an opportunity to improvise with some of the
Turkish musicians or to have more experiences, with musicians from other
countries. Because this will help me learn, this is why I like improvisation.
Because there are no rules and so you can learn about each other and it is very
interesting . However there are times when I don't want to hear improvised
music, I wanna hear notated music. Sometimes I just want to hear just
orchestral music. Sometimes I only want to hear solo piano music and so...
Terzioglu - You don't want to eat chicken everyday.
Braxton - Well, actually yes, but I don't want to play chicken everyday (laughter)
Terzioglu - So, what's the metaphor of chicken here?
Braxton - Look, since I've been in Istanbul, I've had many kinds of chicken, with
all kinds of different sauces, very nice chicken.
Terzioglu - I have read an article that Mr Evan Parker wrote, not on this book,
but somewhere else, I don't remember and he was mentioning when you met
them in London, you playing, just surprised them, you were playing melodically
and they were not playing melodically...
Braxton - Uh, hu.
Terzioglu - Did you feel something like that?
Braxton - Well, my first exposure to the British musicians who came around the
same time period as myself was through Dave Holland. Dave played the records
of John Stevens and later when we went to London, I had opportunity to meet
these people and I found their music fascinating. And I try to let them know that
I was interested in their music and that I respected their music. And that I was
not coming to visit England as the angry American who thinks only Americans
can play. I'm not interested in that. And after meeting with Evan Parker and
Derek Bailey, I found a natural affinity with these guys and my musical
experiences with them had been very beautiful for me. And so, yes their music
was very different from mine in terms of the melodic nature or non-melodic
character. But in fact, the melodic character of my music is only one aspect of
my music. The records speak for itself now. We have many recordings and I
have always felt very, I felt connected to Evan Parker and to some of the
improvisers and able to play with them. And for me, it was always a positive
experience, I've learned a great deal from that experience. But I did not want to
only play improvised music, because myself, for me it would be a limitation,
because my interest is not just in this area of music. I'm interested in totally
music.
Terzioglu - Do you wish that sometimes there will be times that classical
orchestras play your music, symphonies, did you ever wanted to compose a
symphony, performed by a symphony orchestra?
Braxton - I have symphonies, I have 7, 8, 9, 10 orchestral pieces, I don't call
them symphonies, but they are orchestral pieces. And as a young person, I did
wanted the orchestras to play my music, and so now, that I'm 50 years old, I
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don't worry about this anymore. Because my experiences have shown me that
if I wanna do something, I have to do it myself. And I try to with my music
career to do my work in the shuttles. Just keep evolving African American for
the most part is not interested in my music, the jazz musicians, for the most
part, they kind of ... my music, but they don't like it, does not swing enough and
if that's how they feel I accept it. But I keep doing my music and if a symphony
orchestra decides one day to perform it, Great, if they decide never to perform
it, Great, I will not complain, but I will fight to do my best. And to perform even
the early musics myself, no more complaining. I will continue to just fight for my
music.
Erdem - Is this for Western Art Orchestras? Is this prejudice, or a kind of racism,
or what is this? - just thinking like that?
Braxton - Yes, for me, I will say, it's all of those things. But mostly, it's an
ignorant idea of culture; even more than racism. Because there are many
American composers and younger composers and Turkish composers and
nobody wants to perform the music. I see this problem as cultural ignorance.
And yet, I'm tired of complaining, I believe in fighting for my music and in the end
whatever happens at least I can say, I did my best. I just wanna do my best,
after that it's OK.
Terzioglu - What about your future plans? You plan going to Ghost Trance
musics, next compositions, next performances?
Braxton - I would like to hope with the Ghost Trance musics will be a major
focus for me in the next five years and yet at the same time, I will continue to
operas, I want to move into electronic and computer music, and I am studying
electronics. Because there's so much to do, I am especially excited by the
interactive electronic music and computer music.
Terzioglu- Electronic music is a new gate for persons who are open to every
aspect in the musics; is there another area?
Braxton - No, this is the area I want to move into. One of the areas, and to
keep growing.
Terzioglu - Yes.
Erdem - And your impressions on Istanbul?
Braxton - Well, I can only say, this 3 days period has really been incredible for
me and my family and for the group, for the whole sextet. And I felt before I left
America that this trip will be important for me. And I was right. I am very glad to
meet you guys. I mean everyone has been very beautiful to us and to have the
opportunity to walk around the city and to feel the vibrations Istanbul and to go
to the mosques where Christian and Islam came together. I will carry this trip,
this experience with me for the rest of my life. I am very grateful to be here
Erdem - Especially the spiritual environment, mysticism, can you tell, how do you
feel it?
Braxton - I feel mystery here in Istanbul, and I like it. I like the way city looks, it
does not look like a hospital. It looks like a real city.
Terzioglu - Is it like a mystery or mixtery?
Braxton - I feel like a mystery and mixture.
Terzioglu - Well, Mr Braxton, thank you very much.
Braxton - Thank you both, thank all three of you. Thank you for wanting to do
this.
Terzioglu - It is very important for us, to think about these subjects in your
music.
Braxton - Well, this has been a wonderful opportunity for us, for me and my
whole family and for the group and we will be talking about this for the next 10
years, me and the guys. And we and my family will talk about this for the rest of
our lives.
Erdem - We are expecting you again in Istanbul.
Braxton - If it should be possible, of course I will.
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Terzioglu - Any format.
Braxton - Any format, a Trillium opera, a solo-sax, a project with the Turkish
musicians, or play with a Turkish group.
Terzioglu - Maybe you know, the instrument "ney", remember the CD that you
bought today, Mr Erguner, I think he lives in Paris and they are two brothers they
play ney.
Braxton - What about young guys growing up?
Terzioglu - Mr. Butch Morris, we had his orchestra with 3 Turkish musicians, one
playing ney, one playing kanun, one playing, was it ud or tambur? It was a really
great performance. I wish you had an opportunity like that.
Braxton - An opportunity ever comes out, I will take it. But meanwhile, I want to
buy 10 - 20 CD's.
Terzioglu - OK, let's go.
Reply With Quote
February 25th, 2008, 05:31 PM
My first Braxton album was Live which was the cd version of the Montreux/Berlin
Concerts of `75/`76,Dave Holland on bass and Barry Altschul on drums with
Kenny Wheeler on half of it and George Lewis on the other.I definitely was into
that album despite funny looks from the neighbours
His duets with Derek Bailey are cool too,the Moment Precieux album is a top
fave of mine.
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February 25th, 2008, 05:36 PM
I LOVE these albums. Welcome to the thread!!!
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CoyotePalace
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Originally Posted by walkin
My first Braxton album was Live which was the cd version of the Montreux/Berlin Concerts
of `75/`76,Dave Holland on bass and Barry Altschul on drums with Kenny Wheeler on half
of it and George Lewis on the other.I definitely was into that album despite funny looks
from the neighbours
His duets with Derek Bailey are cool too,the Moment Precieux album is a top fave of mine.
Reply With Quote
February 25th, 2008, 06:00 PM
Braxton's site:
http://www.wesleyan.edu/music/braxton/
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Heuristic of the Mystic
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February 25th, 2008, 06:45 PM
I am fairly new to jazz, having listened to it only 4 years. I believe I first heard of
Braxton through a member of AAJ. (I was only listening to Free Jazz at the time
and needed suggestions).
I enjoy the 8 Braxton recordings I own very much, yet days (even weeks) can
go by without my listening to them. I find them fascinating, but not always easy
to listen to. Still, Braxton is represented more in my small jazz collection than
anyone else. Perhaps he is my fav. jazz musician, but at this point I can't say for
sure.
I own:
1) Circle-- Paris Concert
2) New York, Fall 1974
3) Six Compositions: Quartet
4) (Victoriaville) 1992
5) 4 (Ensemble) Compositions- 1992
6) Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997 Vol. 3
7) Saturn, Conjunct the Grand Canyon...
8) (Victoriaville) 2005
Great thread CoyotePalace!!!
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February 25th, 2008, 06:57 PM
I did get a second date with the girl, but it didn't turn out to be a love
connection. I think we went out three times total. I'm kinda glad I got to expose
her to some wild music though. I know she'll never forget it.
Thanks for the recommendations. Every now and then I'll take a whole weekend
and hit all the used music stores around here to replenish my stores. I'll keep an
eye out. I think though that most used places around here don't have much in
the way of Braxton CD's, and the vinyl costs more than I'm usually willing to pay
(I usually buy vinyl to experiment with things I'm not familiar with, and like to
spend no more than 5 or 6 bucks or so.)
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Originally Posted by CoyotePalace
My suggestion in regards to first recordings would be: "3 Compositions of New Jazz", or
"For Alto"...both on Delmark and readily available at an affordable price. "3" is a small
group recording and "Alto" is his first solo saxophone recording. I love all of his Arista
releases, but they may be difficult to obtain...got a turntable? You appear to live in Boston,
so you're lucky to be in such a great music town...check the used record stores for gems!
For more recent stuff, you could try some of the Leo titles...I especially like the live Quartet
titles with Crispell/Hemingway/Dresser.
Did you get a second date with the girl?
Welcome to the thread!!!
Reply With Quote
February 25th, 2008, 07:07 PM
#13
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CoyotePalace
Heuristic of the Mystic
Originally Posted by nbfellow
I am fairly new to jazz, having listened to it only 4 years. I believe I first heard of Braxton
through a member of AAJ. (I was only listening to Free Jazz at the time and needed
suggestions).
I enjoy the 8 Braxton recordings I own very much, yet days (even weeks) can go by
without my listening to them. I find them fascinating, but not always easy to listen to. Still,
Braxton is represented more in my small jazz collection than anyone else. Perhaps he is
my fav. jazz musician, but at this point I can't say for sure.
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Wow! You're off to a great start! My favorite from your list is the New York Fall
1974 album...absolutely incredible to my ears. Have you heard or are you
familiar with David Holland's "Conference of the Birds" album on the ECM label?
That recording features Sam Rivers, Anthony Braxton, and Barry Altschul along
with Dave Holland...if you don't know this album, I would highly recommend it to
you...given what you're already listening to.
Welcome to the thread and tell us more about what you think/feel about
Braxton's music. Why are you drawn to it? What do you hear in it? Are you a
listener to music only, or do you play an instrument? That sorta thing!
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I own:
1) Circle-- Paris Concert
2) New York, Fall 1974
3) Six Compositions: Quartet
4) (Victoriaville) 1992
5) 4 (Ensemble) Compositions- 1992
6) Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997 Vol. 3
7) Saturn, Conjunct the Grand Canyon...
8) (Victoriaville) 2005
Great thread CoyotePalace!!!
Reply With Quote
February 25th, 2008, 07:55 PM
I've heard of David Holland, but aren't familiar with his work. I will have to pick
up "Conference of the Birds". Thanks so much for the recommendation!!!
I enjoy Braxton's music as there is so much to digest. I find his music almost
"hypnotizing", although it's not always something I'm in the mood for. Aside
from piano lessons when I was 10 (which I detested at the time), I've never
played (or attempted to play) a musical instrument.
I just picked up the latest issue of Canada's magazine "Musicworks" with a
Braxton cover/article.
http://www.musicworks.ca/
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Originally Posted by CoyotePalace
Wow! You're off to a great start! My favorite from your list is the New York Fall 1974
album...absolutely incredible to my ears. Have you heard or are you familiar with David
Holland's "Conference of the Birds" album on the ECM label? That recording features Sam
Rivers, Anthony Braxton, and Barry Altschul along with Dave Holland...if you don't know this
album, I would highly recommend it to you...given what you're already listening to.
Welcome to the thread and tell us more about what you think/feel about Braxton's music.
Why are you drawn to it? What do you hear in it? Are you a listener to music only, or do
you play an instrument? That sorta thing!
Reply With Quote
February 25th, 2008, 08:21 PM
Anything on Hat Hut you need to get.
ESPECIALLY Dortmund. Then, dive into
the 80s quartet and then the Ghost
Trance Musics. That should keep
everybody busy for about a decade or
so, while we wait for the Arista records
to show up on CD.
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February 25th, 2008, 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by CoyotePalace
A discography of Anthony Braxton
music:
1968 3 Compositions of New Jazz-
Delmark
1968 For Alto-Delmark
1969 Anthony Braxton-Affinity
1971 Together Alone-Delmark
1972 Saxophone Improvisations,
Series F-America
1972 Town Hall (1972) [live] -Pausa
1974 In the Tradition, Vol. 1 -Steeple
Chase
1974 In the Tradition, Vol. 2 -Steeple
Chase
1974 Quartet Live at Moers New Jazz
Festival-Ring
1974 Duo, Vols. 1 and 2-Emanem
1974 First Duo Concert [live] -
Emanem
1974 Trio and Duet-Sackville
1974 New York, Fall 1974-Arista
1974 Live at Wigmor-Inner City
1975 Five Pieces (1975)-Arista
1975 Anthony Braxton Live-Bluebird
1975 The Montreux/Berlin Concerts
[live]-Arista
1975 Live -RCA
1976 Creative Orchestra Music 1976-
Arista
1976 Elements of Surprise:
Braxton/Lewis Duo -Moers
1976 Duets (1976)-Arista
1976 Donaueschingen (Duo) 1976 -
hatART
1976 Quartet (Dortmund) 1976 [live]-
hatART
1976 Solo: Live at Moers Festival -
Ring Records/Moers Music
1977 Four Compositions (1973)-Denon
1978 Creative Orchestra (Koln) 1978-
hatART
1978 For Four Orchestras-Arista
1978 Alto Saxophone Improvisations
(1979)-Arista
1978 NW5-9M4: For Trio-Arista
1979 Performance (9-1-1979) [live]-
hatHUT
1979 With Robert Schumann String
Quartet-Sound Aspects
1979 Seven Compositions (1978) -
Moers
1980 For Two Pianos-Arista
1980 The Coventry Concert [live]-
WestWind
1981 Composition No. 96-Leo
1981 Six Compositions: Quartet-
Antilles
1982 Open Aspects (Duo) 1982-
hatART
1982 Four Compositions (Solo, Duo &
Trio) 1982/1988-hatART
1982 Six Duets (1982) -Cecma
1983 Composition No. 113 -Sound
Aspects
1984 Prag (Quartet-1984) [live]-
Sound Aspects
1985 Seven Standards (1985), Vol. 2-
Magenta
1985 London (Quartet-1985) [live] -
Leo
1985 Quartet (London) 1985 [live] -
Leo
1985 Seven Standards (1985), Vol. 1-
Magenta
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1985 Six Compositoins (Quartet) 1984
-Black Saint
1986 Five Compositions (Quartet),
1986 -Black Saint
1986 Moment Prcieux [live] -Victo
1987 Six Monk's Compositions (1987)-
Black Saint
1987 ... If My Memory Serves Me
Right -WestWind
1988 19 (Solo) Compositions (1988)-
New Albion
1988 Victoriaville 1988 [live] -Victo
1988 2 Compositions (Jarvenpaa)
1988, Ensemble Braxtonia -Leo
1988 Voigt Kol Nidre -Sound Aspects
1988 London Solo (1988)-Impetus
1988 The Aggregate-Sound Aspects
1989 Eugene (1989)-Black Saint
1989 Seven Compositions (Trio) 1989
-hatART
1989 Vancouver Duets (1989)-Music &
Arts
1989 2 Compositions (Ensemble)
1989/1991 -hatART
1989 Eight (+3) Tristano
Compositions, 1989: For Warne Marsh
-hatART
1991 8 Duets: Hamburg 1991-Music &
Arts
1991 Duo (Amsterdam) 1991 [live] -
Okka Disk
1991 Composition No. 107 (Excerpt,
1982)/In CDCM Computer Music
Series, Volume 10 -Centaur
1991 Composition No. 98-hatART
1992 Wesleyan (12 Altosolos) 1992 -
hatART
1992 (Victoriaville) 1992 [live]-Victo
1992 Composition No. 165 (For 18
Instruments)-New Albion
1992 Willisau (Quartet) 1991[Pt. 2]
[live]-Leo
1993 Duets (1993)-Music & Arts
1993 9 Standards (Quartet) 1993
[live]-Leo
1993 Trio (London) 1993 [live]-Leo
1993 Twelve Compositions: Oakland,
July 1993 -Music & Arts
1993 Quartet (Santa Cruz) 1993 [live]
-hatART
1993 Charlie Parker Project 1993 -
hatART
1993 Duo (Leipzig) 1993-Music & Arts
1993 Duo (London) 1993-Leo
1994 Composition No. 174: For Ten
Percussionists, Slide Projections,
Constructed Environment -Leo
1994 Small Ensemble Music
(Wesleyan) 1994 [live] -Splasc(h)
1994 Duo (Wesleyan) 1994 -Leo
1994 Knitting Factory (Piano/Quartet)
1994, Vol. 2 [live] -Leo
1995 11 Compositions -Leo
1995 10 Compositions (Duet) 1995 -
Konnex
1995 Performance Quartet -hatHUT
1995 Octet (New York) 1995 -Braxton
House
1995 Solo Piano (Standards) 1995 -No
More
1995 Four Compositions (Quartet)
1995 -Braxton House
1995 Knitting Factory (Piano/Quartet)
1994, Vol. 1 [live] -Leo
1995 Seven Standards 1995 -Knitting
Factory
1995 Two Lines -Lovely Music
1996 Composition No. 192 -Leo
1996 Composition No. 193 [live] -
Braxton House
1996 Tentet (New York) 1996 [live]-
Braxton House
1996 Live at Merkin Hall-Music & Arts
1996 14 Compositions (Traditional)
1996 -Leo
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1996 Composition No. 102: For
Orchestra & Puppet Theatre-Braxton
House
1996 Composition No. 173 -Black Saint
1996 Sextet (Istanbul) 1996 -Braxton
House
1997 Composition No. 174 for 10 -Leo
1997 Silence/Time Zones -Black Lion
1997 4 Compositions (Quartet) 1995 -
Braxton House
1997 Amsterdam 1991 [live]
1998 Compositions No. 10 & No. 16
(+101)-hatHUT
1999 Duets (1987)-Music & Arts
1999 Ensemble (Victoriaville 1988) -
Victo
1999 4 Compositions (Washington
D.C.) 1998 -Braxton House
2000 Composition No. 94: For Three
Instrumentalists -Leo
2000 Nine Compositions (Hill) 2000-
CIMP
2000 Quintet (Basel) 1977 [live] -
hatOLOGY
2000 Ten Compositions (Quartet)
2000 -CIMP
2001 Compositions/Improvisations
2000 -Barely Auditable
2001 Composition No. 247 -Leo
2001 Composition No. 169 + (186 +
206 + 214)-Leo
2001 8 Compositions (Quintet) 2001-
CIMP
2001 Four Compositions (GTM) 2000-
Delmark
2002 This Time -Get Back
2002 (Coventry) 1985 [live] -Leo
2002 (Birmingham) 1985-Leo
2002 Duets (Wesleyan) 2002 -Innova
2002 8 Standards (Wesleyan 2001)
[live] -Barking Hoop
2002 Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997, Vol. 1
[live] -Leo
2002 Solo (Koln) 1978 -Leo
2003 Two Compositions (Trio) 1998
[live]-Leo
2003 Solo (Milano) 1979, Vol. 1 [live]
-Leo
2003 Anthony Braxton [2003] -
Sunspots
2003 Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997, Vol. 2
[live] -Leo
2003 Solo (NYC) 2002 [live] -
Parallactic
2004 Solo (Milano) 1979, Vol. 2 [live]
-Golden Years
2004 Duo Palindrom 2002, Vol. 1 -
Fuse
2004 Duo Palindrom 2002, Vol. 2 -
Fuse
2004 Triotone [live] -Leo
2005 Donna Lee -America
2005 Shadow Company -Emanem
2005 2 + 2 Compositions -482 Music
2005 Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997, Vol. 3
[live] -Leo
2005 4 Improvisations (Duets) 2004 -
Leo
2005 20 Standards (Quartet) 2003 -
Leo
2005 Concept of Freedom -HatOlogy
2005 London 2004 -Leo
2006 Victoriaville 2005 [live] -Victo
2006 Live at the Royal Festival Hall
2004 -Leo
2006 Compositions 175 and 126 [live]
-Leo
2006 Duo (Victoriaville) 2005 -Victo
2006 4 Compositions (Ulrichsberg)
2005: Phonomanie ... -Leo
2006 Braxton at the Leipzig
Gewandhaus [live] -Music & Arts
2006 Dances and Orations -Music &
Arts
2006 Eight Compositions -Music & Arts
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Well, lets just say a partial discography
If I had more time I would add
the recorded output is daunting to mere
mortal budgets
2006 Phonomanie, Vol. VIII -Leo
2006 Quintet (London) 2004 -Leo
2007 Trio (Glasgow) 2005 [live] -Leo
2007 Glasgow 2005 [live] -Leo
2007 Solo Willisau -Intakt
2007 Victoriaville 2007 [live] -Victo
2008 12+1 Tet [live] -Victo
2008 Live at Yoshi's 1997, Vol. 4 -Leo
2008 Duets -Rastascan
2008 Live at Yoshi's, Oakland, 1993 -
Music & Arts
Reply With Quote
February 25th, 2008, 08:34 PM
Okay...
I'm looking for a Braxton disc that includes Wheeler, Holland, and Altschul... but I
can't tell which (if any) entries in that magnificicicent discography has this line-up.
Can someone help?
(Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Quartet Dortmund includes Wheeler. I
still want it though. Is it available anywhere?)
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February 25th, 2008, 08:38 PM
Somebody somewhere owns every Anthony Braxton recording.
I bet the Wesleyan University library has a pretty kick-ass Braxton collection.
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Originally Posted by GSlade
Well, lets just say a partial discography
If I had more time I would add
the recorded output is daunting to mere mortal budgets
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February 25th, 2008, 09:21 PM
The Montreux/Berlin concerts on Arista 1975 Live, OOP cd titled Anthony
Braxton Live on Bluebird, difficult to find Lp's, maybe on ebay
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Originally Posted by 3Q15
Okay...
I'm looking for a Braxton disc that includes Wheeler, Holland, and Altschul... but I can't tell
which (if any) entries in that magnificicicent discography has this line-up. Can someone
help?
(Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Quartet Dortmund includes Wheeler. I still want
it though. Is it available anywhere?)
Reply With Quote
February 25th, 2008, 09:22 PM
Graham Lock: Forces In Motion - great book on Braxton
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Larry
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February 25th, 2008, 11:34 PM
The Montreux/Berlin Concerts are indeed very hard to find. Several years ago,
an excellent collection entitled "News From the 70s" (New Tone Records from
Italy) had a couple good tracks with Wheeler, Holland, and Altschul. I second the
recommendation above for Dortmund 1976. That has Holland and Altschul with
George Lewis on trombone. The Circle Concert also features Holland and Altschul
along with Chick Corea. Then there is is superb above-mentioned Conference of
the Birds with Holland, Altschul, and Sam Rivers.
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Originally Posted by 3Q15
Okay...
I'm looking for a Braxton disc that includes Wheeler, Holland, and Altschul... but I can't tell
which (if any) entries in that magnificicicent discography has this line-up. Can someone
help?
(Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Quartet Dortmund includes Wheeler. I still want
it though. Is it available anywhere?)
Originally Posted by GSlade
The Montreux/Berlin concerts on Arista 1975 Live, OOP cd titled Anthony Braxton Live on
Bluebird, difficult to find Lp's, maybe on ebay
Reply With Quote
February 26th, 2008, 12:11 AM
I second (or third, or fourth ...) the Montreux-Berlin Concerts disc. Might be hard
to find a CD, but there are downloadable versions. Here's a site that offers the
disc at 256 kbps (not bad). Not sure how legit it is. Here's another site.
There's a copy of Dortmund here, for the insanely wealthy ... (or just insane. I
paid a higher price for my copy. No regrets). I see it available here again for
download at 256 kbps. Here's a full list of their Braxton stuff. (This site has to be
bootleg, given the stupidly low prices. Disclosure -- I've never used them, but ...
the music's there).
I'd also recommend the 1985 Coventry, London and Birmingham discs with the
Crispell, Hemingway, Dresser quartet. Good stuff.
For GTM, the recent Iridium box is excellent. It's available at emusic, I know. I
believe Braxton was highly enthusiastic about that box, characterizing it as the
pinnacle of his ghost trance musics.
The Charlie Parker and the 20 Standards and 23 Standards discs are all good if
you want to listen to Braxton on somewhat more familiar terrain, but they're
down a notch or two certainly from Dortmund, Montreux and Conference of the
Birds, IMO.
Finally, thanks to a kind poster here at AAJ, I was made aware of a great duets
disc with Brax and pianist Ran Blake titled "A Memory of Vienna." Completely
different disc for Braxton -- very soulful, romantic tunes (the version of 'Round
Midnight is absolutely killer). Amazing disc, but nothing like I've ever heard from
him prior, even on his standards discs, where he still displays that biting, rapid-
fire tone and technique. On this "Vienna" disc his tone is sweet and smooth.
So I'd try those downloads of Dortmund and Montreux first (hopefully it's a legit
site, but I wonder). Then Conference of the Birds, the 85 quartet discs and the
Iridium box here or here.
The Lock book is great too. You almost have to get it if you get into the 85
quartet.
EDIT: almost forgot. Check this guy out. He's attempting to listen to a large
chunk of Braxton's music in chronological order. It's actually quite good, if a bit
off the wall.
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"There comes a time in all of our lives where silence is a betrayal." -- The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr.
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February 26th, 2008, 02:40 AM
One of my favorites......
#23
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"When you hear music, after it's over, it's gone in the air; you can never recapture it again" -Eric
Dolphy, Hilversum, Holland, 2 June1964
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February 26th, 2008, 06:23 AM
Braxtons' career has been amazing; it seems to grow in so many different
directions at once that it's hard to keep up. And given its range, its perfectly
possible to like some aspects of his work far more than others.
The strange thing for me about Braxton is how much his solo voice on alto
seemed already fully formed by these extraordinary 70's records. For all the
compositional advances he's made since the then has he actually played better
alto since? Well maybe, I dont know for sure, but I would argue less and less in a
group situation and more in duets as far as records are concerned.
My first experiences of him on record were the 'Montreux/Berlin Concerts' and
later on I caught up with the sets he did for the Moers label and of course the
great 'Dortmund Quartet' amongst others. It seems the group with Holland,
Altschul and Wheeler (replaced by George Lewis after 1976) was much more
linear and bop derived than later quartets would be and for me its still the best
place to start with Braxton as a soloist before progressing to the more
developed conceptual stuff of the 80's and beyond.
After that there's the long running quartet with Crispell, Dresser and Hemingway
which for me reached a peak on the 1991/92 meetings that gave us 'Willisau
Quartet' and 'Santa Cruz'. Listening to these all the way through can be daunting
but it's clear to me this was really what he was after. The level of interaction was
of a quality that, made you think you were hearing through-composed music if it
were not for the obvious spontaneity. Not much post-free jazz can claim to
have reached that level of unity between the composed and improvised
elements I'd say. But sometimes you miss the forward thrust of his 70's band
great though it is.
It's a shame he's never found a group like that since but thats not to say he
hasn't continued to make good, even great records. I would say that the 'Ghost
Trance Musics' series on his own Braxton House label haven't always been to my
taste. Neither have works like 'Four Compositions' (black saint) which sounds
excessivley complex to my ears.
There are signs on sets like 'Irridium' from last year that he's moving beyond
that stage now to something closer to what I feel is more fertile ground for him
#24
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compositionally with a really good group as well.
The other thing that seems to have happened over the years is that with all his
'In the Tradition' output (including numerous standards projects and versions of
Parker, Hill and Tristano tunes) giving him a 'post-bop jazz' outlet, these
elements are less in evidence on his own compositions. This means he's less
likely now to return to the area occupied by the 1976 big band set 'Creative
Orchestra 1976' where the two co-existed.
Cat
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February 26th, 2008, 06:51 AM
Yeah, that would appear to be one of the many illegitimate Russian sites that
have sprung up since the notorious ALLOFMP3 was taken down after some
diplomatic pressure on the Putin government. A lot of these records are available
at fairer prices elsewhere.
I would say though that a friend of mine who runs a Braxton fan site :
http://www.restructures.net/BraxDisc...cord_index.htm
contacted the great man about the non-availabilty of records and during the
course of their discussion he made it clear he was quite happy for people to
download mp3 versions of his long out-of-print albums wherever they may be;
but only that of course!
I second the Lock book as its a great read and very entertaining; some of the
tour notes will have you in stitches, believe me!
For the musicians among us there is Mike Heffley's 500 page defintive guide to
his musical techniques : 'The Music Of Anthony Braxton'. Here's a rather good
sample of it:
http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=0...sults#PPT20,M1
Braxton is especially rewarding as a solo and duet performer and there's plenty
of material available in both contexts. My picks would be:
#25
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Originally Posted by papsrus
I second (or third, or fourth ...) the Montreux-Berlin Concerts disc. Might be hard to find a
CD, but there are downloadable versions. Here's a site that offers the disc at 256 kbps (not
bad). Not sure how legit it is. Here's another site.
There's a copy of Dortmund here, for the insanely wealthy ... (or just insane. I paid a
higher price for my copy. No regrets). I see it available here again for download at 256
kbps. Here's a full list of their Braxton stuff. (This site has to be bootleg, given the stupidly
low prices. Disclosure -- I've never used them, but ... the music's there).
I'd also recommend the 1985 Coventry, London and Birmingham discs with the Crispell,
Hemingway, Dresser quartet. Good stuff.
For GTM, the recent Iridium box is excellent. It's available at emusic, I know. I believe
Braxton was highly enthusiastic about that box, characterizing it as the pinnacle of his
ghost trance musics.
The Charlie Parker and the 20 Standards and 23 Standards discs are all good if you want
to listen to Braxton on somewhat more familiar terrain, but they're down a notch or two
certainly from Dortmund, Montreux and Conference of the Birds, IMO.
Finally, thanks to a kind poster here at AAJ, I was made aware of a great duets disc with
Brax and pianist Ran Blake titled "A Memory of Vienna." Completely different disc for
Braxton -- very soulful, romantic tunes (the version of 'Round Midnight is absolutely killer).
Amazing disc, but nothing like I've ever heard from him prior, even on his standards discs,
where he still displays that biting, rapid-fire tone and technique. On this "Vienna" disc his
tone is sweet and smooth.
So I'd try those downloads of Dortmund and Montreux first (hopefully it's a legit site, but I
wonder). Then Conference of the Birds, the 85 quartet discs and the Iridium box here or
here.
The Lock book is great too. You almost have to get it if you get into the 85 quartet.
EDIT: almost forgot. Check this guy out. He's attempting to listen to a large chunk of
Braxton's music in chronological order. It's actually quite good, if a bit off the wall.
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For Alto
Elements of Surprise 1976 (duet with George Lewis)
Donaueschingen Duo 1976 ( " " " " )
Birth and Rebirth (Black Saint 1978) ..the best of the meetings with Roach
Open Aspects (duo with Richard Teitelbaum)
11 Compositions (Leo 1995) ....beautiful duets with Koto player Brett Larner
Duo (with Evan parker) (Leo 1993)
Solo Pisa 1982 (Leo 2005)
Organic Resonance (Psi 2003) .. wonderful reunion with trumpeter Leo Smith
My personal favourites from his quartet/ group music discography are:
NY Fall 1974
Monreux Berlin concerts
Five Pieces 1975
Creative Orchestra 1976
Quartet Dortmund 1976
Performance 9/1/1979 (great quartet with Ray Anderson and John Lindberg)
Six Compositions (Antilles 1982)
Quartet Willisau
Irridium 2006
Cat
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February 26th, 2008, 08:44 AM
I forgot about Six Monk`s Compositions(1987) is another fave Braxton of
mine.He does`nt do the usual Monk tunes like Straight No Chaser but chooses
less known ones like Skippy,Reflections,and Played Twice.Mal Waldron is on
piano which is a plus for sure.
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February 26th, 2008, 10:31 AM
Another partial interview from Graham Lock:
RESTRUCTURALISM, STYLISM, TRADITIONALISM
Lock: Can we begin by talking about your philosophical overview of music? You
have three primary categories: restructuralism, stylism and traditionalism?
Braxton: Three is the primary number of my generating system. Tri-partial
perception dynamics permeate how I've tried to deal with my music, whether
we're talking of restructuralism, stylism, traditionalism; or mental, physical,
spiritual divisions; or past, present, future.
L: Could you explain the characteristics of each category?
B: By restructuralism, I'm referring to ... at a certain point in any information
continuum, for evolution to occur, the structural properties or the whole
mentality surrounding that information undergoes a change. Restructuralism is
my word for that phenomenon. In fact, it's taking place all the time, natural
change, change cyclesand the significance of a given form derives from the
position it has in its cycle and from the force that it activates. For instance, after
Charlie Parker played his music, the language dynamic of that music would
create a whole reality that could help human beings. That's what we see when
#27
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we talk of the post-bebop continuum; they're the people who have been able to
make a reality out of Charlie Parker's solutions.
This is true for many different levels. If we talk about Einstein and his theories, or
any restructuralist theories, we can see how humanity has absorbed that
information. Sometimes given information will be used with respect to its
negative partials as in, say, the dropping of the atomic bombthat was not
what Mr. Einstein envisioned for his theoriesor, in the case of the post-Ayler
continuum, many musicians would use the concept of free jazz as an excuse for
not practising, not trying to evolve. There's a big distinction between a given
restructuralist cycle, or the information that manifests itself in that cycle, and
how human beings decide to use it.
L: And stylism?
B: Well, once something has been set into motion by the restructuralists, people
usually take that information and use it for whatever. Those are the stylists.
There are master stylists too, but the masters are the ones who did not simply
take without giving, who didn't just play Charlie Parker's language and do nothing
to it.
It's in the stylist juncture where a given initiation usually gets to the public, the
zone where television and the media will allow a given information line to get
through. Stylists are usually able to become more successful than
restructuralists because their music is not perceived as threatening the cultural
order. This is why Phil Woods, say, wins so many polls. His playing doesn't really
challenge any law, it just reaffirms what has been current, in the air, in the last
thirty years; that being the dynamic implications of Charlie Parker's music.
Wheras the greater public have not really had the possibility to examine the
music of John Cage, Albert Ayler, the Art Ensemble of Chicagothose musics
don't seem to filter through. But, in fact, before Charlie Parker demonstrated his
music, nobody played like him; so if the value systems that surround Phil Woods
are allowed to dominate, there will be no forward motion, and no future Phil
Woods because he would have no one to take a music from.
L: You say restructuralists threaten the cultural order does your music do that?
Is it a dangerous music?
B: (laughs) You could say that! My music, my life's work, will ultimately challenge
the very foundations of Western value systems, that's what's dangerous about
it.
But the significance of the stylist has its merits too. People can relate to it. If it
wasn't for Paul Desmond and Ahmad Jamal, I could never have heard Charlie
Parker. So there are degrees of evolution and the individual has to deal with
them all.
L: Is there a scientific example of stylism, like Einstein and restructuralism?
B: Well, technocrats are like stylists. Many of the problems we're dealing with in
this time period, in terms of Western science, have to do with people utilizing
information lines without respect to their composite implications. What we're
doing to the planet, to the environment, is incredible. Gerry Hemingway may
have been wrong about those pine trees, but he's right to see acid rain as a
serious phenomenon. We're destroying the planet and leaving a mess for our
children; although I don't mean to blame this solely on the technocrats.
L: OK. How about traditionalism?
B: The traditionalist vibration dynamic involves forward motion with respect to
having better understanding of the fundamentals and of the route a given lineage
has travelled. Evolution in this context would mean a better understanding of
what has gone before, and the use of that information to help people
comprehend their time and their place. Without an awareness of the past, you
can't avoid making the mistakes that previous cycles made.
L: What are the musical examples of traditionalism?
B: Marion Anderson, her work as a virtuoso singer, she's a traditionalist. In fact,
the world of opera, with its current emphasis on the early European masters, is
a traditionalist bastion right now. It's not healthy because they don't allow
enough performances of new works. But to discover that music or the music
played by the original Dixieland jazz bandsnot the commercial groups, but the
old-timersis to have another dynamic in terms of understanding what music is.
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It's partly because of my respect for what I call the tri-vibrational dynamics that I
try to function in bebop and demonstrate some musics from the traditional
continuum. I think that's important. It's just that we have to teach people to
deal with the future too.
BALANCING THE TRI-VIBRATIONAL DYNAMICS
L: The implication being that traditionalism on its own is not a good thing?
B: Oh, neither is restructuralism on its own. I think the concept of a healthy
culture rests in balancing the tri-vibrational tendencies of the culture. If
restructuralism were the only aspect of the music that was respected, there
could never be cultural solidification because restructuralism, by definition, implies
change and change cannot be the basis for establishing cultural order because
you have to have some context to change from, or evolve in. Stylism on its
own would mean no forward motion, you'd just be trying to re-create what's
already been created.
L: The music seems to be in that phase now.
B: Yes, I'd say we were in a stylistic period: I'm thinking of, say, Wynton
Marsalis, Chico Freeman ... The universities are programming young people for
stylistic value systems. The problem is they're tying to separate the music from
its meta-reality implications.
L: An undue emphasis on traditionalism would mean trying to use old solutions
on new problems?
B: Yes. The traditional vibration dynamic gives us a wonderful sense of the past,
but we can't move backwards as we've been trying to do in America, going back
to 'the good old days' as a basis for dealing with the future.
L: Like Margaret Thatcher's talk of 'Victorian values?' She forgets the backstreet
abortions, the child prostitution, half the population hungry, badly housed, no
medical care ...
B: Right, that's not going to work. We have to find solutions that are relevant to
what's been developed. Tri-vibrational dynamics is my term to express the
balance of these phenomena, the forces as manifested in this context. And I
respect what that balance really means, although my own tendencies are
restructuralist.
Reply With Quote
February 26th, 2008, 10:32 AM
And another:
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/iviews/abraxton.htm
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February 26th, 2008, 10:35 AM
Interview with Anthony Braxton by Ted Panken
Anthony Braxton: I first met Andrew Cyrille in 1969, when the Art Ensemble of
Chicago, Leo Smith, Leroy Jenkins and I were in Paris, getting a chance to meet
some of the musicians from New York. Of course, I heard him play with Cecil
Taylor, and at the time Andrew did a solo recording for BYG that I recall thinking
was exceptional, and I was surprised that it generated so little feedback. Later
on, I experienced Andrew's percussion ensemble music at a festival in Harlem in
1972-73. He played drums on my Lennie Tristano project for Hat Art in 1988,
and at that time we talked about a duo project, but it didn't work out. We had to
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and at that time we talked about a duo project, but it didn't work out. We had to
back away from the idea and wait for a time space when it was possible.
I think of Andrew's work as consistent with the summation rhythmic logics that
the great master Roy Haynes is a point of definition for. Summation in the sense
that, for instance, if the subject is time, he doesn't play BAHT, BAH-BUHP-BAH-
BUHP-BAH, but works with devices that give the illusion of strict time. But the
way he arrives at the components or syntax to establish that summation
involves independent processes that he has evolved to suit his own needs. He is
a conceptualist who is able to respond to the moment in a dynamic array of
syntaxes and propositions, while at the same time, his work is very mature and
he goes to the HEART of the problem. He is a creative and serious musician who
has practiced his work for forty or fifty years with total integrity, never selling
out his music, always involved in research and development.
Ted Panken: The qualities you describe denote Andrew's affinity with the ideas
the people in the AACM were working with in the '60s the expansiveness and
willingness to work within a wide array of musical logic structures.
Anthony Braxton: Yes. And the embrace of transidiomatic conceptual states, as
opposed to working just in a post-Coleman state, or thinking of oneself only as
an energy player or bebop player. Andrew Cyrille has demonstrated a dynamic
creative music that sheds insight into transidiomatic proclivities. Andrew was and
is of the vibrational persuasion where he was working along the same lines as
we were in the AACM, but in a different environment. After all, the AACM had the
opportunity to see what gains came through the first wave of restructuralists,
like Ornette Coleman or Sun Ra or Cecil Taylor. Of course, Andrew worked with
Cecil Taylor during that important time space of Cecil's music, and it's hard to
imagine how much he got from working with the great man. He's a restructural-
minded player, able to function in the totally open space. He's a professional
researcher of music, a musician who respects music's scholastic and scientific
components. He's positive, high-spiritual and ethical, and his music is like the
person.
Ted Panken: At the time, his open attitude towards what the Midwestern
musicians were doing was maybe somewhat less common among the New York
musicians.
Anthony Braxton: I agree that this openness put him in a very different
psychological and vibrational space from many New York musicians, who had set
their agendas based on Ornette Coleman or Cecil Taylor or John Coltrane, and
would spend their lifetime working through those possibilities, in the same way
that so many musicians in the '50s, because of their fascination for the great
work of Charlie Parker, spent their careers working through that information.
That's beautiful, too. I respect stylistic evolution and I respect those musicians
who, for instance, talk of their work as jazz, and I understand their insistence
upon defining jazz in a way that respects the work that they've done. At the
same time, I think we're really talking about something that's more than jazz.
We're talking about an awareness of changing vibrational synergies, an
awareness of a change from an ethnic-centric psychology to a composite
universal psychology. More and more, it was not about jazz or African-
Americans, but rather about being in the world, learning from the different things
taking place in the world, and including that information in one's formulation of
creativity or information dynamics in general.
Ted Panken: When I asked Andrew Cyrille (Andrew Cyrille-Anthony Braxton. Vol.
1) what he found distinctive about your tonal personality, he spoke of your
phrasing, particularly in the quartet musics, as pointillistic. He said, however, that
your recording with Max Roach, which he paid attention to, had a more legato
feel, and he thought the flexibility you displayed was a mark of musical mastery.
Where I'm leading is: How do drummers affect your improvisation?
Anthony Braxton: The most fundamental axiom that I grew up with was the
importance of finding something of your own, and when that happens, either
everyone can hear it or they can't. Fortunately for me, many of the musicians
and percussionists I hoped would be open to my music were, in fact, open to it.
In this time period the business complex puts forth a notion of idiomatic
certainty, where everyone uses the syntax from a generic perspective, and this
is called jazz. But when I was coming up, it was the opposite. Generic was not
seen as a point of mastery. Generic was part of the learning process. We start
from imitating our heroes, and from that point evolve a position.
My experience has been that the percussionists are like me. They are interested
in working with people who are playing something that isn't generic, and kicking
it about based on possessing a vocabulary that respects the experiences I've
had and the aesthetics and conceptual and vibrational parameters and/or
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proclivities that attracted me into music as a life's work and music as a spiritual
decision.
I've always been deeply interested in the great rhythmic logic tradition of the
music, and I have tried, when possible, to study and learn from and play the
great master percussionists. I hope to have more experiences, say, with Roy
Haynes, whom I've played with only a little. He was always a hero. I've never
played with Elvin Jones. I used to hang with Philly Joe Jones in Paris! I've been
isolated and kicked out of jazz as a black man who is not "black" enough, a jazz
guy who is not jazz enough. But when the mature histories are written, I will
be seen as a guy who had extensive experiences with Wilbur Ware, and whose
work, in fact, came up right through the tradition. But not just the idiomatic
tradition. I was as interested in Schnberg and Stockhausen and John Philip
Sousa as the post-Parker continuum.
Ted Panken: I'm not interested in regurgitating the "Does Braxton swing/Does
Braxton not swing?" question, which is a tired old thing. My interest is in the
dynamics by which you respond to rhythms in real time in an improvised
situation. You very deftly play off of Andrew's rhythms, as you did on those duo
projects with Max Roach.
Anthony Braxton: We never talked about anything, Andrew and I or Max and I.
We wanted the experience of improvising and challenging one another. Playing
with Andrew, I am free to try to do my best. I don't have to worry about
anything. At the same time, he will present me with very mature ideas and
propositions either to accept or transform.
It was axiomatic during the whole post-Jelly Roll Morton continuum that the
individual brings his or her language to the circle, and from that point you interact
with another person, with the hope that when the real "Is" moment comes,
where the action space is happening and you have to respond, your ideas and
devices will be correct. Andrew Cyrille has experienced and learned and gone
through 4 billion devices. When you play with him, you're not so much matching
experiences as finding those components of your experience that best fit where
the It of the music is going.
The musics that push my buttons, whether improvised or notated, have a
transparency and give-and-take. How that give-and-take is arrived at and what
transparency means arises in what I call the "magic space" of the actual It
moment, where there's no time to do anything outside what you've learned
about yourself, because you're responding to a moment that itself is constantly
changing, to an input from your duo partner that has its own personality and
vibrational spectra. All these things are happening all at once in x time instant.
It's not about Braxton's theories or Andrew's theories, and it transcends any one
relationship to technique. It's about two musicians responding to each other,
hopefully on the highest possible level. That includes learning what NOT to
respond to and how not to over-respond, finding a way to work with the space,
looking for vibrational points of change, knowing when to change, working
together within a conceptual parameter.
The House of the Circle, which is the domain of open collective improvisation, is
beautiful, because it's always changing and being reshaped. But the sub-logics of
reshaping, in my opinion, become the difference between a mature improviser
and a not-mature improviser. Part of the beauty of this duo with Andrew is that
he throws out a broad spectrum of conceptual propositions and gambits, with
rhythmic and arrhythmic logic time spaces. Andrew Cyrille is able to define
components of the set to work with. It's not like we do everything we can come
up with. We're musicians who define parameters and work inside those
parameters.
So yes, playing off of rhythm within a rhythmic time space, within a rhythmic
logic target point is one of the experiences that we have. But there are also
sections that demonstrate extreme timbre states, where the saxophone is very
high and the percussion is very low. There are sections which take silence into
account. This is what I like about musicians who have developed a really broad
vocabulary. It's the same with Max Roach. He has enough ideas and experience
to make a whole concert on the hi-hat and not bore you, because he has
learned how to divide in a way where he could help the friendly experiencer
through all the various shades of expression and exploratory concepts that exist
within what I'll call the principal concept spaces. Andrew Cyrille has that kind of
understanding.
Ted Panken: Andrew Cyrille speaks of the duo as a musical conversation.
Conversation can contain an encoded narrative, or even one that's not so
encoded. In transafrican music, rhythms are encoded narratives, because of the
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role rhythm played in the African cultural matrix and the survival of those
rhythms during the diaspora. Now, you've devoted a lot of effort in the last 15
or so years toward bringing narratives more explicitly into your expression.
Where does rhythm fit in with your views on narrative in music?
Anthony Braxton: Narrative form spreads have always permeated the creative
music tradition. For instance, narrative is one thing that distinguishes the music
of the great improvisers, whether it's Charlie Parker or Paul Desmond or Miles
Davis, is their ability to understand how to go from A to B in a way keeps the
friendly experiencer's interest from beginning to end. Now, there are many ways
to go from A to B with radiance. But certainly, the phenomenon of narrative
linear radiance is a component that could be talked of as a way of looking at a
solo by Max Roach playing on a Charlie Parker album the way he puts a solo
together, the logic of decision-making. A good story, like a good form,
celebrates the ongoing moment in a way that is magnetic. For instance, in my
duo with Andrew, there's an improvisation where Andrew is playing his body,
doing hambone and making vocal sounds, and using click sounds on the
drumset. He's demonstrating that as a percussionist he's not confined to the
drumset, that in fact, percussion and percussion logics transcend the drumset or
any other set, and can be applied to anything. Whatever Andrew starts working
with at some point becomes very clear, because it will be expanded or
contracted. It's not about just anything can happen in the space.
What we're really talking about is how something unfolds and moves into the
forward space in a way that holds your interest because of how the musician is
setting the propositions up. It's narrative in the sense that, when it's all over,
someone can say, "Oh, that made perfect sense," someone else might say,
"Oh, that was a great story, it was complete, it was a multi-veer, and he
expanded it in this way and ended it in this way and it kept my interest." What
for me is most important is that it keeps my interest and demonstrates what I'll
call fundamental music proclivities. We tend not to want to look at our music in
terms of fundamental proclivities, but even so, it still can be factored. Everything
that happens can be factored in some way, and used or duplicated or
transformed.
Ted Panken: In referring to narrative, particularly in improvised music, we
recognize a cultural signification as well, just in terms of the choice to play a
particular idea in response to a postulation. It takes on a quality that transcends
the actual information that's being laid down. So for people like you and Cecil
Taylor and Andrew Cyrille, who came up when the idiomatic tradition was more
or less in the air around you, there was a psychological imperative to leap away
from it.
Anthony Braxton: I think that what you just stated is fundamental. I've spent
real time going through the early musics, and I'm still a professional student of
music. But we are not talking about a decision to not learn some aspect of the
tradition because we just wanted to be free. Rather, we're talking of a concept
that said the challenge of the post-Ayler-Taylor musics and the challenge of the
post-AACM musics would require reexamining syntax to adjust to the fact that
we're now in a time space that says composite reality assumptions are the
norm, where you can walk down the street with your boombox listening to
"Parsifal," while a car passes you playing Gagaku, and in someone's window we'll
hear Hip-Hop, while someone else is playing opera that this is the normal state,
not the idea of jazz in a little box and you can only do what Charlie Parker did or
what John Coltrane played. So we're not talking about a negation of
fundamentals, nor are we talking about no interest in the tradition. Rather,
because of the tradition and the fundamentals and our experiences coming
through and still going through those parameters, we're able to look at the
forward space and have a better basis to take a snapshot from not having
kicked out everything or limited what a concept is.
Ted Panken: In noting the profusion of musical information available on just a
walk down the block, you're also saying that the world is smaller. But not just in
a virtual sense. It's that way in real time. The world of improvisation now
comprises a constant series of feedback loops from numerous sources,
intersecting at all sorts of odd points, and the dialectic has taken us in many
unexpected directions. How has this process affected you in recent years?
Anthony Braxton: When I made the decision to embrace music as a life's work, I
understood, first of all, that I was very lucky to be able to make that decision,
and that there's always something new to learn. Forty years later, I don't know
where I'm at, but I have had many more experiences, and I still find myself
thinking there's everything to do. The work of the last forty years has parlayed
into a new set of propositions that should be able to go for another century. A
new generation of young people have come up, and they're pushing things
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forward.
Your question is hard to respond to because it contains so many different
aspects. For instance, I feel that the African-American community and the
African-American leadership are going through complexities that mirror what
happened when trans-ethnic psychologies were used to partition off the music in
a way, to block this ongoing flow of world culture in the third millennium, and to
reclassify the generic experiences and make them the It. I think that has been
the defining gambit of the last 20 or 30 years, and from my perspective, that
has been the profound mistake of the African-American nationalists and the
post-Abernathy Antebellumists.
Ted Panken: I assume by "post-Abernathy" you're referring to the civil rights
activist Ralph Abernathy, but how do you mean "Antebellumist"?
Anthony Braxton: "Antebellumist" in the sense that the Antebellum psychology
says that you had better stay in your place. By staying in your place, with
respect to our conversation, it's blues and swing.
Ted Panken: You've also referred to this as the "Southern Strategy," I believe.
Anthony Braxton: Yes. Southern Strategy in the sense that that's why Wynton
Marsalis and the Neoclassic continuum is in power. They were put in power. This
is a political decision that came about in the 1980s, when Dr. George Butler
brought Wynton to New York. When the mature histories of this music are
written, I hope that there will be a section on what I'll call the Great Purges of
the 1980s. It involved kicking out anybody who had any originality or was
unwilling to have the marketplace define their music, and bringing in a
philosophical backdrop from Albert Murray consistent with what I'll call the
"Christian gambit." That gambit states that Black people have this special
rhythm, that the evolution of what we now call Jazz is just an African-American
thing, that the proclivity spectra of African-Americans goes from hip-hop and
blues and whatever, but not to a guy like me. Only a certain spectrum of black
or of African-Americans can be accepted in this reseeded idea of blackness.
Ted Panken: But Mr. Braxton, you're a trained dialectician. It can't be that what
happened in the '80s is merely because of a singular corporate or political
decision. There have to have been factors in the zeitgeist that made it make
sense for that to happen.
Anthony Braxton: My viewpoint is this. If the Lincoln Center, post-Murray,
Neoclassic continuum had defined their right to do what they wanted to do, I
would say great. But they said, "Jazz starts at Louis Armstrong; it stops in the
middle '60s." That is very different. Defining it in that way is reductionist. When
Stanley Crouch talks about Negro rhythms and what are the correct
psychological and vibrational components to keep this Negro affinity in the
position he wants it, he's really talking about something else. He's not talking
about the African-American community as a composite spectra. He's talking of
the African-American community as perceived through a Christian framework, as
perceived through the Southern experiences, and how those experiences were
defined among the intellectuals in the South. I love New Orleans, but I'm not
from New Orleans. I'm glad I'm not from New Orleans. As far as I'm concerned,
when King Oliver and Louis Armstrong came north, that's when Louis Armstrong
discovered extended improvisation.
This idea of entertainment as the optimum state is another antebellum idea. And
also, the idea that these people have established a perspective on the Atlantic
slave experience that says they're the only people who have suffered. In
America, when the railroads started expanding West, they brought in the Asian-
Americans! Nobody has a monopoly on being a victim.
In my opinion, the dynamic implications of the exclusionary reverse racism that
comes from the African-American community will put it in a much worse position
in the next 10-20-30-40 years. I feel very sad about that. I think among the
factors that have contributed to this are: (1) the purges of the 1980s; (2) a
reductionist viewpoint of the Negro that corresponds with antebellum sentiments
and with the trans-activist Christian agenda; and (3) the inability of the African-
American community to accept the idea of total equality with all of our people.
This racist exclusionary psychology is only possible because certain people were
put in positions of power because they would espouse these viewpoints.
Ted Panken: I think it was a less passive process. I think that they positioned
themselves to seize the moment, looked for their spots, and created an
ideological climate where they would then be inserted into those spots.
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Anthony Braxton: I disagree. By 1974, it was clear that, for instance, there were
many groups of young people African-Americans, Asian-Americans, European-
Americans, men and women begging to come together to be involved in a new
universal music to push things forward. This was not able to happen. Who do I
blame? I don't blame the conservatives. I blame the liberals. I blame Black
Power. I blame the feminist movement. I blame the Left. I'm talking about
identity politics, and I'm also talking of politics as reflected through the decisions
that would define the '70s and '80s, in terms of who would have support, who
would be suppressed, "all the news that's fit to print." You buy the Sunday "New
York Times," and wow, they have an article on some guy who just got out of
prison who can say "mother****er" in four different vibrations who is set to get
millions of dollars, but there's not one serious article on Cecil Taylor or Bill Dixon!
I came up in a generation of young men and women who wanted to change the
world, who wanted to go out and fight and build up the world, to reconnect with
composite humanity. We were all shot down, man! And we were shot down
well, one, by the liberals; two, by putting certain African-Americans It's Booker
T. Washington all over again.
I think we're at one of the most complex periods in our history. A lot of
components are being realigned in this time period, and I don't mean simply to
heap the problems of modernity on the Neoclassic explosion. But if the subject is
percussion, I wonder how many young African-Americans know about the great
work of Andrew Cyrille. I wonder if Andrew is still considered Black enough where
his work would be respected and talked about. In many spaces, his work would
no longer conform to what used to be called black music.
Ted Panken: Is there a palpable difference between playing with world master
improvisers as opposed to the environment where your more quotidian activity
occurs, or is it a more holistic continuity type of thing?
Anthony Braxton: I would say it's a palpable difference AND a holistic kind of
thing. Andrew Cyrille is from my generation. We know what we have gone
through, and this duo is a chance to celebrate that sonically. I approach
collective open improvisation with young students from the perspective of "if I
decide to play with you, then I am definitely going to respect you, listen to you
and try to learn from you." At the same time, I have a chance to talk to
students about the encoded components that have come out of the last forty
years. Not everything about our experience is a mystery; there are things that
can be talked about. Among those things are compositional and improvisational
design and ways to approach those mediums, based on the fact that those of us
who were open to think of the music in that way had forty years to think about
it. Not everybody wanted to think of it that way. Of course, because I wanted to
think of the music in that way, my work would immediately be called "anti-
black." Why? Well, if you're an African-American, you're not supposed to think of
the work in terms of the formal space or the scientific space. Part of my struggle
has been against the idea that everything is intuition, that any attempt to model
anything in some so-called "intellectual" way automatically means you're not
Black. That viewpoint is a distortion of trans-Africa, of America, and of African-
Americans.
I'd like to discuss your evolution as an instrumentalist, which isn't talked about
that much. How many instruments are you working with functionally these
days? Is intense practicing still part of your regimen?
Anthony Braxton: In this period, I'm emphasizing practice on the piano. I
practice every day, because there's always something to work on. I embraced
the challenge of multi-instrumentalism in the middle '60s in the AACM. I made
that decision because in that time space we were starting to redefine what it
meant to be an instrumentalist and multi-instrumentalist. I wanted to have an
experience as an instrumentalist that would give me the possibility to be in the
high register, the low register, and the middle register. Along with that, I wanted
the possibility to write solo music, chamber music and orchestra musics. In that
time space we really redefined the concept of multi-instrumentalism to bring in
little instruments, or sound tools, or instrumental sounds. Speaking for myself, I
was experiencing compositions like "Refrain" by Stockhausen or "Concepts for
Piano and Orchestra" of Cage all of these musics helping to open up my
understanding of what would be possible.
Ted Panken: George Lewis mentioned that one of the fundamental principles of
AACM music was to create a non-hierarchical environment, and that that
principle is fundamental to the Voyager musical software that he created. Is that
notion also pertinent to you? If so, what are some of the broader implications of
non-hierarchicalism?
Anthony Braxton: I agree with George. In fact, I was the first person who
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remarked that the AACM was multiple-hierarchic. What has it meant to me? It's
meant everything. When I talk of my work in this time period, I talk of a
tricentric belt unit/offering that involves a multiple hierarchic array of
components that is designed for 12 different friendly experiences. The model
that I tried to construct demonstrates 12 different proclivities, 12 different
identities, 12 different logics and navigations, and 12 different axiomatic
principles for form-building.
How does that relate? In my opinion, it relates in this sense. I believe every
community has something to add to the hope of the Third Millennia, and I'd like
for my work as a multiple hierarchic unit to be among those bodies of
information that is open towards a resolidification of a new spiritualism that
celebrates God, Goddess and Mystery Children. The importance of multiple
hierarchic is that this model is not Pythagorean. I think multiple hierarchic is going
to be a key password in the next time cycle. There will be models that allow for
many different ways to experience it, models that can be used to construct
more than one target objective.
In my music system, every composition connects together. The first component
would be "primary identity." That's the normal way we talk of composing a piece
of music, the defining specifications for instrumentation, like the baroque
masters. Two is secondary identity. Secondary identity says I can take the
saxophone parts from one composition and have 400 tubas play it, or any other
instrumentation. Three is genetic identity. Genetic identity is to take one
measure out from Composition 4 and place it into Composition 24. So the
system I am building is akin to an erector set that can be put together in any
different order. By its nature, this system will allow for a fresh set of structural
dynamics and a fresh platform of ongoing poetics. It will also take into account
that people have different proclivities, but it's not about some proclivities being
better than others as much as having methodologies that take into account the
broader array of possibilities, as opposed to the reductionism of this time period.
So multiple hierarchic might be the first axiomatic degree moving towards
universality.
Ted Panken: In real time improvising, how much of the whole philosophical or
aesthetic superstructure that you have conceptualized is in your mind?
Anthony Braxton: I agree with Paul Desmond, who said that the problem and
challenge of emotion could be looked at many different ways, but the most
important thing for him was to approach it honestly, and not have the emotion
in front of the real intention. I would say that I am me all the time. I have tried to
approach my music from having fun. I have tried to approach my music as a
mystical discipline. I have tried to approach my music as a scientist, looking at
structure and isolated components. I have tried to approach my music with
respect to vibrational radiance and motivation. I have tried to approach my
music with respect to the memories of an ongoing moment, and to build from
that point based on the idea implications of it.
And so what does all that mean when the Real comes? Well, I've never tried
consciously to approach my music as science or as feeling. All of that blanks out
and not-blanks out. I'm not interested in denying any aspect of who I am unless
it's a negative something. And I don't want to be negative; I want to try to be as
positive as I can be. But I try to bring my life to the radiant circle when it's time
to play. I try to remember the sense of awe that helped me decide to embrace
music as a life's work. Part of that embrace is reflected in the model that I built. I
wanted to build a model that demonstrates meditative inputs, rational inputs,
instinctual inputs. I wanted a model that respected the known, the unknown and
the intuited, all as one thought unit.
Ted Panken: Discuss the dynamics of Compositions 310 and 311.
Anthony Braxton: Yes. Compositions 310 and 311 are examples of extended
compositional structures that make use of traditional notation, graphic notation,
language, and visual notations. Compositions from this prototype class seek to
create an extended structural platform for the musicians to go in and out of
various types of improvisation, including target repetitive spaces, target spaces
with defined pitches or rhythmic sets, and this kind of thing. I composed
Composition 310 and 311 as a way for Andrew and I to have a color where the
notated space changes the vibrational parameters. I attempted to create a
thought plane internal structural component that would have maximum flexibility,
with area spaces that are elastic and spaces which are very metric. It was an
attempt to bring balance to the project. We have rhythmic compositions, timbral
compositions and spatial compositions, and I wanted us to have two structural
models as well.
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Ted Panken: Can you talk about the dynamics of playing Andrew's
compositions?
Anthony Braxton: Playing Andrew Cyrille's compositions is very hard. I find his
work totally refreshing. It contrasts very much with my work, and at the same
time we have a lot of similarity. I like the way he works with very complex
rhythms. But what affected me the most is that he knew exactly what he
wanted. He didn't just write something and then say "make something out of it."
At the same time, his work has enough flexibility that I can apply myself to it and
come out with fresh experiences as well. It sounds like you and Cyrille reached
the radiant circle. When I met this guy in 1969, it was clear to me that he was
the kind of gentleman and musician I've always admired. There was never any
ego sickness. He's always been very clear and respectful. At the same time, one
always had the sense that this guy had a deep sense of what he's about, and
that what he was working on meant something to him. So even in 1969 or '70,
meeting him was an opportunity to be in a radiant circle.
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February 26th, 2008, 11:04 AM
The book Blutopia by Lock also has a
section on Braxton.
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February 26th, 2008, 11:11 AM
Cool! Thanks, everyone.
Yes, I have Conference of the Birds and
Circle's Paris Concert... and I love both!
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Originally Posted by papsrus
I second (or third, or fourth ...) the
Montreux-Berlin Concerts disc. Might
be hard to find a CD, but there are
downloadable versions. Here's a site
that offers the disc at 256 kbps (not
bad). Not sure how legit it is. Here's
another site.
There's a copy of Dortmund here, for
the insanely wealthy ... (or just
insane. I paid a higher price for my
copy. No regrets). I see it available
here again for download at 256 kbps.
Here's a full list of their Braxton stuff.
(This site has to be bootleg, given the
stupidly low prices. Disclosure -- I've
never used them, but ... the music's
there).
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February 26th, 2008, 12:14 PM
About 10 days ago, I bought my first Braxton (as a leader) recording. Picked up
the Berlin/Montreux Concerts double-LP on ebay.
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Looking forward to hearing it when it arrives.
Thanks to everyone who posted those fascinating interviews with Braxton. The
man's definitely spent a lot of time thinking about what he's doing and going
about it in a deliberate way. You've got to respect that.
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Explore my web site dedicated to Bobby Hutcherson:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/jazz/Hutcherson
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February 26th, 2008, 02:37 PM
An overview:
Anthony Braxton (born June 4, 1945 in Chicago) is an American composer,
saxophonist, clarinettist, flautist, pianist and philosopher. He has created a large
body of highly complex work. While not known by the general public, Braxton is
one of the most prolific American musicians/composers to date, having released
well over 100 albums since the 1960s. Among the vast array of instruments he
utilizes are the flute; the sopranino, soprano, C-Melody, F alto, E-flat alto,
baritone, bass, and contrabass saxophones; and the E-flat, B-flat, and
contrabass clarinets.
Critic Chris Kelsey writes that "Although Braxton exhibited a genuine if highly
idiosyncratic ability to play older forms (influenced especially by saxophonists
Warne Marsh, John Coltrane, Paul Desmond, and Eric Dolphy), he was never
really accepted by the jazz establishment, due to his manifest infatuation with
the practices of such non-jazz artists as John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Many of the mainstream's most popular musicians (Wynton Marsalis among
them) insisted that Braxton's music was not jazz at all. Whatever one calls it,
however, there is no questioning the originality of his vision; Anthony Braxton
created music of enormous sophistication and passion that was unlike anything
else that had come before it."
Early in his career, Braxton led a trio with violinist Leroy Jenkins and trumpeter
Wadada Leo Smith and was involved with The Association for the Advancement
of Creative Musicians, the "AACM", founded in Chicago, Braxton's birthplace.
In 1968, Braxton recorded the double LP For Alto. There had been occasional
unaccompanied saxophone recordings previously (notably Coleman Hawkins'
"Picasso"), but For Alto was the first full-length album for unaccompanied
saxophone. The album's songs were dedicated to Cecil Taylor and John Cage,
among others. The album influenced other artists like Steve Lacy (soprano sax)
and George Lewis (trombone), who would go on to record their own acclaimed
solo albums.
Braxton joined pianist's Chick Corea's existing trio with Dave Holland (double
bass) and Barry Altschul (drums) to form the short-lived avant garde quartet
"Circle", around 1970. When Corea broke up the group, forming Return to
Forever to pursue a fusion based style of composition and recording, Holland
and Altschul remained with Braxton for much of the 1970s as part of a quartet,
with the rotating brass chair variously filled by trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, or
trombonists George Lewis or Ray Anderson. This group recorded on Arista
Records. The core trio plus saxophonist Sam Rivers recorded Holland's
Conference of the Birds, ECM. In the 1970s he also recorded duets with Lewis
and with synthesizer player Richard Teitelbaum. In the late 1970s he recorded
two large ensemble recordings, "Creative Orchestra Music 1976," inspired by
American jazz and marching band traditions, and "For Four Orchestras." Both of
these records were released on Arista.
Braxton's regular group in the 1980s and early 1990s was a quartet with Marilyn
Crispell (piano), Mark Dresser (double bass) and Gerry Hemingway (drums). It
has been called "his finest and longest standing band".
Braxton has also recorded and collaborated with European free improvisers such
as Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, and the Globe Unity Orchestra, or with giants from
the 'regular' jazz world, such as Max Roach. Throughout the years Braxton has
played with a wide variety of people, such as Mal Waldron, Dave Douglas,
Ornette Coleman, Dave Brubeck, Lee Konitz, Peter Brtzmann, Willem Breuker,
Muhal Richard Abrams, Steve Lacy, Roscoe Mitchell, Pat Metheny, Andrew Cyrille,
Wolf Eyes, Misha Mengelberg, Chris Dahlgren, Lauren Newton, and countless
others.
In 1994, he was granted a MacArthur Fellowship.
From 1995 to 2006, Braxton's output as a composer concentrated almost
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exclusively on what he calls Ghost Trance Music, which introduces a steady pulse
to his music and also allows the simultaneous performance of any piece by the
performers. Many of the earliest Ghost Trance recordings were released on his
own Braxton House label (now defunct). His final Ghost Trance compositions
were performed with a "12+1tet" at New York's Iridium club in 2006; the
complete four-night residency was recorded and released in 2007 by the
Firehouse 12 label.
In addition, during the 1990s and early 2000s Braxton created a prodigiously
large body of "standards" recordings, often featuring him as a pianist rather than
saxophonist. He had frequently performed such material in the 1970s and
1980s, but only recorded it occasionally; now he began to release multidisc sets
of such material, climaxing in two quadruple-CD sets for Leo Records recorded
on tour in 2003.
More recently he has created new series of compositions, such as the Falling
River Musics that are documented on 2+2 Compositions (482 Music, 2005).
Braxton studied philosophy at Roosevelt University. He has taught at Mills
College and now is Professor of Music at Wesleyan University in Middletown,
Connecticut, teaching music composition, music history, and improvisation.
One of his children, Tyondai Braxton, is also a professional musician. He is a
guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist with American math rock band Battles.
Beyond his musical career, Braxton is an avid chess player; for a time in the
1960s he was a professional chess hustler, playing in New York in Washington
Square Park.
Braxton's music is difficult to categorize, and because of this, he likes to
reference his works (and the works of his collaborators and students) as simply
"creative music." He has claimed in numerous interviews that he is not a jazz
musician, though many of his works have been jazz and improvisation oriented,
and he has released many albums of jazz standards. In addition to these,
Braxton has released an increasing number of works for large-scale orchestras,
including two opera cycles. Braxton's music is highly theoretical and mystically
influenced, and he is the author of multiple volumes explaining his theories and
piecessuch as the philosophical three-volume Triaxium Writings and the five-
volume Composition Notes, both published by Frog Peak Music. While his
compositions and improvisations can be characterized as avant garde, many of
his pieces have a swing feel and rhythmic angularity that are overtly indebted to
Charlie Parker and the Bebop tradition.
Braxton is notorious for naming his pieces as diagrams, typically labeled with
cryptic numbers and letters. (Sometimes the letters are identifiable as the initials
of Braxton's friends and musical colleagues.) Sometimes these diagrams have
an obvious relation to the music for instance, on the album For Trio the
diagram-title indicates the physical positions of the performers but in many
cases the diagram-titles remain inscrutable. (Braxton has pointedly refused to
explain their significance, claiming that he himself is still discovering their
meaning.) Braxton eventually settled on a system of opus-numbers to make
referring to these pieces simpler, and earlier pieces have had opus-numbers
retrospectively added to them.
By the mid-to-late 1980s, Braxton's titles had become increasingly complex.
They began to incorporate drawings and illustrations, such as in the title of his
four act opera cycle, Trillium R. Others began to include life-like images of
inanimate objects, namely train cars. The latter was most notably seen after the
advent of his Ghost Trance Music system.
Anthony Braxton, even in his 60s, still actively performs with ensembles of
varying sizes, and has to date written well over 350 compositions. He has just
recently finished the last batch of Ghost Trance Music compositions, and has
now shown his interest in three other music systems: The Diamond Curtain Wall
Trio, in which Braxton implements the aid of the powerful computer audio
programming language, SuperCollider; Falling River Musics; and, most recently,
Echo Echo Mirror House music, which is meant to hone in many different types
of performance arts in addition to music. Braxton performed with 17 members
of AIMToronto (the Association of Improvising Musicians Toronto) and with the
Diamond Curtain Wall Trio +1 (Kyle Brenders) at the 2007 Guelph Jazz Festival.
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February 26th, 2008, 02:40 PM
http://www.archive.org/details/BraxtonSOM
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February 26th, 2008, 02:46 PM
Another meaty Panken interview:
Anthony Braxton, February 5 1995, WKCR-FM, New York
Ted Panken
Braxton came to WKCR on a cold Tuesday afternoon during a rehearsal break
for a three-night retrospective series of concerts presenting his orchestral music.
He brought with him a box of cassettes of recent, unissued material and a few
recent CDs. HBe unwound the first half-hour of the program, eating Chinese
food and sipping a beer; then the discussion began. Braxton's previously visited
me at WKCR in November 1993, concluding a week at the Knitting Factory with
his quartet. The following conversation is a composite of the proceedings of the
two interviews.
The 1995 interview began with a reference to the MacArthur Grant received by
Braxton in 1994. The John T. and Catherine P. MacArthur Foundation awards
some 50 grants each year to scientists, artists, social activists and others. The
award has become known as a "genius grant," amounting to a sum of money in
the six figures, spread over a period of five years, to be used as wished by the
recipient.
TP: Many things have happened since we last met, and I guess the most notable
and most public is that you are the recipient of a McArthur grant, which obviously
has given you quite a bit of flexibility to realize various ambitious projects.
AB: Well, I was very surprised and grateful. I see the McArthur Foundation as an
example of the real possibilities here in our country. Certainly, I was not really
directing myself toward having the kind of involvement with my work that would
bring in any kind of money; by 1970, it was clear that I had committed to a
direction that would guarantee economic complexities. So for the McArthur to
come to me just before moving into the 50s time cycle, I am very grateful and I
feel fortunate.
And yet, at the same time, I have no illusions about my position or my work.
From the beginning I only sought to respond to those factors which were in the
air in the period when I came up, in the 1950s and '60s. I am very grateful that
my work symbolically has been endorsed on this level. But in fact, hmm. . .I was
never interested in an unendorsement or an endorsement, although I am very
happy to be a recipient from this incredible organization.
TP: The concerts this weekend are sponsored by the Tri-Centric Foundation,
which I'll ask you to discuss. Was this organization in the works before you
received the MacArthur Fellowship, or did the grant make it possible to establish
it?
AB: The Tri-Centric Foundation is the name of the platform I hope to build in the
next time cycle. In fact, this platform had already come into being, in terms of
primary structures, before the MacArthur.
By Tri-Centric Foundation, I am referring to a platform that will, one, give me an
opportunity to further the processes of my musics, and the work of the Tri-
Centric Ensemble, which has become a primary component in terms of my work
and the hope I have for my work.
Two, the Tri-Centric Foundation will be the platform that I hope will give the
possibility for artists who have related sensibilities, who are interested in the
exploratory musics, or at least artists who have a relationship with their work
that has the kind of value where it will be pursued whether or not the
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marketplace endorses it, whether or not the marketplace supports it (I'll come
back to that later).
And three, the Tri-Centric Foundation will be, for me, a kind of platform for
intellectual discussion and documentation for those individuals who are thinking
about the exploratory possibilities of creative music and the role and the
relationship of music to composite society and the ability of creativity, and
imagination, and science, and history and mythology to provide the kind of
positive balances where, as a nation, we can begin to move into the third
millennia in a way that would be consistent with the wonderful properties that we
have in our country. Even though everything is complex, on all three planes, I
am very grateful to be an American and to have had the experience of coming
up in this great country of ours. The Tri-Centric Foundation. . .well, it's like
America, in that it seeks to celebrate the wonder of universality and how
universal balances are reflected in every direction -- and when approached with
the right balances, that it might be possible to set the constructs in place for the
challenges of the next time cycle.
So I was very grateful to see the Tri-Centric Foundation come together before
the MacArthur. We began last summer rehearsing. During that period I
discovered that, even as a virtuoso complainer, in fact, I was really very
fortunate, because some of our most talented and profound masters have
decided to make time to help me with my project. And in that spirit of giving, the
musicians, men and women from every sector of our country, or from many
sectors of our country, would come together to give an old crutzer like me an
opportunity to hear some of the extended piece and, in making that decision, to
give me a kind of symbolic vibrational endorsement and kind of help, spiritual
help to continue my work.
It would happen at a time that would really help me. As you know, musicians like
myself, who have in the last 30 and 40 years, and in the last 3,000 years, tried
to practice their craft and practice it based on their value systems, have
historically met complexities. My understanding of this time period is that nothing
has changed. Symbolically and vibrationally for me, this would really complete
the ritual change of this time cycle.
The heart of my effort, from the beginning, has always been about the hope to
change oneself, to change the community, and to find the kind of vibrational
alignment that could reflect the kind of spiritual-unspiritual values of the
individual, or Friendly Experiencer. And so, to answer your question, the Tri-
Centric Foundation and its related ensembles would be part of my hope and
strategy for evolving my work, for creating a context where I can learn from
colleagues -- colleagues being children, men, women, scientists, ventriloquists,
physicists, herbists, geologists.
My viewpoint of creativity is that everything is connected. It just depends on
which axis the connections are made upon. When I think about the next
thousand years, I find myself hoping that I will continue to have opportunities to
meet and work and learn from the great people of America, and the great
people of Earth, and the wonderful spirits and non-spirits which help to hold this
experience.
TP: Well, it seems that your creativity has always been linked with collectivity,
and that finding the AACM 30 years ago was a key that unlocked a realm of
possibilities that could be actualized through its existence.
AB: For instance, me receiving the MacArthur -- how wonderful. I am really very
grateful. But I am not interested in losing my balance in any way, because in
fact, you are right. The AACM, the Association For The Advancement of Creative
Musicians, which was the organization that I had the incredible good fortune to
discover and become part of in the '60s, would in fact represent a point of
definition in my life experiences.
The first day that I returned home to Chicago, after a three-year period in the
Army, I would, because of my cousin Rafiki, be made aware of the concert
series at the Lincoln Center in Chicago, where the AACM was coming together. I
immediately went to Lincoln Center and met my old friend Roscoe Mitchell, who
introduced me to Muhal Richard Abrams and brought me into the Association for
the Advancement of Creative Musicians.
TP: Where had you met Roscoe Mitchell previously?
AB: Roscoe and I went to Wilson Junior College together in 1963, '62,
somewhere in that time period. It was in that period that I began to discover the
dynamic implications of the post-Ayler musics. And Roscoe Mitchell would open
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up new possibilities for me. Even in 1963, he had already arrived at a dynamic
creative music. Roscoe, along with Joseph Jarman and Muhal Richard Abrams,
would in the early period begin to build on the Ganges of the post- Coleman
processes, build on the Ganges of the work of Charlie Mingus. Their work would
open up my life in a way that I can never thank them enough for.
TP: Where were you in your own development at the time that you met Roscoe
Mitchell?
AB: Well, by the time I met Roscoe Mitchell, I had been kicked out of maybe 500
sessions for calling "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo A La Turk." And I was
discovering that as an African-American who was deeply involved in the music of
Paul Desmond, there seemed to be a context of complexities that I would have
to get used to. Roscoe would help to expose me to musicians that I did not
know about.
From that point, after getting out of the Army, I met Claudine [Amina Claudine
Myers]. Amina and Ajaramu [a veteran AACM drummer] gave me my first
concert, gave me the opportunity to have the first performance in Chicago. We
worked together for a period of a couple of years. In fact, Amina and Ajaramu
would take me to New York City for the first time, and it would be in their
company where I would begin to learn about the greater dynamics taking place
in New York, along with the American master percussionist Billy Hart. I feel very
fortunate that in my (quote-unquote) "so-called career" that I have had the
good fortune to meet such incredible individuals, and I am grateful for that.
In that time period and with that organization, or at least with that group of
people, I would have the opportunity to better understand my own experience
and experiences, and I'd have a broader context to reflect on a context that
would give me the opportunity to learn from the American master visionary
Muhal Richard Abrams. Having the opportunity to meet Mr. Muhal Richard
Abrams would change my life in every way. I think Mr. Abrams is a great man,
and I do not use the term lightly. Mr. Abrams would spearhead the movement
into the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. He of course
was one of the original founders. But more than that, Mr. Abrams was the
original president of the AACM.
In this time period, Muhal tends to underplay his influence. And I understand it,
because in fact, just concerning his own work, Mr. Abrams has evolved a body
of musics and thoughts which are dynamic and unparalleled. My hope in the
future would be that his work would somehow be reexamined for what it is, as a
dynamic offering of restructural and creative musics that will be consistent with
the breakthroughs occurring in this time period, as it will relate to the next
thousand years. He's a great musician in the tradition of the master musicians
who have come to reshape and give us unlimited possibilities for creativity and
exploration. Muhal is an important American restructuralist thinker, and the
music is a component in his thoughts.
Having said that, I would also say that Mr. Abrams did help. He helped all of us.
He was one of the guiding forces in the early period. He was the first president of
the Association For the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Mr. Abrams would
help me to believe in myself and not be afraid to go forth with my beliefs. He is a
kind man, and a very spiritual man, a hard worker, and he understands the
importance of individual development and pursuits, as well as the significance of
the group. He has great knowledge and many different directions. I have learned
so much from him, there's no way I could possibly detail what I have learned
from the man. Knowing him and having the opportunity to work with him has
been one of the joys in my life, and I'd like to hope that we will in various time
periods come together and continue to do projects.
TP: I'm sure you were a participant in the Experimental Band and the AACM Big
Band sessions of the 1960's.
AB: Yes, I was. The Experimental Band was consistent with the ideals and goals
of the AACM, in that it was a platform for exploration, a group exploration. It
was an opportunity to compose music and work together, and play Mr.
Jarman's music, play Mr. Abrams' music, work on compositions of Roscoe
Mitchell or John Stubblefield. . . Well, it gave us an opportunity to try out things.
And we were always encouraged to try out new ideas, not be afraid to be
different.
In the AACM I was able to learn from the work of my. . .I'll say brothers. . . I
don't mean any kind of '60s' jargon. But in fact, when I think of Joseph Jarman
and Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill and John Stubblefield and Ari Brown,
the American master Leo Smith and Leroy Jenkins -- we all worked together.
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And at every point, our hope was to have an involvement based on our beliefs,
based on the excitement of the music on its own plane. The opportunity to meet
and learn from these musicians was a blessing. I thank the Creator for my good
fortune to meet these people. I thank the cosmos that I've had the opportunity
to grow up with guys with that kind of vision and dedication and hard work, and I
learned a great deal from them. As far as I am concerned, the McArthur could go
to any of those musicians, including Amina Claudine Myers.
We were of the group that Douglas Ewart and I now refer to as the Believers.
And that to me has been one of the life markers. As well as later having the
opportunity, for instance, to work with Fred Rzewski, Richard Teitelbaum,
Maryann Amacher. I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunities to
meet and experience and learn from the men and women of our culture, of our
nation and of our planet. I met Mr. Teitelbaum in something like five feet of mud
in Belgium, in Almavise(?), at a festival. I met Mr. Teitelbaum at the same time
that I met the American master Fred Rzewski, and the American master Alvin
Curran. All of us were in our 20s, excited about music and the idea of music as a
component to change the world. We were going to change the world with our
work. We were idealistic and excited.
It was a very beautiful time. Teitelbaum and Frederick were moving away from
Stockhausen; more and more they were becoming interested in improvisation
and the transAfrican restructural musics. I had records of Fred Rzewski playing
"Contrapunter," Stockhausen, and "Klavierstucke 10," and I was very curious
about the restructural breakthroughs of the post-Webern composers. So we
kind of met in the middle of this sector. I learned a great deal about the post-
Webern continuum from Mr. Teitelbaum and Mr. Rzewski and Curran. From that
point, I had the good fortune to be asked to join Musica Elettronica Viva, and in
doing that, I had opportunities to meet American masters like Maryann Amacher.
. . .
What am I really talking about? I'm talking about the underground. By
underground in this context, I am only saying that there is a great love that's
always been here in America. I see it right now, all over our country, a great
love, men and women who are not Democrats or Republicans, they're not
nationalists or feminists, or anti-feminists or anti-nationalists, but men and
women who are concerned about evolution and culture, music, who are
dedicating themselves to their work, whether or not it's understood. And I align
myself with that group, from the old school. We love music, we try to do our
best, we kick it about.
This area of the music is not talked about very much. and this sector of values
has kind of become obscured. In the '90s we talk about what you can't do as a
way to define a participation. But the group I come from, we talk about what
you can do, and it's not defined in a way that says you can't be who you are
because of some idiomatic concept based on what is correct.
And so, I look at Mr. Teitelbaum or Ms. Amacher or Fred Rzewski or Mr. Alvin
Curran as a part of this underground brotherhood-sisterhood that is permeated
with love and respect -- and of course, poverty! That's how I see my work. That
is the proper context for my work. It's a part of the old underground. We're still
excited about music, or the playing of music, and we still have great hope for
America. I hope to continue my work based on the spirit of what I have learned
through my path. I feel very fortunate to be able to talk of those individuals.
In this time period, we find ourselves as Americans dealing with the '90s .
Geopolitical transformations taking place all over. The end of Communism. The
start of the new era. Five years away from the new millennium. I have great
hopes that our children will be able to have the kind of involvement that I have
had with my work, and I would like to be a part of those forces which will seek
to unite and include opinions and viewpoints from different persuasions. I find
myself at 50 in the ironic position of actually loving America. I am very proud to
be an American. I feel our country is a young experiment. We have everyone
here, different peoples, peoples fighting against one another -- but it's natural.
Yet, the American Experiment is unique and it's universal, and I take great pride
in being a part of this incredible venture into the next time cycle.
Back to the Association For the Advancement of Creative Musicians: I feel the
AACM has been a profoundly important organization. In this time period, I have
come to talk of the AACM as the Seventh Restructural Cycle of the music, or at
least a point of definition for the seventh restructural cycle changes of the trans-
African, trans-composite American musics. In this time period I feel there has
been profound misunderstandings about the organization. And of course, with
the complexities from the last 20 years, there has been a move away from the
restructural breakthroughs that the AACM opened up. Yet, I feel that the work of
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the AACM will one day be viewed a porthole into the next thousand years.
The AACM at no point sought to erect any two-dimensional construct as the
parameters for what is correct or not for any individual. Rather, the AACM
sought to look for the community, to look at the community of the music, and
to look at the dynamic implications of the music from its own terms. The
Association For The Advancement of Creative Musicians in the early period would
create a music school where we would go and pick up young children and bring
them to the organization for free music lessons, and take them home after the
lessons. As part of the character of the organization, there was always a
community component involving our responsibility as creative artists to work in
the community and have a composite relationship with our work. This viewpoint
would later get obscured along with everything else.
But in fact, the AACM was never about a form of music. It was a trans- idiomatic
alliance that sought to better understand the challenge of the restructural
breakthroughs of the '60s, restructural breakthroughs relating to the evolving
music of Ornette Coleman, the evolving music of John Coltrane, the evolving
music of, well, Charlie Mingus, and also responding to the breakthroughs of the
Jazz Composers Guild, which was an organization that had come together
maybe five or six years earlier, the organization that American masters like Bill
Dixon and Cecil Taylor and Paul Bley and Sun Ra worked to put together.
The AACM would be the second opportunity to move towards that kind of
organization separate from the complexities, say, of New York City, with the
media and political components taking place here in New York. It was an
opportunity for musicians to talk about music and share ideas and work together
and learn and study music. When I think about that time period, I feel extremely
grateful to have been a part of it.
TP: Multi-instrumentalism seems to touch on the very essence of your identity
as an improviser.
AB: From the very beginning, I have only wanted to have the kind of
involvement with my work based on whether or not the work itself could keep
me interested. That is, I was never interested in a concept of postulation that
would be transmitted separate from whether it served my own interest or
whether it served my own attraction mechanisms. As such, from the very
beginning, I found that the natural limitations of any idiomatic domain would at
some point maybe not adhere to that which I was looking for.
All I am saying in that is that I was interested in rock 'n' roll, so-called -- that's
how it was referred to in the '50s anyway; I don't know if the young people say
rock 'n' roll any more. I would find myself interested in the Fifth Restructural
Cycle musics, the musics we now refer to as bebop, and that the world of bebop
would satisfy my essence on every level -- until it was time to go to another
zone.
I am only saying that to say that part of the beauty of form and part of the
wonder of an idiom is that it defines a context. More and more I would find by
1966 that we had come to a point, because of the exploratory and great work
of restructural exploring musicians like Ornette Coleman, like Cecil Taylor, like
Pauline Oliveros, like Albert Ayler, like Karlheinz Stockhausen, like John Cage, like
Marian Williams, like the Florida State University Marching Band, like Frank
Sinatra, like the Platters, where it might be necessary to redefine the context of
terms that supports our relationship with a given methodology.
This for me had become the case, because not only would there be the forward
vibrational motion and excitement of those musics, but also there would be the
fact of the radio and the television, and that information was coming in from
many different directions in a way that was different from the early period. That
is, that the so-called Modern Era and the point of technology we had come to
has produced a situation that found me in the '60s feeling we had come to a
point where the concept of relationships had to be reexamined.
For myself, without knowing it, I would move to construct a model that would
give me some insight into what later would become the genesis unit of my work.
In the middle '60s, however, I tried to respond to the various challenges of that
time period -- understanding, too, that I came through the period of the 1950s,
the period where it was possible to experience, for instance, the work of the
Modern Jazz Quartet, and the great work of the American master John Lewis,
who no one talks about any more. That group would demonstrate a context of
structure and creative balance that would give a fresh understanding of
improvisation and composition and architectonic building.
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In the same time there was the work of Dave Brubeck. We like to dump on M.
Brubeck. But if it were possible to go back and reexamine his music, one would
see a universe of creativity with many different kinds of approaches and
structures, attempts to experiment with time. Mr. Brubeck would be an
important role model, and his work would help me to clarify some understanding
of forward motion.
This would also be the case with the American master Max Roach.
In other words, I am just saying, hmm, all of these things were in the air, and
"How High The Moon," in itself, I found that this construct of experience and
structure would not contain in itself all of the components that I would need to
have the kind of "surprise" that I needed to keep me feeling healthy.
So by 1966, after the opportunity to experience and start the process of
learning about the Sixth Restructural Cycle musics, including the early musics
moving into the gateway of the modern era, especially the work of Arnold
Schoenberg, especially the work of Scott Joplin, especially the work of Scriabin
and the mystic European spiritual masters, but no disrespect to the great Indian
masters. . . I discovered by 1966 that I could be a professional student of music.
Which was lucky for me -- because hanging with Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph
Jarman ensured me that I would always be a student! Because those guys are
always working. Pauline Oliveros, she's always doing something.
What that meant for me was the research and development button would have
to become a necessary component in my idea of participation and postulation.
So to answer your question, yes, in 1966, meeting the men and women from
the Association For the Advancement of Creative Musicians as the third point of
definition shift in my life, after growing up with my parents and the Army, that
would be a profound experience for me. Because of that experience, when I
began to think about my own music, I would find myself thinking, "Hmm." I
needed to have a space where I could have a flash of consciousness. I needed a
space where I could have memory, where there could be some context to look
at identity. And finally, I would have a context where I could begin to explore
symbolic relationships and synthesis relationships.
In that early period I would start the process of looking for what would be, one,
genesis concepts and fundamentals of my work, and what could that mean in
terms of an exploratory position as far as I wanted to have a context of
involvement that I could live with. I mean, at the heart of all of this, I wanted to
have an involvement that would give me the possibility to stay interested in my
work. That's all.
TP: You've discussed the almost laboratory quality of musical process in the
AACM during that early period. Part of that was a focus on the presentation of
solo performance, which you've credited in some interviews as leading you to
your idea of structure, of compartmentalizing your musical expression into
different musical realms. Can you comment on that somewhat?
AB: Yes, sir. In 1967, I gave a solo concert at the Abraham Lincoln Center in
Chicago. In that time period, I thought I could approach solo music simply
through improvisation. After the first five minutes of the concert, I noticed I was
repeating myself. After the second five minutes, I found myself thinking, "Well,
Braxton, I hate to be the one to say this, but this is horrible" -- and there must
be some way to avoid the complexities of existential freedom. Because in fact, I
was not interested in freedom or non- freedom. What I wanted was a context
where I could evolve my work and have some way to measure change. And
after the first ten minutes of the solo concert, as the pies began to form around
my forehead and the eggs, I found myself thinking either buy a glass booth or
something to stop the objects before. . .well, before. . .or at least develop a
taste for eggs. Or, go back to the drawing board and look for some way to have
the kind of definition that could make a difference.
I did not feel, then or now, that I possessed infinite creativity. What I learned
was the kind of model that would give me a way to have a good concert even
on a bad night, when inspiration wasn't flowing; that there would be fundamental
components and devices that I could go to which would help me to have the
kind of creative experience and the kind of definition where as a musical
experience it could still be interesting -- and hopefully meaningful.
By 1968, of the music of Arnold Schoenberg and Karlheinz Stockhausen and
Fats Waller, I had developed a real love for solo piano music. I was not a good
enough pianist to participate in that area of the music, and I wanted then to,
with the alto saxophone, see if it was possible to create a state of solo music
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that would have the same component possibilities as Mr. Schoenberg's or Mr.
Stockhausen's or Mr. Waller's, but Stockhausen's piano music. As far as I am
concerned, the gateway to the future, in terms of vocabulary and language,
really begins there. Or at least, I have a great love for Mr. Stockhausen's piano
music. It helped me to better understand definition and how it could work in the
solo medium. In fact, the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen has helped me on
many different levels.
And so, the solo musics, which start at that point, would be an attempt to clarify
the vocabulary, to better understand vocabulary and solo music logics. The
language music materials and models would help me to then begin to understand
genesis materials. From that point, based on the solo materials, I would find
myself with a genetic component that in this time period I have come to talk of
in the way that we talk of DNA, as genetic materials that could be used not only
on an individual level, but I have tried to, from the solo musics, from the
instrumental musics, through improvisation, to create those kind of logic
components that could be fed into the group context, the group parameter.
In taking that decision and in making that leap, I would in fact align myself with
the Baroque masters. I mean, Johann Sebastian Bach was an improviser, he
was a creative theorist, and he was also a composer. This was also the case for
restructural composers like Duke Ellington or Fletcher Henderson. This balance is
a historical balance that has been consistent with our species.
What I wanted, then and now, was to have a total involvement with my work.
Because I discovered very early that I was interested in every aspect of music. I
am interested in music signs. I am interested in creative theory or not creative
theory, and I am interested in the beauty of instrumentalism, and a physical
involvement. I feel very fortunate that I would discover in the discipline of music
something that would be all-encompassing, something that would give me the
possibility to be a student forever. Because there is always something new to
learn in music.
TP: The next selection we'll hear is Braxton's first composition, "Piano Piece #1."
AB: Piano Piece #1 I think was composed in 1966. This is the first of the Stable
Logic Structures, the so-called compositions -- compositions, yes, even a
composition! In my system, from the very beginning, I would seek to build a
context of mutable, stable and synthesis logics. Mutable logics would be the
improvised musics and the improvised strategies. Stable logics would be the
notated music. In the same way that we talk of improvisation as blood or liquid
fluid strategies, by Stable Logics, I would be referring to notated strategies, and
strategies and targets which one could come back to. This, then, would be akin
to the skeleton of my system.
[Music: "Piano Piece #1," Hildegarde Kleeb (1995); "Comp. 173" Creative
Orchestra; "Epistrophy" (1994) Braxton Piano Quartet Live at the Knitting
Factory]
TP: Although our listeners may have thought the alto saxophonist on
"Epistrophy" was Anthony Braxton, it was Marty Ehrlich, while Braxton played
piano. This new quartet made its first public appearances last spring.
AB: Yes. In fact, Marty Ehrlich, Joe Fonda and myself, including Mr. Arthur Fuller
on percussion, played last summer at Yoshi's, in Oakland, California. My hope is
that this year some of the music will come out. The Knitting Factory musics will
come out on Leo Records, two 2-CD sets, and the Yoshi's project will come out
on Music and Arts -- I hope. There is another project with the American master
Mario Pavone, a project where I had the opportunity to work with Thomas
Chapin and Dave Douglas on saxophone and trumpet, respectively, the great
master Pheeroan Aklaff, and Mr. Pavone and myself. We try to come together
every now and then, and do a project. We are neighbors in Connecticut, and he
is an old friend of mine, a musician I have long admired.
TP: You recorded some duets with him in 1993.
AB: That's right. Mario Pavone has been one of the masters who have worked
with dedication at his craft. We have known each other for years, Mr. Pavone, as
well as the American master Joe Fonda. I kind of feel, in some ways, those guys
have been holding me up. It's been very beautiful. Joe Fonda is also a virtuoso
bass-player-composer who has had a career of dedication to the music. Mr.
Fonda and I, we come together in many different contexts as well. I would also
say Mr. Fonda, along with Melinda Newman, who is a virtuoso oboe player as
well as a scholar, were the people who helped me the most to put together the
Tri-Centric Ensemble. I want my work to be connected with American masters
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of her caliber.
TP: "Piano Piece #1 " was performed by Hildegarde Kleeb, who is a member of
the Tri-Centric Ensemble.
AB: Hildegarde Kleeb, in this period, is recording the complete piano musics, and
I could not have been more fortunate. She is a virtuoso and dedicated musician.
My hope is that in the coming cycle, I will have the tri-partial solo musics
documented in a way where I can begin to. . . For music students who are
interested in the science of possibilities, I can play examples of the Mutable Logic
Vocabulary Musics as a context to talk about Mutable Logic similarities and
differences. Because of Miss Kleeb, I will soon be able to talk of the Stable Logic
similarities and differences, and synthesis strategies that permeate the Stable
Logic structures. In compositions like "113" I am able to have examples of the
Ritual and Ceremonial Synthesis Musics, which seek to combine methodology
and process with the fire of intention.
TP: The quartet music we just heard was a departure from the instrumental
configuration you've appeared with over the years, where you have played
saxophone. The quartet formation seems to be an ideal situation, a laboratory
format within you are able to contain all of your music.
AB: Well, the quartet musics have changed over the years. In the beginning, I
approached the quartet musics from a post-Coleman perspective that would
establish thematic identities, and from that point improvisational elaboration in
an open time-space continuum. Later, as I began to factor compositional
procedures, I would move into more schematicized musics that sought to plot
strategies within the total schematic time space. Later, I would find that the
quartet would be the proper forum to begin the trimetric implementations.
TP: By which you mean? Trimetric: One term to elaborate for the audience.
AB: By the term "trimetric" in this context, I am saying that by 1980, I had
arrived at a point in my system where every composition would have three-by-
three components; three-by-three-by-three components. And by that I'm
saying, for example, the bass part of "Composition 83" can be extracted and
itself be played by the orchestra. Every composition is an orchestra piece. Every
composition is a chamber piece. Every composition is a solo piece. But it's even
more than that. Every composition can be connected to another state. That is,
every composition at this point is composed with respect to its origin identity
state, with respect to its correspondence identity state, and finally with respect
to its synthesis identity state.
And what that means is, suddenly there would be the opportunity to put
compositions together. . . Imagine a giant erector set where every component
can be refashioned based on the dictates of the moment. By adopting this
structural context, I would in fact find myself in a post-Baroque structural arena
that would seek to emphasize trimetric, or three-dimensional components.
What am I saying? I am saying that. . .as we move into the next thousand
years, it will be important to remember that the new technologies are already
here. We have already, for all practical purposes, arrived at the future as
envisioned, say, in science fiction imagery of what's going to constitute the
future. . . I remember Dick Tracy having a television in his watch. And so now I
go to Radio Shack -- there it is! We are moving to the post-future components.
The nature of the breakthroughs in technology, in computer science, for
example, has brought us to a point where we have virtual reality systems. And I
believe in the future, a given creative experience will evolve, every individual
having a chance to interact with that experience -- a walk into the music. Turn
on the television set, walk into the television set. Walk into the music and have
the opportunity and have the opportunity to kick it about in the same way as
the musicians.
And as we move into this state, I have tried to, with my model, create a tri-
metric component that will better clarify three-dimensional constructs as it will
relate to navigation through the sonic reins based on trimetric correspondence.
Menu logics. Navigational components. This, I feel, will be a part of the next
thousand years. And the quartet musics for me is the platform for the trimetric
breakthroughs of my system. What that means is, where in the past
"Composition 27" was only performed one time, and I had like 12 tons of music
in the basement not being performed, suddenly, the trimetric breakthroughs of
my system would give me the possibility to have all of that material integrated
into the quartet context, where a given performance of the quartet would give
possibilities where a "Composition 96 For Orchestra and Four Slide Projectors"
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could be suddenly performed by the quartet. Not only that, we could perform
"Composition 96" and connect it to "Composition 108-A."
As a result, in this time period, the quartet has demonstrated the trimetric
components of my system. And by that, I'm only saying stable logic events,
stable logic events in the sense of, say. . . For instance, Marilyn Crispell might
play "Composition 30," which is a notated structure from beginning to end, in
the space. At the same time, Gerry Hemingway and Mark Dresser might play
"Composition 108-B," which is a pulse track, and I might take an improvisation
based on the language music materials. The net effect of that participation
establishes individual events, local events, and summation events.
This is what I mean by "trimetric." And I mention this in the context of the
quartet at this time period as a platform for multiple logic strategies. And so to
answer your question: Yes, the quartet musics have become the platform for all
of the strategies and materials of my system, in the sense that, in this time
period, we can take any of the constructs and use it for our purposes.
Let me say this, though -- because this could be important. As Ronald Reagan
would say, "There he goes again!" I'm talking about process and science. I can
imagine some of my enemies saying, "Yeah, I told you he wasn't jazz!" [Pauses,
breathes deeply]
Let me back up. I talk about the processes of the music because I am excited
about music science. But in fact, at the heart of my effort is only to have an
experience in music and to kick it about in the old way, to have some fun, to
hopefully play something that can mean something to myself, and to have an
involvement with the family of the music -- the family in this context being the
quartet. As far as I am concerned, there's no difference in my work from that of
someone like George Clinton, or Barbra Streisand. I love music, and my intention
has always been, or at least my hope has always been, that people will like the
music, and that it can be something positive. We can play music. It's just music.
That's all I was interested in.
All I've tried to do is have an involvement that respects what I have learned
about the tradition. But not simply an academic involvement or a scientific
involvement. I have tried to approach my music from the very beginning based
on the constructs given to me by Frankie Lymon and Bill Haley and the Comets.
And of course, Little Richard, who I guess was complex for me in the beginning,
but later I found myself thinking, "Little Richard is the Man, and there's nothing
that be done about it. Bow to the great master, and learn from him." All I have
wanted to do, since I couldn't sing like Marvin Gaye, who was my man. . . I
found myself thinking, "Well, what can you do? You don't have the voice, so you
might as well learn an instrument and kick it about."
That's what I have tried to do, and that would be how I would want my music to
be perceived. Not as a scientific laboratory, because I am not interested in
science before music. All I wanted to do was to create a context of musics
where we could do our best, and at the same time stay aligned to the
fundamental components of our discipline. It is not a laboratory. It's more like a
Jurassic Park.
TP: I'd like to discuss other aspects of the distinctive terminology that you use in
your discourse on music. One word you've repeated a number of times in the
course of our conversation today is "restructuralist." What is a restructuralist?
How does a restructuralist function within a tradition of music?
AB: By the term "restructuralist," I am only referring to those points of definition
where the fundamental components of the given construct are realigned in a
way to. . .to allow for fresh possibilities. And this is a normal component in
progressionalism.
Charlie Parker was a restructuralist, the American master Max Roach was a
restructuralist in that they. . . Mr. Roach would bring together a context of
formalism that did not exist before he began his work. The same with Charlie
Parker. His music would be the summation logic from the Fifth Restructural Cycle
components, or Fourth Restructural Cycle components in Kansas City. And
Charlie Parker's music would open up a new context. . .a fresh context of, one,
line-forming logics; two, his music would bring with it a fresh rhythmic
component; three, his music would reemphasize individual postulation in a way
that was fresh and different from, say, the swing era.
John Cage would be an example of a restructuralist composer who would
respond to the dictates and dynamics of Western art music and rearrange the
components of the music in a way that would bring about the possibility for fresh
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experiences.
Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Coltrane are restructuralists in the sense that
the reality of their involvement would bring forth fresh solutions in a way that
would allow for fresh areas of exploration, fresh concepts of vocabulary, fresh
concepts of interaction dynamics, and a fresh integration of material
components.
By "restructuralist" and by the term "restructuralism," I am only referring to
those points of progressionalism or of continuity that realigns fundamental
components.
Cecil Taylor would be a restructuralist. The Great Man would give us another
understanding of material integration. His record Unit Structures, for example,
would give us an understanding of extended form and extended time spaces in a
way that would give fresh areas of exploration for creative musicians or
musicians who wanted to be creative. And I will always be grateful for his
insistence on doing the work of the music based on the plane of the music,
based on his own individual tendencies and visions.
And so, by the term "restructuralist" and by the term "restructuralism," I am
only referring to natural points of change in a given construct, and that at those
points of change there is a possibility for a new continuum of involvement.
For instance, in the past 15 and 20 years, when I think of Miles Davis' quintet
with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams and Ron Carter, their
approach would provide a context for much of the stylistic variations taking
place in this time period. And when I think of the work of Charlie Parker,
suddenly I find myself thinking, "Wow, generations of musicians have been able
to have an experience based on the gains which came from the work of Mr.
Parker and Mr. Roach, Mr. Powell, and the work of the great Thelonious Monk."
Because of their courage and vision and insistence on evolving their music in a
way that was consistent with their own value systems and beliefs, we would
have the time period of the '50s and '60s and '70s and '80s and '90s where
generations of musicians would have the opportunity to participate in the devices
given to us from those individuals.
We must always acknowledge the fact that the gift of realignment comes from
the restructural masters and the restructural masters' tradition. And so that's
what I mean by the term "restructuralist," that without the work of the great
restructural masters, we would not have the kind of evolution that we enjoy as
part of our normal heritage. In fact, it's normal only because there has always
been a generation of men and women who have worked to give us more
options, not less options, and their work has vibrationally planted the paths and
possibilities that we enjoy as a nation, as a culture. I am very grateful to have
learned, or at least I'm trying to learn, from the wonderful restructuralist
tradition, the tradition that gives possibilities as opposed to taking away
possibilities.
TP: A second terminological question I think will also touch upon your own
specific metaphysics. In an interview that was done with you on the recent
quartet album, Victoriaville, you referred to the concept of "solar system
repetitive signature logics."
AB: I have tried, and I am trying in my work, to establish an involvement that is
consistent with my experiences and the body of information that's available on
the planet, that can be used in whatever way one wants to use it, to build a
music that would give me the opportunity to have the greatest possible
involvement. Because of that, I have tried to, well, have an involvement with
structural dynamics, have an involvement with idiomatic dynamics that could
increase choices as opposed to take away from choices.
By "solar system logics" in this context, I am only saying that the reality of a
given model is not separate from what parameters it addresses. For instance, if I
would say, "I want to play that Charlie Parker, I want to play bebop" in the way
that it had been defined from the masters in that 1940s-50s restructural cycle,
then suddenly I would use those properties and have an involvement with those
properties. What I saw, as a young guy growing up in Chicago who had the
benefit of experiencing and learning from masters like Max Roach or Harry
Partch. . . I wanted to create a construct that would give me an opportunity to
experience what I have learned from their work, as well as the work of an
American master like Dinah Washington or Barbra Streisand.
The concept of solar system logics, then, would not be separate from the move
towards imprint logic constructs that would be consistent with what we have
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learned about from astrology and from the position of the planets, and how
apparent physicality seems to work, the laws that underline apparent physicality.
I wanted, as a young man, and I want now to build a model and a construct that
takes into account the state of information in this time period, so that I would
have maximum exploratory possibilities.
The solar system structures, then, would be an attempt to take into account
that which has been given to us in terms of information about relationships in the
planets, and the concept and phenomenon of cycles and repetitive logics as a
way to encode identities which will be consistent with a particular space,
identities which will be stated and at some point come back as a way to delight
in the formal components of a given sound space. In the same way that, if we
played "A Night In Tunisia," a composition which establishes an identity space,
and then after that we'll play something like "Misty". . .
The beauty of bebop for me is. . . Well, one, it's so diverse. I mean, you can play
a so-called Latin composition. You can play a so-called ballad. You can play
within a particular harmonic strata or a set of chord progressions.
But in the post-Ayler sector of the music, which was the sector which moved
into the trans-harmonic implications that had been raised, as opposed to
atonality. . . I was never interested in atonality. I was interested in incorporating
and building up on that which already existed. In the trans- harmonic, in the
trans-structural components opened up by Albert Ayler and by the AACM,
suddenly there would be the possibility to build structural models that would
even take into account the solar system components of what we know about
as far as the relationship of the planets, as far as the wonder of the galaxy, and
how to factor that information into a broad, formal context that would give us,
as instrumentalists, more possibilities for exploratory experiences.
And so the solar system pulse track structures, as exemplified, say, by
"Composition 158" or "159" would be a way of taking that aspect of formalism,
cyclic logics as exemplified in the state of solar system relationships, and include
that in the music. This would, in my system, be another aspect of pulse track
strategies and formal states. And in doing so, solar system strategies in the
context of the music would give me the possibilities to have identities which are
evolving at short time-space distances, medium time-space distances, and
extended or very long time-space distances.
TP: In interviews you've mentioned that the respective orbits of Mercury, Mars
and Uranus would all have different velocities within a fixed system.
AB: Yes.
TP: And that could translate into what the musicians who are performing with
you would have as defined strategies for their improvising and performing within
a particular space.
AB: Yes. The understanding being that the reality of structure establishes a
context of relationships and identities, in the same way that the chord changes
of "How High The Moon" establishes a state of harmonic recognition that is
different from, say, playing the composition "Half Nelson." And of course, we
delight in playing both compositions. We delight in it because each composition
gives a state of possibilities. In my system, which is a trans-idiomatic system, I
sought to have the same components, as opposed to the concept of, "Oh,
okay, we're gonna play; it's free, man! Yay!" I wasn't interested in that. I was
more interested in establishing contexts of recognition, contexts of relationships
that would help to reflect the improvisational decisions and cast those decisions
in a state of recognition based on structural components that could be depended
upon, in the same way that "How High The Moon" has a state of chord changes
that helps to define the nature of the postulations taking place in it.
TP: Why do you use the term "post-Ayler music" to refer to the period you
identify with? Why is Albert Ayler the signpost at which music changes? And how
did he restructuralize the music to bring about this whole other field of
possibilities for the last several generations of musicians?
AB: I say "post-Ayler" because it's convenient, in the same way that the term
"post-Webern" is used. And yet, at the same time, I recognize it's complex. For
instance, we talk about post-Webern or the work of Arnold Schoenberg, and
somehow, in a way, it obscures the great work of composers like Scriabin, who
I feel is profoundly important, or the work of Harry Partch, or Ruth Crawford
Seeger. As far as I'm concerned, their work would help to bring about the
dynamic implications of the transidiomatic musics.
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Post-Ayler? Well, Albert Ayler's work would be a very clear way of talking of a
move not only of the trans-idiomatic musics, but Albert Ayler's music would
come to personify the emergence of sound mass logics as a context for
elaboration. Albert Ayler's music would go back to the source-initiated
components of the trans-African and composite American musics in that it gave
us an opportunity to experience the fresh fundamentals of the music. It gave us
an opportunity to look at the tenor saxophone in a fresh way, separate from
dialectical components involving pitch, involving the state of bebop by 1962 or
'63. Albert Ayler bypassed the functional components of extended bebop, and in
its place opened up sound mass logics, in its place opened up the folk
components of the music in terms of the use of marches, the beauty of
collective improvisation and the family of the music. Albert Ayler's music would
come to personify the reemergence of individual creativity and dynamics, and
how the individual in the post-nuclear age could begin to move forward and
redefine the components of the music.
Yet Mr. Ayler's work was not separate from what he learned from the great
American master Sun Ra, or the work of Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman, or
the work of Don Ellis. Nobody talks about Don Ellis! But Don Ellis was bad!!
So yes, "post-Ayler" is a convenient way of talking about the emergence of the
trans-harmonic musics, the entry into sound mass evolution as a logical-
unlogical response to the complexities that opened up after Beethoven.
TP: You are notorious for the avidity of your interest in chess, and your interest
in mathematics is evident to anyone who has followed your work. Can you
discuss the relationship between music, chess and mathematics?
AB: The beauty of chess for me is that it gives a wonderful opportunity to look
at structure and relationships, and intentions, and target strategies, and the
relationship between target strategies and variables and objectives, and fulfilling
objectives. The beauty of chess also extends into physics and pressures and. . . I
don't know. As far as I'm concerned, chess demonstrates everything. I mean,
there's something very beautiful about the dynamics of chess. I had to back
away from it, though. Suddenly, I found myself a grown man with three children,
my wife and myself, and here I was playing chess, doing my music, and I found
myself thinking. . . I had to get away from chess, because. . .I don't know. . .
Maybe I loved it too much.
TP: I'd like to reframe the earlier question about multi-instrumentalism. Lately
you've added piano to the arsenal of instruments on which you publicly perform.
Do different selves emerge when playing piano as opposed to saxophone? Do
different instruments bring out different aspects of your thought?
AB: As I've said, I wanted to have an involvement where all of me could be
involved. So to answer your question: Yes!
But to really answer your question, I would have to go back to the sign of the
triangle, which is the synthesis Third Partial emanations in my system. In this
context, I would talk of the twelve constructs of my system based through its
Third Plane Identities. By that I am only saying that if, in 1966, I talked of when
referring to the solo music processes, 12 components involving geosonic metric
constructs (I can't even say "metric". Boy, I need another beer!), I was referring
to, in that period, number one, long sounds; number two, accident long sounds;
number three, trios; number four, staccato line formulas; number five, intervallic
formulas; number six, multiphonics; number seven, short attacks; number eight,
angular attacks; number nine, legato formings; number ten, diatonic formings;
number 11, gradient formings; number 12, self-identity formings.
If, in the beginning, I would find geosonic constructs to provide the genesis
material that could help clarify definition for me as an improviser, to have an
involvement where I could measure similarities, differences and duplications, I
wanted to have that possibility, because I was not interested in repeating myself
unless it was part of a decision or strategy. From that point, I would seek to
extend the 12 constructs in its extended sense as it related to that which was
greater than me -- in this context, "greater than me" would be that which
involves the group.
As far as extended placements of those constructs, suddenly the long sound
became the sustained space -- static. Number two became the sequential space
-- active. Number three became trill strategies for the group. Number four
became staccato line formings, or very fast sequential logic bases for the group.
All the way down to 12.
Now, to answer your question, and your question is: Are there many different
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selves that can be expressed with different instruments? I would go back to
1966. Part of the challenge of that period would be to respond to the forethrust
of the restructural musics as it was offered to us. In that period, for instance, the
spectra of the individual as it relates to instrumental decisions and dynamics in
that period had already been set into place by master musicians like Rahsaan
Roland Kirk, who demonstrated the possibility of playing three instruments at
one time -- not to mention on one instrument he was a total virtuoso. There
would also be the great work of the American master Eddie Harris. We've
forgotten about Mr. Harris, but. . .
TP: Saxophone and piano.
AB: And trumpet! And he's always inventing instruments. When learning from
him in the '60s, I recall him talking of the importance of looking for different
ways of expressing yourself, and not aligning yourself on one instrument in a
way that would narrow your possibilities.
So by 1966, after I got out of the Army, I had experienced the work of Eric
Dolphy, who would advance and extend the technical domain of multi-
instrumentalism, the conceptual domain of multi-instrumentalism. He would hand
to the AACM a concept of multi-instrumentalism that would allow for the
possibility to express oneself on the flute, clarinet and the bass clarinet, and
postulations in the lower register where there are different kinds of logics needed
to have an "effective/uneffective" postulation, depending upon what the person
wants. For myself, I discovered that some of the music I was hearing on the
flute didn't translate on the baritone saxophone, but that it wasn't because the
baritone saxophone had in itself some kind of limitation. Rather, the baritone
saxophone has its own set of properties.
So it was because of the wonder of multi-instrumental dynamics that the AACM
was able to inherit that. The work of Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell and the
Art Ensemble of Chicago extended the concept of multi-instrumentalism to
include what Roscoe and Joseph referred to in that time period as "little
instruments." At that point, Leo Smith and I, we went out, we got garbage cans,
bricks, rocks. . . We couldn't let those guys out-do us! Anything we could find!
We were trying to keep up with those guys. It was part of the beauty of that
period. We were all bouncing off of one another, learning from one another.
Roscoe would build his own instruments. The work of the American master John
Cage would help us to have a broader understanding of instrumental dynamics
and possibilities. And I wanted to have that gain included in my music as well,
that being a broader understanding of sonic materials. So because of that, I have
tried whenever possible to think in terms of fresh instrumentations, fresh
combinations of instruments.
I mention that to say that by the Seventh Restructural Cycle of Musics, the
concept of multi-instrumentalism had even extended into different domains. And
I feel that one of the wonderful possibilities, or some of the wonderful
possibilities which have opened up in the last ten or 15 years has been the
wonder of instrumental dynamics and fresh timbre spaces. Too often, we've
found ourselves dealing with conventional instrumentations in a way that kind of
limits the possibilities. I mean, we think of jazz, we think of piano, bass and
drums, and saxophone and trumpet, or we think of classical music and we think
of string sections, brass, etc. But in fact, my interest in timbre dynamics
transcends the conventional categories.
What I would like in the future more and more would be ensembles which have
accordions, steel drums, garbage cans, bricks, not to mention defined
instrumental components and undefined components, that being, you're playing
the music and suddenly the Good Humor Ice Cream truck passes and becomes
a part of the piece. And so the beauty of timbre expansion has, for me, involved
looking for fresh instrumentations, a fresh combination of instruments, inclusion
of instruments not normally associated with the music -- mandolins, accordions,
whistles.
Now, back to your question: Can you reflect different aspects of yourself inside
your creativity? I would say yes. And in my system, in the Tri- Centric musics, I
have at this point been able to establish 12 points of identity which include 12
mythologies, or ways of being. I have taken that approach, because I felt then,
as now, that it might be possible to continue to extend upon those sub-spiritual
tendencies inside of us (which are not inside of us, which are inside of us), and to
express that as part of the atomic unit, nuclear unit of my system, and also as
part of an attempt to establish the poetic logics.
So in my system, rather than talk of, "Number One, long sounds," I can now talk
Shala. Rather than talk of "Number Two, accented long sounds," I talk of
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Ashmenton, and number three, Helena, Zakko, Ntzockie, Joreo, Sundance,
Bubba John-Jack, Ojuwain, David, Alva and Kim -- representing the 12 primary
characters of my system in its ritual and ceremonial state.
>From that point, in terms of projective fantasy structures, when I talk of my
system in its City-Nation form state scheme, I can now talk of a continent that
has 12 different states, and inside each state there is a way of being and a
system of connections. As such, by establishing and projecting that information
into its extended tri-centric contexts, I can now begin the process of mapping
and building structures to correspond with narrative structures. I have taken that
route because even though I am in love with the science of the music, in every
way, I have found that in the next time cycle, the kind of evolution that I wanted
could not be expressed based on a two- dimensional relationship to anything,
and that the meta-reality and myth secrets of my system could only be talked
about based on some poetic attempt to establish narrative constructs, so that I
could have the possibility then to talk of events in the Bubba John Jack sound
space, based on the secrets of Mr. John Jack, and based on the fantasy myth
story of Bubba John Jack.
I can take this approach, and jump past, or behind (depending upon how you
look at it; either way I'll take it) present-day complexities involving intellectual
snarls concerning: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or: Who killed who?
Did you kill me first, or did I kill you first? Or: How did you get to be so much of
a liberal that you became a Republican? Many of these questions, questions
which underlie assumptions in this time period that I respect and love and bow
to, have very little to do with how I have defined my work. Rather than figure
out who killed Cock Robin in 1722, my system is directed to the next thousand
years, and how we as a species can set constructs into place that can give us an
opportunity to make fresh mistakes as opposed to old mistakes.
[Music: "Comp. 173" (exc.); "Comp. 120" (1985); "Comp. 174" (1994)]
AB: The three compositions we just heard, the last three compositions that we
played, "Composition 173," "Composition 174" and "Composition 120," would
be an example of the new narrative logic musics. In the case of "Composition
173," this would be an example of the Tri-Mutable Logic Strategies, Tri- Mutable
Logic Strategies in the sense that "173" is composed with the use of combined
and created words, and inside of that there are synchronous hook-ups with an
improviser. The nature of the hookup has no bearings on Stable Logic pitch
information as much as contour. The improviser traces the contour of the actor.
TP: To what degree are the actors improvising within that?
AB: The text is written. The actors are reading but improvising. I never really told
the actors exactly what the play was about. In the future, I might have that as
part of the esthetics of the play. But in fact, within "Composition 173," the play,
there are three stories all happening at the same time. It just depends on
whatever the friendly experiencer feels comfortable with.
The first story is a group of people, four people, have just completed a bank
robbery, and they are about to expand out into the country to get away from
the police, and they are plotting ways to get out. That is the apparent story.
The secondary story is about mapping, mapping in the Tri-Mutable space, and
mapping in terms of having conjunction logics that would give the Friendly
Experiencer-Improviser an opportunity to have a postulation inside of a narrative
context that establishes the use of magic words (yes, I'll say that; magic
words), the use of interlocking strategies, and the use of spatial strategies. This
composition, "#173," then would be an example of the circle.
"Composition 174," which was the last piece we heard, is scored for ten
percussionists. A given performance of "174" in its origin state would involve
three screens of slide projectors. It is the story of a group of mountaineers, as
far as the apparent story. In fact, the secondary structural story is really about
mapping gradient logics, the idea of a mountain in this context and the story of
mountain climbing in this context represents a point to establish gradient logics. I
think "Composition #174" is in the 11th House, or Land Number 11, the
Alvalands.
The second composition was "Composition 120," which is "Trillium A." This was
the first of the Trillium Complex Operas. When completed, Trillium will contain 36
autonomous acts that can go together in any order to establish an opera
complex that will project the conceptual constructs of the Tri-Axium Writings,
which is my philosophical system, into the ritual and ceremonial space.
"Composition 120," then, is a dialogue form that seeks to portray the
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philosophical arguments in Tri-Axium writings.
The three compositions, then, "Composition 173," "174" and "Composition
120," would be three examples of the new narrative logic structures. This is one
of the areas of my work that I am very excited about. But so what?! [Loud
laugh]
TP: I'd like you to discuss the nature of your interaction with serious improvisers,
the impact of the individual personality of the people who perform your pieces
on the shape the pieces take, the way the pieces mutate over time, the way
your ideas about musical structures mutate over time.
AB: Good question. Thank you. Before responding to your question, I would like
to thank the American master, Steve Ben-Israel for the work that he has heen
doing, for helping me with "Composition 173." Mr. Ben-Israel has, from the very
beginning, been a part of the Living Theater, which was one of the restructural
movements in the '60s, restructural theater groups in the '60s. The work that
they did would open up possibilities in narrative logics, in dynamic imagery, and
give a fresh perspective of the possibilities for creative theater for the new
millennia. I would just to recognize that, by coming and helping me with
"Composition 173," in fact, he helped me on every level. It was a great honor to
have an opportunity to work with a master.
I'd also like to talk about Miss Aisha Beck, and the fact that Miss Beck, who is a
great master herself, comes from a lineage of masters, Julian Beck and Mrs.
Beck, Judith Molina. The work that they did I feel will be part of the next time
cycle. We will have to, as a culture, go back and re-examine some of the area
that we might not have been as excited about as we should have.
By the way, I only heard during this program that the American master Novelist
Arthur Taylor has passed. Of course, he was a master drummer, but I say
"novelist" because the implications of his work extend into the tri-partial space. I
had the good fortune to meet Mr. Taylor and have many experiences with him in
Paris, and I have long felt that on many levels his work was not always
appreciated and understood in the wake of the restructural work of Max Roach
or the American restructural master Roy Haynes, and even the work of Philly Joe
Jones in some ways would obscure the general particulars of Mr. Taylor's work.
But I mean, he's one of our great stylistic masters. And his writings have a
uniqueness and have a realness that come through actual experience as
opposed to speculation. So I was and I am very surprised to hear of his passing.
I hope his family is okay, and want to extend my feeling to his family and respect
to the great man.
So I wanted to say that. Now, your question. What was your question? [Laughs]
TP: Improvisers interpreting your music, and the interactive effect, back and
forth, between you and the improvisers and the improvisers on you, more or
less. Shaping pieces over time.
AB: Shaping pieces over time. For me, whenever I want to play music just by
myself, I have the solo experience. I love the solo experience. I can do anything
I want in the solo experience, including totally fail and have a pie thrown at me.
TP: Hopefully it's well baked.
AB: Well, hopefully. Or at least the kind of fruit pie strategies that won't hurt so
much.
But after the solo experience, as soon as the concept of duo comes into play,
my position has always been, I am interested in playing with the person I am
playing with, and the concept of structure for the duo context I have tried to
think in terms of logics and strategies that will give a possibility to have a fresh
experience. In my system, a quorum starts at the number three, and at the
number three, it's an orchestra piece.
In other words, there are really only three fundamental contexts in my system:
The solo experience, the chamber experience (that being the individual with
someone else), and the trio experience -- and the trio experience, for all
practical purposes, is the orchestra, in my system.
But maybe I should back up a bit. In my system, every piece is an orchestra
piece, every piece is a chamber piece, every piece is a solo piece. But that's just
on one plane. On the second plane, the bass part of "Composition 83" can itself
be extracted and played by four hundred flutes with tambourines. Or it can be
taken and played backwards, and hooked to something else. Finally, every
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composition of mine can be placed in a summation logic context, where it will aid
the predominant voices of whatever identity it is aligned with. This is a context of
structural connections that can be viewed in the same way that we talk of an
erector set, that can be put together in different ways depending upon the needs
of the moment.
Now, for your question, what does it mean to play music with someone and
what does that mean over time? Well, for me, it means proof that the Creator
has blessed me and given me incredible experiences. That I am still a virtuoso
complainer is only because I have my sense of humor. But in fact, the
opportunity to have a musical involvement is totally miraculous, and I try. . .
Whenever I play music with myself or with someone else, I try to do my best,
and inherent in that, when I think of what is so-called "the best" in my
understanding, it is: Make my mistakes, do the best I can do, have some fun,
kick it about, and try to have a relationship with postulation that is as honest as
it can be, and when it can't be honest, at least be creative, and construct an
Other when need be.
And I try to approach the music with the kind of positive energy that my
forefathers and foremothers taught me was important. When John Coltrane and
Martin Luther King, Jr., talked of the seriousness and beauty of community and
of trying to do your best, A Love Supreme. . . Mr. Coltrane was not talking
about sex, although of course I love sex -- hurray for sex and hurray for bodies.
But Mr. Coltrane was talking about love for the Creator, love for something
more than just a brick.
So to answer your question, I try to, in my sonic experiences, approach it with
the best attitude that I can bring to my work. My work represents the best part
of me. Lord knows, there are other parts. But my music represents my hopes,
that which I hope to be. And part of that is in playing with a person or having a
musical experience, I try to do the best that I can do, and respect myself and
the person that I'm playing with, and have the experience as honest/blank as
possible, with the hope that the experience can somehow mirror something that
reflects the real values that have allowed me to continue my work, and have
helped me to navigate a life through this period in time and to keep a relationship
with my work.
Reply With Quote
February 26th, 2008, 04:26 PM
I have no moral qualms with downloading any OOP music if Braxton is okay with
it (as another poster suggested he is... though I'm realizing now that probably
most if not all of what they have is still in print), but I really don't want the Feds
on my case or anything if they can track me down after downloading from this
site (I'm sure it would be very easy to do so). I just have memories of when all
those Napster users got hit with lawsuits. I don't know if anything came of
those, but still it's a hassle I don't want to deal with.
From that mp3 website there's this legal disclaimer:
http://mp3fiesta.com/publication/legal.html
#36
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apricissimus
Registered User
Originally Posted by papsrus
I second (or third, or fourth ...) the Montreux-Berlin Concerts disc. Might be hard to find a
CD, but there are downloadable versions. Here's a site that offers the disc at 256 kbps (not
bad). Not sure how legit it is. Here's another site.
There's a copy of Dortmund here, for the insanely wealthy ... (or just insane. I paid a
higher price for my copy. No regrets). I see it available here again for download at 256
kbps. Here's a full list of their Braxton stuff. (This site has to be bootleg, given the stupidly
low prices. Disclosure -- I've never used them, but ... the music's there).
So I'd try those downloads of Dortmund and Montreux first (hopefully it's a legit site, but I
wonder). Then Conference of the Birds, the 85 quartet discs and the Iridium box here or
here.
The copyright observation requires you to use the music files presented on MP3fiesta.com
for private listening only. The Site Administration cannot control the use of materials,
presented on MP3fiesta.com. Downloading music files from our Site, Customer takes
liability for its further use. This responsibility depends on national legislation of the country
where the Customer resides.
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Does anyone know how this applies to residents of the good ol' US of A?
Reply With Quote
February 26th, 2008, 04:34 PM
yeah! I just finished that book last week. I found it very interesting! Sometimes
funny, and moving, too. Highly recommended !
#37
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FrankisYB
Registered User
Originally Posted by jlhoots
Graham Lock: Forces In Motion - great book on Braxton
Reply With Quote
February 26th, 2008, 04:38 PM
I bought a LP called "the complete braxton 1971" which has kenny wheeler in it.
And I'm going to see a gerry hemingway concert in NYC soon !!
#38
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FrankisYB
Registered User
Originally Posted by 3Q15
Okay...
I'm looking for a Braxton disc that includes Wheeler, Holland, and Altschul... but I can't tell
which (if any) entries in that magnificicicent discography has this line-up. Can someone
help?
(Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Quartet Dortmund includes Wheeler. I still want
it though. Is it available anywhere?)
Reply With Quote
February 26th, 2008, 05:08 PM
"News From The 70's"
http://www.tvondvdshop.com/rel/v2_vi...80222&affnr=-1
"Five Pieces,1975"
"The Complete Braxton" (on Freedom)
"New York, Fall 1974" (with Jerome Cooper instead of Altschul)
"The Montreux/Berlin Concerts"
#39
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CoyotePalace
Heuristic of the Mystic
Originally Posted by 3Q15
Okay...
I'm looking for a Braxton disc that includes Wheeler, Holland, and Altschul... but I can't tell
which (if any) entries in that magnificicicent discography has this line-up. Can someone
help?
(Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Quartet Dortmund includes Wheeler. I still want
it though. Is it available anywhere?)
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"Anthony Braxton Live" (much of the same material as Montreux on Bluebird)
"Creative Orchestra Music 1976" (with Wheeler and Holland)
"Quartet (Dortmund) 1976"
all excellent and highly recommended!!!
Reply With Quote
February 26th, 2008, 05:42 PM
You can safely add :
'Quartet Live at Moers Festival (Ring 01010-11) 1974 2lp set
to the above list of the quartets' great records.
Cat
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catatone
Registered User
Reply With Quote
February 26th, 2008, 06:08 PM
The RIAA which brings actions against illegal sites probably doesn't represent
most jazz artists in any case and I doubt whether you'd be at risk from them.
The problem is that Braxton will not benefit a cent from these sites. Going by
those prices you can be sure they haven't the license to distrubute these mp3s
and besides, most of the stuff is available elsewhere at fairer prices. The
Dortmund would probably be ok with Braxton but i'm not sure he'd like these
sites to benefit seeing as how they're ripping him off on the other titles.
It's interesting that one of Braxton's main outlets on Disc, the Leo label in the
UK, appears to have withdrawn from Emusic.com. The reasons arent clear but
begs the question as to whether they thought it was worth their while to allow
partial Mp3 downloads of albums as they do at that site.
I've supported Emusic.com in the past but am not sure if I will in the future. Their
customer relations are now very poor and it would appear you can't cancel your
account permanently, only suspend it for three months.
Cat
#41
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catatone
Registered User
Originally Posted by apricissimus
I have no moral qualms with downloading any OOP music if Braxton is okay with it (as
another poster suggested he is... though I'm realizing now that probably most if not all of
what they have is still in print), but I really don't want the Feds on my case or anything if
they can track me down after downloading from this site (I'm sure it would be very easy to
do so). I just have memories of when all those Napster users got hit with lawsuits. I don't
know if anything came of those, but still it's a hassle I don't want to deal with.
From that mp3 website there's this legal disclaimer:
http://mp3fiesta.com/publication/legal.html
Does anyone know how this applies to residents of the good ol' US of A?
Reply With Quote
February 26th, 2008, 08:13 PM
Is this an update of the '96 edition, or it just a re-printing?
#42
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gregk
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Originally Posted by catatone
For the musicians among us there is Mike Heffley's 500 page defintive guide to his musical
techniques : 'The Music Of Anthony Braxton'. Here's a rather good sample of it:
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Reply With Quote
February 26th, 2008, 08:41 PM
Braxton titles currently available on iTunes:
Solo (Koln)1978
23 Standards (Quartet) 2003
Circle-Paris Concert
In The Tradition, Vol. 1 and Vol.2
News From The 70's
Quartet (Birmingham) 1985
19 (Solo) Compositions,1988
Solo (Milano) 1979, Vol.1
Four Compositions (Duets) 2000
Anthony Braxton Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997 Vol.3
Quartet (Coventry) 1985
20 Standards (Quartet)2003
Eight Compositions (Quintet)2001
9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006
Silence/Time Zones
Duets (with Joe Fonda)
Six Compositions (GTM) 2001
Composition No.94 For Three Instrumentalists 1980
2 Compositions (Jarvenpaa) 1988
2+2 Compositions
Quartet (London) 1985
Nonetet (Yoshi's) 1997, Vol.1
Composition No.165
Nine Compositions (Hill)2000
and
Chick Corea-The Song Is You
#43
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CoyotePalace
Heuristic of the Mystic
Reply With Quote
February 27th, 2008, 02:08 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASBXkCOt28E&NR=1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1VmR...eature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1VuZ...eature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0o0AYFRFX7g
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8OWA...eature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nCY-...eature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiPAP...eature=related
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February 27th, 2008, 02:44 PM
A taster of Mike Heffley's "The Music of
Anthony Braxton" book:
http://books.google.com/books?
id=0yS...ottom-3results
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February 27th, 2008, 02:46 PM
A link to Braxton's own "Tri-Axiom" and
other writings:
http://www.frogpeak.org/fpartists/fpbra
xton.html
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February 27th, 2008, 02:51 PM
Link to a FANTASTIC detailed discography of things Braxtonian!!!
http://www.restructures.net/BraxDisco/BraxDisco.htm
http://www.restructures.net/index.html
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February 27th, 2008, 02:57 PM
Link to Braxton writings...research on various topics:
http://www.wesleyan.edu/music/braxton/papers/
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February 27th, 2008, 03:00 PM
A talk given by Braxton in 1985:
http://www.archive.org/details/BraxtonSOM
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February 27th, 2008, 03:04 PM
Follow this link to listen to Composition No.186:
#50
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http://artofthestates.org/cgi-bin/piece.pl?pid=12
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February 27th, 2008, 03:09 PM
Link to a lengthy and meaty lecture on Braxton:
http://mheffley.web.wesleyan.edu/alm...0Tradition.pdf
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February 27th, 2008, 03:15 PM
That really is a fantastic and useful wesite. Thanks!
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Originally Posted by CoyotePalace
Link to a FANTASTIC detailed discography of things Braxtonian!!!
http://www.restructures.net/BraxDisco/BraxDisco.htm
http://www.restructures.net/index.html
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February 27th, 2008, 03:45 PM
Is that a goldmine or what?
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Originally Posted by John L
That really is a fantastic and useful wesite. Thanks!
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February 27th, 2008, 05:14 PM
Yeah restructures is a great site. They had a whip round for Braxton's 60th
birthday there and were able to give him a sizeable gift on behalf of his fans; a
small thank you for all the wonderful music he's given us over 40 years.
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#55
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February 27th, 2008, 05:28 PM
With the current research I've been doing on Braxton's work, I'm noticing a real
appreciation and respect for him with younger folks that sort of surprises me.
"For Alto" was my first experience of hearing Braxton's music. I bought that
album when it first came out, listened to it constantly, was completely humbled
by the immensity of it all, and exposed other musicians to the music, but few
even tolerated it (let alone liked or respected it). Sure, most people are still like
that (just read some of the comments on youtube), but there is a grassroots
'new world' perspective out there that is downright heartening!
It's amazing the amount of LOVE that Braxton puts into his music!
I think Albert Ayler was right when he stated that 'music is the healing force of
the universe'!
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February 27th, 2008, 07:44 PM
I like to think i'm one of the younger ones but there's younger fans than me
going by his gigs in Glasgow, Scotland two years back. I think even in the 70's if
i'm correct, Braxton had a decent sized following among university/college
students and maybe theres a similar level of iconicity to Sun Ra who trancended
jazz in audience terms as far as back as the late 60's.
I think thers a lot of interest in free jazz coming not just from electronic
experimentalists but also the post-modern practitioners of the heavy metal
genre who make common cause with the music's sonic extremes. Thurston
Moore of 'Sonic Youth' has done much to promote this interest as a well known
free jazz devotee and remember that this phenomenon has echoes of the MC5
who in the 1960's dedicated concerts to Ayler Ra and Coltrane and tried to bring
elemnts of their intensity into the rock arena.
Braxton is similarly open to a lot of confrontational, noise-metal musics from the
fringes of experimental post-rock check out the records with Wolf Eyes and
Weasel Walter to name but two. It's maybe not surprising given the crossovers
elsewhere between DJ's, drum 'n bass musicians and guys like Derek Bailey or
Matthew Shipp but as you say its heartening.
Hopefully others can chime in with their thoughts about this phenomenon. Does
this imply then that free jazz as one poster suggested in another thread really
has more to do with a punk rock and/or sonic experimenation ethic than it does
with jazz?
Cat
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Originally Posted by CoyotePalace
With the current research I've been doing on Braxton's work, I'm noticing a real
appreciation and respect for him with younger folks that sort of surprises me.
"For Alto" was my first experience of hearing Braxton's music. I bought that album when it
first came out, listened to it constantly, was completely humbled by the immensity of it all,
and exposed other musicians to the music, but few even tolerated it (let alone liked or
respected it). Sure, most people are still like that (just read some of the comments on
youtube), but there is a grassroots 'new world' perspective out there that is downright
heartening!
It's amazing the amount of LOVE that Braxton puts into his music!
I think Albert Ayler was right when he stated that 'music is the healing force of the
universe'!
Reply With Quote
February 28th, 2008, 03:35 AM
braxton with wolf eyes black vomit cd is great but not for the weak by any
means.
i also have a live track on a cd comp from some weird zine called banana fish. its
braxton with a couple of others i cant think of now from some college back in 86
or so. great stuff.
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SPACE IS THE PLACE
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February 28th, 2008, 09:02 AM
Mortlock, please check out the link on post #50 for some 'other' Braxton music.
The Wolf Eyes is awesome, but only a drop in the Braxton bucket. Welcome to
the thread!!!
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Originally Posted by mortlock
braxton with wolf eyes black vomit cd is great but not for the weak by any means.
i also have a live track on a cd comp from some weird zine called banana fish. its braxton
with a couple of others i cant think of now from some college back in 86 or so. great stuff.
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February 28th, 2008, 06:57 PM
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All Things Anthony Braxton!!! 19/09/2014
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Just some of the instruments that Braxton plays...and plays well!
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February 28th, 2008, 07:03 PM
Whoops!!! Wrong Tony Braxton!!!

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February 28th, 2008, 07:38 PM
^^ Well that's obvious. There's no
cardigan. Sheesh .....
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Originally Posted by CoyotePalace
Whoops!!! Wrong Toni Braxton!!!

"There comes a time in all of our lives where silence is a betrayal." -- The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr.
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February 29th, 2008, 10:12 AM
How do you all feel about the Anthony Braxton approach to standards? I heard a
few recently on the radio here in NY and was curious to hear what YOU think?
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February 29th, 2008, 04:18 PM
while i'm interested in Braxton, have read and own Forces In Motion (great
book!), and admire many of his ideas and musics, i remember a long time ago
buying a cassette (yeah, that's right - cassette) of standards by him. it may
have even been called Standards. all i remember thinking was how stiff it
sounded. just uncomfortable to listen to and altogether boring. but that was like
15 years ago or so. haven't heard any since then. seems his own music is his
thing for sure
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Originally Posted by Vic J
How do you all feel about the Anthony Braxton approach to standards? I heard a few
recently on the radio here in NY and was curious to hear what YOU think?
Reply With Quote
February 29th, 2008, 05:00 PM
The jury is out for me. Theres no denying the spirit he plays them with. My
problem isn't even that he can fluff some of the heads here and there. It's that
his phrasing and his curious relationship to swing just arent right for some of the
material I feel.
For example on his With the 1993 Parker album there are times when you don't
know if he's lost his way in the form or not; and i've a feeling he wasn't the only
one! His phrasing on 'Bebop' I thought sat awkwardly at times then he pulled it
round with some overblown runs.
Dont get me wrong; I like it when he pulls it off and makes the song a vehicle for
what he does. I'm not expecting note perfect antiseptic perfection. But when
theres a sense of confusion it affects the performance. In some parts of the
patchily good '23 standards' from 2005 set you got the impression when he
soloed, the rest of the band weren't with him all the way at times.
He's really good on Giant Steps among other undoubted highlights though and
overall it may be his best standard disc(s). Should've been edited better IMO.
I'm not convinced by his 1987 Monk interpretations either; others will disagree. I
just dont think it lends itself to Braxton's 'maximalist' deluge of notes, his
tendency to 'thrash' the material.
Personally I think he's using these forms as a way cutting loose like he used to in
his 70s' freebop manner which I prefer him doing on his own material. I wonder
if he really needs to do it or maybe it's a riposte to the neo-conservative
brigade.. a way of showing he can play 'the changes' without being inhibited or
overly- respectful of them. If so he succeeds on that score at least.
Just my two cents worth. what do YOU think Vic?
Cat
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Originally Posted by Vic J
How do you all feel about the Anthony Braxton approach to standards? I heard a few
recently on the radio here in NY and was curious to hear what YOU think?
Reply With Quote
February 29th, 2008, 06:12 PM
#65
papsrus
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I generally agree with this. I have a smattering of his standards albums, including
the "Charlie Parker Project," "23 Standards" and "20 Standards." I enjoy them
all to an extent, but a lot of it does sound like Braxton imposing his ideas and his
way of playing onto the framework of the songs, rather than him digging into
the tunes to mine the melodies on their own terms.
However, I can say without reservation that his disc with pianist Ran Blake, "A
Memory of Vienna," stands apart from any other standards discs I've heard by
him. His phrasing and tone are even and relaxed, and his rendering of 'Round
Midnight is beautiful. Here's the track listing:
1. Round Midnight
2. Yardbird Suite
3. You Go To My head
4. Just Friends
5. Alone Together
6. Four
7. Soul Eyes
8. I'm Getting Sentimental Over You
I own somewhere around 20 Braxton discs of various flavors, and this one
stands apart for it's sensitivity and sentimentality, really. It's a startling disc for
Braxton, IMO. He may have done others similar to this, but I've not heard them.
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Originally Posted by catatone
The jury is out for me. Theres no denying the spirit he plays them with. My problem isn't
even that he can fluff some of the heads here and there. It's that his phrasing and his
curious relationship to swing just arent right for some of the material I feel.
For example on his With the 1993 Parker album there are times when you don't know if
he's lost his way in the form or not; and i've a feeling he wasn't the only one! His phrasing
on 'Bebop' I thought sat awkwardly at times then he pulled it round with some overblown
runs.
Dont get me wrong; I like it when he pulls it off and makes the song a vehicle for what he
does. I'm not expecting note perfect antiseptic perfection. But when theres a sense of
confusion it affects the performance. In some parts of the patchily good '23 standards'
from 2005 set you got the impression when he soloed, the rest of the band weren't with
him all the way at times.
He's really good on Giant Steps among other undoubted highlights though and overall it
may be his best standard disc(s). Should've been edited better IMO.
I'm not convinced by his 1987 Monk interpretations either; others will disagree. I just dont
think it lends itself to Braxton's 'maximalist' deluge of notes, his tendency to 'thrash' the
material.
Personally I think he's using these forms as a way cutting loose like he used to in his 70s'
freebop manner which I prefer him doing on his own material. I wonder if he really needs
to do it or maybe it's a riposte to the neo-conservative brigade.. a way of showing he can
play 'the changes' without being inhibited or overly- respectful of them. If so he succeeds
on that score at least.
Just my two cents worth. what do YOU think Vic?
Cat
"There comes a time in all of our lives where silence is a betrayal." -- The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr.
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February 29th, 2008, 06:29 PM
Makes me want to check that one out. Thanks for the heads-up papsrus.
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February 29th, 2008, 06:47 PM
#67
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There's a quartet record he did with Kevin Mcneal on guitar, I heard a cut on
WKCR, it's something I'd like to check out further. While Braxton played similar
to his other standard recordings, Kevin Mcneal's playing was a balance of playing
the changes and alot of energetic Braxtonism's that made me not get out of my
car until I found out who was playing guitar. It's on a 5 disc set that I recently bid
for on ebay, but was unable to win.
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February 29th, 2008, 08:35 PM
That's a really nice shot of Toni Braxton at the top of the page..Right..I wonder if
we all took a blindfold test of Braxton playing standards and we were told that it
was Anthony Stugots (excuse me, I'm from Jersey) would we like it as much or
think it was hip, wrong notes on the changes and all. Where do you draw the
line. I am not making a judgement either way but in your heart of hearts what
do you really think? I am anxiously awaiting some honest answers to my
question.
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February 29th, 2008, 09:17 PM
I guess I'd say, "Geez, old Stugots sounds a lot like Braxton." I'm listening to the
20 Standards album now and the real highlight for me is Kevin O'Neil on guitar.
Amazing. But Braxton's playing is pretty distinctive here. I'm pretty certain I'd
pass a blindfold test on these discs. ... I think.
He does have that distinctive way he bites off the notes, almost as if he playing
out in front of the tune, rather than, say, behind it. And he's quite a quiet player,
really, even when he's flying around.
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Originally Posted by Vic J
That's a really nice shot of Toni Braxton at the top of the page..Right..I wonder if we all
took a blindfold test of Braxton playing standards and we were told that it was Anthony
Stugots (excuse me, I'm from Jersey) would we like it as much or think it was hip, wrong
notes on the changes and all. Where do you draw the line. I am not making a judgement
either way but in your heart of hearts what do you really think? I am anxiously awaiting
some honest answers to my question.
"There comes a time in all of our lives where silence is a betrayal." -- The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr.
Reply With Quote
February 29th, 2008, 09:28 PM
#70
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Originally Posted by Vic J
How do you all feel about the Anthony Braxton approach to standards? I heard a few
recently on the radio here in NY and was curious to hear what YOU think?
Originally Posted by playground
while i'm interested in Braxton, have read and own Forces In Motion (great book!), and
admire many of his ideas and musics, i remember a long time ago buying a cassette
(yeah, that's right - cassette) of standards by him. it may have even been called
Standards. all i remember thinking was how stiff it sounded. just uncomfortable to listen to
and altogether boring. but that was like 15 years ago or so. haven't heard any since then.
seems his own music is his thing for sure
Originally Posted by catatone
The jury is out for me. Theres no denying the spirit he plays them with. My problem isn't
even that he can fluff some of the heads here and there. It's that his phrasing and his
curious relationship to swing just arent right for some of the material I feel.
For example on his With the 1993 Parker album there are times when you don't know if
he's lost his way in the form or not; and i've a feeling he wasn't the only one! His phrasing
on 'Bebop' I thought sat awkwardly at times then he pulled it round with some overblown
runs.
All Things Anthony Braxton!!! 19/09/2014
http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/showthread.php?29539-All-Things-Anthony-Braxton!!! 70 / 237
you got 4 (well... 3 and 1/2) very direct answers to your very straight forward
question. and you next post that you await some 'honest' answers? it's obvious
from your post that you don't like Braxton's playing on standards. correct me if
i've gotten the wrong impression from your post. that's fine. and if you read our
responses you'll see that we pretty well share your feeling.
why would you call our responses dishonest? were they not sufficiently negative
enough toward Braxton for you to consider them honest? you say you're not
making a judgement, but it seems to me that's exactly what you're doing. about
Braxton and about our responses to your question too.
what up?
...when theres a sense of confusion it affects the performance. In some parts of the
patchily good '23 standards' from 2005 set you got the impression when he soloed, the
rest of the band weren't with him all the way at times.
Personally I think he's using these forms as a way cutting loose like he used to in his 70s'
freebop manner which I prefer him doing on his own material. I wonder if he really needs
to do it or maybe it's a riposte to the neo-conservative brigade.. a way of showing he can
play 'the changes' without being inhibited or overly- respectful of them. If so he succeeds
on that score at least.
Just my two cents worth. what do YOU think Vic?
Cat
Originally Posted by papsrus
I generally agree with this. I have a smattering of his standards albums, including the
"Charlie Parker Project," "23 Standards" and "20 Standards." I enjoy them all to an extent,
but a lot of it does sound like Braxton imposing his ideas and his way of playing onto the
framework of the songs, rather than him digging into the tunes to mine the melodies on
their own terms.
However, I can say without reservation that his disc with pianist Ran Blake, "A Memory of
Vienna," stands apart from any other standards discs I've heard by him.
Originally Posted by sounds212001
There's a quartet record he did with Kevin Mcneal on guitar, I heard a cut on WKCR, it's
something I'd like to check out further. While Braxton played similar to his other standard
recordings, Kevin Mcneal's playing was a balance of playing the changes and alot of
energetic Braxtonism's that made me not get out of my car until I found out who was
playing guitar. It's on a 5 disc set that I recently bid for on ebay, but was unable to win.
Originally Posted by Vic J
I wonder if we all took a blindfold test of Braxton playing standards and we were told that
it was Anthony Stugots (excuse me, I'm from Jersey) would we like it as much or think it
was hip, wrong notes on the changes and all. Where do you draw the line. I am not
making a judgement either way but in your heart of hearts what do you really think? I am
anxiously awaiting some honest answers to my question.
Reply With Quote
March 1st, 2008, 12:10 AM
'Your Honour the prosecution is leading the witness' ...'sustained !!!'
I thought I was trying to be even handed about your question. There's a few
tracks on '23 standards' like the mess made of 'Its A Raggy Waltz' and 'Black
Orpheus' ..which arent strong performances; the latter has too many wrong
notes for me.
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Originally Posted by Vic J
That's a really nice shot of Toni Braxton at the top of the page..Right..I wonder if we all
took a blindfold test of Braxton playing standards and we were told that it was Anthony
Stugots (excuse me, I'm from Jersey) would we like it as much or think it was hip, wrong
notes on the changes and all. Where do you draw the line. I am not making a judgement
either way but in your heart of hearts what do you really think? I am anxiously awaiting
some honest answers to my question.
All Things Anthony Braxton!!! 19/09/2014
http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/showthread.php?29539-All-Things-Anthony-Braxton!!! 71 / 237
But theres very good stuff in there too which I can honestly say I enjoyed. And
he's definitely better when he sticks to alto I think in this context.
I'm sure if we all discussed the same piece of music here it might be easier to
agree. But i've no idea what Braxton standards you heard since you haven't
specified.. some are most definitely better than others.
If there was a blindfold test I'd know it was Braxton instantly no matter what I
was being told... wrong notes or not. In these times of so many anonymous
sound-alikes how many players can boast the most cherished of jazz virtues;
their own sound. In the end thats what communicates in the best of his playing
here just as it does when were talking of any great player.
Waddaya want from me; an outright condemnation of the guy?
Cat
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March 1st, 2008, 05:10 AM
No one is calling anyone's responses "Dishonest"..I wasn't looking for this type
of outrage either. Just discussion about the music. Don't speak for me, stick to
the music discussion of how you feel. I like alot of Anthony's music.
#72
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March 1st, 2008, 12:09 PM
ANTHONY BRAXTON - CHARLIE PARKER PROJECT 1993
Hatology 2-612
Braxtons single-composer tribute albums began in the late 1980s with the Monk
album for Black Saint and the Marsh/Tristano album for Hat Art. After a few
years gap came this double-album, which remains something of a lightning-rod
for discussions of Braxtons abilities as a player of standards. It takes a different
tack from most of his other standards projects, which have typically featured
relatively conventional rhythm-section accompaniment; instead, hes surrounded
here by a crew of sly-devil avant-gardists who arent shy about messing around
with or just plain messing up these tunes. Trumpeter Paul Smoker (who
used to work with the reclusive bebopper Dodo Marmarosa, by the way) and
saxophonist Ari Brown fill out the front line, and theres a jolting-jalopy rhythm
section: Misha Mengelberg on piano, Joe Fonda on bass, and Han Bennink (disc
one) or Pheeroan AkLaff (disc two) on drums.
The original sessions took place over three days a Zrich concert and then two
days in the studio in Kln. Several tracks were discarded because of recording
flaws, which might explain the not-quite-the-whole-story feel to the album:
Brown, for instance, is sidelined for long stretches, and AkLaff plays on only four
tracks (most of disc two is drummerless). The music on this reissue remains the
same as on first release but is given a welcome facelift by Peter Pfisters
remastering. The original cover (a close-up of Braxtons pensive head) has
unfortunately fallen foul of Hatologys current design programme, which favours
drab, unpopulated urban landscapes. Essays by Peter Niklas Wilson and Alex
Dutilh have been dropped from the liner notes, but at least Graham Locks
informative interview with Braxton is still included, and this time around the
composer credits are actually accurate. Pia Uehlingers original role as co-
producer is, as usual with Hatology reissues, quietly excised from the credits.
So whats this album about? The core problem is that any response to it is going
to be seriously overdetermined. There are free tracks on here, but many of
the tracks are faithful enough to bebop convention that you cant help
comparing them to competent bebop performances from which perspective
the playing here is often perfectly frightful. But, aha!, theres the readymade
argument: of course Braxton isnt interested in producing copybook bebop
hes interrogating the bebop legacy (Dan Warburton even uses the dread word
deconstruct...). From this perspective Braxton is faithful to the spirit of Charlie
Parker, not the dead letter. This is the point at which the Braxtonophile inevitably
mentions Wynton Marsalis, and the argument proceeds down a more or less
predictable path.
#73
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What makes playing wrong sound right? Its eventually up to the listener to
make that judgment call. But I get the impression that many Braxton fans are
unwilling to acknowledge how much is wrong. Which is just a sign of not paying
attention, or not wanting to because theres a lot wrong on this album by any
usual standard. First of all, Braxton loses his place a lot. On Hot House he goes
astray a mere 7 bars into the tune, fudges the second A section, and the band
finally has to drop a bar to sort things out in time for the B section. On
Passport he forgets where the B section is and adds an extra 16 bars. On
Dewey Square Braxton returns to the head at the wrong spot, and he and
Fonda are forced to fudge the ending. And its not just Braxton whos messing
up, its the whole band. The heads at the start of pieces are messy, and the
restatements at the end are worse: the players rarely manage to scramble back
to the head without lots of turned-around beats and extra bars. Koko, the
albums last track, turns into a real melee, unravelling after Misha plunks down
the opening chord of the B section (rather than the A section hes supposed to
be playing) and the others become increasingly befuddled.
Its not that seasoned mainstream jazz musicians dont make mistakes too
they do, all the time but that they also have highly developed damage-control
skills that permit rapid and sometimes unnoticeable recoveries. Whereas
problems here often go unresolved for long stretches: virtually all these tracks
feature extended ships-in-the-night passages from the rhythm section. (A
particularly awkward passage comes at the end of the live Klactoveesedstene:
Fonda and Bennink lose each other and never do hook up again.) To be sure, a
lot of this chaos is deliberately cultivated Bennink and AkLaff are each in his
own way equally unhelpful and Mengelberg is positively treacherous but this is
making a virtue of necessity. This band couldnt play it straight even if they
wanted to.
Does any of this matter, except to bookkeepers and the jazz police? In a certain
sense it doesnt Braxtons playing doesnt depend on exact harmonic
navigation anyway, so if he misses a few bars, so what. He tends to alternate
between two strategies: 1) leisurely which-way-am-I-going slithers up and down
the chromatic scale or the home scale of the piece, with a thinned-out, erratic
tone; and 2) fast-as-possible scurrying around, his tone now thick and hoarse;
every so often he lands on a note with a triumphant cock-crow and proceeds to
jiggle it violently back & forth. One never gets the impression of a player at ease
with manipulating materials for instance, the kinds of fluent transposition and
variation with which orthodox jazz musicians develop solos. Hes on the hunt for
happy accidents which come frequently, but once theyre elicited stay
stubbornly in place, however excitedly he fusses over them.
What Ive said so far concerns his straight jazz playing. Listen to his free
playing here, on the other hand, and its contrastingly pithy, elegant in fact
downright exquisite. This delicacy is especially evident in a series of short tracks
on disc two, which feature chamberish instrumentation (drummerless trios and
quartets), languorous tempos, and the more delicate instruments in Braxtons
arsenal: sopranino, flute, contrabass clarinet. (Yes, in his hands the contrabass
clarinet is delicate, not a monster when he pulls it out on Scrapple from the
Apple and Sippin at Bells it casts a hush over the music.) Braxtons standards
albums have often suggested an itch not only to play fast but to speed things up
sometimes ruinously so, such as the reading of April once memorably
savaged by Lee Konitz in a Wire Invisible Jukebox. But much of the best music
here comes when Braxton defamiliarizes bebop by slowing it down, making it
more lustrous and more tentative.
But, though its tempting to just say that the free tracks are good, the straight
tracks chronically awkward, its impossible to be as clear-cut as that. It would be
easy to mount both the case against and the case for this album, yet Im not
sure I want to do either, even though I cant dispose of my irritation with its
pervasive sloppiness (not just jam-session sloppiness: its something more
deep-rooted). As I reread the foregoing paragraphs they seem (to my eye
anyway) less and less judgmental, more and more just plain description. This is
what you get. Do you like it? If you dont shudder from time to time, or shrug in
despair, youre either a true believer or just not listening very carefully. If you
dont like it at all well, you probably just dont like Braxton.
posted by Nate Dorward
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March 1st, 2008, 04:21 PM
"Sustained"
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Vic J
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March 1st, 2008, 04:41 PM
Well that Nate Dorward piece is as
honest as it gets I'd say. Thanks for
digging that one up Coyote.
In many ways the Tristano dedication
'Eight (+3) Tristano Compositions 1989'
on Hat Art was much better from an
execution point of view I'd say and yet
in spite or perhaps because of that...it all
seemed to slip by too easily for me. Not
exactly facile as such, but I was
disappointed at the time that Braxton
didn't impose his own vision on the
material more.
Some of the neo-con doubters of
Braxton will no doubt point up his patchy
sucess rate on standards as proof (in
their eyes) not only of his dodgy bona
fides as a soloist but also that his avant
garde playing hides these deficiencies
and must therefore invalid by extension.
You've all heard variations on this
arguement but I hold it to be false
reasoning. The criteria of good
execution and technique don't change
just because the context is avant garde
and both Braxton's playing and very
demanding composition in this area is as
Dorward states, about poise and
elegance as well as passion.
"Your honour I move for a mis-
trial"..."Motion sustained"
Cat
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March 1st, 2008, 05:17 PM
Sometimes I'm glad I have a more-or-
less untrained ear. I tend to listen to the
music on its own terms rather than
dissect it to make sure the proper
number of bars were played, etc.
I recall reading that review a while ago.
I'm sure there's much truth in it's
technical discussion of the music. But if
the reviewer is aware of these
'mistakes,' Braxton and the others must
have been as well. I've never really been
curious enough to look for detailed
comments by Braxton on this album,
but I would be curious to know his
response to the criticisms. If he even
deems these 'mistakes' important to
the music.
In any case, is this 'sloppiness' all that
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uncommon in jazz, especially jazz that
bleeds into free territory? How often do
bands rip into some extended
improvisation and pull it all back to the
head with a wave of the hand on the
bandstand. I really don't know the
answer to that, but I'm guessing it's not
uncommon.
Again, from a listener's point of view,
I've found the Charlie Parker Project to
be quite satisfying. I'm listening tonight.
"There comes a time in all of our lives where silence is a betrayal." -- The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr.
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March 1st, 2008, 05:20 PM
Good discussion, although the heat was up. I often wonder what the older
established cats think of this approach to playing standards. I, myself, try to
keep an open mind. Albert Ayler took a shot at some standards as well as Cecil
Taylor and Derek Bailey and basically just played off the songs in their own way.
Some good stuff by all mentioned here. That is all I was really going for with my
question. I should have been clearer. I'll get out of the way now.
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March 1st, 2008, 05:38 PM
Vic, why don't you hang around and cause some more trouble? I'll find another
Toni Braxton photo!!!!!!!!
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Originally Posted by Vic J
Good discussion, although the heat was up. I often wonder what the older established cats
think of this approach to playing standards. I, myself, try to keep an open mind. Albert
Ayler took a shot at some standards as well as Cecil Taylor and Derek Bailey and basically
just played off the songs in their own way. Some good stuff by all mentioned here. That is
all I was really going for with my question. I should have been clearer. I'll get out of the
way now.
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March 1st, 2008, 05:42 PM
I am on your side Coyote..I am always in enough trouble...I think they call it
"Being Married".....By the way...I am really a big fan of guitarist Mary Halvorson
who is one of Braxton's groups.
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March 1st, 2008, 05:45 PM
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Originally Posted by papsrus
Sometimes I'm glad I have a more-or-less untrained ear. I tend to listen to the music on
its own terms rather than dissect it to make sure the proper number of bars were played,
etc.
I recall reading that review a while ago. I'm sure there's much truth in it's technical
discussion of the music. But if the reviewer is aware of these 'mistakes,' Braxton and the
others must have been as well. I've never really been curious enough to look for detailed
comments by Braxton on this album, but I would be curious to know his response to the
criticisms. If he even deems these 'mistakes' important to the music.
In any case, is this 'sloppiness' all that uncommon in jazz, especially jazz that bleeds into
free territory? How often do bands rip into some extended improvisation and pull it all back
to the head with a wave of the hand on the bandstand. I really don't know the answer to
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Here is an excerpt from the complete interview posted at #35. This touches
upon the STANDARDS SNAFU to some degree....
Let me back up. I talk about the processes of the music because I am excited
about music science. But in fact, at the heart of my effort is only to have an
experience in music and to kick it about in the old way, to have some fun, to
hopefully play something that can mean something to myself, and to have an
involvement with the family of the music -- the family in this context being the
quartet. As far as I am concerned, there's no difference in my work from that of
someone like George Clinton, or Barbra Streisand. I love music, and my intention
has always been, or at least my hope has always been, that people will like the
music, and that it can be something positive. We can play music. It's just music.
That's all I was interested in.
All I've tried to do is have an involvement that respects what I have learned
about the tradition. But not simply an academic involvement or a scientific
involvement. I have tried to approach my music from the very beginning based
on the constructs given to me by Frankie Lymon and Bill Haley and the Comets.
And of course, Little Richard, who I guess was complex for me in the beginning,
but later I found myself thinking, "Little Richard is the Man, and there's nothing
that be done about it. Bow to the great master, and learn from him." All I have
wanted to do, since I couldn't sing like Marvin Gaye, who was my man. . . I
found myself thinking, "Well, what can you do? You don't have the voice, so you
might as well learn an instrument and kick it about."
That's what I have tried to do, and that would be how I would want my music to
be perceived. Not as a scientific laboratory, because I am not interested in
science before music. All I wanted to do was to create a context of musics
where we could do our best, and at the same time stay aligned to the
fundamental components of our discipline. It is not a laboratory. It's more like a
Jurassic Park.
TP: I'd like to discuss other aspects of the distinctive terminology that you use in
your discourse on music. One word you've repeated a number of times in the
course of our conversation today is "restructuralist." What is a restructuralist?
How does a restructuralist function within a tradition of music?
AB: By the term "restructuralist," I am only referring to those points of definition
where the fundamental components of the given construct are realigned in a
way to. . .to allow for fresh possibilities. And this is a normal component in
progressionalism.
Charlie Parker was a restructuralist, the American master Max Roach was a
restructuralist in that they. . . Mr. Roach would bring together a context of
formalism that did not exist before he began his work. The same with Charlie
Parker. His music would be the summation logic from the Fifth Restructural Cycle
components, or Fourth Restructural Cycle components in Kansas City. And
Charlie Parker's music would open up a new context. . .a fresh context of, one,
line-forming logics; two, his music would bring with it a fresh rhythmic
component; three, his music would reemphasize individual postulation in a way
that was fresh and different from, say, the swing era.
John Cage would be an example of a restructuralist composer who would
respond to the dictates and dynamics of Western art music and rearrange the
components of the music in a way that would bring about the possibility for fresh
experiences.
Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Coltrane are restructuralists in the sense that
the reality of their involvement would bring forth fresh solutions in a way that
would allow for fresh areas of exploration, fresh concepts of vocabulary, fresh
concepts of interaction dynamics, and a fresh integration of material
components.
By "restructuralist" and by the term "restructuralism," I am only referring to
those points of progressionalism or of continuity that realigns fundamental
components.
Cecil Taylor would be a restructuralist. The Great Man would give us another
understanding of material integration. His record Unit Structures, for example,
would give us an understanding of extended form and extended time spaces in a
that, but I'm guessing it's not uncommon.
Again, from a listener's point of view, I've found the Charlie Parker Project to be quite
satisfying. I'm listening tonight.
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way that would give fresh areas of exploration for creative musicians or
musicians who wanted to be creative. And I will always be grateful for his
insistence on doing the work of the music based on the plane of the music,
based on his own individual tendencies and visions.
And so, by the term "restructuralist" and by the term "restructuralism," I am
only referring to natural points of change in a given construct, and that at those
points of change there is a possibility for a new continuum of involvement.
For instance, in the past 15 and 20 years, when I think of Miles Davis' quintet
with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams and Ron Carter, their
approach would provide a context for much of the stylistic variations taking
place in this time period. And when I think of the work of Charlie Parker,
suddenly I find myself thinking, "Wow, generations of musicians have been able
to have an experience based on the gains which came from the work of Mr.
Parker and Mr. Roach, Mr. Powell, and the work of the great Thelonious Monk."
Because of their courage and vision and insistence on evolving their music in a
way that was consistent with their own value systems and beliefs, we would
have the time period of the '50s and '60s and '70s and '80s and '90s where
generations of musicians would have the opportunity to participate in the devices
given to us from those individuals.
We must always acknowledge the fact that the gift of realignment comes from
the restructural masters and the restructural masters' tradition. And so that's
what I mean by the term "restructuralist," that without the work of the great
restructural masters, we would not have the kind of evolution that we enjoy as
part of our normal heritage. In fact, it's normal only because there has always
been a generation of men and women who have worked to give us more
options, not less options, and their work has vibrationally planted the paths and
possibilities that we enjoy as a nation, as a culture. I am very grateful to have
learned, or at least I'm trying to learn, from the wonderful restructuralist
tradition, the tradition that gives possibilities as opposed to taking away
possibilities.
TP: A second terminological question I think will also touch upon your own
specific metaphysics. In an interview that was done with you on the recent
quartet album, Victoriaville, you referred to the concept of "solar system
repetitive signature logics."
AB: I have tried, and I am trying in my work, to establish an involvement that is
consistent with my experiences and the body of information that's available on
the planet, that can be used in whatever way one wants to use it, to build a
music that would give me the opportunity to have the greatest possible
involvement. Because of that, I have tried to, well, have an involvement with
structural dynamics, have an involvement with idiomatic dynamics that could
increase choices as opposed to take away from choices.
By "solar system logics" in this context, I am only saying that the reality of a
given model is not separate from what parameters it addresses. For instance, if I
would say, "I want to play that Charlie Parker, I want to play bebop" in the way
that it had been defined from the masters in that 1940s-50s restructural cycle,
then suddenly I would use those properties and have an involvement with those
properties. What I saw, as a young guy growing up in Chicago who had the
benefit of experiencing and learning from masters like Max Roach or Harry
Partch. . . I wanted to create a construct that would give me an opportunity to
experience what I have learned from their work, as well as the work of an
American master like Dinah Washington or Barbra Streisand.
The concept of solar system logics, then, would not be separate from the move
towards imprint logic constructs that would be consistent with what we have
learned about from astrology and from the position of the planets, and how
apparent physicality seems to work, the laws that underline apparent physicality.
I wanted, as a young man, and I want now to build a model and a construct that
takes into account the state of information in this time period, so that I would
have maximum exploratory possibilities.
The solar system structures, then, would be an attempt to take into account
that which has been given to us in terms of information about relationships in the
planets, and the concept and phenomenon of cycles and repetitive logics as a
way to encode identities which will be consistent with a particular space,
identities which will be stated and at some point come back as a way to delight
in the formal components of a given sound space. In the same way that, if we
played "A Night In Tunisia," a composition which establishes an identity space,
and then after that we'll play something like "Misty". . .
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The beauty of bebop for me is. . . Well, one, it's so diverse. I mean, you can play
a so-called Latin composition. You can play a so-called ballad. You can play
within a particular harmonic strata or a set of chord progressions.
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March 1st, 2008, 05:50 PM
Mary is awesome! I just picked up an mp3 version of her and Jessica's duo
album and love it! I also provided some links to her youtube stuff in that
'guitarists you haven't heard' thread. Ron Miles played with her not long ago and
he was telling me how much he enjoyed her presence on the bandstand.
Anyway, don't worry about 'making trouble' here....I have the feeling everyone
that's interested in Braxton is interested in what is being said here.
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Originally Posted by Vic J
I am on your side Coyote..I am always in enough trouble...I think they call it "Being
Married".....By the way...I am really a big fan of guitarist Mary Halvorson who is one of
Braxton's groups.
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March 1st, 2008, 05:54 PM
Now....WHERE did I put that cardigan?
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March 1st, 2008, 05:54 PM
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March 1st, 2008, 06:00 PM
Transposing the Limits of Open Form:
Language Writing and Anthony Braxton
Current Free Practices in Music and Poetry was a one-day conference, organized
by NYU Music Department faculty and composer Elizabeth Hoffman, that
sampled the work of improvising composers and poets. The day began with a
rendition of part of Alvin Curran's six-hour "autobiographical" piano composition
Inner Cities by Belgian pianist Daan Vandewalle and a keynote talk on the
aesthetics and ethics of improvisation by trombonist and teacher George Lewis.
Musica Electronica Viva founder Curran followed with a reading of "Spontaneous
Music," a manifesto for improvised music (reminiscent of the kinds of prefaces
Jackson Mac Low would write for his performances) and a performance of
Phonotatooing, a composition for sampled ambient sounds on synthesizer and
electronics. Koto improvisor Miya Masaoka followed with a manually played
piece that provided samples for an optical/haptic interface in which she "plucked"
out sounds, chords, and sequences in a grid of four parallel laser beams
suspended over the koto, which she did not touch. The conference then shifted
to a lecture hall, where I presented my talk along with two cuts from Anthony
Braxton's work; a brief group improvisation was a part of the presentation.
George Hartley's lecture, "Swallow the Red Hot Axe: Nathaniel Mackey's Song of
the Andoumbalou," was a ghostly presentation in which Hartley stood at the
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podium, in a dark blue suit and red tie and silently turned the pages of his talk
while a recording of his own voice presented it along, with vocal and oud
background accompaniment. Citations to Mackey's work, as well, were read by
a synthetic and distorted female computer-generated voice; these devices
underscored the themes of "othering" and the transmigration of souls in
Mackey's poetry. Returning to the studio, we heard a performances on piano
and "Mouseketier" (a three-tiered home-built amplified percussion instrument
with bells, whistles, door stops, plumbing, and funny poking things) by Stanford
faculty and composer Mark Applebaum, followed by his discussion of the theory
and practice of unique instrumentation. Then came a performance by a student
improvising trio (Peter Evans, Amy Cimini, Michael Gallope), testing to the high
level of improvising culture at NYU, and four graduate students talks back in the
lecture hall. Dana Reason's discussion of the underrepresentation of women in
experimental musics, in particular, led to a sustained discussion of the gender
politics of avant-garde performance cultures and their support networks; I
suggested, from the floor, that it would be worthwhile to compare the flourishing
of writing in experimental genres to the the situation in music. The day was long
and run on musician's time, i.e., things happened when they did, but a satisfying
and often moving opening to a further discussion.
The turn to culture in literature and the arts, and specifically language-centered
writing and improvised musics, coincides with a call to specify the cultural logic
from which a given aesthetic practice derives and in which it intervenes.
Interdisciplinarity is not merely the posing of questions outside cultural forms,
genres, and disciplines toward their eventual revision or even reconstitution in
new ones; it is also relative to the field of cultural meanings in which a practice
makes its claim and finds its confirmation. A cultural logic is never merely
exterior to the work, always reflexively mediated within it. Given this rough and
ready framework, I want to look at questions of contact, influence, exchange,
and divergence between the experimental jazz and new music traditions and
language-centered writing in the late 1970sspecifically 197680, the time
frame for a collective memoir of the San Francisco Language school, now in the
process of being composed by ten authors online, under the rubric of The Grand
Piano. Though the title refers primarily to the coffee house on Haight Street
where the Grand Piano Reading Series took place from 1976 on, the connection
to music is central for many of the authors. In the period, there was a range of
experimental jazz and new musics that had immediate formal implications for
the writings of the San Francisco Language School.
In 1973, for instance, I went with Ron Silliman to a performance of Steve Reichs
Drumming at the Asian Museum that led, literally the next day, to the beginning
of Sillimans prose text Ketjak, the first instance of Sillimans own use of the
New Sentence. A paratactic deployment of modular sentence units in
incremental and repeating series to generate larger architectural structures, the
New Sentence was employed by numerous writers in the groupincluding
myself, Carla Harryman, Lyn Hejinian, Kit Robinson, Steve Benson, Bob
Perelman, virtually the entire group who are now writing The Grand Piano in, in
turns out, incremental units of narrative and reflection. The New Sentence was
more than a formal device; it was an ethical stance toward the construction of
meaning in open forms that depended on their grounding in particulars of
language, seen more as elements of information than as vehicles for expression.
It was important that the privileged term for this construction was the sentence
unitthat complete thought which could be indexed to its propositional
content even as the larger horizon of language would work to undermine any
determinate meaning founded in reference. The New Sentence thus would lead
to the generation of complex open forms that at the same time were
grounded in a radical self-reflexivity of language that tended to objectify them.
There were certainly many other musical influences at work in the period: Ted
Pearson had had early contacts with jazz musicians of the order of Lee Konitz,
Steve Lacy, and Paul Desmond (who, according to Ted, turned him on to
Robert Creeley), and his development of a rhythmically accentual, semantically
dense lyricism attests to them. Lyn Hejinian arrived in San Francisco in 1978
with her husband Larry Ochs, a founding member of the Rova Saxophone
Quartet, whose reinterpretation of the free jazz tradition in ensemble work that
was both notated and improvised would have profound influence on the writing
community, both in terms of a syncretic fusion of musical possibilities from the
jazz and new music traditions, and in the resulting revision of free jazz as an
open form. In Hejinians work, as I have written elsewhere, the formal
possibilities of improvised music led to the development of writing strategies that
depended on an attentive practice of openness to language taken from outside
the expressive intentions of the writer, as well as the use of strategies that the
work be continually reconceptualized in the process of writing. What amounts to
a scene of ethical decision occurs in her work, as in the work of each of the
other writers in the group, where the determination of meaning in the act of
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composition is always suspended within a productive indeterminacy of the larger
form. At the same time, values taken directly from the improvised jazz tradition
of spontaneity and openness, certainly, but also virtuosity and complexity
were immediately transposed in the forms of new writing. The resulting works
were often as complex, multi-layered, obstructionist, in your face as any music
of the period in question. Add to that the specific properties of the medium,
language, and demands for meaning would become so complex and intractable
that the situation of the reader or listener was seriously at risk. The ethics of the
work, then, had as a first consequence the situation of reader, listener,
community, and history to negotiate and, finally, fold back into the larger horizon
of form. The move to the reader or listener as making meaning, however, was
only provisional in a larger cultural politics in which values of expression and form
would be recast. The move beyond expressive meaning may have paused briefly
at the position of the listener or reader, but in radical shifting the ground of form
it led beyond it to the recasting of a series of cultural logicsfrom questions of
genre to horizons of culture.
Two points may be made at this juncture. First, in transposing formal possibilities
from music to writing, there would never be an identity of the cultural aims of
the work. Though the New Sentence evidently has analogues in sources from
minimalism such as Reich, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, John Adams, Ingram Marshall,
and Paul Dresher, many of whom were active or frequently heard in San
Francisco, the kind of cultural work it is doing is demonstrably different. If
minimalism, in a rough and ready sketch, meant to replace the sterile end game
of serialism with forbidden devices such as citation, repetition, and chromaticism,
leading to ersatz auras that would have finished off Adorno had he not already
succumbed to the politics of the 60s, the New Sentence and other kinds of
radical form in Language writing had the expressive subjectivity of the New
American poets, from Robert Duncan to Denise Levertov, as well as the
expressivist politics of liberationist identity, to contend with. A certain gentrified
sensibility clung to the ersatz auras of minimalism, an indication of the ease with
which the style would find its institutional patrons, while the Language school has
been ever the site of struggle and contestation in the field of cultural meaning,
seeing its own production as the best vehicle for its politics.
Second, it was as much in the array of musical options, many of them
contradictory, rather than in any simple revision or extension of a given lineage,
that the new musics mattered in the late 1970s. Daniel Belgrads The Culture of
Spontaneity, in this sense, is an account of an earlier period, the 1950s, in which
literary possibilities such as Projective Verse, the musical moment of Bop in jazz,
and the gestural elements of abstract painting would combine to describe an
overarching cultural politics of improvisation in the Cold War period. At that
moment, open formfrom Charlie Parker to Jackson Pollock to the Beats
could be accurately sited in relation to the closed forms of mainstream culture,
ironically reproducing the us/them binary that was the hallmark of the Cold
War. At later moments, of course, the logic of us/them would still be common
to any oppositional movement; however, there is also the relative historical
differentiation of competing possibilities in both arts. In music, for instance, the
progressive teleology of open form had broken down, with the embodiment of
spirit in musicians such as John Coltrane and Albert Ayler; one could argue that,
by 1970, the unfolding of jazz history, seen as moving ever upwards from its
early beginnings downriver to mainstream modernism to postmodern
complexity, was shattered by the dismaying political and cultural horizons of the
1970s.
Without being able to adequately map this moment of rupture, I can still point to
two results: the establishment of a consensus jazz mainstream that would keep
the tradition alive, and the relative isolation of experimental musicians from that
mainstream. There could not, as a result, be any possibility of a single-valued
identification with bop or even free jazz as cultural destiny, as there was for
many writers in the 1950s and 1960s, from the 1970s onward. At the moment
of ruptured teleology, stylistic pluralism could only resultand teleological
rupture did seem to be common to all genres of music and writing in the period.
As a result, one could identify simultaneously with aspects of chance-generated
procedures after Cage, repetitive minimalism after Reich and Glass, European
radical composers from the 1960s after Boulez, Berio, and Nono (later,
Gubaidulina and Scelsi), American postmodernism after Cowell and Partch, the
New York School after Feldman and Brown, Bepot after Parker, free jazz after
Coleman, fusion after Davis, electronic music, and world music. Postmodern
relativisms peak was our point of departure.
My point of departure is the music I was listening to between 1976 to 1980,
which provideddirectly or through some kind of formal osmosisways of
thinking about writing, form, and culture enacted in my collection of experimental
verse 110 in 1980. Memory of necessity condenses onto representative
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examples, from which I would select John Cages Sonnets and Interludes for
Prepared Piano and Etudes australes, Cecil Taylors Conquistador and Unit
Structures, Steve Reichs Come Up to Show Dem, Violin Phase, and Drumming,
Ornette Colemans Free Jazz and Dancing in Your Head, Henry Cowells piano
works and Harry Partchs instrumental ensembles, Leroy Jenkinss version of
Nobody Knows the Troubles Ive Seen (performed one night at Keystone
Korner) and Paul Zukofskys renditions of Paganini as key examplesa field of
music that centers around the kinds of musical synthesis I saw in the works of
Anthony Braxton at that time: For Alto, Saxophone Improvisations Series F,
Creative Orchestra Music, Five Pieces, In the Traditionthe entire range of his
output seen as circling around an empty center of divergent strands at a
moment of radical pluralism. Braxton, in other words, enacted the conflicts of
our ateological moment at the level of composition, or so it seemed without
benefit of an insiders knowledge of his influences, development, or possibilities
for distribution. The Braxton that one constructed at the time was simply that
which congealed from both recordings and his frequent visits to the Bay Area,
anticipating his 1980s residence at Mills College and work with Rova Saxophone
Quartet. Braxton, then, was a representative figure of a moment of cultural
dysphoria, articulated in the pluralism of his own musical idioms and in his explicit
enactment of cultural decentering. (In this sense, the holism of some of
Braxtons self-description has always seemed to be in a productive tension with
the radical particularity and incommensurability of his forms and styles.) In what
follows, I want to try to figure out what I was hearing in Braxtons music at the
time, and try to identify the way in which analogous logics surfaced in my
poetry.
The Logic of Transposition
What is a cultural logic and how does one see it in Anthony Braxton? We might
begin, intuitively, with his identifications with Paul Desmond or chess as an
element of his self-description, and move quickly down the road of an all-too-
obvious account of the cultural politics of expression in which nonidentity
meets identity at the level of creative form. Centering his work on the
expansive potential of nonidentity, Braxton on this account would be a version of
a constructivist author in the terms of The Constructivist Moment:
The constructivist moment is an elusive transition in the unfolding work of culture
in which social negativitythe experience of rupture, an act of refusalinvokes a
phantasmatic futurea horizon of possibility, an imagination of participation.
Constructivism condenses this shift of horizon from negativity to progress in
aesthetic form; otherwise put, constructivism stabilizes crisis as it puts art into
production toward imaginary ends. (192)
A constructivist author (in music, composer/improviser) would thus be defined
by two aspects of a single cultural moment: negativity and fantasy. In Braxtons
work, one sees precisely in the gap between styles, genres, instrumentations,
traditions, and purposes a negative moment that leads, in the event of
composition/improvisation, to the scale of capacious fantasy. Take, for instance,
the third cut on side 1 of Creative Orchestra Music 1976. [The cut should be
played now; it begins with a passage of crisply played marching band music.]
The listener is shocked into awareness by the horizon shift that follows the
meditative, spaced-out improvisation of cut 2 through a kind of unison playing
uncommon in jazz (that said, uses of cultural irony had a distinct place in
improvised musics in the 1970s such as Charlie Hadens Liberation Music
Orchestra and the work of Lester Bowie, Carla Bley, and Fredric Rzewski). The
structured measures of the march are repeated precisely eight times, at which
point they devolve into less-structured repetitions which provide the backup for
an agonizing trumpet solo that declares itself in sentence-like units, set free from
the degraded measure, spaced out by perceptible pauses. The second break
occurs with the end of the entropic march that promises to build anew a form of
unison playing, but in woodwind increments that repeat a simple cadence that is
then joined in by a second instrument and a third. The fourth, a trombone, plays
the unruly opposite to the purported consensus, leaving only ironized intentions
in place of the ghost of unity. A third break ushers in series of anxious brass
triplets and long saxophone tones, against which Braxtons clarinet noodles and
a glockenspiel dissociates; the clarinet line, at the height of anxious declaration,
morphs into alto saxophone squeaks in the upper register. At the fourth, final
break, an imposition of snare drum taps interrupts the frenzy, and the most
conventional marching band music realizable by Braxtons troop of improvising
All-Stars kicks into gear, unstoppable. The band marches on to fully realized
musical closure, an emphatic undoing that terminates all possibility of fantasy. As
in Bush America, either you like the music or you are not playing: it is a political
allegory.
The cultural logic I am interested in here is not at the level of citation, although of
course it is important that Braxton was in fact a member of a military marching
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band on tour of Korea, and that he returned to the US in 1966 at the height of
the Vietnam War. Creative Orchestra Music 1976 was recorded exactly ten
years later, after the wars end and at the outset of a period of political and
cultural instability. As I wrote in Bad History, the problem of the Vietnam War for
history was how to end it, a dilemma that may be extended to many forms of
bad history, and is demonstrated in Braxtons composition. In the allegory that
comes readily to hand, unison playing in the Vietnam Era breaks down into
modes of agonistic opposition that are measured in their resistance to the war
(section 1); the attempt to build up an alternative unison, step by step, fails at
the same level of oppositional agency defined in relation to the war and thus can
only achieve a form of irony (section 2); the effort to maintain oppositional
agency against the anxious background of contrary forces can only result in
states of anxiety (section 3) that will be easily co-opted by the return to
militarism in section 4, which structures bad history into the field of discrepant
meanings. Hence, opposition can only point to its own undoing; the best that
can be accomplished is a conscious play among preconstituted structures.
The cultural logic of Fredric Jamesons postmodernism is close: irony yields to
pastiche; opposition ends in simulacrum; progress ends up in a postmodern
football stadium/theater of war where it is impossible to find the exit; the
moment of closure figures history as cipher. However available such irony is, it
does not finally account for Braxtons cultural logic as a constructivist
composer/improviser. Rather, it is the relation between the negativity of the
pieceheard in the several breaks between sections, the self-conscious and
exaggerated gaps in phrasing, the ironic foregrounding of solo instruments
against collective contexts that empty them of impact, the emptying out and
relativizing of the meaning of musical genres and traditions, and finally the radical
ambiguity of culture as the closure that resultsand the impulse to construct
capacious effects for postmodern ensemble playing that most indicates a
cultural logic. The form of the work becomes the moment of its own
destruction and invention, as it internalizes in its form of metacritique the relation
between individual (solo) and culture (ensemble) that constructs its politics. For
Braxton, free jazz and marching band music are both forms of unison playing;
the implications for the politics of culture are great.
Such a logic of negativity and construction extends readily to the major contours
of Braxtons career, which as Ronald M. Radano shows in New Musical
Figurations: Anthony Braxtons Cultural Critique, constantly unfolds at the cusp
of the incommensurate. Where Radano agrees that Braxtons work functions as
a cultural intervention, however, his analysis tends to positivize the gaps
between components that motivate it. One must begin with logics of race and
class that underscore Braxtons progress from South Chicago to the Army in
Korea to his induction into the utopian project of the AACM (Association for the
Advancement of Creative Music). Braxtons negotiation of his arrival is never a
simple affirmation of a progressive destiny, and it uncomfortably aligns with the
progressive teleology of jazz history itself. Rather, numerous biographical details
underscore discrepant moves of disidentification from the traditionhis marching
band experience in the Army, his interest in amateur electronics, and his use of
chess moves as musical metaphors. These elements show up in the wiring
diagrams that Braxton from early on used to label his compositions, which would
be clearly unreadable from the perspective either of the dominant culture or
mainstream jazz.
Braxtons avant-gardism is thus double, at the site of double consciousness,
constantly playing one cultural code off against another. Chief among these
would be his endorsement of Paul Desmond, whose thin and analytic sound
was felt by many as betraying the cultural politics of jazz, a moment of
deracination. What did it mean that Braxton not only was inspired by Desmond
but advertised the influence (with no sense that the tradition leading from Bop to
free jazz and culminating in the expressive unity, sonic density, and utopian
politics of Coltranes late 60s ensembles, especially Ascension, would be
disrupted by it)? A dialectic of mainstream and innovation does not do justice
to this or other such citational moments, which tend to complicate the
progressive history necessary to make the distinction in the first place. Rather
than seeing Braxtons traditional recordings on Arista through the late 1970s,
then, as an attempt to enter the mainstream by increased accessibility, one is
authorized by moves Braxton made early on to read his re-presentation of the
tradition as a transposition into another register, making it available as an
abstracted archive of effects rather than as an homage to continuity. To follow
Braxtons emergence, from Chicago to Paris and New York through the 1970s,
is to locate a series of shifts of context leading not to a progressive unfolding of
jazz history but by a simultaneous undoing and critique of musical and cultural
assumptions, internalized at the level of form. This critique leads both to the
distancing of prior conventions and an embrace of alternative ones, from
Desmond to Braxtons early and continuing endorsement of Webern,
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Stockhausen, and Cage.
Two logics seem at work here. In the first, Braxton disrupts the continuity of a
given culture and tradition and reappropriates its contents for compositional
purposes. This is precisely how Braxton cannibalizes the tradition in his abstract
work for solo alto saxophonefrom his earliest recording For Alto (1969) on.
What is important for Braxton in this repertoire are the combinatorial possibilities
of instrumentation and motif, in which supporting musical structures are
referenced only to be emptied out and dropped away. What seem to be self-
reflexive, meditative, lyrical solos likewise perform an abstract and negative
distancing from both instrument and motif. In attending to contour, structure,
and constraint, expression is sacrificed for what Braxton would call language
music, motives stripped down to an elemental vocabularythe postmodern
"turn to language" in musical form. In an alternative logic, however, Braxton
imports cultures and tradition whole at a recombinatory level. This may be seen
in his use of the marching band music in the prior example, a determination of
total form that may be transposed, as with the other cuts on Creative Orchestra
Music, dissociating Ellingtonian big band music, or Schoenbergian serialist
composition, or Coleman free jazz ensembles as structures primed for an
appropriation and redefinitiona transposition in the key of the negative. It is not
hard to see a cultural politics here in which the dialectic between mainstream and
opposition has been, not turned on its head, but ironized, dissociated, made
available for reuse.
Compositionally, Braxton is without question a constructivist. At every level in his
oeuvre, one can find processes of negative undoing and fantasmatic elaboration
at work. Braxtons own use of technical visual icons to title his pieces is a
perfect example of this: the negativity of their unreadability combines with the
science-fiction fantasies they evoke. It is interesting that Braxton, working in
composed/improvised jazz, shares these fantasies with other African-American
artists, from Samuel R. Delany and Octavia Butler to the technogods of Detroit
such as Mike Banks, Derrick May, Carl Craig, and Kenny Larkin, who foreground
technology in their constructions of capacious fantasy. It is this relation, of
fantasy to negativity, that seems best to explain Braxtons own cosmic
vocabulary for this work: arcane and difficult, it outlines a hierarchically organized
archive of musical ideas within a capacious fantasy of global, pan-African, cultural
form. Language, however idiosyncratic, must be seen as a dual component of
musical structure; however, how does one reconcile the logics of negativity and
reappropriation that seem everywhere to generate Braxtons musical structures
with the potentially univocal holism of his writings about his music? Here, the
notion of double consciousness may come in handy: in explaining his work to
an absent interlocutor, one who is assumed or internalized as part of the lived
experience of class and race, Braxton speaks of a totality that, without any
sense of irony, has none of the relativism that otherwise informs his work:
As we continue to move deeper into the third millennium the challenge of
creative music will extend into many fresh and exciting directionsthere is the
hope of dynamic positive celebration and trans-global actuality. My hope is that
the approaching time cycle will continue to fuse global and idiomatic qualities
(experiences)concerning style, rhythmic logics, and vibrational spirit factor
until the next set of opportunities are understood and we can rejoice in the luck
of existence and the dynamics of fate. In the middle of the churning radiance of
cosmic ether (that we call reality) is the phenomenon of sound wonder and
vibrational instigation (and imagination)life is really something. The wonder of
music is the single most central component in the material/vibrational fabric of
perceived existence (it-ness). I would like to hope that a broader acceptance
and openness for all creative possibilities will surface in the coming time cycle
for the spectrum of world creativity extends in every direction/territory and time
space. (booklet, 14)
Full discussion of Braxton's writings about his music must await further reading,
especially of the three-volume Tri-Axium Writings, which plan to gain a sense of
through some form of sampling technique. I cite the passage above because I
am simultaneously sympathetic to the genuineness of his appeal to the universal
(life really is something) and disappointed in the un-self-conscious re-
presentation of the clichs of cosmic consciousness that have, finally,
circumscribed and diminished avant-garde agency at least since Fourier (a study
awaits to show how the traces of spirituality coexists with the radical
particularity and constructivism of transformative modern artists like Arthur
Rimbaud, Hugo Ball, Velimir Khlebnikov, Kazimir Malevich, Laura Riding, and even
Robert Grenier). An invocation of spirit, in any case, just does not achieve the
level of insight in the form of the work; rather, it tends to cover over or level the
work of Braxtons continuous transposition. Here again, a cultural logic is at
work: at the difficult boundary of race and class, the psychology of double
consciousness does its protective duty, so that an unprotected perception of
compositional possibility may arise from the language music of the material,
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rather than spiritual, facts of musical and cultural form. Against this holism, or
better as its necessary complement, I would point to a passage in Braxtons
Series F improvisations from 1971. [About two minutes from side 1, cut 5,
should be played now]. In this continuous meditation on and elaboration of
rhythmic figures, we hear the work of the negative as structural elaboration:
distancing, rethinking, repeating, questioning, materializing, contextualizing,
constructinglanguage music of direct identificatory possibility across the
abysses of culture.
The Politics of Form
Cultural logics reproduce themselves, but never in identical form. Across the gap
separating the San Francisco Language school from the AACM, granted
numerous common motivations in the politics and culture of the 1960s and
1970sfrom refusal of the Vietnam War to skepticism about public discourse to
an affirmation of liberation through any means at ones disposal to the need for
alternative and oppositional languageI listened to Braxton at a synthesizing and
syncretic moment. I was listening to many other things as well, in the strong
sense of listening as a form of investigation and cognitive mapping, much as
John Cage performed in mapping the stars of the Southern hemisphere onto the
form of Etudes australes. What I heard, in retrospect, was lucid and direct: the
transformative work of structural invention, the distancing of musical
conventions and traditions toward their reconstruction, the play of the negative
in the determination of form. I also heard a refusal on Braxtons part to be
pinned down, aesthetically or culturally, but to shift between forms and genres
(and modes of statement, including the didactic) in order not to be trapped too
easily within the conventions of genre, however other-directed. I also heard a
commitment to the social work of collaboration and multi-authorship, in the
numerous and generative ensemble forms that Braxton explored, the other side
of the radical self-focusing of the solo saxophone music, almost a music of
consciousness itself. Yet not: Braxton's is a social music of radical particularity,
of instrument and tone, not of individual expression, a music of structural
transposition via the constraints of recontextualization. Braxtons anti-
expressivism was a confirmation of my own critique of the postmodern
romantics identified with the culture of spontaneity and its immanent meaning.
Meaning, in this sense, ought to be post-authorial, other-directed, generically
syncretic.
Identification with Braxton, among other figures, is importantly a way of defining
the limits of the aesthetic ideology that preceded my own cultural moment: that
of open form. From the defining usage in Charles Olsons essay Projective
Verse, open form was temporalized, embodied, oppositional, and positive. It
was its own rationale, bringing into being the culture it argued for merely through
the continuity of presence. The limitations of open form as a politics, in this
sense, would be immediately evident: the cult of personality rather than a
culture of opposition; a return to mythic investments rather than
demystification; a valorization of self-destructive so-called genius that was a
form of blindness as much as any agency. The poetics of the New American
poetry, however revisionary they were, latent with new gender possibilities, and
breaking through the confining boundaries of formalism in the closed sense,
failed at the moment they reinvested the subject as history in a way that
eventually would become no more than a defense. The turn to language was an
undoing of the romanticism of presence, entailing that the abstract potential of
spontaneity would need to be relativized and rethought. In the development of
the Language School the notion of open form survived as an aesthetic politics, in
however a textualized form. Lyn Hejinians The Rejection of Closure is a
pedagogically useful manifesto that proposes open horizons of composition as
an antidote to socially regulated systems of meaning that are understood as
closed, while not needing to invoke the embodied presence of the demiurgic
poet to carry it off. Published in issue 4 of Poetics Journal, it was countered in
issue 6 by Bruce Andrewss Total Equals What: Poetics and Praxis, which
argued for the social construction of meaning, even as open, within concentric
horizons of language, society, and totality. The Constructivist Moment, written in
the next decade, is an attempt to show how the negativity of open formits
refusal of closureis simultaneously constitutive of larger cultural logics.
Comparing these debates in the Language school with the example of Braxton, I
am structure by similarities and divergences. Both are concerned with a cultural
politics that is generative and that can be read from the internalized decisions of
the work of art. Braxtons forms are allegories of the conditions of their
constructions, in other words, in which the play of the negative is precisely the
site of their further elaboration. However, Braxton assumes a holism that comes
perilously close to a return to an expressive genius, being celebrated in New York
even as we speak. Affirmative culture has room for a series of such geniuses,
defined by their contributions to their proper genre; simply, such valorization of
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the overarching unity of Braxtons project is not what we need. [At the
conference, George Lewis responded that what I needed was a fuller account of
the range of musics developed in the AACM.] Listening to the work now, and
through prior instances of it, highlights possibilities for constructed form to which
I would like to return, and which I would like to extend. At one end of the
spectrum, the tectonic shifting of aesthetic and cultural traditions giving rise to a
compositional imperative in the space between assumptions is something I
continue to value. I see it in the move between competing systems of
knowledge and affect in my mid-1980s poetic text The Word, which attempts
by juxtaposition to exploit the negativity entailed in postmodern relativism for
more properly constructivist ends:
Did they seem empty?
They seemed empty.
Do you like this one?
I like this one.
Is he ready?
Now he is ready.
A lecture on scalar waves zero vector waves created from the overlap of two
waves 180[o] out of phase like squeezing a sponge in and out in space-time
take zero vector waves and intersect at the zone of interference ordinary
energy will occur the interference patterns will occur as ordinary electromagnetic
waves this is how energy can be transmitted with no loss in transmission this
kind of wave could influence global weather patterns clouds were dividing into
even rows over Huntsville Alabama these patterns have been adjusted in since
shortly after the death of Brezhnev low-level booms make continuous popping
sounds we saw this grid pattern over Huntsville Alabama being adjusted in I can
reach up and move the jet stream up and down it's as if the Russians were
permitted to come in and build transmitters in each of the grid zones you're
looking at a bunch of cone-shaped mountains all over North America around the
cone of energy clouds will form in a circle with rays running directly out in all
directions like a giant radial this is not a natural formation
A typical house
with porch, steps, etc.
will seem to decay into parts with age
if not carefully (extravagantly) kept up.
Theory
1. Continents were built up as a quality space.
2. Continents were built by drifting, colliding mini-continents. The only part of
California that is "original" is somewhere near Death Valley.
The soap is really a sphere.
The child is really a fat one.
. . . for the opera fan who knows his syntax.
Few things are funnier than auto mechanics; it lays bare the inherent defects of
all engines, which pivot on the "virtual" presence of parts we can no longer get.
[In Frame (1971-1990), 193]
The shift in this text between incommensurate assumptions, still brought
together within the larger form of the work and motivated toward a condition of
agency, however ironic, is an effect the poem shares with some of the large-
scale strategies of Braxtons ensemble work. At the other end of the scale, the
foregrounding of solo instrumentation might correspond to the distancing and
language-centered frame shifting of work like Progress:
Peasants from Uruguay on super-
Human express trains wait
For underwear to be checked.
Raised,
the great hem extended . . . .
The world in bands of searing
Change on a broad spectrum
A version of every missile
That sent up,
must come down . . . .
On the heads of panel members
To signify state of the art
For multiple reentry targets
At 300 meters,
I look up . . . .
The change is absolute,
streams
Jump their beds in a flood
To reinforce a weak echo.
It is an essay on psychology . . . .
Men jump out of cars and run
To meet their deadline,
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but
At midnight it will vanish.
No direction words will appear . . . .
Even all speeches say the same
Begins with,
hate I speech.
Not avoid a knot internal,
And these are hazardous days . . . .
[Progress, 200-201]
In claiming to have listened to Braxton at a defining moment of my work, I hope
I am not saying too much. And Im not. As an extension of the work, our work
is in the continuation and elaboration of the perception we had when what we
heard was truly other. The transposition of the limits of open form occurs just
there, in a necessary destabilization.
Copyright Barrett Watten 1998, 2004, 2006.
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March 1st, 2008, 06:01 PM
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March 1st, 2008, 06:06 PM
The '23 Standards' (etc.) group...Kevin Norton on drums, Kevin O'Neil on guitar,
and Andy Eulau on bass.
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March 1st, 2008, 06:11 PM
Anthony Braxton 12(+1)tet Ghost Trance Music:
World-renowned saxophonist and composer Anthony Braxton, with his 12-piece
ensemble the 12(+1)tet, will perform and conduct from his most recent series
called Ghost Trance Music.
The performers play and conduct, taking different roles, as they collage
compositions from Braxton's Ghost Trance catalogue. As a collective, the group
moves freely between the performance of compositions and improvisations,
between solos and ensemble playing and yet create a magical unity full of
sparks. This is unusual music that carries away all those willing to let go into its
mystery. Come experience this optimistic and surprising frontier of
contemporary music, performed under the inspiration and direction of Anthony
Braxton, one of America's most dynamic musical forces.
Anthony Braxton 12(+1)tet:
Anthony Braxton (reeds), Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Jessica Pavone (viola), Jay
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Rozen (tuba), Carl Testa (bass), Aaron Siegel (percussion), Mary Halvorson
(guitar), Steve Lehman (reeds), James Fei (reeds), Andrew Raffo Dewar
(reeds), Reut Regev (trombone), Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon), Nicole Mitchell
(flute).
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March 1st, 2008, 06:12 PM
August 2002 by Dn Warburton for Paris Transatlantic Magazine
Anthony Braxton's Ghost Trance music is finally coming out on disc - "Yoshi's",
which follows the earlier outstanding "Composition N.247" (Leo CD LR 306),
includes Compositions 207 and 208 (72' and 71' respectively), scored for six
horn players (Braxton, Brandon Evans, James Fei, Jackson Moore, Andre Vida
and JD Parran, playing twenty-five instruments between them), electric guitar
(Kevin O'Neill), bass (Joe Fonda) and percussion (Kevin Norton). The nine
players occasionally split up into three trios which, while remaining under the
global control of Braxton, set off in different directions, playing the Ghost Trance
material at different tempi, as well as occasionally adopting "secret strategies" of
their own. Braxton's concept of "pulse tracking", using strings of notes to
provide a pulse within a compositional structure, may be, to quote Steve Day's
extensive liner notes, "persuasive", but it is also pretty exhausting. In
"Composition 247" the sheer physical effort involved for Braxton and Fei, circular
breathing throughout (bagpiper Matthew Welch had it easy) was exhilarating;
here, the abundance of saxophones and clarinets tends to clog up the texture,
leaving one gasping for breath, or least hoping for a few seconds of silence which
never come. "Composition 208" is slightly less busy, and there's some
spectacular work from Braxton himself, but much of it lies half-buried in a thick
stew of baritones and bass clarinets.
Were these works performed by a standard contemporary music chamber
ensemble (why doesn't Braxton interest the Ensemble Modern in a
performance?), the texture would at least be more variegated - there would,
though, still remain the notes. I recall preparing an interview with Harrison
Birtwistle a while back, when I asked a composer friend which questions I ought
to ask: "Does he care about his pitches?" came the reply. The overriding
impression received from this album as well as the recent "Composition N.169 +
(186 + 206 + 214)" is that pitch comes pretty far down the list of Braxton's
priorities. What do we listen to music for? The answer to that question will
inevitably be different for each person asked - the music that means the most to
me is that which leaves me, albeit slightly, a different, changed individual from
what I was before. That is partly a function of memory, of being able to locate
oneself in the piece during and especially after listening - with Braxton's recent
music, one is left with the sense that one has undergone a challenging intellectual
experience while at the same time being unable to remember anything of it
except the sketchiest details. It's like jogging: most folk do it because they think
they ought to or imagine they'll be in better health for doing it, but very few
people I see huffing and puffing round the park on Sunday mornings actually look
as if they're enjoying the experience.
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ANTHONY BRAXTON SEXTET:
Anthony Braxton - composition, reeds
Taylor Ho Bynum - brass
Chris Dahlgren/Carl Testa - bass
Jessica Pavone - viola and violin
Aaron Siegel - percussion
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March 1st, 2008, 06:26 PM
Visualizing Musical Lines by
jazzanimated:
August 4, 2006
The first part of this post may seem a
little off topic because it deals with
classical music, but in the words of
Charlie Parker, Its all music, man. Just
call it music.
In music, counterpoint literally means
note against note. Visualizing
counterpoint is a way of understanding
the shape and tension of the music at a
given moment. Take for example this
excerpt from Rondo A Capriccio, a piano
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work by Beethoven:
The picture above is a piano roll, which
displays the music on a grid with pitch
on the y-axis and rhythmic value on the
x-axis. This piano roll displays the top
two voices from the Beethoven excerpt.
(Click here to listen to the excerpt).
When I listen to music, I try to visualize
the musical line(s) - and looking at
music on a piano roll has put this in a
new perspective for me. Of course,
counterpoint didnt begin with
Beethoven If you want to learn from
the master, Bachs The Art of Fugue is a
great place to try to begin hearing music
in terms of shapes and lines.
The linear quality of improvisation in the
bebop style has roots in the
counterpoint of Bach (and the Bach-
influenced classical composers who
followed). However, bebop deals with a
significantly different harmonic language.
Saxophonist/composer Anthony
Braxton creates a visual picture of what
he calls Bebop Sound Space in the
book Forces in Motion: The Music and
Thoughts of Anthony Braxton. The
rhythm section (bass/drums/piano)
inhabits the lower end of the musical
spectrum. The soloist typically occupies
the sonic space above the harmonic
foundation of the rhythm section, and
the shape of the solo reflects the
contour of the harmony. (See how the
dips and peaks in the solo line
correspond with the ups and downs in
the harmonic structure).
For Braxton, the individuality of the
soloist is defined by the shape of the
solo and how this that relates the the
musical vocabulary of the soloist.
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In Braxtons words: By gravillic weight
Im talking about how the gravity that
underlines how a given forming is
established in space. That being
Suppose I did a visual imprint, with
respect to the gravillic contour; I would
take one particular shape and section it
off, then talk of the gravity points in
forming as a way of understanding how
that vocabulary works. Birds music
would be like: (hums Parker solo and
traces shape in the air).
Baxton continues: Take Eric Dolphys
language: the intervalic relationships
between distances would be part of the
contour of his music: (hums Dolphy solo
and traces shape in air).
Thinking about jazz in terms of shape
and language is especially relevant when
considering its historical relationship with
animation. Many animators at UPA in
the were highly influenced by the ideas in
Gyorgy Kepess book, Language of
Vision (published in 1944). I think many
of these forward-looking animators saw
the innovation of the be-bop language in
the 40s as a model for creating a new
visual language in animation. More on
that later.
If you havent read it, buy Graham
Locks book on Anthony Braxton! It will
change the way you think about music
forever.
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March 1st, 2008, 06:28 PM
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Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, William
Parker, and Tony Oxley.
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March 1st, 2008, 06:30 PM
In 1975, jazz musician Anthony Braxton conducted a workshop in which 20
Havard undergraduate instrumentalists participated.
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March 1st, 2008, 06:32 PM
May 30, 2005 by John Eyles for One Final Note
Anthony Braxton
Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997, Vol. 3 + Shadow Company
(Leo + Emanem)
Professor Anthony Braxton will be 60 on June 4, 2005. Here are two releases
recorded when he was 52 and 58, respectively. On the defunct website for
Braxton's own Braxton House label, it still advertises as releases "in
preparation": Ghost Trance Festival (Oakland) 1997 (12 CDs) and Ghost Trance
Festival (New York) 1997 (10 CDs). Yeah, right. In reality, those twelve CDs
from Oakland are emerging two at a time, courtesy of Leo records; here is the
third double CD (of six, finances permitting) from his six nights recorded at
Yoshi's, in August 1997. (I don't think the New York stuff has been sighted yet,
has it?)
This third volume will not surprise anyone who has heard either of the previous
volumes or other releases of the Ghost Trance Music. That is the essence of
GTM; it is not designed to surprise you. It is rigidly structured. It gets into a
groove and then stays there for a long time, often an hour or longer probably
far longer if Braxton really had free rein! Yes, there are solos on top of the
repeated patterns that define each composition, but that is where they are on
top. Solos are largely irrelevant to the forward impetus of the music, as is group
interaction. Each of the nine players six reeds, electric guitar, bass, percussion
has a part to play in the ensemble, seemingly irrespective of the others,
making for a multi-layered, kaleidoscopic sound that toe-tappers can toe-tap to.
The ensemble sections alternate with slower, pastoral sections featuring duos or
trios, but the ensemble is never far away from returning to march things
forward. In truth, within this there is a rich tapestry of detail to appreciate; every
listening reveals something fresh and novel.
It was not by chance or for crass exploitative reasons that Braxton House was
going to release this music in ten- and twelve-CD sets. It is obsessive music,
designed to be heard in large quantities, so let's thank Leo records for getting so
much of it out. And if you are tempted to purchase this, take a tip: buy lots of it,
go for total immersion and surrender to it. It's the only way. [Point to ponder:
What's in a name? To label music is to alter forever how it is experienced.
Names do make us hear things differently. Punk. Grunge. Soul. Jazz... How
would this music be regarded if it hadn't been labelled "Ghost Trance Music"? Is
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the name trying to describe it or suggest to us how to experience it?]
The duo album on Emanem is definitely post-Ghost Trance Music, although
Braxton retains clear traces of his GTM period; he now seems to structure his
own playing over longer time scales, with greater repetition as an integral part of
it. The album features 66 minutes of music improvised in real time and (in typical
Emanem style) presented in its entirety. As on the label's other recent releases
by Milo Fine (a duo with Derek Bailey and a double CD of encounters from his
visit to London in 2003), he proves to be an interesting partner in a duo,
especially when paired with a true heavyweight.
The album makes a strong case for sets like this being presented as a whole;
the changing dynamic between Fine and Braxton makes fascinating listening.
Initially, Fine makes frequent switches between piano, drums, and clarinets, and
his contributions on their own do not have any great substance or coherence to
them. He certainly does not sound like a player who takes an idea and then
explores it in depth or at length, more like one with a short attention span who
flits around. That would be a criticism if Fine were playing alone, but this is duo
playing and he complements Braxton's saxophones well, adding embellishments
and contrast. Braxton is the main course, as intense and focused as ever, Fine is
the garnish.
Gradually, that relationship changes; Fine's playing becomes more substantial
and the two become more a duo of equals. The peak of the album comes in
parts 8 and 9 (for ease of use, the continuous performance is indexed into
eleven parts). On the former, Fine plays piano for a sustained period, giving a
virtuoso display; in response, Braxton fires off an intense burst of alto sax, fierce
and fiery with a tone as harsh and brutal as anyone's. Awesome. On the latter,
Fine plays drums while Braxton gives a far more reflective, melancholy
performance, his tone soothing and beguiling, in total contrast to the preceding
violence.
As Braxton enters his seventh decade, he remains as prolific, diverse, inspired,
and intriguing as ever.
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March 1st, 2008, 06:37 PM
COMP. 23B
COMP. 38A
#94
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Anthony Braxton
New York, Fall 1974
Arista : 1975
Comp. 23B: AB, alto sax; Kenny Wheeler, trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Holland,
bass; Jerome Cooper, drums. Comp. 38A: AB, clarinet; Richard Teitelbaum,
synthesizer.
Prof. Drew LeDrew: We havent posted any Anthony Braxton in a while.
Chilly Jay Chill: Braxton Braxton Wait, do you mean Tyondai Braxtons dad?
Drew:
Chilly: Thats how lots of Battles fans and Pitchfork readers probably know him.
Not that I dont like Battles - check out that link, plus they tear shit up live.
Drew: Maybe some of those folks will get hip to Braxton senior, who was
dropping seriously advanced musical science when the son was a mere gleam in
his eye. So in honor of the waning days of autumn, why dont we break out New
York, Fall 1974?
Chilly: Great album. I love the quartet Braxton assembled here. My picks to click
would be Comp. 23B, a.k.a. Side one, cut one. Can someone tell me why
album opening cuts are almost always the best? Im also partial to the smooth
stroll and autumnal strut of Side one, cut three? Brax in a mellow mood.
Walking bassline and all. Plus the Kenny Wheeler solo kills. Both of them have a
lovely fall vibe. And present the friendly side of our man Anthony.
Drew: Friendly, indeed. I guess this is old news, but Im continually amazed and
delighted at the wit on display in Braxtons work. The cover image doesnt
necessary bring to mind yuks. Of course, while I also really like those more
straight-ahead workouts, Comp. 38A - the first cut on side two - is what I
keep coming back to.
Chilly: You mean the electronics piece? Maybe youre the one with Battles on the
brain.
Drew: Nah, but theres something about the synth-sax combo that works for
me. Theyre not exactly conversing; its more like were being shown the limits
of communication. Sort of the opposite approach of what Thirsty Ear has been
trying for in their Nu Bop mode, with a jazz-hop hybrid that never quite gels. The
sort of ancient-new sounds the synth makes are charming, in their way, too.
Chilly: It sounds like youre listening in on Brax hanging out with his old robot pal,
now probably rusted and scrapped. Hearing yesterdays cutting-edge technology
makes me weirdly nostalgic. Another autumnal vibe, perhaps. My only qualm
here is that the track sounds like it belongs on another album. Or maybe another
galaxy.
Drew: Youre all fall crazy. The Fall 1974 bit is just one more aspect of
Braxtons crazy codifying nature, as one look as his discography reveals. But
yeah, the two sides of this album are wildly divergent which is refreshing.
There isnt even the slightest taint of that one ballad, one burner, one standard,
etc. roteness of sooooooooo many jazz LPs. Not even the straightish quartet
cuts are as straight as they seem, ending up somewhere other than where they
started.
Chilly: Youve convinced me. So we offer up one cut from each side. Let the
people decide which slice of Braxton they like best.
Drew: Agreed. By the way, I was curious about the contemporary reception this
album got, and found, via the NY Times ample archive, a Robert Palmer review
from 1975, that ends by noting, premeditated and spontaneous ideas coexist
fruitfully and represent an achievement that will doubtless be admired by
composers of serious music as well as of jazz. Too bad these Braxton Aristas
are unable to be easily admired by anyone these days.
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March 1st, 2008, 06:39 PM
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Braxton circa 1967.
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March 1st, 2008, 06:44 PM
Anthony Braxton Diamond Curtain Wall Trio
at the Guelph Jazz Festival
September 9, 2007 Guelph Youth Music Centre Guelph
Visionary Music
by David Fujino with photos by Roger Humbert
part 1
On the stage an hourglass sits.
Laptop emissions blend with the outpourings of Anthony Braxton (reeds), Mary
Halvorson (hollow body electric guitar), Taylor Ho Bynum (brasswinds), and
guest saxophonist, Kyle Brenders.
But listen this is no music recital.
We're immersed in a world of life experience, and the trio's previously cryptic
name, Diamond Curtain Wall Trio, now makes obvious sense as the stage
shimmers literally with their richly continuous curtain of living sound.
On his abundance of horns (trumpet, fluegelhorn, cornet, slide trombone, piccolo
trumpet, conch shells, valved bugle, and more) brasswind member Bynum
described, in multiple and ever-rising arcs, both the inside details and the outside
limit of the group's evolving sonic curtain. And when he'd alternately play hat-
muted, then open, Bynum immediately widened the impact of his vocalized and
intensely moving, open-hearted sounds.
Anthony Braxton
For his part, Braxton, ever the equal opportunity 'leader', played with
exuberance on his family of saxophones and occasionally walked upstage to
punch in new electric plinks! and plonks! and ambient swirls from the laptops.
But it was just amazing how much inner terrain Braxton covered; in one
instance, he worked free from a dense harmonic-sounding sequence to engage
in duet with the guitar and then suddenly appear in a clearing, all alone on alto,
screaming away inside a fluttering line. Yes.
This was music as pure experience pure sensate experience pouring off that
stage. There were many bright beads of light. I was crying.
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part 2
This is music where the real is imagined.
This music is really about life experience and not the nuts-and-bolts of music.
Really.
If I must talk about it, I'd have to say the alto and flugelhorn sparred in wave
forms inside a sound curtain of pure experience.
I'd also have to say the fast-stuttering alto line fluttered and was then released
in Brenders' high tenor spilling and Bynum's skreeking, as Braxton then entered
with his moody soprano voodoo, and hoodoo.
But I've learned that writing and talking about Braxton's music is an
understandable and all-too-human attempt to crudely impose order and make
sense out of what is after all pure phenomena.
Instead I can say that guitarist Mary Halverson's broad, chunky, and stroked
dissonance, please note, was played on low volume. She invigorated the sound
curtain with well-placed, delicate clusters, and, when she wasn't detuning her
guitar, kept laying down structure throughout the developing 75 minutes.
And this is interesting, and heart-warming.
A woman in the audience said to my colleague that she wasn't a musician, but "it
was good to see a woman in the group, especially a group like this. You don't
really see many women in this music, anyway."
Diamond Curtain Wall Trio
Anthony Braxton reeds
Mary Halvorson hollow body electric guitar
Taylor Ho Bynum brass
guest
Kyle Brenders reeds
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March 1st, 2008, 06:47 PM
Wadada Leo Smith and Anthony Braxton playing music from their ORANGIC
RESONANCE album.
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March 1st, 2008, 06:54 PM
Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton, Royal Festival Hall, 08/07/07
A fine weekend of tennis and Tour De France related excitement, most of which
I spent in the red polka-dotted jersey, was brought to a close by an
unforgettable concert at the Royal Festival Hall. I had seen Cecil Taylor and
Anthony Braxton sharing a bill here not long before the place shut for refurb, but
here they were to actually share the same stage contemporaneously, for the
first time ever. A fact I found quite hard to believe given the hulking shadows
these two cast across the free jazz field.
Although such a heavyweight line-up barely needed an undercard, surprise
special guests Polar Bear were given the task of warming us up. Arriving 5
minutes late due to Rafael Nadal taking Roger Federer to that fifth set, I found
them pootling away fairly inoffensively. The longer they went on, the more
Leafcutter John got stuck in and got his hands dirty, and it was this wild card
element, along with some pretty lithe drumming from the colossus of fros Seb
Rochford, which raised them far above the mundane. Te in particular saw
Leafcutter John playing a squeaky balloon solo, before working with Rochford on
reimagining the track as Cans Oh Yeah.
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Cecil Taylor danced on stage to begin an intermeshed piano/drum entre with
Tony Oxley, a man who drums with the casual manner of a geography teacher
pointing out areas of deforestation on a map of the world. The first piece
stopped-and started, with Taylor pushing out some neat melodic phrases for
Oxley to pat into rhythmic shape, the second piece was longer, flowing, and a bit
boisterous. It was very much like listening in to a conversation between two old
men collapsing into bickering over who was first to court the affectations of
some girl (called Pennyno, called Dorothy!) in some year (1947! No, it must
have been after we went fishing in the lakes, which was 1948no, wait a
minute). But with a bit more purpose.
Following a muscular William Parker bass solo, the group including Braxton were
on stage together. After my previous introduction to live Braxton (classical,
mathy, swing-free), he was a revelation to me tonight, tearing up the first half of
the concert with lengthy fiery excursions on sopranino, soprano, and tenor
saxes, and contrabass clarinet, which had the others scrambling at his heels. I
could barely hear Parker, that bear of a bass player, amongst this brutality. As it
went on, Taylor caught him up, playing some battering cross handed runs up the
keyboard which probably earned him the maillots a pois rouges to Braxtons
maillot jaune.
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March 1st, 2008, 06:57 PM
#99
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The Music of Anthony Braxton
(Greenwood Press, 1996) ISBN 0313299560
This is such an unprecedented and remarkably visionary book that it seems
unfair to categorize it. Incited by Anthony Braxton's music, Heffley accepts the
challenge by going wherever it takes him. His interrogation of Braxton's work is
irresistible, and every page dares the reader to keep up with him, whether to the
beginnings of civilization or to the outer reaches of space. Though it is as
ambitious as The Road to Xanadu--J.L. Lowes' exploration of the secrets which
lie behind Coleridge's poetry--I know of nothing quite like this extraordinary
book.
John Szwed, Yale University, author of
Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (Pantheon, 1997)
This magnificent study is the ideal guide to a better appreciation of Anthony
Braxton's visionary music. Writing with real flair and insight, Mike Heffley mixes
panoramic overview and microscopic detail to explicate the complex brilliance of
Braxton's sound-world. Like its subject, his book grips and inspires. It is the
most exciting, creative, thought-provoking book on music I have read in years.
Graham Lock, author of
Forces in Motion: Anthony Braxton and the
Meta-Reality of Creative Music (Quartet Books, 1988)
Confronted by the staggering breadth and complexity of Anthony Braxton's
musical cosmology, Mike Heffley does not flinch; he creates a metaphorical
ontology of his own, exploring Braxton's multifaceted work and far-reaching
vision from mythological, philosophical, and scientific angles that extend beyond
ordinary music criticism into realms of sociology and cultural anthropology. Then
he turns to the music, and finds his way through the labyrinth of recordings,
compositional strategies, and improvisational systems, leaving a trail of solid
analysis and informed interpretation for us to follow. This is more than just
scholarship; it is an extraordinary achievement, a document of courage and
imagination, consideration and care.
Art Lange, editor of Down Beatmagazine 1980-87
Mike Heffley is the author of a veritable thesis of 495 pages, The Music of
Anthony Braxton (Greenwood Press, London, 1996). This work is without a
doubt the old and new testament on Anthony Braxton. It is no light reading, but
despite the absence of a discography it represents a level of achievement rarely
attained. It will be the delight of Braxton aficionados.
Jazz Hot (Paris)
The Music of Anthony Braxton draws on mysticism, numerology, the civilizations
of ancient Africa, Greece and Rome. . . Heffley's labor of love brings a welcome,
ambitious scale to the enterprise of jazz criticism.
In These Times (Chicago)
Heffley clearly acknowledges the importance of both Lock's and Radano's books
. . . Given the success of these books, it is to Heffley's credit that he is able to
find his own space within this spectrum. . . Heffley's contribution to an
understanding of Braxton's work results in a book which, quite intentionally, is as
complex and diverse as the music itself. . . Heffley's content is often rich in
insights and conveys a real understanding of both Braxton's music and its
relationship to previous musical traditions. . . . For many listeners, the main
difficulty with Braxton's music may be situated in this blurring of imaginary
boundaries between the improvisatory nature of American jazz . . . and the
controlling impulses within the Western tradition. . . The resulting collision
between these two distinct sound-worlds produces a vibrant, stimulating music
of which Heffley's somewhat idiosyncratic prose captures the essence. . . . The
challenging nature of Heffley's book, with its idiosyncracies of structure and
presentation, no doubt leaves it open to criticism from several different
perspectives. However, it does present a valuable range of insights into
Braxton's music, and . . . can make its own distinctive contribution to an
understanding of both Braxton's music in particular and the "trans-African
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tradition of creative music" in general.
Music and Letters (London)
While tough reading, it is the best book about Braxton yet. This is the most
thorough examination of Braxton's music and the various contexts from which it
emerges. It is the only book to date that very successfully explores the mystical
side of Braxton, and Heffley does so with clarity, integrity, and genuine respect
for Braxton. Because of its ambitious nature, this book is probably not the best
place to begin when studying Braxton. But its ambitious nature has also created
a book that matches the ambition of its subject matter, i.e., Braxton himself.
This is essential reading for Braxtonians.
Amazon.com reader review
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March 1st, 2008, 07:01 PM
ACCELERATED GHOST TRANCE
It's not everyday you get 400 people to pack into a theater and listen to a low-
energy web of non-repeating sound that makes Boulez or Carter sound like
easy-listening music. It's also not everyday that Anthony Braxton brings his
music to Philadelphia. Not even every decade. With a demanding continuous
piece furrowing any number of inscrutable paths for well over an hour, on
November 4th, 2005 Braxton and five of his dedicated interpreters gave the first
American exposition (as an isolated form) of the latest development in his grand
compositional scheme, surely to the bewilderment of many present who were
lured more by the hushed reverence afforded the new sexagenarian than any
engagement with his current aesthetic agenda. At the very least, the music
offered listeners a layer of accessible individual narrative to latch onto, with
Braxton himself taking a handful of characteristically scalding and sublime alto
sax solos and Jay Rozen (pictured above), Aaron Siegel, Jessica Pavone, Carl
Testa, and Taylor Ho Bynum each stepping into the foreground on occasion to
reveal a tremendous level of creative musicality.
After intensively developing an expansive compositional framework called Ghost
Trance Music for over a decade in three distinct phases, Braxton has conceded
its inadequacy for accomodating his full range of aesthetic desiderata and written
a new chapter designated as the Accelerated version. Pushing the envelope of
complexity and foregoing the foothold in regular pulse structures of the earlier
versions, Accelerated Ghost Trance Music places unusual demands on the
musicians. As such, it's ideally suited to a dedicated crack ensemble of musicians
well versed in Ghost Trance Music who might be hankering to play at the edge of
performative possibility long established as a hallmark of the Braxtonian
aesthetic. As Braxton half-seriously quipped after the gig in the wake of Jay
Rozen's boggling virtuosity on tuba, with a musician like Rozen to keep busy he
had to take the concept one step further. This specific group of musicians
(modulo Carl Testa newly replacing doublebassist Chris Dahlgren) have been
conducting public researches into Accelerated Ghost Trance Music since their
European tour in April this year, veterans of an acclaimed performance at the
Victo fest in May and subsequent European appearances this summer. As part of
the recent 60th birthday celebrations for Braxton, in September in Connecticut
the sextet was expanded to 12 musicians that used both Accelerated and earlier
forms of Ghost Trance Music in the same performance, something of a landmark
in terms of ensemble size and methodology. So it's worth noting that the Philly
performance was an example of a new compositional framework still in an
experimental stage of usage, accounting for the sense of thrilling discovery for
both performers and experiencers (well, at least a few of us I suppose).
The evolution of Ghost Trance Music through its four phases (or, more
accurately, three plus one phases, as Braxton told me he considers it an instance
of a more general "3+1 logic" in his systems) strikes me as a gradual erasure of
the formative "trance" concept to lay bare the underlying methodology for
interpolating materials into a large-scale form in its bewildering aesthetic
generality. While temporal extension and continuity alone can account for
elements of trance experience, I think that rhythmic regularity is the primary
trigger. With its exclusive use of unmetered 8th notes in the primary layer of
melodic structure, Ghost Trance Music Species One offered rhythmic regularity in
the most explicit form possible, whereas Ghost Trance Music Species Two and
Three introduced successively greater degrees of rhythmic subdivision in the
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form of episodic abruptions, as I believe Braxton refers to them. Now with
Accelerated Ghost Trance Music, the 8th notes have disappeared entirely, and
with them a hypnotic quality. Referred to as a template, the primary structural
material for any Ghost Trance Music omposition is an extremely long sequence
of non-vertical sound events notated with Braxton's diamond clef to be neutral
with respect to clef and transposition. As such, each instrumentalist in the
ensemble is referring to the exact same notational object and unison playing is a
common feature of the music. In Ghost Trance Music Species One and Two the
sound events were ordinary discrete notes, so the template was essentially a
marathon melody, while in Ghost Trance Music Species Three slots for
undetermined textures were incorporated into the sequence, a practice
continued in Accelerated Ghost Trance Music. An additional development is the
use of color coding in the score, but as I understand it this structural dimension is
only beginning to be explored and didn't factor into the performance I
experienced.
Aside from these significant changes in the templates, the essential spirit of
Ghost Trance Music remains unaltered. While containing its own modular system
to enable spontaneous deviations from the template, it also interfaces with
Braxton's pre-existing master scheme for organizing material into modules that
can plug into all his work. In a sense, Ghost Trance Music could be taken as an
overarching system that encompasses Braxton's entire career in a format
accessible to any of the musicians that might pass through his ever-shifting pool
of willing interpreters. It's this inclusiveness that struck me during the
performance. I could hear little episodes of so many different aesthetic directions
Braxton has pursued over the years, whether it was different sound parameters
taken as loci of variation, different methods of group interaction, different
idiomatic references, or simply different degrees of improvisation. In a manner
typical of many varieties of improvised music and definitive of non-idiomatic free
improvisation, individual instrumental personalities were allowed to function as
source material to some extent, offering that familiar and potentially appealing
experience of music as a theater of performer psychology. In a manner typical
of many varieties of notationalism, the musicians were also reproducing
predetermined material of a character unlikely to appear in improvised music,
offering an expression of Braxton's private imagination. While this sort of
complex interplay between improvisation and notationalism is not especially rare
and has seen comparably ambitious and successful realizations in works by folks
like Simon Fell and Scott Fields (the performance roughly reminded me of Fields'
epic and wonderful 96 Gestures but the music was vastly more subtle), I'd like
to suggest there is something yet more inclusive about Braxton's music in the
way it embraces a full human experience. While he pursues esoteric aspects of
sound organization alongside the best experimentalists, Braxton embraces very
traditional music experiences and leaves a space for them in most of his work.
Taken as a whole, I think Braxton has created a complete music, a music that
synthesizes a full range of aesthetics across the gamut of deep traditionalism
and deep experimentalism instead of being restricted to isolated aesthetic
concerns. This is such a rare achievement that the only other artist I can think of
who's created a complete music in the same sense is John Zorn. As vague as
these remarks may be, it's my concrete feeling that Ghost Trance Music is an
aesthetic ecosystem more than just a compositional framework.
I'm not foolhardy enough to attempt any exegesis of Ghost Trance Music
mechanics, were I even privy to them in full, but certain aspects are transparent
and worth mentioning to convey a methodological gist. The use of parallel
independent subgroupings was well represented by a memorable passage in
which Taylor Ho Bynum issued an extended freebop narrative over a
barnstorming pulse movement by Chris Dahlgen's burning doublebass and Aaron
Siegel's percussion, which temporarily assumed the flavor of a conventional
drumkit even though his setup was totally unlike a drumkit. It's worth noting that
this was one of very few passages in which jazz occurred. For a large part of
this trio segment the other musicians didn't play, but then Jay Rozen (tuba) and
Jessica Pavone (viola) exchanged some hand signals and cryptic glances in order
to launch into a tightly connected duo passage without any interactive
relationship to the trio passage, which continued unperturbed. It was sublime to
hear each subgroup retain its internal logic and resist merging logics with each
other. My take on the rough structure of a case like this is pretty
straightforward. First, I assume that individual-level relationships (relationships
between single musicians) tend to have perceptual primacy over group-level
relationships (relationships between groups of musicians) when both are in an
overlapping range of informational density. Second, it's not that the subgroups
have no relationship to each other, but rather that all individual-level relationships
are encapsulated in the two modules so that group-level relationships between
the modules aren't masked by individual-level relationships. In other words, it
opens a higher order relational space by subtracting a lower order relational
space. It strikes me as yet another nice way to avoid those good old pitch
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relationships that have worn out their welcome in human culture.
Taylor Ho Bynum, a ten-year guinea pig of Braxton's musical laboratory, was the
dominant soloist this evening, with an especially uninhibited take on Ghost
Trance Music's flexible parameters. I lost track of how many times he whipped
out a different instrument and played it with polished vim, but I believe his main
tools were cornet, trumpet, trombone, conch, finger cymbals, kickable objects,
and flugelhorn. He took a flugelhorn solo that completely blew my mind, easily
one of the five best solos of the evening alongside a few Braxton alto excursions
and Rozen's insane tuba workout to be recounted in an upcoming paragraph.
Bynum also has an animated and invigorating stage presence, an asset he
deploys to special effect in the free jazz contexts that have earned him a healthy
reputation in the avant-garde jazz world. I have to admit I've had a favorable
bias ever since first hearing him alongside Eric Rosenthal and Jack Wright on
Bhob Rainey's pre-lowercase classic Universal Noir some five years ago.
Bynum's readiness to step outside the brass family casts him as a classic
example of Derek Bailey's conceptualization of a type of improvisor who regards
their instrument as a means to an end and not an end in itself, certainly a
minority in the post-jazz demographic. I recall a performance from a few years
ago in Boston during the James Coleman -curated Autumn Uprising festival that
perfectly captured this aspect of Bynum's musicality. Forgive me for some
haziness on the specifics hereit would be great if someone graced the
Commentellen below with a more accurate version of the storybut the
occasion was a short tribute to an eccentric inspirational figure of the local
avant-garde scene (perhaps a trumpeter/composer who had passed away?) in
which several trumpeters gave a one-minute interpretation of a graphic score by
this fellow. I think there was four players (who also did a trumpet quartet in the
same set), and I think one of them may have been Tom Halter (but if not, he's a
fine player!), but I'm pretty sure the other three were Bynum, Mark Harvey, and
Greg Kelley. Needless to say these are advanced players who could be expected
to offer radically different responses to the squiggles or blobs or whatever were
on that piece of paper, but Bynum's reading epitomized the poetry of surprise.
As I remember it, he engaged in a mini-epic struggle to tie and untie his shoelace
around the bottom of the music stand's pole with the full-body vigor of
someone fending off a swarm of bees. It was a beautiful piece with a frantic
tempo and a true sense of naked humanity. (I also remember Kelley's reading
being a single heart-stopping virtuosic blast of static and extreme circularly-
breathed trumpet sound.)
I offer that anecdote as a pleasant contextualization for the most poignant
moment in the concert, which for me is an even better symbolic rendering of the
wondrous and ineffable human spirit of Anthony Braxton than his widely reported
(with amusing telephone-game variations unique to each reporter!) recent
onstage communication of a Wolf Eyes song title (which, granted, I didn't
witness first-hand). In what I'm assuming to be a reading of a texture space
from the template (or perhaps a module of one of Braxton's language types, a
common interface with Ghost Trance Music), Bynum suddenly began capriciously
kicking the mutes and other objects on the floor near him. Bynum plays soccer.
Bynum keeps playing soccer. Bynum's soccer takes him many feet away from
his allotted spot on stage. Bynum's bouts of soccer attain spectacle-hood. Jay
Rozen nonchalantly crinkles a tin foil pie plate in textural sympathy. Sir Braxton
intently peers at the score, listening. Sir Braxton keeps intently peering at the
score, listening. Sir Braxton smiles so hard and long his whole body is moving,
still peering at the score. Sir Braxton is rocking from side to side and shaking his
head with pleasure, still peering at the score. Sir Braxton exudes more joy than a
kid stepping into a candy shop or a conductor reaching the climax of his favorite
symphony in its best reading, still peering at the score. Jessica Pavone is
standing closest to Braxton a few feet away, holding her viola in the "off"
position, head down, concentrating, listening, expressionless. Sir Braxton is
radiating enough joy to burn the back row of the theater. Jessica Pavone looks
up at Sir Braxton and smiles with the understated warmth of a person just
reminded of why they love this complex man in a cardigan.
What can top that? How about a contrabass saxophone? Can't say I'd ever seen
one of those before. Probably the biggest wind instruments I'd previously
encountered were whatever kind of massive clarinets (probably contrabass)
Wolfgang Fuchs, Peter van Bergen, and Hans Koch were using when I saw Holz
Fr Europa some years back and I've seen Robert Dick play contrabass flute
too. This was a special occasion and our main man in the cardigan didn't just
stop at bass saxophone, which was itself a rare treat requiring a special wheeled
stand; he treated Philly to the big one. Have a gander at the photo above for a
gist of the dimensions. Braxton wheeled the behemoth over in front of his music
stand on a precious few occasions and put some astounding elephantine roars
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into the mix. An especially sublime passage blended the contrabass sax with
Bynum's conch, Rozen's quiet shakers, and Pavone's slicing viola harmonics.
Probably the best way to understand why there was a musical justification for
these exotic sounds is by considering the crucial role that an expanded timbral
palette plays in Braxton's music. In fact, I was entirely surprised by the extensive
use of extended techniques during the concert. While of course he is a pioneer of
extended techniques in his role as a reed instrumentalist, Braxton's conception of
notated ensemble music is as exploratory as Iancu Dumitrescu or Helmut
Lachenmann in this way. In fact, the theoretical apparatus he developed in
tandem with his reed research lends itself to applications independent of
instrumental identity, like his language types and Cobalt System Structures.
I was really pleased to hear some substantial overlap in the music with recent
experimental free improvisation of a sort Braxton has never gone on record
performing that I'm aware of, both in the use of certain sound vocabularies and
extremely low dynamic levels. Aaron Siegel's percussion was critical in this
regard. One of the highlights of the evening for me was a sustained passage of
faint scraping across the surface of his giant floor tom, recalling some of my
favorite percussionists like L Quan Ninh, Paul Neidhardt, and Burkhard Beins.
This "concert drum" afforded some deeply resonant tones, especially when
Siegel dowelled on it; I'd never heard anyone dowel on such a large drum
before, so it was a bit of a revelation. Siegel's virtuosity and timbral diversity was
put to good use throughout. He ripped through tricky abruptions on vibraphone
and alternated rolls on his small drums with such finesse they became textures.
Easily the most extraordinary example of extended techniques in the concert, as
well as of one of the most musically compelling moments, came from Jay
Rozen's tuba. At some point I began hearing a miraculously beautiful line that I
could only imagine coming from a tenor or baritone sax, but which was yet
unlike anything I'd ever heard. I was puzzled because it clearly wasn't coming
from Braxton's corner and while Rozen was the only explanation I was at a loss
to understand the relationship between what my ears and eyes were processing.
Rozen was playing his tuba with a tin foil pie plate in the bell, which simply
couldn't account for the sound I was hearing. What I found out afterwards from
Rozen was that he was actually producing four distinct layers of sound at the
time: an ordinary tuba tone, a sound derived from a small object (a whistle?) he
had wedged inside the mouthpiece, a vocalization amplified by the tuba, and the
buzzing from the tin foil. Go figure. Turns out he was as surprised as I was by
this confluence of techniques; it was a real-time improvisational discovery for
him and he nursed it for a good long stretch to serve several musical functions.
Another astounding passage from Rozen (there was quite a few!) came when
he used a saxophone mouthpiece on his tuba, which creates a gloriously
complex and aggressive sound that must be heard to be believed. The first time
I heard someone play a tuba with a reed mouthpiece was just a few months ago
and it wasn't until many weeks later that someone explained it to me. It was
Per-ke Holmlander during a Brtzmann Tentet gig, and at the time I was totally
freaked out by the sound and could only imagine that some serious electronic
processing was being used.
Braxton is a really famous guy. Part of that has to do with his singular body of
theoretical and conceptual material wrapped around his music, but the simple
fact is that people wouldn't've taken him seriously in the first place if he wasn't
one of the most brilliant jazz and post-jazz saxophonists in history who quickly
created a body of work based around his reed work, especially alto sax, that's
both accessible and mind-blowing to the typical avant-jazz fan. I have no doubt
that there are people who go to a Braxton gig because they've heard records
like For Alto, New York Fall 1974, his jazz tribute projects, the
Hemingway/Crispell/Dresser quartet records, etc, and wind up totally mystified
by the sort of radically unconventional non-jazz experimental ensemble music
he's developing with Ghost Trance Music. And as much as I enjoy the manifold
challenges this music presents me and even manage to overcome enough of
them to tremendously enjoy the music itself, I still have as much hankering as
the next person to experience Braxton, Alto Sax God, so I couldn't help notice
the nature of my listening experience completely shift into a more immediate
and visceral sort of pleasure on the handful of occasions when Braxton put the
trusty little horn to his lips and filled the air with invisible liquid gold. In fact, the
only passage in the concert I'd call truly transcendental for me was Braxton's
sole unaccompanied alto sax solo towards the end. It was an extended bout of
raw physical engagement with the instrument that set his whole body into poetic
gyrations and it was a flashback for me of the only other time I'd seen this man
perform in the flesh, his monumental two sets of solo alto sax at The New York
Ethical Culture Society on May 24, 2002, one of the milestones in my modest
journey through a human life. All of Braxton's alto solos killed me during the
Philly gig though, and they covered quite a range of aesthetics from harsh bluster
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to winsome melody, surely giving everyone in the audience at least one Braxton
alto sax moment to take home in their basket of precious memories. There was
even one that distinctly reminded me of Jack Wright (my favorite saxophonist
and in my honest and considered opinion the greatest free improvisor in the
world) in its implosive, bottled intensity and tortured quietness with sparse loud
notes conjured with dramatic effort from the fiercest silent boogie. At the same
time, Carl Testa was quietly rubbing the body of his doublebass and it was a
heavenly episode of the quiet and dramatic improv I tend to favor these days.
It was also representative of the low dynamic levels of most of the evening, a
matter that was rather badly matched to the music's environmental conditions.
For starters, I'll have to get a little rant off my chest here. There was a horribly
insensitive woman wearing hard-surfaced high-heeled shoes of some sort,
evidently an employee of the venue (a ritzy large theater reflecting the ample
resources of benefactors of the University of Pennsylvania and typically used for
film events) who felt it was her job to inspect the audience and determine
whether any seats were available as people trickled in after the venue was
packed to capacity. She repeatedly walked on the wooden floor of the long
hallway along the side of the seating array. So for each of several informational
excursions she undertook during the first half-hour or so of the concert, that's
dozens of footsteps that were louder than the music. Sir Braxton did not require
the services of an inept and loud percussionist for his presentation that evening.
Besides the utter horror of this act and the yet worse specter of its repetition,
the venue took an abominably cold and irrational approach to the seating
situation, actually refusing admittance to a good many people (including some
friends of mine who had journeyed all the way up from Baltimore for the concert
I suspect a lot of people travelled from distant places for this rare and special
event) until someone left the concert and vacated a seat! As it were, the hallway
on either side of the seating array was by itself larger than a typical improv
venue and could've easily held fifty people standing within comfortable earshot of
the music while still maintaining a wide walkway. There was a ton of space
available! The place was huge. Sheer bullshit.
It reminds me of the time I went to see Hariprasad Chaurasia perform with a
carful of college friends. Our long journey to some opposite region of the greater
Chicago area found us arriving a bit late. The performance hadn't begun yet and
every seat in the moderately large but cozy theater was filled, no surprise
considering that Chaurasia is one of the greatest master musicians alive today
and a cultural icon. The first few rows were surely filled with prominent local
benefactors of the concert series. People began to settle on the aisle floor. Yet
the sensible and culturally-sensitive folks running the event graciously escorted
our motley crew to the comfortable carpeted and raised platform between the
stage and the first row (at eye-level with the muscians no less!) and we happily
took to the floor and took in some truly transcendental ragas that evening in the
profoundly intimate vicinity of the performers.
For better or worse, folks presumably unimpressed with Accelerated Ghost
Trance Music did vacate their seats in due time. There was a distracting trickle of
people leaving the concert that steadily increased from midway onwards. I'd
estimate that upwards of a hundred people decided they had more valuable uses
for their time than sticking out a full presentation by an international cultural
treasure and arguably one of the five greatest musical figures of the past
century. It was bad enough that a few dozen people gratuitously applauded
twice in the middle of the piece after solos (one by Bynum and another by
Braxton)! Hello? This isn't bebop. Would you applaud in the middle of a Scelsi
performance? Did you not catch on to the fact that a delicate weave of
ensemble interaction was happening during and immediately after the solo?
Damn philistines.
Such are the compromises of an event of this scale and uniqueness, and all told
it was a smashing success and mind-boggling achievement for the impresario,
Mark Christman. In fact, this is precisely the ideal occasion to celebrate Mark's
profound contributions to Philadelphia culture. The concert was in fact just one of
an entire series Mark is curating to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the AACM
under the aegis of his avant-jazz promotional organization Ars Nova Workshop.
The series began last month with an historic pairing of Roscoe Mitchell and Muhal
Richard Abrams in quartet with Jaribu Shahid and Tani Tabbal, and it continues
next month with Wadade Leo Smith's Golden Quartet (Smith with Vijay Iyer,
John Lindberg, and Ronald Shannon Jackson) and extends to the early months
of 2006 with the current version of Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble
featuring Joseph Bowie and Ernest Dawkins, a Leroy Jenkins and Myra Melford
duo, and a giant in my post-jazz pantheon, Henry Threadgill, with his Zooid
ensemble. The series is just too good to be true, but Mark somehow corralled
various resources to make this historic and bold statement to the Philadelphia
region. The significance of the AACM in American cultural history cannot be
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overstated.
As impressive as this special series is, the totality of Ars Nova over the past five
years is vastly more impressive. My personal tribute to Mark here comes after
enjoying more great avant-jazz concerts he's curated than I could possibly
recount. My gratitude is incalculable. It's been a critical and formative aspect of
my experience as a fan of creative improvised music, almost to the levels of
Baltimore's miraculous Red Room. Just off the top of my head I can think of
three Ars Nova gigs that would likely find a slot in a list of the ten most profound
concert experiences I've had so far in life (Gregg Bendian's Interzone, Tim
Berne's Hard Cell, Joe Maneri Quartet) and Mark's connoisseurship of avant-jazz
is so impressive that virtually everything he's put on is worth attending, no filler.
He has curated a truly accurate representation of the true current state of jazz
as a creative art form without any compromises. Just check out the archival list
of performances on the Ars Nova website. In terms of making Philadelphia a vital
center for creative musical culture and saving people the trouble of trips to NYC
or Baltimore, only Jack Wright and his miraculous No Net events are comparable
in significance to Mark's curation of the Ars Nova Workshop.
Mark's professionalism and dedication is astonishing. His promotion of events is
thorough and effective, routinely drawing larger crowds than typical for avant-
jazz. And to set up this Braxton gig he actually drove all the way to Connecticut
to approach the secluded Wesleyan professor in person after a gig! In fact, he
went home empty-handed after his first trip up there for this purpose, due to
some weather situation or gig cancellation or something, so he actually made a
second trip and began the dialogue that eventuated in the unforgettable concert
I've recounted above. There's nothing hyperbolic in my tribute to Mark here, and
I'm not just saying all this because he's a fine person whose favorite musicians
(e.g. Tim Berne, Nels Cline) conveniently happen to be the same as mine!
While some may balk at the potentially contrived nature of this connection, right
before zipping over to the gig that evening I attended a gallery opening of a
show that genuinely struck me with Braxtonian resonances. Combined with my
reverie in Braxton's Composition n. 247 (one of my top five Braxton discs for
sure) while driving to the gallery and the gig, Paul Santoleri's Linear Interference
offered a sense of immersion and scale that put me in a real Ghost Trance Music
zone. Spread over two floors and covering entire walls instead just ordinary
modular hanging rectangles, it was full of so much intricately woven detail that
I'd guess it took many years to complete if I didn't know any better, but as it is
Paul is a remarkably prolific visual artist with several large shows in just the past
few years. A close-up shot appears next.
I think the concept of scale is essential to Ghost Trance Music. Braxton's pieces
routinely last upwards of two hours. The Philly gig was probably in the
neighborhood of an hour and a half, but that's just a guess. His scheme is partly
modelled after the epic ritual music of various traditional cultures. Ghost Trance
Music similarly demands a willingness to enter a non-ordinary state of mind. One
of Paul's primary media is public murals; his conception of art is epic and
inclusive. After over an hour cycling through the different regions in Paul's work, I
felt I'd been transported to a self-contained parallel world with its own ecological
niches and untraceable geneology of pattern. Like Ghost Trance Music, Linear
Interference redefines the parameters of continuity. Material seems to derive
from an ever-present template, but it coalesces in diversionary modules and
sometimes feels imported from a distant land.
In the segment shown above, you can see how Paul superimposed
independently created modules while retaining an overarching contextual logic. I
couldn't help but noting the analogy with Ghost Trance Music. For almost the
entire time I was there the visual experience was aligned with a duo performance
by cellist Helena Espvall-Santoleri (Paul's partner and a glowing presence in Philly
improv culture) and percussionist Shawn Hennessey (tabla player Lenny
Seidman had interlocked with Helena earlier in the evening before I arrived). They
generated a burning and powerful continuous groove that revealed the core
human implementation of trance music in stark contrast to what I heard mere
minutes later in a different part of town. It was a most serendipitous evening in
Philadelphia.
~Michael Anton Parker
Special thanks to Taylor Ho Bynum and Anthony Braxton for graciously
explaining certain aspects of Ghost Trance Music to me. James Fei's fabulous
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liner notes to Composition n. 247 also proved very useful, and please get that
disc if you haven't already; it's mind-blowing and totally unique!
Reply With Quote
March 1st, 2008, 07:08 PM
ANTHONY BRAXTON & DEREK BAILEY
FIRST DUO CONCERT
EMANEM 4006
ANTHONY BRAXTON flute, soprano clarinet, clarinet, contrabass clarinet,
sopranino saxophone, alto saxophone
DEREK BAILEY amplified guitar, 19-string (approx) guitar
1 - THE FIRST SET - Area 1 - 8:22
2 - THE FIRST SET - Area 2 - 3:12
3 - THE FIRST SET - Area 3 (open) - 8:44
4 - THE FIRST SET - Area 4 (solo) - 2:43
5 - THE FIRST SET - Area 5 - 5:21
6 - THE FIRST SET - Area 6 - 6:08
7 - THE SECOND SET - Area 7 - 6:48
8 - THE SECOND SET - Area 8 - 6:23
9 - THE SECOND SET - Area 9 (solo) - 5:56
10 - THE SECOND SET - Area 10 - 4:29
11 - THE SECOND SET - Area 11 (open) - 15:29
12 - THE SECOND SET - Area 12 - 3:57
Analogue concert recordings made in London in the Wigmore Hall
by MARTIN DAVIDSON - 1974 JUNE 30
Total time 77:47
All originally issued in 1974 on Emanem double LP 601
Excerpts from sleeve notes:
During the middle 1960s, several centres creating highly original new music
appeared independently - unknown to each other and to the rest of the world at
first. Two of the most important of these centres were Chicago and London.
Both were strongly influenced by the New York City based free jazz scene, yet
both reacted against certain aspects of it. For instance they both used a lot of
space, often involving extended quiet passages that ventured near and even
included silence, and they put greater emphasis on improvising as a group, rather
than as soloists with accompaniment. Both were also strongly influenced by
contemporary composed music, and by several genres of traditional music from
around the world.
There were major differences, however. The Chicagoans nearly always used pre-
composed material (often quite complex) in their performances, whilst the most
radical Londoners generally dropped written material very early on in their
explorations. Also, the improvisational language of the Chicagoans tended to
sound like (free) jazz, whereas the more adventurous Londoners sounded more
like certain areas of modern composed music - although it should be pointed out
that both ventured into previously unheard sound worlds. (Needless to say, all of
the above is a generalisation with innumerable exceptions, rather than the whole
picture.)
Two of the leading exponents of these two centres were Anthony Braxton (b.
1945) and Derek Bailey (b. 1930). The former grew up in Chicago, whereas the
latter did not move to London until the mid 1960s, having grown up in Sheffield.
The two first came into direct contact when Braxton spent some time in London
in 1971. They first worked together at a 1973 Braxton quartet concert in Paris
that began with a duo piece. The concert preserved on this CD was their second
public performance together, and was the first time that Braxton had officially
performed in Britain. It was also one of the first concerts of improvised music to
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take place in the Wigmore Hall.
The first part of the rehearsal held the previous day established what the
musicians did not want to do - Bailey did not want to play notated compositions
in unison, while Braxton did not want to improvise totally. A compromise was
reached. Each half or set of the concert was to consist of a (different) sequence
of six predetermined areas to improvise in. Thus, for example, Area 2 is around
staccato sounds, Area 6 about sustained sounds, Area 10 about repeated
motifs, etc. One section of each set, however, was left open (unpredetermined)
to allow for the inclusion of other ideas that might arise during the concert.
(These are Area 3 and Area 11). Also one section of the First Set was
designated a guitar solo (Area 4), and one of the Second an alto saxophone solo
(Area 9). Each of the two sets was played without a break.
Note that for most of the concert, Bailey played a normal electro-acoustic six-
string guitar augmented by stereo amplification, with the sound coming out of
the two speakers controlled by two volume pedals. In Area 7 and Area 8, he
used his then other guitar, which had about nineteen strings, enhanced by a
small practice amplifier. Two of these strings were "contra-bass" ones which
went around his feet.
Unfortunately, there is not enough room on this CD for the rehearsal extracts
that were previously issued on LPs, and these do not add enough material to
make up two decently filled CDs. These are now available on Emanem 4027.
MARTIN DAVIDSON (1996)
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March 1st, 2008, 07:19 PM
CoyotePalace: These are some great post's, thanks for taking the time to make
them, also the pics bring back alot of memories, Braxton is an inpiration!
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March 1st, 2008, 07:22 PM
Ain't he though! Downright humbling...
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Originally Posted by sounds212001
CoyotePalace: These are some great post's, thanks for taking the time to make them, also
the pics bring back alot of memories, Braxton is an inpiration!
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March 1st, 2008, 07:24 PM
Fantastic blogsite:
http://ifyouknowwhatimsaying.blogspot.com/
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March 1st, 2008, 07:31 PM
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The Berlin / Montrau live 1976 double
record was my first Braxton recording, I
wore the grooves off of it and played it
for alot my friends who were into rock
and they dug it!
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March 1st, 2008, 07:36 PM
That's such a great album! That music is
so gratifying for me. My absolute
favorite Braxton album is this one:
I've worn out a few copies of this since
it came out!
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Originally Posted by
sounds212001
The Berlin / Montrau live 1976 double
record was my first Braxton recording,
I wore the grooves off of it and played
it for alot my friends who were into
rock and they dug it!
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March 1st, 2008, 07:41 PM
That is also a favorite of mine.
#107
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Originally Posted by CoyotePalace
That's such a great album! That music is so gratifying for me. My absolute favorite Braxton
album is this one:
I've worn out a few copies of this since it came out!
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March 2nd, 2008, 04:37 PM
#108
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nbfellow
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Originally Posted by CoyotePalace
That's such a great album! That music is so gratifying for me. My absolute favorite Braxton
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I am listening to this lp as I write this. I bought it on vinyl locally for 18.00 CDN
funds a few months ago. Sounded like a deal to me! It could be my fav. Braxton
too, but I've only heard about 15+
CoyotePalace, are there any Braxton recordings you haven't heard as yet? I
have a feeling you've heard/own most, if not all...lucky you!
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album is this one:
I've worn out a few copies of this since it came out!
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March 2nd, 2008, 05:30 PM
I feel that from the early 1980's and especially from his second quartet you're
seeing a big qualitative change in Braxton's group music...towards a need to
exert more conscious control over solo content in the interest of securing a
greater group identity.
But I wonder if anyone else here percieves the period of 'Pulse Tracks' and
'Ghost Trances' musics from the 80's and 90's as a mixed blessing in some
ways.
In the 80's quartet for example sometimes I felt the practice of overlaying
'interchangeable' bits of several compositions in a collage manner could be
satisfying for it more multi-levelled group interaction. But it could also get
bogged down in some very complex chamber-like textures that lacked a clear
narrative and could be inaccessible... I'm not sure about some of it.
Compare his 1981 set with Anthony Davis on piano 'Six Compositions Quartet'
with any of the 1985 tour albums. Would anyone say that there's a leaner and
more propulsive element about the former thats missing in places from the later
group?
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March 2nd, 2008, 06:27 PM
Cat, the first thing that comes to me upon reading your thoughts is an Eno
maxim..."One thing obscures another."
I find with Braxton music that I have to really take each individual recorded piece
as it's own organism. As Braxton has stated at various times in interviews he
chases 'the mystery' of the music. For instance, in the earlier 'standards'
discussion, it struck me that I really don't care about the mainstream conception
of a standard in the context of Braxton. He's flying in a different cosmos
sonically than most, and that difference is most glaring in the 'standards'
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Originally Posted by catatone
I feel that from the early 1980's and especially from his second quartet you're seeing a big
qualitative change in Braxton's group music...towards a need to exert more conscious
control over solo content in the interest of securing a greater group identity.
But I wonder if anyone else here percieves the period of 'Pulse Tracks' and 'Ghost Trances'
musics from the 80's and 90's as a mixed blessing in some ways.
In the 80's quartet for example sometimes I felt the practice of overlaying
'interchangeable' bits of several compositions in a collage manner could be satisfying for it
more multi-levelled group interaction. But it could also get bogged down in some very
complex chamber-like textures that lacked a clear narrative and could be inaccessible...
I'm not sure about some of it.
Compare his 1981 set with Anthony Davis on piano 'Six Compositions Quartet' with any of
the 1985 tour albums. Would anyone say that there's a leaner and more propulsive
element about the former thats missing in places from the later group?
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context. So, I have to say that I listen to those tunes differently with Braxton. I
would love to hear him do a standards album with Lee Konitz, Dave Holland, and
Paul Motian.
With the comparison between the 1981 Davis group and the 1985 group, on the
one hand I can wholeheartedly concur with your perspective, but for me
ultimately, it's simply a different kettle of fish. With the 1985 group recordings I
appreciate the struggle (aka the mystery) that is apparent there. I love the
collision of minds and spirits that Braxton created with that personnel and
musical conception (with the 1981 group it's a much different collision). My
favorite recording of the 1985 tour is the London set, but my favorite for that
group is the Willisau 1991 recordings.
In regards to the 'ghost trance' musics, I'm beginning to find my way through
them better now. One of the things I've noticed with the videos that
I've seen featuring 'ghost trance' performances, is just how much FUN everyone
on stage seems to be having! I love that music as difficult as Braxton's can
appear to be is being approached with such mirth. It reminds me of John Cage in
that respect. Compare the more recent 'ghost trance' musics with Creative
Orchestra Music 1976 and check it out.
Cat...I hope my thoughts are clear....
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March 2nd, 2008, 07:32 PM
Coyote, I concur with your estimation of Willisau as the height of that groups
achievments and 'collision of minds and spirits' is a good way of describing the
overall vibe..and I dont mean that pejoratively any more than you do. I think its
more a music of equals in terms of input by 1991 where as the 1985 sets
showed the band still not quite at Braxton's level. Nor were they especially well
recorded either by the BBC and Leo Feigin compared to the Hat (state-of-the)
Art productions.
Composition 40b provides a good point of comparison between the 1981 'Six
Compositins album and Willisau sets. At first I thought the Willisau version a bit
ponderous compared to the light-on-its-feet 1981 take with Davis. But the
Willisau '40b' builds into a titanic vertical struggle thats immensly satisfying in
compensation for any drop in tempo.
I see the relationship between the 1976 Creative orchestra and later 'Ghost
Trance' musics quite stongly in the 'military march' piece on side 2 of that
album..the name escapes me..(it becomes the same kind of very dissonant
minimalist structure you hear on the later stuff).
I sometimes feel he delegates too much to the other players on his later
ensembles and whilst they are more than capable they are not for me on the
same level as the quartets.
That's why I enjoy Braxton's duets so much from the last 10-15 years. I feel
he's more unfettered there and you get a better chance to hear him at length as
a soloist.
I hear what you're saying about the standards. I suppose my thought would be
that the objectivity of a given standard form where you have to meet at certain
co-ordinates, still applies (if youre not completely altering the form, playing
totally rubato or radically reharnonizing the tune). He often respects the original
changes and plays it relatively straight in the rhythm section and for me that
gives him less scope for imposing his own sonic vision in the solos without
occasional clashes and mis-steps.
But yes Konitz would be an ideal partner (I'm not so sure from a 1981 video
that Konitz altogether warmed to Braxton!! he seemed non-plussed at
Braxton's vocal recitation of one of his lines.. lol). Motian of course would be an
interesting choice and something of a challenge for Braxton.
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March 2nd, 2008, 07:46 PM
Here ya go Coyote:
Anthony Braxton Trio - Fall, 1976
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March 2nd, 2008, 07:50 PM
Thanks Marcello...awesome, as usual!!!
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March 2nd, 2008, 07:58 PM
Hmm nice pics...the 70's Braxton used to sport a nice line in retina-shattering
patterned shirts. Not sure about that tea-cloth checkered number though.
But what about that cardigan and pipe? Was wearing a cardigan before the age
of 60 the biggest anti-fashion statement ever or borne of sheer poverty I
wonder?
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March 2nd, 2008, 08:49 PM
Just so people can narrow it down some, here is a list of duets with Braxton
since the 1990's. A 'star' will be placed on my favorites. I'm sure I've left out a
few...please correct as needed.
8 Duets:Hamburg 1991 w/ Peter Wilson
Duo (Amsterdam)1991 w/ George Grawe *
Duets 1993 w/ Mario Pavone*
Duo (Leipzig)1993 w/Ted Reichman
Duo (London)1993 w/ Evan Parker*
Duo (Wesleyan)1994 w/Abraham Adzinyah
10 Compositions (Duet) 1995 w/Joe Fonda*
Two Lines wDavid Rosenboom
Composition No.192 w/Lauren Newton
Live at Merkin Hall w/Richard Teitelbaum
14 Compositions (Traditional)1996 w/Stewart Gillmor
Compositions/Improvisations 2000 w/Scott Rosenberg
Duets (Wesleyan) 2002 w/Taylor Ho Bynum*
Duo Palindom 2002, Vols. 1 & 2 w/Andrew Cyrille*
Duo (Victoriaville)2005 w/ Fred Frith*
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March 2nd, 2008, 09:01 PM
Thanks again Coyote!. Just a couple of favourites spring to mind right now...
Organic Resonance - w/ Leo Smith -2003
11 Compositions (Duo) - w/ Brett Larner (koto) - 1995
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March 2nd, 2008, 09:33 PM
Interesting thoughts. One remarkable side of Braxton is that he never seems to
look back, even during the 80s when it seemed like everybody was looking back
to some degree. When Braxton achieves one artistic goal, he moves on to
another. Moving from one stage to the other is usually a mixed blessing in that
you have to leave behind some of the good together with the bad. Braxton has
been almost Coltranesque in his fixation on the future and forward movement
throughout four decades. What a remarkable individual!
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John L
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Originally Posted by catatone
I feel that from the early 1980's and especially from his second quartet you're seeing a big
qualitative change in Braxton's group music...towards a need to exert more conscious
control over solo content in the interest of securing a greater group identity.
But I wonder if anyone else here percieves the period of 'Pulse Tracks' and 'Ghost Trances'
musics from the 80's and 90's as a mixed blessing in some ways.
In the 80's quartet for example sometimes I felt the practice of overlaying
'interchangeable' bits of several compositions in a collage manner could be satisfying for it
more multi-levelled group interaction. But it could also get bogged down in some very
complex chamber-like textures that lacked a clear narrative and could be inaccessible...
I'm not sure about some of it.
Compare his 1981 set with Anthony Davis on piano 'Six Compositions Quartet' with any of
the 1985 tour albums. Would anyone say that there's a leaner and more propulsive
element about the former thats missing in places from the later group?
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March 2nd, 2008, 09:58 PM
Thanks. I might add that they were the opening act for... Ramsey Lewis, The
Sun God, of all people.
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Marcello
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Originally Posted by CoyotePalace
Thanks Marcello...awesome, as usual!!!
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March 2nd, 2008, 10:08 PM
That must have been a hoot!
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Originally Posted by Marcello
Thanks. I might add that they were the opening act for... Ramsey Lewis, The Sun God, of
all people.
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March 10th, 2008, 06:04 PM
Hi!
#120
nbfellow
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I just ordered the 9 Compositions
(Iridium) boxset. It should keep me
occupied for a few days...or weeks!!!
I would love to hear what members
think of it.
Thanks alot!
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March 10th, 2008, 06:26 PM
I would love for you to give us a 'rolling
commentary' on it as you listen to it! So
please keep us in the loop as you listen!
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Originally Posted by nbfellow
Hi!
I just ordered the 9 Compositions
(Iridium) boxset. It should keep me
occupied for a few days...or weeks!!!
I would love to hear what members
think of it.
Thanks alot!
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March 11th, 2008, 03:39 PM
George Lewis
Interview link:
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=19130
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March 11th, 2008, 03:40 PM
George Lewis, Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell
#123
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March 11th, 2008, 03:45 PM
George Lewis is one of the best trombone players I've ever heard. One of my
favorite recordings that he is on is "Contrasts" by Sam rivers.
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March 11th, 2008, 03:48 PM
A nice interview with George Lewis (who has played on Braxton's pieces):
George Lewis
by Jeff Parker
Issue 93 Fall 2005, MUSIC
I first met George Lewis in 1999. It was at the Velvet Lounge in Chicago, where I
was performing as a member of the Fred Anderson Quartet for a live recording,
and Lewis was composing the liner notes. He introduced himself and said that he
would like to interview me for the book hes writing, a history of the Association
for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), the legendary, innovative
and influential Chicago-based musicians collective, of which we are both
members (an extensive projecthes done 90 interviews since 1998, and the
book will be published by the University of Chicago Press in 2006). I was quite
familiar with him and much of his work, not to mention awestruck and flattered
that he even knew who I was. A few days later he showed up at my old
apartment in Bucktown and asked me questions about music and myself that
shone a fresh light on the path I was heading down (Im still traveling that path).
This was the beginning of a friendship that has inspired me in ways that I
couldve never imagined.
Lewis wears many hats: hes a trombonist, an improviser, a composer, a
pioneer in music technology and computer music, a scholar, an historian, a
multimedia artist and an educator. He has always been light years ahead of the
pack, asking questions that need to be asked, addressing and eloquently
articulating issues about the various relationships between art and society, and
realizing his humanistic vision through his brilliant works. Ive had the pleasure of
working with Lewis on two occasions. The first was as part of a performance
and discussion (along with Kelan Phil Cohran) that George curated, called
Frankiphones and Silver Cycles: African-Americans in Electronic Music (2002),
where I also got to see an incredible performance with Lewis, the great Roscoe
Mitchell and Lewiss computer-interactive composition/improviser Voyager. The
second was the Baden-Baden Free Jazz Meeting, which George describes as
an event that, since the late 1960s, has had a long and important history in
European improvised music. For this edition of the meeting, I wanted to explore
ways in which technology dovetailed with improvisation in creating a site of
hybridity between electronic and acoustic sound worlds. Each of the musicians I
chose for the project seemed to me to be addressing that nexus in some way
Jeff Parker (electric guitar), Guillermo E. Brown (drums/electronics), Kaffe
Matthews (electronics, Great Britain), DJ Mutamassik (turntables), Miya
Masaoka (koto, electronics); 48nord (Sigi Rssert, bass and electronics, and
Ulrich Mller, guitar and electronics); and me.
Three days of performances followed, and the experience reminded me of a ring
shouteveryone had their say, but the collective was just as important, creating
an improvisatory environment in which I felt truly open.
Jeff Parker Hey. I have a bunch of topics I want to try to cover.
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George Lewis Really? (laughter)
JP Im hoping that they will kind of lead into one another. But maybe not.
(laughter) Okay. Well, one thing Ive noticed is that you create a historical as well
as a socio-political setting for seemingly all the work that you present. Is this
something that you feel is necessary only as it applies to you and your work, or
do you feel that all art is political in nature?
GL Ive always wanted some kind of subtext in my compositions, and I think
where it starts to get intense for me is with the piece called Homage to Charles
Parker, which was done at the AACM Festival in 1978. It was in two parts. For
the first part we put contact mics on cymbals and Douglas Ewart used mallets
and brushes, and I had, like, stomp boxes from the 70s (laughter), Electro-
Harmonix stuff, phasers and flangers. You could get sounds a lot like
[Stockhausens] Mikrophonie I and II and things like that. So the idea for me was
that this kind of represented Charlie Parkers life, which seemed to me to be very
turbulent. My interpretation of Parker was that he really was trying to realize
more than society was going to allow him to achieve, and so he found other,
more destructive ways to exercise the rest of his prodigious energy. You know,
all the things he was reputed to be, this extremely smart guy who could talk
about anything. Fred Anderson has this wonderful interview with him on tape
where hes talking about Bartk. Hes very voluble, very well read and so on.
And then the second part of Homage was these two ethereal seventh chords:
Charlie Parkers afterlife. I wanted to go back to the Bird is free ideaBird
Lives, that phrase coined by Ted Joans in the 50s.
JP Sure.
GL Douglas was playing alto saxophone; I played an electric keyboard. The idea
was to approach these historical and socio-political energies in a subliminal way,
sort of like what Anthony Davis was doing on a grand scale with [his opera] X_,
or with Amistad, which is an even more amazing opera than _X, I think.
The other important point for me was my recording Changing With the Times,
which was done in 92, where all the pieces deal with history, memory and with
how black males are viewed in society, through looking at an older black male
in this case, my fatherand using an original text by him, more or less a found
text. He went to this adult education class and they said, You guys read the
autobiography of Frederick Douglass and then write your own autobiography. In
other words, its a slave narrative.
You know, the idea that art has to have a political basis seems a little too much
like preaching to other people about what they should be doing. On the other
hand, seeing artists as political seems almost intrinsic because of what you have
to go through to get art before the public, or to make a space in which it can be
interpreted or understood, thought about or debated.
JP Right.
GL All of that is a political process shot through with the usual dimensions of
class and race and gender and sexuality and all the rest of it. Theres that whole
thing, in classical music mainly, the idea that political music is just not quite as
good as music that is apolitical. But why should music be necessarily secular,
with no spiritual component, necessarily apolitical with no claims on society?
Thats kind of out of touch with the realities that we face.
JP You have a strong compositional background. I use the term compositional in
the organizational sense. In your approach to music, theres often no written
notation. Its highly conceptualized, but not composed. I notice that you focus
on improvisation a lot, also in your writing. Do you see improvisation as a way
of presenting a social ideal? When we worked together at Baden-Baden it was
like that; you were trying to get us to realize a way of relating to each other
socially through the music.
GL In improvisations, I believe that people should know what to do, but Ive
realized that often they really dont know what to do, or rather, they know what
to do as it relates to themselves. That is, they have a certain style that they
impose on every situation; otherwise theyre not keeping it real, not being true
to themselves. Id like to be more protean about the whole thing, analyzing
situations and then taking action based on that analysis. You listen, you try to
intuit, use every technique or possibility for awareness, and after a while you can
tell more or less whats inside the musicians heads, what they want, what their
goals are, what theyre trying to do.
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But this is just a subset of what people are doing in their normal everyday-life
improvisations, if you will. Creativity is not a special gift, but a kind of birthright.
You get rid of the idea that the musician is being some special priest, and move
into a very prosaic space where all were doing is trying to get along in the world
as creatively as we can, given what we find in the environment and our own
possibilities for creating change.
JP Sure, yeah.
GL Creating a computer improviser draws on these ideas about awareness. You
couldnt really get it to work unless you did those things. At least its been my
approach to getting it to work.
JP Are you referring to Voyager? You started working on this in the late 70s,
right?
GL The first interactive computer music piece I made was in 80 or 81. Then in
82 I went to IRCAM [Institute for Music/Acoustic Research and Coordination] in
Paris, worked on a piece there for a couple years, then premiered it there in 84.
It was a network of three computers that were making music, and they were
listening to four musicians: Douglas Ewart, Derek Bailey, Joelle Leandre and
Steve Lacy.
JP And this is before Voyager.
GL Yeah, maybe three years before. It was my idea of a virtual orchestra. I
didnt call it that in those days, but it had something you couldnt have in real
life, at least not in the classical domain: an orchestra that improvised. There
was a lot of disapprobation, so in that environment you could get individual
brilliant improvisers, like Frederic Rzewski, for example, but you werent going to
get a whole culture. So you created it in software (laughter), and then you could
invite people like Frederic.
Voyager was more an architectural than a conceptual change from the IRCAM
piece. It was a massively parallel type deal, where you had a large number of
software players that could play any instrument at any time. This comes
directly out of AACM multi-instrumentalism. When I saw the Art Ensemble in
1972, theyd have like a thousand instruments on the stage. See, I dont know
of any culture where you can get a hundred people together, each one of whom
can play a hundred instruments, and they get together and they improvise. It
doesnt happen. Software is the only place where you can realize conceptions
like that now. My feeling was that there is a political subtext to the idea of
signifying on, that sort of dtournement of the classical orchestra.
JP So this concept of having a multi-instrumentalist orchestra, is that what
Voyager is now? The one time that I saw yourself and Roscoe Mitchell
GL The piano thing in Chicago.
JP Yeah.
GL I had taken the Voyager software and made a little piano version of it. It
didnt play the piano very well, it didnt have a great touch or anything, so I
revived it with the help of Damon Holzborn, whos now a Columbia composition
graduate student. We were using the Disklavier, the Yamaha grand piano thats
MIDI controllable. The thing is, usually people just run a sequence on the piano,
and it sounds very wooden, or alternatively, somebody plays the sound in and
takes the whole thing into some editing software, and then the touch is as good
as the person who originally played it. But in my case, I felt that I should be able
to get the computer to sound good more or less on its own, so that someone
listening to it says, Who is that playing?
JP Right.
GL But if you get Whats that? instead, you have to go back to the drawing
board. And that may seem scandalous to a lot of people, but at this point I feel
like Voyagers gotten pretty good, actually dialoguing with peopleor maybe
just playing a solo, because the other thing about Voyager is that it doesnt need
you. Its perfectly capable of playing whole concerts by itself. If you choose to
go in and play, its happy to listen to you and dialogue with you, or sometimes
ignore you, but the conceptual aspect of it is that its pretty autonomous. You
cant tell it what to do. Just like with people, I expect it to listen to the situation
and figure out whats appropriate, and although I may not agree with what the
computer finds appropriate, thats too bad, because theres no reason why I
should have a veto on what anyone does. So improvisation becomes a
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negotiation where you have to work with people rather than just be in control.
JP You referred to it as
GL anti-authoritarian. (laughter) That was in this great film by Jeremy Marre,
with Derek Bailey going all around the world talking to improvisers. They
interviewed Jerry Garcia, and I borrowed the anti-authoritarian thing from what
he said in the film.
JP Thats a great phrase.
GL Its a great film. Its one of those things that they made for PBS, but you
know PBS these daysmy God, they can find time for Tucker Carlson but they
have no time at all for Derek Bailey. (laughter)
JP Weve had conversations in the past where we touched on the subject of
genre and how it implies certain restrictions. I guess its kind of a credo of the
AACM, breaking down these genres that seem to restrict artists freedom. And it
seems, at least to me, that you try to challenge peoples perceptions or
expectations, definitely of African American artists, in order to redefine or
modernize whats considered Afrocentric.
GL Maybe so. I came up at the tail end of the sort of heavy cultural nationalism
period, where it seemed to be pretty rigid as to what was considered truly black
music. By the way, this is something that has always excited me about your
workhow you just ride over all of that, especially when it comes to the
interface with rock, you know, the Tortoise thing, the Isotope thing. I dont want
to feel that people are looking over my shoulder all the time. If they are, I dont
want to have to even notice it. (laughter)
JP I feel the same way.
GL This is what I want to do, figure out ways to feel that free, while recognizing
at the same time that there are actions by society that make it difficult to
exercise these kinds of freedoms. And of course you cant boil it down to
personality X and personality Y. Thats just recapitulating Horatio Alger.
JP Sure.
GL Thats what I think has been great about operating in spheres that are very
different. You start to see the hidden assumptions, the comfortable agreements
about who is authorized to make certain sounds, and theres a sudden
Aufklrung an enlightenment. I like bringing those kinds of situations out
through the music, so that people start to realize that maybe everything is much
more in flux than they thought.
Jeff, let me ask you something, is that okay?
JP Yeah, of course!
GL I was going to ask you about this little business of so-called free
improvisation. I mean, maybe just broadly stated, how do you feel about it? Is it
something you do a lot?
JP Yeah, I guess its . . . I do, I do it a lot, especially with musicians around
Chicago. Are you talking about it in terms of whats implied by the term free
improvisation, or just getting together and improvising with other musicians?
GL I guess particularly in the European sense, it became this kind of practice, and
then it became quite politicized in some ways. I was reading the new biography
of Derek, where it takes on this messianic dimension that Im pretty
uncomfortable with.
JP You mean the people who kind of define the idiom, like Derek Bailey?
GL Yeah, or were said to have defined the medium. The author put Derek in the
role of the messiah, but maybe none of us can take on that role.
JP Right right right. It seems like a parody now; I mean, it contradicts what it
was supposed to be about in the first place.
GL I would say the people who really were doing great work back then are still
doing it. You just said idiom, which is interesting, because I think a lot of writing
about improvisation goes like: Well, our thing is not idiomatic, whereas other
kinds of music are very idiomaticthat is, immobile, unchanging, non-dynamic,
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like a fixed starand the fixed star is usually jazz, because thats where most of
them came from anyway, so its kind of Oedipal. Also its frankly the most
successful Western form of improvisation. Whether you love it or hate it, its
sitting there like a big elephant in the room. For me the subtext of the
idiomatic/non-idiomatic thing is largely about race, and there is a poverty of
theorizing on that subject that has yet to be really addressed.
JP Youve definitely been focusing on that for the past, I dont know, 10 years or
so? At least in your writing.
GL This goes back again to my record Changing With the Times. The liner notes
by Paul Carter Harrison talked about the trickster imagery in the piece, and I
realized, I dont know anything about any of this, and this is my music. It made
me understand that you didnt have to rely on the composer as the ultimate
arbiter of what the work was about. Other people could develop ideas and if you
encourage that process, you could develop a larger network of discourse
surrounding what youre doing.
A couple of years after that, I started publishing so-called historical and critical
texts. Musicians have always been a little disaffected with whats been said about
their work, and then suddenly, Im saying things that they had always thought
about but couldnt quite put together, or maybe were afraid to say. This other
mode of thinking feeds back into the musical thinking. I get the same feeling
from writing a scholarly article as I do from composing or playing music. I dont
want to get too romantic about this, but there is a kind of ecstasy connected
with it all.
JP Its important to have the history documented from an alternative viewpoint,
actually from an insider point of view.
GL Well, so many of us have been written out of these histories of
contemporary music. But we can write ourselves back in. It comes out of the
whole jazz idea that your job as a musician is to bring your individual voice out.
JP Right. Thats the reason I personally started doing a lot of the stuff that I got
into, because I felt like my individual voice was something that I needed to find.
Coming from my experiences in music school, they tried to repress it, like they
didnt want me to find my own thing, my niche.
GL When you say they, who is that?
JP Just some of the jazz pedagogy police. (laughter)
GL Well, you really went all the way through that.
JP At the time thats what I was into. I was always infatuated by jazz and jazz
history when I was a child, and I really wanted to know what it was about. The
deeper I got into it, the less it seemed like I had to do it the way that they were
teaching me in the schools.
GL What would you say your relationship is to jazz today?
JP I dont know if its necessarily something I can define for you. Its not
especially a part of what I do. Just the fact that it has an improvisational nature
is what attracted me to it, because thats what I was always doing on the guitar
anyway, from the minute that I picked it up. Thats the extent of my relationship
with it really, just as an improvising musician.
GL In Tortoise, does everyone have a jazz background?
JP No, nobody does.
GL How does that work in terms of the conception of improvisation?
JP It doesnt really. Its improvisational more in the way that a composer
improvises. Its basically a band that just gets together and we write together.
We document it like that. Theres no improvisation in it at all.
GL So the improvisation is not in the performing but in the conceptualizing of it?
JP Right, exactly.
GL So what other kinds of projects are you involved in right now?
JP I just got into Reason. Its electronic music studio software. When we were in
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Baden-Baden, Guillermo [Brown] was trying to get me into it because I was
explaining some things that I wanted to do. I was dealing with sample-based
music, trying to incorporate it into whatever it is Im trying to do in a really
natural way.
GL When you say natural, do you mean playing it on an instrument, or having a
real-time composing environment around you?
JP More a way to compose, using sample-based technology as a compositional
element, but in a way that doesnt sound like youre just making a hip-hop or
electronic music track. Its something Ive been thinking about for years, but I
was intimidated by the process and kept putting it off. Now its something Im
getting into, even though I know it might take me years to really figure this out.
(laughter)
GL You know, the Baden-Baden experience was the outgrowth of work Id been
doing with this electronic music duo 48nord from Munich: Sigi Rssert and Ulrich
Mller. I had a residency there, and they were showing me stuff Id never seen
the laptop improvisers and their world.
To people who know me, this wont sound terrible at all, but I have always had a
real ambivalence about the trombone. It got acute after I had some real success
as a trombone player, and then it was like, Well, if you dont play the trombone
youre worthless, you know? As a creative artist I thought, I didnt sign up for
this, to have a brass albatross around my neck. (laughter) Electronics were the
road out of that, and there I am with Sigi and Ulrich, and Im thinking, Well, I
could be doing more of this. This is what Im interested in, creating sound in real
time and improvising with them, and theyre all using this Ableton Live software.
They showed me how it worked and I started using it for a piece thats part of
Lev Manovichs DVD Soft Cinema, which was a personal travelogue presented as
a database of video clips of video screens, hotel rooms and so on. Years before,
when camcorders were new, I had made videos everywhere. I made about 300
or 400 sound clips from those videos for Levs travelogue. They come from all
over the world, everywhere I went, playing with these 80-year-old guys,
Austrian amateur musicians playing the Lndler.
You can authorize yourself to drop all the stuff about what people expect. In
order to do that, though, you also have to authorize yourself against your
friends and colleagues who also believe it.
JP Right, right.
GL Some of those expectations are pretty intense, whether you become world-
famous or locally significant to a certain small group of people who get very
invested in your previous practice, so that when you decide to step out of that
practice, people say, What are you doing?
The Baden-Baden thing was designed to be gender and racially diverse. Id been
playing in all these European scenes where I was always the only African
American and there were never any women, especially not women of color. I
decided I didnt want to play in any more concerts like that. It wasnt an
environment that I was that interested in, and it played totally against all these
other ideas of community.
JP Sure.
GL I think that having three women in there, Miya Masaoka, Kaffe Matthews and
DJ Mutamassik, instead of the usual token one person, made a lot of things
better for everybody. This was also related to ideas written by Susan McClary
and others about how women are kept away from technology in music and so
on. So youre playing against that as well.
Then there were the three of us African Americans: Guillermo, you and me. It
provided a very different idea of what improvised music could be like than what
you normally see.
JP When you put electronic elements on the trombone, did that lead you into
computer music or into electronics?
GL Early on, Douglas Ewart and I would talk about how we wanted to get a
computer, but we didnt really know what computers could do. Were talking
about 72, 73, and computer music was mostly a mainframe thing. You also
had people like Joel Chadabe and Sal Martirano who were doing the interactive
live electronic music, but we werent in touch with that world. We were just
thinking about it from our perspective.
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I first encountered computers at Mills College, around 77 or 78. Hearing David
Behrman and his associates doing this kind of work, it sounded just like the
improvised music that we had been doing. I thought, Wow, if you can do this
with computers, then I want to get one. (laughter) It started with one of those
small single boards that you had to program yourself. And that was where
people like David were just great. He would sometimes stay up all night,
worrying with me about whether some interface was going to work. I mean, it
was him and Richard Teitelbaum, who really did stay up all night. (laughter) He
didnt get started until 10 or 11, and then wed play till like four or five in the
morning. These two people were my electronic music mentors. But then you
also have to look at Muhal [Richard Abrams], because he did electronics on all
his records; he wasnt averse to it the way a lot of people were.
I wasnt that interested in playing the trombone through the electronics. I
thought I couldand I still believe thisreally get a much wider palette of sound
playing acoustically. I spent a lot of time working on just how weird can it get,
you know?
JP Honestly, thats how I feel about my guitar playing as well. I can get more
interesting sounds out of just playing the guitar with my hands than with a bunch
of devices hooked up to it. So at the time when you did the Solo Trombone
record, you were already into computer music?
GL Yes, but the main point for me was always using computers to create these
alternate beings, a kind of animistic conception. Of course, what Ive done is on
the fringe somewhere, but Ive been a part of so many fringes, including
contemporary music. Its not really sampling, its not really transformation of
timbre or playing your instrument through the electronic box. Its just its own
little thing. You saw me in Baden-Baden with the electronics and the trombone,
but I still approach it very gingerly, because you can get into some pretty hoary
clichs really quick.
JP You mean as far as in the laptop
GL Well, there, but Im more insulated from that because having done electronic
music for so long, you hear a lot of the stuff that people have already picked
over. You dont have to go into those ancient middens to find stuff.
JP I want to ask one last question. Did you learn from the AACM the direction
that you eventually ended up taking, or was it a direction you were already going
in before, that was cultivated by the AACM?
GL I was 19 years old when I met the people in the AACM. It was just dumb luck
that I almost literally stumbled upon Muhal, Pete Cosey, people like that. I was
walking on 87th and Bennett and I saw a band rehearsing in this childrens
center. I poked my head in, and that was how I met them. They had their
Monday night band, and then after the initial period of Who is this guy? they let
me play.
It seemed that the AACM was a place where if you didnt have a clue, you were
encouraged to develop one. If you had an idea, no matter how half-baked it
was, they would try to realize it, and they would demand that you create your
own concepts, your own compositions. They had their Saturday classes, and
people were being encouraged to compose. They never discussed improvisation;
the only classes were in composition. So to bring this whole thing full circle, this
whole business of my approaching things compositionally came from the AACM,
because it was assumed that you were there because you wanted to be a
composer, and by being a composer you were manifesting a kind of alternative
model of what African American creativity would be about.
People like Fred Anderson, Lester Lashley and Roscoe were constantly
questioning you about what you were trying to do. I remember riding in a van
with Anthony Braxton, and he turns to me and says, George, what is your music
like? So I gave him what I thought was a pretty cool answer, and he said, You
know, George, that kind of sounds like bullshit to me. (laughter) I mean, he was
right, you know?
People took it personally as to whether you advanced as a musician. I had a
whole community of benevolent aunts and uncles who were trying to help me
do stuff. That seems almost utopian, but I have to say thats my recollection of
it. They wanted to institutionalize that attitude toward nurturing artists. Rather
than keeping it on the individual basis of mentorship, you have a whole group of
people who feel that its necessary to take each other on. Its a model I havent
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really found in any other world of music Ive been involved in.
In writing this book on the AACM Im trying to sort out why the AACM succeeded
where so many musicians collectives failed. The focus was on helping someone
else rather than helping your own career. The economic strategy of the AACM is
the thing that most people focus on, but very few people have a strategy for
encouraging individuals to realize themselves. They always talked about self-
realization, and being a college boy from Yale, I thought it was about Abraham
Maslow (laughter) but it was really Paramahansa Yogananda that some of them
were influenced by.
Im not saying that other people didnt have a hand in what I have become,
because Ive learned from everyone that I performed with and did stuff with. But
the AACM gave me the tools that enabled me to really open up, to have a
questioning and a critical attitude.
Was it the same way for you? I think it changed quite a bit by the time you were
there.
JP No, in honesty, man, I wasnt really as immersed in this as in that time. I was
mentored by Ernest Dawkins and Ameen Muhammad in a lot of ways, but I felt
like I developed more of a community with my peers around the stuff I was
doing in Wicker Park in Chicago.
GL In my case, there was a sense of urgency about it. One doesnt want to get
into the nostalgia of it, but if you were on the stage with Henry Threadgill, Muhal,
Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Amina, and Braxton would visit, or Leroy
Jenkins and Leo Smithand whos playing drumsHamid Drake? I mean, it was
my luck to come up right at that moment, and I think that the AACM is about to
have another one of those lucky moments with lots of new people, like Nicole
Mitchell, whos brilliant, Corey Wilkes, people like this.
Thats not to say the community doesnt have dislocations, but in the end, part
of what I found interesting about the AACM wasfor one thing, I got to meet
you through it. You know, it works in mysterious ways.
Reply With Quote
March 11th, 2008, 03:59 PM
CD LR 382/383 - LEO RECORDS
Anthony Braxton
Ninetet ( Yoshi's ) 1997, Vol. 2
Release date: 2003/11
Second volume from the now legendary Anthony Braxton's sessions at Yoshi's
exploring his concept of "Ghost Trance Music". Two compositions, n. 209 & n.
210, almost hour long each, performed by the same line-up as Vol.1 (A.
Braxton, B. Evans, J. Fei, J. Moore, A. Vida, J.D. Parran, K. O'Neil, J. Fonda, K.
Norton). Twelve-page booklet containes listening diary by Steve Day. His
listening diary for Vol. 1 received much praise in the media.
Liner Notes
A LISTENING DIARY: NINETET (YOSHI'S) 1997, VOL. 2 Tuesday, 20th May
2003: Today I have been listening to "Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997, Vol. 1" (Leo
Records, CD LR 343/344). It is just a little over a year since I first heard those
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particular zigzag slices of West Coast wisdom. They come cut out from the
Ghost Trance Music (GTM) of Anthony Braxton's Ninetet performing live over six
nights at Yoshi's Club, California in August 1997. To get an earful is like listening
to energy surfacing above boiling water. Why did I go back to Volume 1? Last
night Leo Feigin telephoned. Our conversation covered a variety of topics
including the old standard, "Out of Nowhere". A young Miles Davis smoking the
tune; improvising out, through, and beyond the melody way back in 1947 when
he was still playing butler to Bird. "Nowhere" was also an early chord change
pattern used by Ornette Coleman to blueprint his own tune "Jayne", dedicated to
his then wife, Jayne Cortez. Strange but true. Yesterday, as if from out of
nowhere, Mr Feigin tells me that he intends to put out Anthony Braxton's
"Yoshi's, Vol. 2". "Steve, "he says, "Do you think this is a good idea?"
When Leo Records released the first "Yoshi's" set last year, it self generated the
inevitable need to bring out Volume 2. The on-going length of the continuous
GTM line means that once you start to play it there are only two options, either
listen to it or remove yourself immediately from its implications. By getting
caught up in the spiral of the parallel dimensions of this music there is a
predisposition to go all the way. We talk about it. Leo Feigin promises to post
me a draft-disk by the first week of next month. So, here I am, catching up
again on Volume 1 while waiting for Volume 2.
Wednesday, 4th June 2003: I arrive back at home and Volume 2 has been
delivered neatly packed straight off the master tape. For me it has been a busy
day. I'm tired and hungry; I want to lay down in the dark. Before I do I listen
straight through Disc 1 (Composition 209) with the sound turned way, way up.
The Ninetet are riding out through the night and Yoshi's Club has taken up
residency in my living room.
"Ghosts are the disappeared.
The ones who no longer belong.
They are as see-through as sound,
hollow as pursed lips that blow....." (1)
Thursday, 5th June 2003: Raining. During the day I play Disc 2 (Composition
210) twice. The first time loud, the second time louder. It feels as if there is an
acute need to hear everything all at the same time.
Friday, 6th June 2003: "What on earth is that?!" Today I am conducting a
workshop on Social Care Policy. I decide to play "Composition 210" as a prelude
to starting the session. Something for the participants to listen to before we get
going. "Are you serious? I didn't come to hear this. Do you call that harmony?"
"Well, it is certainly a harmony," I reply. Looking around the room, some people
are smiling, another guy has that wrinkly look around the bridge of his nose, and
yes, some people seem to be concentrating, listening hard. Anthony Braxton
always was and has to be a hard listen, especially when you are not expecting to
hear him.
Monday, 9th June 2003: In 1997 Anthony Braxton took a nine piece ensemble
to Yoshi's Club in Oakland, California. They stayed for six nights, played two sets
per night. The gigs went out under the banner of the Ghost Trance Festival.
Ostensibly Professor Braxton, from Wesleyan University, Middletown,
Connecticut, was on the West Coast presenting twelve new compositions neatly
numbered 207 to 218. Each time the ensemble stepped up onto the bandstand,
they brought a new composition out into the open. The paradox in Anthony
Braxton's music is that while the description, 'composition' is correct, it also
gradually becomes beside the point. To try to understand and interpret the
Braxtonia Ghost Trance Music series in terms of formal composition is to start
off down a twisting, turning cul-de-sac which will confusingly lead to a dead end.
Such a journey would be a pity, because the whole raison d'tre of this music is
that there is no end. Sure, this is six nights at Yoshi's, but it could equally be six
months, six years, a lifetime, six thousand lifetimes. Yoshi's could be eternity.
Book this band forever!
During the Oakland sojourn each set was absolutely compositionally new,
because the component parts were never, could never be, played the same way
twice. The irony in the eight note repetition pattern of GTM is that seemingly,
from out of nowhere, it allows for the non specific introduction of a huge
emporium of thematic material to enter the Trance. For decades, such collaging
techniques have been present in most of Anthony Braxton's performances. That
is why his titles often include brackets detailing additional material to the core
text (for example "Composition N. 169 + (186+206+214)" - Leo Records, CD
LR 320/321). The fact that the Yoshi's set does not come with a bracket is
because the content would be a lifetime's history of innovation long. In a way
becomes the way. What is what; the who-plays-which-lick trip is now
redundant; recognition of Cole Porter, the Quartet 40 series or Composition 96,
all becomes superfluous mind games. Enter the Trance. The important thing is to
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hear 209 and 210 as a whole. Sure, there is new thematic material present but
Anthony Braxton is both a composer and improviser, and to forget the latter is
to lose at least half of the Trance. Like a game of chess. (Remember The
Professor once hustled the game to earn some money.)
Wednesday, 11th June 2003: I have been listening to these two sets for a
week. Driving with them, making quiet moments give up their silence,
soundtracking these sets to whatever I am doing. On 209 Kevin Norton for the
most part, closes down on drums in favour of marimba, vibraphone and
percussion; gliding beaten cymbals into bells. 210 is back to sticks and kit. It
seems to me that there is something about this 210 performance that marks it
very different to 207 and 208 on Volume 1, and even 209. Listen to the nine-
man-morris leap; this is more than drums dividing up the air space. The second
set of the evening cracks open as if all frontiers have been dispersed; the eight
note rundown is a getaway beyond intention. Nowhere has become somewhere
specific. That first flute solo is The Professor in flight, the air across the hole
almost changes colour. Later Kevin O'Neil's guitar becomes the catalyst for the
six horns to rear up in a huge arc of call and response. Underneath the drums
are spreading out the beat as if time has melted in the heat. Now the Ninetet are
not an ensemble, they are a bedded-in regular band. The structure of the Ninetet
is to switch the pitch into trios. It is relatively easy to hear this process going on,
but on 210, nine signs the sound - here is a collectivism rising to the grand
occasion.
Friday, 13th June 2003: Friday the 13th, unlucky for some. Thelonious Monk
and Keith Tippett have both written tunes celebrating the fact. Tonight sounds
like a different day to Wednesday; 209 is truly a new frontier. Around the half
way mark the two Kevin's begin sonic waving electric guitar and vibes into an
elongated sound stream that rings almost like fusion. Now there's a thought,
fusion has become a badly burnt word.
I switch back to 210. Kevin Norton's tight compressed roll reverberates like an
activated five finger exercise. Art Blakey without the beat. The name check is no
accident, Mr Norton can scene shift the horns from behind a drum kit with that
same kind of physical presence inherent in Buhaina's percussion probe. Mr
Norton is a mover and shaker whose role and roll shape the fate of the music. If
his stir pot of gymnastics with the Ninetet wet your appetite to hear more of his
playing in a different context, I recommend listening to the recordings that
Anthony Braxton made in May 2000 detailing the music of the pianist, Andrew
Hill. These are on the CIMP label. Apart from The Professor, Kevin Norton and Mr
O'Neil are the only musicians from the Ninetet involved. In this very different
context the drummer can be heard re-scheduling rhythm in a way that is closer
to orthodoxy yet, still maintains his trademark angular, off-centre approach to
time and motion. In recent years the Norton name has become an important
element in Anthony Braxton's music. On the couple of occasions when other
percussionists have been used the difference is much greater than merely using
alternative personnel. This music does not come from nowhere, always it is out
of somewhere, and it is crucial to recognise which 'where' is 'there'. Mr Norton is
doing live dates in Canada this summer with Paul Dunmall (saxophones,
bagpipes) and Paul Rogers (five string bass), both of whom play in the English
improvising ensemble, Mujician. Shame I cannot be there.
Sunday, 15th June 2003: There is a Diamond Clef moment in the final third of
209 where the whole Ninetet are circling invisible notation having taken
themselves out of sight of any written thematic material. (Spot it after Mr
Norton's rattle interlude.) The bass reeds are in no mood for orthodoxy and
leave the top register to contemplate a counterpoint with eight beats. Landing
gently is not an option, and not required. This is a transformation of the trance,
where air, breath, space, technique, time, ideas and personal histories all
coagulate, and then seem to fall away. Out of this collapse of the cradle of
dissonance comes an adjusted re-entry of 209's pulse track; the Braxton alto
sax and James Fei's bass clarinet vying for the main-frame place in the mix. The
way this 'play' is handled is a spontaneous attempt at the impossible; eventually
the moment breaks apart leaving failure to feel like a renewable energy
resource. At the very end of the 209 performance Anthony Braxton serenades
his own instrumental song, the alto horn explicit and elegiac in its eloquence.
Monday, 16th June 2003: I am fascinated by failure. The concept that the
pursuit of any kind of perfection eventually results in the attempt crumbling, not
necessarily into chaos, but certainly into something less than that which was
reached for. Failure becomes a beautiful implosion in the creative act of
stretching out to touch beyond the present. Failure is to be cherished,
embraced; the inevitability of its presence should be recognised as personal rich
pickings. This is not even simply about improvisation, rather a specific act of
courage. By definition, it is not possible to complete a continuum, the
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consequence is that those who set out down that path will fail to find its end.
Personal endings will probably be many and varied but, in the scheme of things,
never final. Such journey's are the challenge of discovery and why in great art
there is always going to be a sacrificial element. Once a shooting star begins
soaring across the night sky, casting fire and brimstone into the dark desert of
the Earth's atmosphere, it cannot help but burn out. Heat will change into ice.
Failure is the whole world. In the end, the ying and the yang of failure and
success will finally complete us all.
"'Ghosts' will probably cause alarm in some circles;
but that can't be helped. If it didn't, there would have
been no necessity for me to have written it." (2)
Tuesday, 17th June 2003: A sunny warm, day. The window of my car is open, I
pull up at traffic lights. A guy on a motorbike draws up alongside me. He says,
"Who are you listening to?", I tell him, "Anthony Braxton". "Never heard of him,
where does he live, Mars?" The idea amuses me. Perhaps The Professor could
swap Middletown for the Red Planet. "No," I reply, "Not enough air, he couldn't
blow saxophone." I think the guy on the bike must be grinning under his helmet,
"Oh, is that what he's doing!" We get the green light, we go our separate ways.
It is ear re-tuning time. Not really surprising because people these days rarely
get to be exposed to a contrabass clarinet solo played against pointalistic
soprano and alto reeds. I built my listening on Anthony Braxton's contrabass sax
designing real time new music in duets with the deep-end of George Lewis'
trombone. Today such genuine dark divide and dance strategies are not
common place. Murdock, Marsalis, MTV, and media-ocrity rule, okay. The
perceived difficulty with 209 and 210 is to do with the fact that the language has
been marginalised, not spoken, not heard, not understood. The problem is not
with the language itself but the limited exposure people have to it. The range of
music peddled by the corporate airwaves is a very short tatty list; safe bets
under bright lights. The iconic rebellion of rock n' roll is now a parody of its own
past; the contemporary new music scene, so often reduced to a squeak with a
bleeper; worse of all, "jazz" has become throttled by a bow tie tied way too
tight. How do you know the Himalayas are beautiful if you never move beyond
your own borders?
Wednesday, 18th June 2003: One of Anthony Braxton's more recent Ghost
Trance Music projects has involved him sharing horns with yet another multi-
reeds specialist, Richard A. McGhee III, using poly-rhythm drumming as a
soundboard. The result is a music significantly different to the Yoshi's series. The
point of GTM is that it is a process, yet it is not processing. The Trance takes
deliberation out of the equation and allows Anthony Braxton to explore all
possible routes. 209 and 210 are the definitive article; not because they are
perfected pieces of composition, instead they represent specific moments in
time given gravitas by nine musicians acting together to sift through the fixtures
of music, then re-positioning the component parts so they can no longer be
fixed. In my view these Yoshi's gigs are unique. An opportunity to hear one of
the great inventors in a context which allows him to flourish during an extended
residency. Guys like Joe Fonda, James Fei, Brandon Evans and Jackson Moore
are not just pick-up players out for the crack. Here are musicians who have
given a commitment to The Professor. I am tempted to say he owes them, but
in truth they owe him more. That is how it is when it gets to this level.
Thursday, 19th June 2003: No one writes about Miles Davis and Anthony
Braxton together. I will. That "Out of Nowhere" business has been bothering me.
This year Leo Records will be releasing, Anthony Braxton, "Solo (Milano) 1979,
Vol.1" (Leo/Golden Years GY 20). It features a stripped down version of
"Nowhere"; but that is a small part of another story. This Miles file is a deep pile
of music. The Professor was at the Knitting Factory, New York in 1994,
challenging his own keyboard skills to give up the ghost in his Piano/Quartet.
Back then, the leader had Marty Erhlich's alto romping through the original
"Milestones", the one by John Lewis that Mr Davis had recorded in 1947, the
same year as "Out of Nowhere". The way the Press reported it, this was some
Braxton fit of fantasy, out of character, a quirky move. Professor Braxton had
played it straight too. Critics do not want to make the association - Miles Davis,
the hip Prince of Darkness, alongside the bespeckled avant garde, free form,
number crunching composer who came a long way from Chicago. It is true
these two musicians did not play together, but history should still recognise a
connection.
When Dave Holland and Chick Corea left Miles Davis in the early 1970's they
promptly formed Circle with Anthony Braxton (the group's name taken from the
title of a Miles Davis tune) and continued to play "Nefertiti" and "No Greater
Love" on their one and only European tour, material straight out of the Davis
canon. A weird time, Chick Corea could not cope with Mr Braxton any more than
he could cope with Miles Davis, or himself for that matter. For Mr Corea one of
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the problems was this: the Birth of the Cool trumpeter and the Chicago multi-
instrumentalist were both contemplating the same long spectrum. The German
avant garde composer, Karlheinz Stockhausen resides at one end and the
implications of African-American studies at the other. How Miles Davis and
Anthony Braxton managed to deal with that big equation manifested itself in very
different ways. Yet even in the great divorce between those who plugged in to
the funk and those who remained acoustic but went "out", it is possible to hear
echoes. The Professor has also periodically returned to the early Miles Davis
bandbook, tunes like "Airegin" and "Some Day My Prince Will Come". In 1981
Anthony Braxton could be heard at the Woodstock Jazz Festival jamming on "All
Blues" with Pat Metheny and Jack DeJohnette. The evidence piles up. Wayne
Shorter, the mainstay of mid-period Miles Davis, has written a whole batch of
tunes which at different times Anthony Braxton has used as either complete
pieces, or quoted from. Boxing up the Braxton radical experimental agenda
without hearing it within the context of the shifting sample of other musics is to
deny the ears their due.
Saturday, 21st June 2003: Today I decide to listen again to the 1970 recording
of the Miles Davis Band, "Live at The Fillmore West/Black Beauty". Chick Corea
and Mr Holland were both present, but it is the then nineteen year old Steve
Grossman, exclusively blowing soprano saxophone in-between the crowded
cracks, who gets my attention. All of a sudden it strikes me that there is
probably a strong Braxton influence. The same pure, thick density, a kind of dry
danger which breathes right though the Braxton straight horn. It is not such a
strange idea, Mr Grossman was hanging out with Dave Holland and Mr Corea at
the time. Anthony Braxton's soprano sax was there to be heard. I do not think it
is a coincidence and I wonder why it has taken me thirty years to hear it.
Perhaps because Mr Grossman's current tenor sax does not sound anything like
The Professor.
So, I ask a red wine-late night question. Does not that famous Miles Davis'
"Bitches Brew" title, "Miles Runs The Voodoo Down", contain a meaning not very
far away from, "Ghost Trance Music"? Listen closely to "Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997,
Vol. 2", you might hear answers. Here's to voodoo, ghost trance your ears.
STEVE DAY
(1) extract from "The Secret Sound of Shawm" - Steve Day
(2) extract from letter by dramatist Henrik Ibsen to Frederik Hegel (23rd
November 1881)
Reply With Quote
March 11th, 2008, 04:08 PM
Wadada Leo Smith
An interview with Wadada Leo Smith:
Bill Smith
Introduction To An Encore
interviews from the Bill Smith archive
Leo Smith - Summer 1975
BILL SMITH: This year, in Chicago, was the tenth anniversary of the Association
for the Advancement of Creative Music (A.A.C.M.) which shows that it isn't
exactly a new school of thought. Were you involved in the early movement of
that school?
LEO SMITH: Well, I consider very early because I got to Chicago in January of
'67.
Bill: You're not from Chicago?
Leo: No, I'm from Leland Mississippi. When I arrived there I had just gotten out
of the army and met [Anthony] Braxton. A friend of mine who was playing music
with me when I was in the army had also spent some time in Korea, where
Braxton was stationed, so they knew each other. He gave me Braxton's
telephone number, so when I got in town I called him. That was during Braxton's
frantic, real frantic period, you couldn't really keep up with him, he'd be moving,
darting here and there. He told me about the A.A.C.M. We played some pieces,
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some of his pieces, one of my pieces and I had the Ornette Coleman book by
Gunther Schuller, but we didn't get regularly started into a group, but we talked
about it. Joseph Jarman, Charles Clarke and Thurman Barker did a concert in a
coffee house, and at the concert Lester Bowie and Roscoe Mitchell came in and I
talked to Roscoe who said, "Yeah man, come over Saturday where we're having
a meeting, I'll recommend you to become a member." I had already asked
Braxton about becoming a member but it was during a strange period for
Braxton, he was a little bit leery, he wasn't sure if he should recommend me, but
Roscoe did and I got in the following week. I would say yes I was one of the
early members.
Bill: Was Richard Abrams the main motivating force of all that, at that point?
Leo: Well in terms of organization he was and also he had the orchestra, the
AACM orchestra. At that time he was doing all the music, basically. After I got in,
it began to switch a little bit. I did a lot of music, Roscoe did a lot of music and
Braxton brought a few pieces down, that was the extent of other people's
contributions. Sometimes Joseph Jarman would bring his music and try to go
through it. He'd take it back the same day.
Bill: It was hard in those days, some of the music that people were conceiving?
Leo: All the music was hard at that time. Joseph wanted almost immediate kinds
of action. I could understand what he was after, there would be a few mistakes
and he'd say, "Well let's fold it up". It was a very good period though, we played
a lot of music then when everyone could contribute to the ensemble. Richard
Abrams had been asking people to bring music and no one had. So all of a
sudden I brought music, Roscoe brought music, everyone had been writing for
small ensembles. After that got started the bulk of the music that was played by
the orchestra was Richard Abrams', Roscoe's and mine. Just before we went to
Europe, which was '69, Braxton brought some pieces and he gave the entire
orchestra another picture, so we had four distinct forces that were happening
and that was the music that we played.
Bill: Did you play in Mississippi before you came to Chicago?
Leo Smith (1983) - Bill Smith photo
Leo: Oh yes, I don't remember the year, but I've been playing for about
eighteen years. I started off, believe it or not, playing drums. The reason I said
"believe it or not" is because I lasted on the drums about two weeks. The
teacher, a fellow by the name of Mr. Jones, changed me over to French horn, I
played French horn for a couple of months and it just wasn't happening. Mr.
Jones was still very dissatisfied with the French horn, he came in one day to give
me a lesson and got so frustrated he left and went into the next room to give
another friend of mine a trumpet lesson. He got very angry with this fellow
because he wasn't making it on the trumpet. So in all that confusion he'd taken
the French horn from me and the trumpet from the other fellow and switched us
around. That was the best thing he did because the other fellow developed into a
very good French horn player and I developed into a good trumpet player. This
was all part of our school orchestra training, in fact I organized the first jazz
orchestra there. This school band was a high school marching and concert band.
And that's all we had. Marching music like Sousa, yes those marches, but we had
some concert pieces I guess. "Death In The Maiden", I forget who that was by.
Some European composers that had been broken down for the concert band
size. I had been playing trumpet for two months before I started playing in blues
bands. You see my stepfather is a recorded musician who plays the blues, he
doesn't play actively now, but in those days he was very active. He had his own
radio program, his name is Eric Wallace but his professional name was Little Bill.
There are a couple of records that he was on during that time. By being in this
kind of home I was able to learn the blues very early. Because of the financial
condition of my family I was afraid to bring the trumpet home because I thought
that maybe they would feel that it was too expensive to be involved in music. I
played the trumpet for about two months and no one knew it, so when I finally
got the nerve to bring it home my stepfather began immediately to show me
what was happening in the blues. He plays guitar, piano and occasionally drums,
he showed me exactly what was happening. A couple of weeks after that I went
out and got myself a gig in a blues band because he wouldn't let me play with
him to start. I was good, I felt very natural towards the trumpet.
Bill: Do you think that coming from the South has anything to do with the power
of the music, as historians wrote about in the books?
Leo: Yes I do. It has been one of the strongest focus points in American musical
developments.
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Bill: Do you feel there is some kind of relationship between the plantation songs
and what has happened in jazz?
Leo: I think so, except I tend to be reserved about the category of vocal
(artists) music, and instrumental music. I think it very definitely had an effect on
it, it was responsible for a lot of the open areas of sound that was happening.
It's interesting because I read about the development of the voice, the black
voice in spirituals, from a fellow by the name of Harold Johnston, he was one of
the early people to write on the spirituals (black person I'm talking about) who
also wrote music. This man said that during the times of the development of the
spirituals he traced it down and researched himself, what made that music
so powerful was that people would sing outside and develop the voice by singing
out in the open space. That has been a strong thing. My tradition coming
through the high school system of playing outside for football games, as well as
basketball, because in Mississippi it was a little later that they built the basketball
gyms, so we often played outside. A new kind of power. No microphones, plus in
the blues bands we played things like picnics and different kinds of shows that
they would have outside. It was a whole experience. I would say in that sense
the entire tradition of music being outside and development of the voice outside
is part of the same tradition.
Bill: The school system in the United States is unique really. Other countries do
not have this school band system to such a degree. Are the teachers teaching in
the schools the right kind of people to discover a special talent?
Leo: I... think so. Later after Mr. Jones left a fellow named Henderson Halbert, a
very fantastic trumpet player came to teach. I think that was one of the things
that inspired me most about playing trumpet, because he played the trumpet,
whereas Mr. Jones was a clarinet and saxophone player, and by this man being
able to play the trumpet, he could teach me in a very unique way. He never told
me anything about technique, about scales, anything like that. He would often
get me from class and say let's play these pieces. I learned from actually playing
and not from taking an exercise. I didn't know what exercises were until I went
in the army. I didn't know what a key was until I went into the army. Everything
that I learned through his teaching was done through actual practice. I could play
in all the keys. I could play all the music. I could read the music, but as far as the
technical side of what was happening inside the different things, he didn't explain
that. It was straight ahead. I would say it was a perfect example of a way to
teach this music, by participating in it. Army bands are incredibly important. The
very first important army band was James Reese Europe. His talent was brought
in by the federal government, he was signed in a regular contract and put
together an orchestra of all black players. This is a long time ago, during the first
world war [1914-1918]. This man put together one of the first bands to tour
Europe. In fact I'll tell you an interesting story, it's in one of the books I read.
When they toured Europe they played in France. French musicians thought that
their instruments were made to sound the way they sounded. They didn't
believe what was happening out of the instruments so you know what they did?
They switched instruments. After switching instruments the Frenchmen produced
the same kind of music they were doing and James Reese Europe's band
produced the same kind of music they were playing. So they said okay let's
change the music, that's the problem. So they changed the music, they were
marches, but when they played those marches, they improvised them in
different points, they added, they did the number of things that the creative
musician did and the French musicians were amazed. It's what they called at the
time syncopated music. That's the beginning of the jazz period.
Bill: Then it was jazz?
Leo: Very close, I think so because Sidney Bechet played in Europe with Will
Marion Cook who was the first person to organize a complete show of all black
performers. Rewrote all the music and Paul Lawrence Dunbar did the lyrics and
text. And they did a performance of "Clorindy, the Origin of the Cake-Walk" in
1898. Those two people, James Reese Europe and William Marion Cook are
important links in the development of jazz music, and also the orchestra,
because that is what they were dealing in.
Bill: James Reese Europe's band originally was an army band?
Leo: Yes it was an army band, but he had selected all the musicians and they
were all signed on contract. The same thing happened with that fellow who
wrote "String Of Pearls", Glenn Miller, same thing happened with him. He was in
the air force, but he had also selected the players that were going to play in
organizing this band. The army bands have played a very strong point in this
whole tradition.
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Bill: A lot of the players learn the conventional techniques of the music too, don't
they?
Leo: I think it's more so because of the opportunity to play every day, rather
than the technique, because most of them go in there with the thorough
knowledge of reading. Myself when I went in I knew this, I just didn't know what
was a Bb scale, what was an F scale, and so forth. The army school of music
ran, must have been 4-1/2 months, it was in Fort Pining Wood, Mo. They teach
regular theory and then I learned what made a particular scale. I found it very
interesting. After getting out of the army I went to the conservatory in Chicago
(Sherwood School of Music), where I found that the material I'd go over in a
year's time I'd already gone over before in the army in four months. The army
had a more advanced way of teaching than they did in the conservatory. We
performed in public in the army an awful lot. The most important thing is you get
a chance to play every day. That's when I first began to understand the
relationship of the newer music that was happening. That's when l heard Ornette
Coleman. The same time I bought his book, I put together my own little group
with a drummer, bass player, and myself. We worked around through that
music, sounding like Ornette Coleman and others. I went to Italy for eleven
months. That [army] band was very good. We were a post band, we played
dignitary functions, if a senator would come to the country we played those
things. We were on a propaganda mission to play in all the villages in Italy. We
had a regular season that we would do these things. For five or six months we'd
break. I got the chance to hear some of the greatest military bands on earth. I
heard the personal band of Nasser. We played the International Military Band
Festival. The band there from Egypt was the grandest spectacular thing you'll
ever see. Beautiful trumpet players. They improvise in their music while
marching. I heard the British International Band of the Queen there, the
International band of the Italians, the Germans and Scots. Our band through an
error got to participate in that particular performance, which should have gone
to the air force band from Heidelberg that represents the United States. They
should have gotten that particular performance, not our army band. We played it
but we were totally outmatched. They were the best in their country. Our band
was good but not the best. It wasn't the best in Europe by far. But it was good.
This was in 1963.
Bill: So when you came out of the army that's when you went to Chicago? Did
anyone in Chicago at that time consciously know that they were developing an
entirely new concept of music?
Leo: I'm sure. In our meetings sometimes we would talk about what was
happening in the music. Everybody there was very much aware of what they
were doing. Very much aware. Everyone. The music represented a new, when I
say new I mean another expression of the level of consciousness about the
music. I'm speaking strictly in musical terms. Everyone was conscious of the
types of form and types of structures they were using. People were very
interested in research. In fact, after Braxton, Leroy Jenkins and I began to play
together. Myself, Joseph Jarman and Braxton formed together a little group, not
a musical group, just a little inner group, and once a week we'd meet at
Braxton's house on the South side and we would listen to music and analyze it.
We talked about things we hoped to develop. We would talk about these things.
This was as organized as the whole process of sound, rhythm and silence.
Bill: Is it possible that none of it was accidental, the entire concept of improvised
music. Historians write it as though it trickled along, it seems perhaps it didn't.
Leo: No. I read about Joseph Oliver and the Dodds Brothers in a book that
Martin Williams did. It considers these people in 1923 and 1924 who had
considered themselves, and rightly so, serious artists. The tradition has always
been there and I don't think that it happened accidentally. I have a theory of
accidentalism. One thing, I'll go back to this fellow who asked Sidney Bechet how
do you do this, and Bechet said everyone should go their own way. That has to
be interpreted, it has to be broken down. It's a way of speaking, a code way of
speaking, it's esoteric to say that. The esoteric aspect would be to say what
you're doing. There are some players now who feel that way, that they should
keep whatever they are doing to themselves, just give the most mystical
answer that they can, say that I just played it. The critics unfortunately took that
to be literally what was said. That needs to be translated.
Bill: The Chicago school is the first school in the last twenty years that seems
musically aware of the past. A lot of modern bebop players knew about Louis
Armstrong but they certainly didn't know about James Reese Europe and Will
Marion Cook. I find that the new players now are much more interested in where
it all came from. They read about it, they listen to records, and this seems to be
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a peculiarity of the energy that came out of Chicago. Is there a reason you think
that all this research is going on?
Leo: Yes, it was the times mostly, during those times by being such an early
period. Incidentally, I have selected a particular date that I consider creative
music in America started. It started when the Fisk Jubilee Singers, from Fisk
University, went to Europe, which was 1865. They went there as a unit singing
spirituals. They conquered, when I say conquered, I mean presented they
presented a black tradition of music that the world had never heard before. So I
take that date as being officially the beginning of creative music in America. So
we had this entire tradition until 1965 which makes a hundred years. Because of
the times no one was actually qualified to write about this particular music and
certainly black writers weren't getting published then. Harold Johnston, who I
spoke about earlier, wrote about spirituals but didn't get published. I do believe
that people like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie had a full understanding of the
complete span of the music, in terms historically, of whatever was available at
that time, because you know that only in the last ten years has there been a
really comprehensive type of research.
Bill: A lot of writers have taken this approach in the last ten years. Is this a new
era?
Leo: It's a new era but it serves also for confusion, because a lot of people write
that are able to put together words and sentences and paragraphs and books
who just don't know what they are talking about. It's a beautiful period but the
listener and those really interested in knowing about the complete aspects of this
music have to read everything and then take the best of it. Because I do that
myself. I read everything and I haven't found anything yet that I like. But I read
everything!
Bill: Is it possible then that the old media might perhaps have to be abandoned
because they don't appear they can change.
Leo: They have to, if not abandon, at least people shouldn't look to them for
answers in terms of journalistic things, at this time. Usually magazines cover a
certain period. When you plant a new seed out in the woods, or on your lawn,
the old tree is there, it should still stay there , You shouldn't take it down but let
that new tree grow up also. All these people that are around now, let them stay,
and if they are able to grow, include the newer aspects into their way of
presenting what they think about music, and newer magazines to deal with this
particular area of contemporary music, should either come into existence or the
older magazines should bring that into their category.
Bill: Well we're an older magazine [CODA] but we find that you can write about
all of it. You shouldn't "periodize" it, say that this is jazz and this isn't, but be left
to decide this ourselves. So the magazine doesn't have an editorial policy in that
way.
Leo: You don't do that! That's one of the best ways. Some magazines can be
very dangerous.
Bill: Is this one of the reasons you've started writing your own philosophies of
music and started publishing them?
Leo: This is the very reason. Most of the things I've written, I've done to try to
enlighten my people, for this strong reason most of our music has never been
exclusively at our disposal. Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton during their
early periods, when they reached a certain level in terms of demanding money,
immediately were taken out of their neighbourhoods, the black environment in
America. So a man here who owns these portions, and controls the clubs, can
pay this amount of money, they can easily pull this ensemble, this orchestra, and
have it play almost exclusively to white audiences. I think it happened with all of
the groups up until the last fifteen years. The same thing can even be said about
Ellington. He appeared mostly outside the black community. There's a
sociological reason for the music being excluded from black people and that, in
itself, boils down to economics, and economics boils down to politics, and politics
boil down, in this instance, to racism. That word covers a lot of ground, it covers
racism of all levels, social and cultural. In America one of the most effective ways
of reaching black people has been through live performances, If the musicians
are taken out of the black community at large in America, then there's no live
performance. The second aspect is the radio has been a very important tool for
black people, for all people it's one of the most effective means of
communication. From the very beginning everyone owned radios, so what
happens, they don't put it on the radio. You get a little bit here, a little bit there,
but exclusively it's not on the radio. Every period that's come along. If you can't
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hear it on the radio or in live performance there's nothing on earth to encourage
you to go out and buy a record. The black environment in America has not had
the opportunity to grow exclusively along with the music as it has developed,
therefore their preference has been rather strange. And that preference is
because of the society and not because of the people.
Bill: What happens when you arrive with a situation like Motown? They've
managed to take over radio stations in entire areas of the country. Is this a
money/power game?
Leo: That aggressiveness in terms of money comes from the same source.
People organized in terms of the money treatment. Motown has the opportunity
because of the prestige it has gained through promoting the more popular
elements of music that they can sell. My theory is you can sell all of this music if
you present it right. Through live performance, broadcasts and also recording
and published scores. These four elements can sell all the music that's available
on earth. If it's done with the energy, intelligence and great love that's required,
it can be done, it would enlighten this entire country. If this would happen people
would begin to respect music in a way they haven't 'till now. It's so strange for
someone to go to you saying "I like that piece because it's more melodic or
melodious, but the other pieces I couldn't take." That division in that particular
person, comes from the person, not from the music. But if they had more
published music scores, opportunity to hear it on the radio, see it on television
and all the media and also local newspapers covered it, then the person would
realize the extent of the growth of the music and wouldn't accept one portion of
the music while rejecting what they consider to be not important.
Bill: That's been a predominant thing in the whole of jazz from the listening
public's point of view. That's why they've developed schools and periods, the
cool period, the bebop period, the swing period, the dixieland period, and New
Orleans, and now they call the music avant garde because categories are easier
to put together. You can sell it if you call it something. I hear you or Lester
Bowie or Don Cherry who almost sound like Louis Armstrong in your own
context. What's going to happen now that the music is becoming such a
spectrum?
Leo: If this concept of media can be utilised there's a great revolution that has to
happen in America for things to go on as a functioning society. The musics that
are happening now are direct announcements of the humanityhood that exists
whenever these types of changes are made.
Bill: The very period that your people were developing and becoming public was
the same period that the media was announcing that jazz was dead. This meant
that the old players who were playing improvised melody forms were dying
because they were aged men. Will this take more effort? No one seems to write
about it outside of the inner circle of jazz magazines.
Leo: The trade magazines. Being in my home now I should be able to pick up
the paper if Anthony Braxton or Lester Bowie play within an hundred miles of
here. I think in that local daily newspapers there should be a review of creative
music along with the classical music. Now we have them extensively in classical
music from here and there. But the creative music... we don't find it.
Bill: Earlier today we discussed something about a black writer who wrote just
as irresponsibly as a white writer. Why would he not be defending his own
culture?
Leo: For the same reason, he has not had the opportunity to grow along with
the music. That's important. There are people who have the opportunity but
reject it. I know for a fact that he has read my book and tried to talk about it
but everything he tried to talk about was to impose his idea that creative music
does not change. Black music, but I for one prefer the title creative music, is
moving into a world culture now. We're moving into an area where
communication and technology has reached the stage that everyone on this
globe, every people, can be seen in their daily activities, also their falls and
disasters. Immediately on television and in the press, so if this is happening,
which I feel it is, we're moving towards a point where the earth is going to
polarize all the cultures. A world music will happen. A world art will happen. A
world dance will happen. A world philosophy will develop. By this I do not mean a
levelling out of all the cultures into one. That is where you kill the human being.
Then you don't have the beautiful reality of the African, you don't have the
beautiful reality of the Asian, all you have is a motivating force that would control
the world culture, then by all practical points of reasoning it would be European.
Everything else would either be sub-bracketed or smoothed into that area.
That's the point of the universality of European standards as a measure for what
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happens on earth. But European music is very late in the history of music. In fact
Africans had developed a very distinct music long before Europe had developed
itself as a society. The Chinese and Indians, the people in Bali for example. India
had a system, if we speak of early India. Four to five hundred BC the Egyptians
had a system of notation called Sent [?]. They would organize the tone or sound
aspects of a piece of music. The rhythm was not there, the melody was not
there, but the entire piece of music would function within that particular sound.
It's something like the ragas of Indian music, something like scales in western
music, but it was a little bit different because of the amount of vibrations within
each of the tones. They would take that and build all the improvisations of it.
They would improvise from that. This was four or five hundred years BC. An
extremely long time ago.
Bill: I think one of the predominant things that has made criticism have this
standard of European music is because the black music of America became
notated and organized in European style.
Leo: It was notated back then. If this system in Egypt began four or five hundred
years BC with these particular elements of sound notated then in its essence
that is the beginning of notation of musical sounds. I know for a fact the Indians
had a notation system long before Europe. To sum up the concept of western
notation system, the European being inherits, just as we all now inherit,
everything from the past. And everything in the future is going to inherit not only
what we have but everything that came from the past. So this system of
notation is one that's gifted from the progress, the evolutionary stage of human
kind.
Bill: It should make us bigger, not narrower. But it is because we were clinging to
the one before isn't it.
Leo: That causes the confusion, yes. But in terms of growth, I'm saying that
Europe paper was discovered by the Chinese. They began to write things on
paper. In Europe paper was manufactured on a very magnificent, beautiful level.
It was innovative. Composition had its greatest moments because of paper. Do
you know it took two/three hundred years. In its earliest period, Europe started
in a significant sense, during the five hundreds and six hundreds after Christ, they
had the chants, that period that was a little notation system. Interestingly
enough paper wasn't even in there, so therefore the process of writing out every
idea of music had a medium for it, paper. And it developed. It just so happened it
developed in Europe which is beautiful. Now we are watching and witnessing
another innovation, magnetic tape. Magnetic tape introduces the age of the
improviser. Because it's not necessary to write music in its detail whole, it's not
necessary to do that, you can structure things, write out what some people call
heads, but I tend to call it scores rather than the word head, because word head
to me refers to the little part. With the score you've got the entire body. You
have structure and form. I tend to use the word score. You can score several
different elements that you want incorporated inside the improvisation and go
into a studio and play into that mike and that magnetic tape picks it up and that
is another medium that has come after paper. That's why the most important
thing now, not to say that composition is not important, but the most important
media for expressing yourself now is magnetic tape. You can go into the studio
and just play out of your head. One instrument. And you've got a beautiful piece
of music there before you. Technology is a very important development of
human kind, it is going to affect everything, it already has affected everything,
including the change that's the weapon for change. Also in terms of how to get
people to hear more of this music and put it on the different mediums.
Bill: I feel in twenty years from now it should even out. I'm more excited than
I've ever been and I've lived through bebop, post-bebop into the early avant
garde. But now there is an incredible excitement going on. Is it affecting you, are
you playing more publicly? Are you getting more work, are people recognizing
you? Are you feeling this too? Are musicians feeling this too?
Leo: Just the fact that Anthony Braxton and the Art Ensemble have played in
Japan is one realization of that. Another fact is that just recently Braxton has
begun to play on different continents. That's an exciting thing. People like Oliver
Lake are getting their music recorded. Because of the excitement people are not
afraid to hear solo music, to hear ensemble music and to hear orchestra music,
and recognize it as that. Prior to this period of great change, and partly that is
now, who would dare play a solo except the piano player? Before Anthony did
his double LP of alto saxophone solos [Delmark] who would consider doing all
alto saxophone? Roscoe recorded three solos on "Congliptious" [Nessa], that
was first, and also Marion Brown had recorded a solo piece. But that's not the
point I'm trying to make. That period was beginning to enter on so-called
instruments that don't play harmony. Braxton plays chords, I play chords, Lester
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Bowie plays chords, Coltrane played chords Ornette Coleman. They play
chords on so-called single line instruments. I would strongly give Braxton credit
for being the person to initiate, in an absolute sense, the concept of solo for the
greater improviser and also establishing once and for all that the so-called single
line instrument has more possibility for solo work and other areas of expression
than people have understood. I'm speaking purely in the solo reference.
Bill: Now it's been done, lots of other people are going to do it aren't they?
Leo: Certainly. Keith Jarrett has several solo albums, a three record set of solo
piano music. Roscoe Mitchell has a solo record [Delmark], I have a solo record
[Kabell] and there are other avenues of solo music. The area that I pursue has
not been the one-instrument approach but I approached the solo from the
process of the multi-instruments. Not only for texture but because I consider
every instrument I play, and those that I may, to be one gigantic instrument.
Whatever is being heard is like hearing the high register of the piano that I'm
playing on my trumpet, or maybe on my steel form, or my drum, is just one
aspect of that entire gigantic instrument. That's the ultimate reason. The
secondary reason would be because it gives me a chance to introduce vibrations
of the lips which come through the trumpet, the motor action of the arms which
vibrate on whatever I'm playing the rhythm on. The metallic aspect of it attracts
me. The theatrical element attracts me including not only the drummer but
dance. When I move from one instrument to the next I consider that a process
of dance. I'm speaking the words to the music. I'm moving through the image of
dancing. I'm shaping myself as I move, not in terms of consciousness, but as a
result of the music, to play the music. To reach and get my seal horn and blow it
is an act of dance. If you notice it was present in the early tradition in the New
Orleans aspect of the music. I strongly believe it never left music. When Edward
Kennedy Ellington walks on stage and says "Good afternoon, I love you madly"
that is pure theatre, that's beautiful theatre. That's serious theatre like
Shakespeare, like Chekhov, like Leroi Jones, that's drama. Thelonious Monk.
Willie the Lion Smith. When they got ready to play there was a whole beauty in
it. Those people who would sit at the piano, when they called the piano "doing
tricks", that entire aspect. When one man walks up and tells the other, "Get up
son, you're not doing anything. Let me play this." That is part of the tradition.
And that's African, by the way. The music is all one and a lot of people are
confused by this as well. People have narrowed African music down to riffs and
antiphonium setups where one has music placement from several different
areas. These aspects have been common property of humankind since they've
existed. It is happening in Asia and Europe and Africa. These are not the qualities
of African music that I recognize as being foremost priority for me when I listen
to it or write in reference to it. The thing that's important to me is the underlying
science behind it, the motivating spirituality that's inside of it. Dancing and
moving from one instrument to another when playing is one of the qualities in
African music, or African culture, that has never left the manifestations of black
music in America, black culture in America it's never left. I feel most strongly
that African music is the origin, a scientific way. African music has played the
strongest part, if we speak in terms of "newness", that would give it the title of
initiating American music. Because if that is so, which is what I feel then the
other two elements are Indian and European. We know that the European is
probably a little bit stronger than the Indian, but those three elements are there.
Bill: The newer music form has developed it past standard techniques, is this an
important step in the development?
Leo: When Joseph "King" Oliver comes out and puts a coke bottle in his
trumpet, or a hat or someone's coat over it and blows, that altered and
dramatically revolutionized the concept of performing on an instrument. That
had never happened before. The new technique that is being introduced now is
compatible to the same degree as in that period. By playing many different
instruments now you hear different relationships. When I say relationships I
mean how these sounds and how these rhythms fit in an organized way for
themselves and manifest as music. The relationships are necessitating a new
way of looking at how you play your instrument, where you put your instrument
on the stage, how you are going to go from one instrument to the next. That's
an entire routine. I have on different occasions structured different directions in
which I would go from one instrument to another. Physically I have. I did it on
paper. I have structurally mapped out a particular direction I would go in one
particular piece. For example let's say I have my steel form and the percussion
that hangs from it there and I have the gongs here. I have my commercial
instruments, by that I mean the trumpet, on this side and over there we've got
some flutes. Okay. There were occasions when I've structured to go from the
flute to the trumpet and back to another flute, from flute to the trumpet to the
steel form, that's almost like a beat. That's a long angle but it's a short angle.
From flute to the trumpet and to the steel form, that's a structure you see. (NB:
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A steel form is the system in which Leo Smith places his instruments about
himself).
Bill: When I said technique I meant I know that Clifford Brown, Fats Navarro,
Dizzy Gillespie, who are just three of my favourite trumpet players, had chops all
over, they extended the range and flexibility of the horn, but they were confined
in a system weren't they? I think that you and Lester Bowie and Don Cherry
probably have the same kind of chops as well.
Leo: There's another person we shouldn't leave out and I think he's one of the
major innovators on the trumpet, Don Ayler.
Bill: Don Ayler created a different attitude towards it and there was another man,
Norman Howard, who unfortunately I've never heard in person,
Leo: I've never heard Norman Howard myself but I've heard other people
mention his playing abilities. These players that you've mentioned I know their
music, It is a different technique but getting back to another point, I don't
consider they were confined. They approached it from a different angle. They
made the trumpet more fluent, more dexterous. I've never heard any music
anywhere that could enclose the technique or technical proficiency of Navarro,
Clifford Brown, Gillespie, Armstrong or Parker just to name a few. Thelonious
Monk. Navarro, this man had a natural technique, I don't think he developed it
from studying with a teacher. But just on the opposite side you have Clifford
Brown and Booker Little who studied extensively; they also advanced the
instrument. Now with Don Ayler, Don Cherry, Lester Bowie and myself, and
other people, we've all attacked the instrument from a different angle, and have
gotten some of the same results from attacking it from different angles, but
each of us has gone different ways to present that problem, and as a result
there's new technique. On my solo record, the small piece in it for the trumpet,
which sounded like air sounds, basically but that's not the whole story of that
that piece utilized a different technique, takes the entire process of music
making and turns it around a different way. When I played that piece, the lip did
not vibrate as normal for the trumpet. In this instance which happened during
a period when I was looking for things to do once a week that I hadn't done in
another period of my musical life I would sit in the practice room and never
play anything on that particular day unless I could think of something I didn't do
before. This particular piece and other similar techniques came out of that
particular experience. So how that music is made, the process that manifests
that music, is that the tongue vibrates rather than the lip, and the tongue is
utilized inside the cup of the mouthpiece, not inside my mouth. Not only do you
blow the tongue inside the mouth but inside the mouthpiece. That's what gives
that sound. I carve and shape the sound with my tongue. That gives the
particular intervals. If I want to go from a low to a medium to a high register, I
use a different shape of my tongue to carve the air or put more pressure inside
the cup. The sound produced comes from the tip of the tongue vibrating.
Bill: Do you think you're playing jazz?
Leo: No, I look at it in terms of periods. I look at it as when we look at the
Baroque period, the Classical period, or the Romantic period. Therefore for me
there's the spirituals, the other areas I'm not considering in this particular
analysis because of the occupation they are in are field and shout songs. That
was during a very strange period of captivity. I take spirituals, the syncopated
music, from there into blues into jazz. Ragtime and the related piano music,
stride and boogie woogie. Those periods I collect in the different years. Ragtime
came along the same time as the spirituals. Long before [Scott] Joplin did his
pieces, ragtime was in existence for a long time. In fact ragtime was not just the
piano, it was played by anyone who played music. It developed into a piano
music, it became a piano music, but it was not a piano music. From ragtime into
blues to jazz. After jazz, swing, then the newer period until we get to
contemporary music. I for one have decided to call all this music creative music,
for myself, that's the way to talk to people in relationship as creative musicians.
I should explain that term and why I use it. Creative music means to me
improvisers. Whether they do an absolute pure improvisation where you get
there intuitively and consciously, you do it collectively, and play a beautiful piece
of music. There have been masterpieces done like that. Or you structure some
elements which may be done in a verbal way, or you notate, which is done in
the way of a score. Being that as it is, these three different elements, the thing
that determines whether it is creative music or something else is if it's
predominantly improvised, if it is predominantly improvised to me it's creative
music. The players are creative musicians and the form that they use is
improvisation. The predominant aspect of the music is improvised. On the other
side of the coin we have classical music, composers and interpreters, these
people being creative also. Someone asks don't you think classical music is
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creative? No, but creative music is the title like classical music. In the negative
sense it means that other musics are not classical music. In the positive sense
that music which has derived itself out of Europe from the greatest masters is
classical music. That music which has the improvisers as the greatest masters, is
creative music. Even inside. The different periods are only incidental. I would
rather not have the periods just blanket classical and creative music.
Bill: There are a lot of attitudes which say or feel what's happening in black
improvised or contemporary music is that it is utilizing a lot of the structures of
avant garde white music. Do you feel this?
Leo: No. That's one of the culturist propagandas. As a music there is a tradition
that people have looked towards, the Third Stream tradition is a term that
comes to mind. Even inside that was not what it was meant to be. The man that
got all the publicity and put the philosophy of it was Gunther Schuller, who was a
composer. If we listen to that music, that music was essentially composed and
incidentally improvised. He had classical musicians there and he had creative
musicians there. The creative musicians would function as improvisers and the
classical musicians would function as interpreters. That is something which
means neither of the two understood each other's music. It sounded that way,
certainly. There are several examples of very good music which came out of
that period. The Modern Jazz Quartet for example have produced very authentic
improvised music, some of the most influential music that you can imagine. It
has influenced me and some of the people that others have been influenced by
have been affected by that process.
I would say in music the fundamental laws of each music are the same. The
improviser, all he does is organize sound, rhythm, silence and space
instantaneously, as it is happening. The composer does the same thing on a
slower process. His function often being initially inspired, over a period of time, is
craftsmanship. It's impossible to tell me that a composer is inspired over a piece
of music for twelve years, one composition for twelve years, that becomes a
task work of craftsmanship. What I will recognize is that each time that
composer works on that piece that he's inspired in the contribution that he
contributes to the piece that day. Other than that. Those are things that I can
see as common, the fundamental laws. There are people that are actually
influenced by each other. Gunther Schuller is one who is influenced by this music
or Luciano Berio, the Italian composer, John Cage at various moments in his
music. He once said he hated jazz, but interestingly enough the first tape pieces
he made were the taping of a lot of creative jazz records, that was the first
electronic tape piece he did. His entire chance music process was not instigated
by the I Ching book or the Chinese culture as it is, that is a rigid system or
philosophy. His process of change, of having events happen very often and on a
very creative level which he was after, came out of the improvising tradition,
that was already initiated here.
Bill: I was thinking of people that you were associated with Richard
Teitelbaum, Garrett List who seem to be involving themselves with musicians
like Anthony Braxton and David Holland and so on. And Anthony and others
seem to be involving themselves with them. That's what I meant by interchange.
As performers together.
Leo: In terms of performance, Richard Teitelbaum I consider an improviser not a
composer. Now he may disagree with the term. I consider Braxton an
improviser not a composer. I consider Ornette Coleman an improviser not a
composer. Based on the fundamental laws I feel that I know about the two
different musics, the thing that they do most well attracts me as being that point
which makes them what they are. If a person lives outside all the time mostly,
and only lives inside once, then that person is considered an outside person, he
lives outside. One way to teach this music is the way I learned how to play
marches, by participating in it. Then by utilizing some of the technical books that
have been written since 1908. Scott Joplin wrote a book called "Six Exercises In
Ragtime", an exercise book to give people an insight into the rhythmic structure
and development of ragtime piano music. After 1906 or 1908, the most
important things that have happened in terms of technical knowledge have come
from George Russell. That book "The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal
Organization" is a very important book. I've read the book, I haven't studied it,
which I am going to do. I'm interested in everyone's contribution and I feel in
that sense he has contributed vastly. Ornette Coleman is working on a theory
book I understand. Last year I completed an exercise book in rhythm that
covers every instrument including the voice. The different exercises are written
so one person can play the same exercises on any instrument.
Bill: Do you intend to stay here in Connecticut and develop all that?
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Leo: Yes. I don't know if I'll teach it on a school basis, because I've had such
problems trying to do that on an academic level, but will do it individually with
people. Several months ago I did a session called "The Art Of The Improviser".
For eight weeks I taught the formal aspects of blues, based on actuality of blues,
and my feeling that was actually being said into it, because I feel that blues is a
very misunderstood music and I think that it covers two categories:
instrumental/vocal music and it's also an instrumental music. Fletcher Henderson
plays "The Gold Coast Blues", that was an instrumental blues and the way they
played it pertained exclusively to instruments. If you hear Robert Johnson or Joe
Turner or Big Joe Williams sing the blues and play the guitar along with it, that's
the blues instrumental and vocal. I think it's highly misunderstood.
Bill: Do you feel inclined to do what is traditional for jazz musicians to do and
that is go out on the road. Are you involved in that thought?
Leo: I am very much, except I haven't had very much opportunity to do that.
I've had a few concerts and I do have New Delta Akri, for which I organized the
concept in 1970, and it still exists. I've had two European residences rather than
tours, we went there to live and play, we played the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz
Festival of 1972 and several other small places we've played, mostly on the East
Coast and New York. We are inclined to travel. The current trio, Anthony Davis
on piano and Wes Brown on bass. That particular combination was not in the
European residence. The first time it was Henry Threadgill, myself and Leonard
Jones. The second time was just Leonard Jones and I. After that is when I
organized here in Connecticut with Anthony Davis and a bass player.
Bill: The original trio as I understand was with Leroy Jenkins and Anthony
Braxton.
Leo: That group was originally called the Creative Construction Co.
Bill: That group actually made a lot of records with Anthony Braxton, Leroy
Jenkins and yourself.
Leo: That group was very important in the development of this music, and when
all the pieces are out people shall really see another side of what was happening,
along with everything else that was going on then. The group recorded "Three
compositions of new jazz" on Delmark Records and did two records on the BYG
label. Alan Bates has just released one called "Silence" [Freedom]. That was
done in 1969, in America, just before we went to Europe. The first concert we
played in New York after returning is going to be released, just half of it, another
half of it is due to be released. If I'm not mistaken, Leroy Jenkins has the master
tape of something we did in the studio. A radio performance was also taped.
Bill: You've just released a new record of the trio. How are you going about
letting people know of it?
Leo: I've decided to have reviews on this one because I guess I shouldn't
impose my own rigid concept on the people in the group. I personally don't
particularly believe in reviews, but there is Anthony and Wes, and I don't think I
have a right to impose it on them. I would do that for my solo music but when
there are other people involved I think it's impossible to do that, it's like being a
king and I'm not a king I'm a worker.
Bill: Do you find this a better method than knocking on doors of record
companies?
Leo: Most certainly. I've decided for myself, as long as I'm alive, Kabell Records
will be active. I've set for myself to try to release at least one record a year,
now that I've gotten everything really off the ground. I've had my record
company since 1971 and I've got two records, that's our solo record and
"Reflectativity". I have four master tapes here of other materials I plan to
release periodically, they are all different instrumentation. I have the master tape
of the performance we did at Ann Arbor. That was part of the agreement. I have
a radio performance that we did in March with New Dalta Ahkri, with Oliver Lake
added. I have that master tape which is good and a couple other tapes of duos
that are in my catalogue. I also have another solo performance which I'm going
to release.
Bill: So we've got fifty years of Leo Smith music to come.
Leo: On Kabell. I've decided that's going to be my avenue, I'm not going to go
to the man at Impulse or the man at Atlantic records or whatever the entire
brackets of the people are because I can do it. Eventually it will bring in some
kind of income so that I can continue to produce records and put them out. I
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hope to eventually start releasing my old material through other companies.
Give them rights to release for three years, with lease contracts but not an out
and out sell. I would never get rid of the masters of any of my music. It would
always be limited to a certain geographical area. For example if someone in
Europe released them they would have only Europe and only those areas they
could work in within certain set time periods however many years they would
handle that material.
Bill: Do you feel suspicious of the establishment?
Leo: No. I want to do it this way. If I can do it this way and really make a break-
through in this entire crust. There have been many musicians before me that
have had these ideas, and I've gained from their ideas, the thing that makes my
idea different from theirs is I'm not holding out. I did not make the record to hold
out and say, when the man comes along to pay me the money I think I'm
worth, I'll let him have the master tapes. I didn't do it for that. I'm not in
competition with any recording company, whether it's large or small, it's for
documentation reasons, and also a much wider area. I want to influence people
through my music. I want people to hear the music, be influenced by it, learn
from it to make their lives better. I am speaking in absolute sense when I say
influence, I mean in terms of musicians, listeners and other artists, even
politicians if they could hear. I would like to change people's lives through my
music by having the influence on their psyche of the music.
Leo Smith's website is at: http://music.calarts.edu/~wls/
Reply With Quote
March 11th, 2008, 04:16 PM
Muhal Richard Abrams
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=25529
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2008
Clifford Thornton... George Lewis/Muhal RIchard Abrams/Roscoe Mitchell...
Toshinori Kondo... Ornette Coleman
A great part of the fun involved in this type of blog is in attempting to write
about disparate kinds of music, attempting to capture something of the essence
of the track... An impossible task, perhaps but, like I said, fun...
From the classic album 'The Panther and the Lash,' a long track: 'Huey is free' by
Clifford Thornton and a band he put together in Paris for a live date in 1970.
Thornton was a teacher, musician and political as well as musical radical who
died in relative obscurity in Geneva, 1983, unusual because he doubled
succesfully on trumpet and trombone. The album title refers to Langston
Hughes' collection of poetry.
Opening on a swinging bass vamp before piano, drums and Thornton's muted
trumpet come in. Removing the mute, he plays open horn in declamatory style.
Held up by a boiling rhythm section scampering piano from Franois Tusques,
tough bass from Beb Gurin and powerhous drums from Noel McGhie. The
pianist takes a hurtling solo, at full throttle. The bass steps up next, framed by
rattling, insistent percussion from McGhie. Recorded in 1970, free jazz had come
of age by now here you have music that is open, fiery, passionate - yet linked
by a strong cultural hawser to the traditions it came from. And one must
remember the strong political undercurrents in coming fresh to this music
Thornton was banned from France for his alleged links to the Black Panthers and
this track especially wears its colours proud and strong Huey being Huey
Newton... Right on... Be warned this track cuts off sharply from the bass
solo...
#128
Join Date:
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Heuristic of the Mystic
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'You know, the idea that art has to have a political basis seems a little too much
like preaching to other people about what they should be doing. On the other
hand, seeing artists as political seems almost intrinsic because of what you have
to go through to get art before the public, or to make a space in which it can be
interpreted or understood, thought about or debated.' (From an
interviewhere...).
The above quote comes from George Lewis heard here as part of a recent trio
of old hands with plenty of surprises still up their collective sleeves. The politics
are more 'intrinsic' perhaps... Muhal Richard Abrams, George Lewis and Roscoe
Mitchell have put some time in and ranged far and wide their main link, I
suppose, in the public eye at least, being membership of the AACM:
'The Chicago musicians have used just about every instrument imaginable to
explore all possible textures of sound rather than relationships of pitch and
tonality.' (From p113, 'As Serious as your Life,' Val Wilmer).
They play: 'Streaming,' title track of the 2005 album. All the music was freely
improvised and indeed explores 'all possible textures of sound.' Starts with
sonorous bass pounding on piano soon joined by percussion and going into a
swaying circle dance as electronics(?) twitter: a long and fascinating journey
ensues. Mysterious noise/sounds cued from Lewis's laptop around the core of
the piano's well-recorded sonorities many of the sound sources are hard to
place extended technique or electronic? - as tinkering percussion bells and
small instruments in the main colour the field being inscribed and expanded.
Swooshs, scrapes, amplified breath pulses a move from the identifiable
keyboard sounds through a mysterious landscape to end on a soft repeating
figure that goes out to silence. As Creeley had it: 'FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN
AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT.' (Famously quoted by Charles Olson in 'Projective
Verse.') 'There it is, brothers, sitting there for USE,' (ibid) as Olson goes on to
gloss the statement. Lewis, Mitchell, Abrams: three figures of Outward, then...
Toshinori Kondo played with Brotzmann in his Die like a Dog band. Here he is, on
imperious form, with a solo album 'Fukyo.' Indeed. A good review of which
here...
This is the longest track 'Ungetsu,' clocking in at 6 minutes plus most are
short, sharp stabs of icy brilliance. Commencing on swooning, liquid figures as a
gorgeous melody unfolds. Echoes of Electric Miles, perhaps - and Bill Dixon - if
you want to hunt the influences - but very much his own man. Scattering off
among a flock of echo/delay splinters. One of my favourite contemporary
musicians who amply demonstrates (as George Lewis does) what electronics
can add to improvised music forget fusion (in the main)...
Stomping backwards to one of Ornette's best line-ups, pre-Prime Time- a three
horn bust-out with Dewey Redman and Don Cherry, girdered by Charlie Haden
as a very young Denardo learns the ropes. 'Space Jungle' from the hard-to-get
album 'Crisis,' a recorded live in 1969 but not released until 1972, I believe. Fast,
swirling, ecstatic, on a cold, wet day here in God's Little Acre, this lights fires in
the heart and soul... Ornette is diamond-hard, cutting through the front-line as
Redman roars gutbucket tenor underneath, Cherry is there somewhere (an
echoey mix) and Denardo acquits himself surprisingly well... Haden rock solid,
the booming heart of the band. Collective improvisation that references
backwards - and forwards... Really the blues...
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March 11th, 2008, 04:21 PM
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An interview with
Roscoe Mitchell (2001)
----------------
By Beppe Colli
Jan. 26, 2003
1999 had been an year of shadows and lights for Roscoe Mitchell. Much critical
acclaim for the new Nine To Get Ready CD he had recorded using a big Note
Factory line-up. Then, the fatal illness that had stricken trumpet player Lester
Bowie had forced the Art Ensemble of Chicago to tour with "guest artist" Ari
Brown on piano and saxophones. It was during that tour that I had the
opportunity to interview Roscoe Mitchell for the first time.
The big Note Factory line-up played two dates in Italy during the summer of
2000. I caught them live at the Roccella Ionica Festival. The concert in Fano,
where trumpeter Leo Smith had played, was announced to have a release on CD
- soon.
2001: an Italian spring tour for Roscoe Mitchell & group. Here things started to
get complicated. First, a sextet was announced (on piano: Craig Taborn), then a
quintet (on piano: Matthew Shipp). At last, the concert dates: nine concerts in
eight cities.
It was on March 29, six p.m., that I managed to catch the group rehearsing for
the concert in Catania. The piano player was Vijay Iyer, who told me he'd never
had the chance to rehearse with the group!
It was a good concert anyway, though most of the weight fell on Mitchell's
shoulders. The other musicians I'd known since Snurdy McGurdy And Her Dancin'
Shoes (Nessa 1981): Spencer Barefield on guitar, Tani Tabbal on drums, Jaribu
Shahid on bass.
The following day I went to Messina, where the group was scheduled to play. A
nice theater with good acoustics was a nice change from the "jazz club" of the
night before. Vijay Iyer already sounded more comfortable with the repertoire.
The material the group played was almost totally different from that of the
previous concert. Roscoe Mitchell agreed to do an interview, the next morning in
the hotel lobby. It was five past eleven when I switched on my tape recorder.
In our previous conversation, two years ago in Catania, you were here with the
Art Ensemble of Chicago, and you told me, then, that it was almost the only
opportunity that was given to you to play here in Italy as the Art Ensemble of
Chicago instead of bringing here your other projects. Now, last year you did a
few dates with The Note Factory, the nine people line-up, and now this new line-
up, so things are changing in this respect?
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Well, yes, it seems I've been in a few countries and I'll be back with the Art
Ensemble in May, and... yeah, a few countries - that's high... very high...
(laughs) Don't know what changed, I don't know what changed.
Well, to put my question in context, when we talked about this you said that
European countries had become more conservative...
Yes.
... with regards to the kind of experimental music that they wanted to show to
people. So, have things improved in this respect?
... Well, no... now... now... it's... there's a whole new audience out there that
wants to hear this music - that's on stage. There's a need out there. You know,
music has never been a, so called, a thing that you take and sit on a shelf, you
never do that, music has to be out among the people. But nowadays what is
happening I think is that people have reached a saturation, so to speak, of
everyone making up this music for them. This happens often in art, you know,
and then you get a kind of turning away from the traditional, so to speak, and
this is what is happening also in the States, too, I mean they make these pop
stars that are around for a few months and then they're gone. I mean, I'm like
most people that believe that we need to go back to... just pure art... not...
imitative art.
Yeah... because people need to access these things, because in the '70s there
was a lot of stuff on radio, like there were very interesting things that were being
broadcast by the state-owned radio station, and by some of the private radio
stations; but nowadays radio is much more buttoned-down... and so I think
concerts are really where people can have access to music and see, besides
hearing, see how the music develops during the night. Which I think from my
personal experience is very important for people.
I think this, too. It's a whole experience. I mean... that's the way I enjoy music
when I go... I mean, you can hear people on the radio but then you can also go
out and see them - live.
So, you're gonna come back to Italy in May, with the Art Ensemble of Chicago?
Yeah, for a concert in... Venice.
And, if I'm not mistaken, you told me that there was a new album by the Art
Ensemble of Chicago that was to be recorded in February...
... yeah, but they got it back until September, so it won't be recorded until
September. It will be our tribute CD to Lester Bowie and we're gonna do that
with ECM.
Talking about ECM are there any new projects in the can for ECM?
Well, I've got the Art Ensemble and then there's also one that I'm supposed to
do with them of my written compositions.
... because you told me that you had arranged some of your compositions for
baroque instrumentation. Two years ago.
That's right.
So this is what is gonna come out in the future.
No, no, what's coming out is... I've got a piece for solo piano - 8/8/88 is called -
and then I've got another piece for violin and piano called 9/9/99; there's a piece
for piano and baritone voice with a text by Charles Baudelaire - Hymn To
Beauty, it's called - and also there's also a piece for baritone voice, violin, piano,
alto saxophone and contrabass, titled The Remorse Of The Dead, and that's also
with text by Charles Baudelaire.
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... because in our last conversation you told me of some texts by e.e.
cummings...
Yes.
... that were gonna be used...
...yeah, that's already been used, I mean, that's out on Tom Buckner's Full
Spectrum Voice. The piece that we played the other night, not last night, the
night before, was one of 'em, the best piece, that was one of the e.e. cummings
poems, the one that was played on recorder, the other night, that was...
In Catania, the second piece you played.
The first piece, I think it was the first piece... I don't remember, I think it was the
first piece.
OK, it doesn't matter.
Yeah.
So you're using these texts by Charles Baudelaire.
Uhm, uhm.
I mean, I don't know these texts, I know who he was, but what was... was it
the meaning, the phonetics... what was the part that interested you in these
texts?
Well, I mean... I like his poetry - is dark, it's a dark poetry, you know. What I do,
when I get ready to select a poetrist, I read a lot of poetry, and then whatever
settle for me is the direction I'll go. In this case, a friend of mine - we were
talking and she suggested that it might be interesting to do something by
Baudelaire, so she gave me some of his poetry and so on, so I started reading
and I was of the mind to do it for a long time and - well, I finished one of the
pieces, The Hymn To Beauty is finished, and I will finishing The Remorse Of The
Dead when I return home, in a week. These pieces are gonna premiered in New
York in November, on the Merkin Concert Hall Series.
For what instrumentation?
Baudelaire is piano and voice, and the other one is voice, violin, piano, alto
saxophone and contrabass. The musicians are: Thomas Buckner, baritone,
Joseph Kubera, piano, Vartan Manoogian, violin, and also Leon Dorsey, who is
one of the bass player with the Note Factory.
Vartan Manoogian... I remember you put out a CD on the Victo label that
featured him...
Yes, Songs In The Wind...
... and he was also involved...
... yes, he was also involved in the Lovely Music CD... Four Compositions... and
he's also on the Lovely Music recording...
... Pilgrimage.
Yes.
Actually, I was listening to these records a couple of days ago.
Actually, this tour was supposed to include them but it didn't work out that way,
though.
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This tour with, ah...
Yeah, they were to be on this tour, you know... ah... but I had other concerts at
that time that never... never materialized, so we didn't use them on this concept
'cause I was gonna do a light drum ensemble that would have given me access
to, you know, different type of music, so, ah... you know.
And what about the record with Thomas Buckner? The duo?
The duo... that's gonna come out sometime this year. I have the cover at home
but... the record's gonna be out... soon.
On what label?
It's gonna be on Mutable Music.
Were you satisfied with those two concerts that I saw - from the acoustic point
of view?
Well, the hall last night had a better sound. I think that the hall last night had a
better sound than the first night. I like... I like concert halls.
The piano was also better.
Yeah, that always varies... that always varies from night to night... unless you
are rich, someone who carries his own piano along.
If I'm not mistaken, Matthew Shipp was supposed to come - but didn't?
No, Matthew... couldn't come, so I had... Vijay. Vijay Iyer.
I've never heard of him before, but it seems like he's already getting inside the
music...
Well, he's studied... he's studied with friends of mine in college... there's a
tradition of this music that has got... that has got passed on. Vijay is an
exceptional... you know, he was an exceptional student, he's a good musician,
so...
How old is he?
I don't know, maybe in his twenties, I don't know. I never asked him (laughs).
So, do you think that things for the avant-garde are seeing better days?
Yeah, definitely - in the States. I mean, in Europe I guess it's trying to come
back. I've heard that there's a lots of concerts for the avant-garde in Europe.
I've heard that, so...
But how is the situation with radio, for instance, in the States?
Well, in the town where I live it's very good, because we have a community-
sponsored radio station, so it's like radio of the old times, you know, there's all
kinds of programming on it, they... but in a lot of places that don't have it... they
don't have it, you know. So, in Madison, Wisconsin, WARP (?) radio has been
active ever since I've been there, I mean, I don't know how long I've been there,
twenty-five, thirty years. And it's... it's community-sponsored, you know, so
every... a couple of times a year they have a fund-raise and the public supports
it.
And it's very important because commercialism gets you...
Nowhere, nowhere.
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A few years ago I bought a re-release of the LP Sound, on Delmark, on CD, and
just recently a friend of mine told me there were plans for Sackville to re-release
your solo saxophone...
... not the solo, not the solo. They said they weren't gonna re-release the solo, I
think it's a trio with George Lewis and Muhal Richard Abrams, I think they said
they were gonna re-release that, because I own the solo tapes and they sent
those back to me. I asked'em to send those back to me. So they did.
So they're not gonna re-release that.
No, I don't think so. I mean, that was the impression that I got from John Norris
when I spoke with him, that was... maybe four months ago.
If I'm not mistaken I have a solo saxophone on Sackville, then a green album
with Muhal Richard Abrams...
... yeah, that's the one.
... George Lewis and Spencer...
... and Spencer Barefield - I think that's the one they're gonna re-release.
And then, if I'm not mistaken, I have a duo with Anthony...
... Anthony, yeah.
... Braxton - the one with the silver cover.
Yeah, I would like to find that. A friend of mine made me a... a tape of it. I had it,
I don't know what happened to it. Where did you find it?
No, I bought it then.
Ah, a long time ago.
Yes, when it was new.
Yes, yes.
Because a lot of young people in Italy, they are discovering for the first time all
this music - for instance, Sun Ra: the Evidence label has done a very good job of
re-releasing, or in some cases releasing for the first time, things that people had
never had access to. The Saturn LPs in Italy were totally impossible to find -
what we got were some Impulse! records, and even those were not easy to find
then. I think that some Evidence CDs... a lot of young people in their early 20s
are discovering these... which compared to a lot of stuff that goes on now is a
lot more advanced because - people say "This went on in the 50s, in the 60s?!"
Yes, of course.
Music has progressed, but if one thinks that Free Jazz come out forty years ago,
and Sound came out in sixty...
... six.
... but if you listen to them now they sound really fresh compared to what's on
the radio or in the magazines...
I know, I know... it's incredible. I mean, I think people have gone backwards. I
don't quite understand it. But I... on the other hand, I think too that - yeah,
those records were great but I think this is the era of the super-musicians and it
takes a long time to become a super-musician, so I think that now is probably
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maybe gonna be the best time for music, I think so.
Well, I was not saying "those were the peaks"...
... oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I understand it, I know.
... but when people in their late 20s who are not impressed with some of the
new jazz things that they listen to, they say that they are not very advanced,
but when they hear, for instance, Free Jazz, they understand that something
has been suppressed in the media.
Yeah, definitely.
But - when you listen to your LP Sound, now, how do you see it now, with
regards to your development?
Well, one thing with regards to the AACM people it seems that the AACM people
have been pushed out of the music, in terms of, like, having access to concerts
and work and being able to live up to their full expectations and what they
produce as musicians. I mean, you've seen I come over here like with this
quintet, this or that, and so on and so forth, but we have other kinds of projects
that we do that people don't even know about. Well, I mean, you know, I think
that's gonna be different about this audience - maybe - that it was with the
audience of the past, like for instance when Coltrane started to change his music
and some of this audience stayed with him and some did not. But now you've
got an audience that is able to understand a wider range of music, I should say,
so these people here are the ones that we are to get the music out to them, but
I mean in terms of opera, Muhal Richard Abrams, or Anthony Braxton, or
Wadada Leo Smith, you know, on and on, these guys are monumental
musicians, monumental musicians, they can lead the way in opera, they can lead
the way in chamber music, they can lead the way in the presentation of the big
band, and so on and so on, but they've never been given these opportunities
because people think that they can bring along imitators to walk in these
people's shoes and that's not really happened, and that's why the music is sort
now in kind of disarray, you know, ah... because what I see from a lot of people
that just copy the music they only were able to get a little bit of it and... well,
that's what happens with people that don't... they don't really look inside
themselves, because if you look inside yourself and find out what's inside
yourself you can go on forever with that, but I'm looking inside you and trying to
do what you do I'm never gonna be anything, because I'm always waiting to see
what you're gonna do. And, you know, that's not the proper way to teach
people, you know, the universities have played a large role in destroying a lot of
people, in destroying their lives and... they prepared them for... some unrealistic
situation that does not exist and... what you're getting now is a lot of rebelling
from the students, they feel more-or-less ripped-off, in a way, 'cause they go to
these universities and they pay these extraordinary fees to go - I mean, in the
States, I don't know over here - they pay these extraordinary fees to go and
then they come out feeling "Now, what", you know, "do I do?", when in fact
places where musicians were able to get better grips on what they were about I
think were places like the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock...
... Karl Berger, yeah...
... I just got some e-mail from this guy who said that's exciting now to preserve
the heritages that they had, so - but what I did notice from that school was
that... you dig some musicians that came out of that school and went on to
establish careers are firmer in their careers, 'cause they had access to the right
kind of teaching.
Last year I interviewed a musician, whose name is Nick Didkovsky, he's a
guitarist and composer, and he studied computer music, who also writes
software, and he told me that he had gone to that school and that there was a
book that had been published last year about it. Because most people do not
know that these things ever happened, and if I'm not mistaken the Art Ensemble
of Chicago once did a one-week residency there...
Yes they did.
... it was in one of the first issues that I got of a magazine called Musician, and
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there was a very long story about the Art Ensemble of Chicago by a guy called
Rafi Zabor - he did a very long feature about this - and you - I mean, the Art
Ensemble of Chicago was on the cover...
... yeah, yeah, I remember that.
... together with George Clinton, and I think this is very important for the
reader...
... oh yeah, yeah, definitely important for the reader's point of view. Everything's
been so messed, now, you have to really search to find it - the funny thing
about art is that good art always come back up to the top, so... you know, no
matter what people try to do, and that is true throughout the history, you know,
people have tried to suppress the art and so on and so forth, and they never win
with that situation because good art always comes back up to the top.
Access is very important, because if people have to already know where to look,
sometimes they'll never get in contact with...
... that's right.
You know, Albert Ayler is pretty well-known these days, due to the fact that
quite a few young, mostly American groups, in the rock vein, say that they have
been influenced by his music, though I have to say that to me it sounds like a lot
of it it's just name-dropping - I've seen some of these groups and to me the
connection is pretty non-existent. But if I'm not mistaken you got to know
Albert Ayler, when you were...
... in the Army, in Germany. I was in Heidelberg and he was nearby and then
sometimes we would come together and we, you know, put military bands
together and then... as a result of that the musicians would get together and
play and so on like that. Yeah, Albert Ayler was very... it was a lot of people, you
know, that were great then, you know, that never really got an opportunity to
really do anything, so hopefully that's... I don't know if that will change, but
hopefully will, I mean, it would be a big thing, because I like to go out to concerts
and hear people that really stimulate me musically, so it would be a good thing if
some of the real creators of this music were given more opportunities. I know
that... in the States now there's different clubs and things that popped up where
this music is played mostly all the time, I mean, and there's this whole push to...
to... people wanting to do improvised music, they call it the "European
Improvised Music".
"European..."?
"European Improvised Music". I mean I've heard the name that they call it. So,
it's definitely a time in music where a line's gonna be drawn, and some people
will be able to came up to that line... and some won't. And that's the... that's the
difference, I think.
But in the media - I'm referring to the time of Ornette Coleman - in the late
fifties, early sixties, there was much more coverage in the press...
... oh yeah, oh yeah.
... so there was this thing called "avant-garde" and it was covered at lenghth,
like it was a very important cultural thing to go and see, then one could make up
one's own mind about it, if they liked it or not, but the media, The New York
Times, for instance, signalled that there was a topic, and once you see that
question - "Is it art or not?" - you are stimulated and then you make up your
mind for yourself. But now this kind of relevance is not in the media anymore,
unless they are already specialized media, but people they have to already know
where to look for to get these informations.
Yeah, what we need in the media is more people that go their own way, it
seems like the media itself got bored out or... I don't know what it was, I
mean... a long time ago there were more people who had their own idea
about... ah... how they presented material in the media. Now it's kind of a clone,
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everybody saying the same things on all the news stations... I think that the
younger people, they're afraid to try anything on their own because if they do
then they'll be probably just be kicked out and... So, I mean, it sounds to turn
away from all the - this thing where everybody is the same, because we're not
all the same, everybody's different, and I think that's what makes us... special is
that we are all different, and this... every answer where everybody is the same
is... I think it sounds a move away from that, it's all across the border, the
medias... the music... you know, the art that you see in galleries... the books...
and so on and so on.
James Joyce would definitely not be published nowadays.
No, no, no, no... no, he wouldn't, he probably wouldn't. It's more interesting
when you got, you know, something that reaches across the border, to all
different kind of people, you know, like you said, expect the people make up
their own mind, that's the way it, you go and see somebody, and if you like
them you like them, if you didn't like them, you know, so to speak.
Yeah. Where I live, in Catania, there are not that many concerts, and sometimes
I go and see people I'm not crazy about. But I have to say that the level of
musicianship has gone down - there were some successful rock groups in the
sixties, like Cream, for instance, the rhythm section had a high level of technical
ability and intelligence in their playing, but today they sound like they're playing a
strange and incomprehensible music ... today there are a lot of short, compact
and repetitive kind of formats, and so Cream definitely sounds like a jazz group.
And I think that video has a lot to do with it.
Yes, and there's another thing, anybody doing video could be saving people, you
know, and when you look at some of these videos they start to look kinda
stupid, you know. I think we... maybe I won't see it (laughs) but we're probably
gonna see things kinda rip apart at the seams, you know, because in some ways
I think it's not right for the young people not to challenge them, you know, it's
not a good thing to do, because then you're not preparing the people that come
after you; so that's why I'm seeing this pulling of the young, now, and they're
really in search of something that relates to their own lives, you know, and
that's good.
Talking about the media, I've read that recently there was a series on television
in the States, called Jazz, that was broadcast in ten parts, I don't remember
who directed it...
... Ken Burns.
... on the P... B...
... P.B.S.
Have you seen it?
No, I haven't seen that, some people taped it, maybe I'll watch some of the
things. I hear some of it's good, while some of it it's a obvious direction to
promote ideas of Lincoln Center, Stanley Crouch and the Marsalises, you know.
And they didn't... I heard they really didn't spend that much time, you know,
saying anything about the music of the sixties, there was a bit on there, I think,
about Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman and maybe the Art Ensemble. A lot of
people weren't even on it. And, as a result of it, I've got a lot of e-mail, from
different people, you know, what they thought about it and so on and so forth.
See, I think the only thing it really worked was there was a researching of what
records sell of the Old Masters, it was a research of what records sell of the Old
Masters. But what's happening in the States now is all the young people are
trying to play... avant-garde (laughs), you know, the young people are trying to
play avant-garde, and so Lincoln Center... of course it has money by the ton,
but it has taken a lot of money by, you know, the great of arts, because people
give all their money to Lincoln Center, we got people that make these enormous
salaries for being, you know, just re-creative artists. So it's interesting to see
what happens now - like I say you got the young people they're trying to do
something else and you've got Lincoln Center on the other side, trying to... I
don't know what they're trying to do... well, it doesn't relate to the development
of jazz in a way - that I recall. Jazz has never been a music that stopped at
some point. It will be interesting to see what happens and I'm... waiting to see it.
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And like, this whole series of new pieces that I'm writing they are a high level
technical... technical pieces, so I'm feeling that too, you know, people need to
get up and do something to it, you know? We'll all see how that all turns out.
I've read an article on the Internet about this series, by Francis Davis.
Yeah, Francis Davis, yeah.
I think the piece ran maybe a couple of months ago in The Atlantic, and I read on
their Website. And I think it was a good piece, he denounced that the series had
kind of a political agenda for Lincoln Center...
... yes! he's right.
... and that it didn't represent, from the sixties on...
... no, they didn't. Well, Francis Davis, he's been around for a long time, he's
written a lot of articles and that's what I'm saying, see, there's a lot of people
around that know what's going on, so... and these people have somehow...
been overlooked, in a way, but they're still around. There were people that had a
vision and stayed tuned, and Francis Davis was one of them. He did a lot of... he
did articles both on myself and on the Art Ensemble Of Chicago, a long time ago.
Yeah, in fact the first article about you that I saw on a big magazine was by him,
on Musician magazine, I think in 1984, and then it was reprinted in his first
collection, In The Moment. But, to go back to the topic of mastering one's
instrument, I think that for a lot of people this means playing faster inside the
changes, and a lot of people - especially in the rock field - reject the idea of
technical masterings as empty virtuosity... like doing something faster with no
real musical purpose. Like, faster for the sake of it, not faster because you need
to.
Yeah, that's no good, that's no good. But it's time to challenge the musicians
again, too, in a way, I mean, like the better pieces that are definitely technically...
demanding. I mean, a lot of people don't play that much (laughs), but they are
around, these other pieces that I'm doing now are technically demanding,
especially for Joseph Kubera but he's is a great, great pianist, and also the piece
for violin and piano is technically demanding and of course Vartaan is a great
violinist.
You know, for a long time I was sick of hearing Monk interpretations - see, I like
Monk very much, but the interpretations were scholastic, and banal, like, they
play the theme and they run off to the solos, but, I mean, where's the
composition?
I know, I know, well, see, people get their egos confused, and that's what's this
whole generation is, these egos. Unfortunately, it doesn't have anything to do
with any real substance, so... it's time for that to go, you know? A lot of serious
musicians, they don't really want to come out... anymore. I don't. I wanna stay
at home and do my work, you know. I mean, if I'm coming out to do something
that's not... making any sense, I'd rather stay home 'cause there's stuff I'm
working on right now. And if look at myself it's an important period, time-wise,
and I have to be careful on how I use my time because otherwise I won't be
able to accomplish the things that I'm trying to do. So, this is the kind of feeling
that's going around right now, you know. Lots of musicians don't want to come
back to Europe, you know?
To Europe?!
... they don't wanna come back if Europe's gonna be some place where, first of
all, they're gonna say that we didn't create the music that we did, and, secondly,
if the only thing that people want to hear, like, college bands, then... yes, that's
the feeling that's going down now, because that's a very important work period,
and... just to be coming out just to be coming out, I mean... that don't make
any sense if you do it with your time.
But... do you think that in Europe there is a wrong story about... who invented
that stuff?
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Yeah, I think it is, I think they don't really want to give credit to the people who
really invented it. I mean, do you see Muhal Richard Abrams over here?
No.
This is what's going on, that's unfortunate, too, because the audience has to sit
out there, you know, while these people are out there not really knowing doing
what they're doing and so on, so... for a lot of people it's
become...uninteresting.
I see in Down Beat that quite a few European musicians are playing in Chicago...
... because of John Corbett - they have a club there, I think called The Empty
Bottle. And so it's a way for them to go there. I don't think that's a wrong thing
to do, but I think that the people who are creative musically ought to be out
there too - and they're not. But there's another thing: if, like, musicians all
communicated real well... lots of the younger people are out there working for
nothing - no money at all. It's just musicians need to get themselves organized,
they need to get back to the principals of the AACM, the principals of the
Creative Music Studio, the principals of the CAC, the principals of the BAG, and
so on and so forth, where musicians had active roles in having some control
over their destinies, because if they don't... You know, people see that, people
see that musicians are not united and that opens the door for people to come
and take advantage of 'em.
I haven't heard of a tour of Muhal Richard Abrams in a long time.
You've heard of a tour of Anthony Braxton?
No.
Heard of any tour with Peter Brtzmann?
Some.
John Zorn, heard of his tours?
Yes.
Tim Berne? Heard of his tours? So you start to get the picture.
But do you see John Zorn as a person who has done anything of value in all his
output?
Well, I'm not that familiar with his music, I went to hear him when I was in
Madison, once, maybe it was not a good concert, I don't know, people have
good and bad concerts, but... it wasn't... see, I mean, the only way I judge
people is: these people, what have they done, what did they contribute - of their
own? And then, if they haven't contributed anything of their own, then, for me, I
have to put them in another... category: there's the person that created it... and
the person that came along and... imitated it. So, it's like... it's like that - for me.
I mean, that's the way I was brought up. I mean, if somebody came up trying to
sing like Nat King Cole, people would say - oh, wait a minute, he's trying to
sound like Nat King Cole. He's trying to sound like Charlie Parker. You know, that
doesn't change, it's always gotta be like that. We're gonna be measured by, you
know, what you do. And if you haven't done anything... you know, people like
Muhal, Anthony Braxton, George Lewis, they will never run out of ideas, they will
never run out of ideas, but people who are not of that particular persuasion will
always run out of ideas, because they never had an idea in the first place. That's
I've always encouraged my students: to look to their own selves; it's easy to be
your own self, it's easy to be your own self, it's difficult to be someone else, you
can't be someone else, it's easy to be yourself, 'cause in a way you train to be
yourself, you develop your own ideas, then the same source that gave you
those ideas continues to give you more ideas.
But who do you think that John Zorn is inspired by?
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Well, he's a student of Julius Hemphill. And so is Tim Berne. And John Zorn is also
a student of Anthony Braxton.
Well, now I am in a difficult position, because I don't like John Zorn that much...
... I don't know his music that much.
... but since he's done different things, like "scored improvisations"...
... well, that's my term, "scored improvisations"!
Well, I was just using it just to make myself understood...
... yeah, yeah, go ahead.
... he has covered a lot of fields, and he has acknowledged many influences, like
Carl Stalling...
... see, the fact is that all that he's doing, the AACM was doing that already, in
the sixties. But... I think there's an effort to suppress real creative artists, and
unfortunately... it's led a lot of people down the wrong path, you know, it's led a
lot of people down the wrong path. And what is happening to some of my
contemporaries is that they teach at schools, they are facing all of these politics,
of institutions, they're never really given any credit for the music that they
created, and when the students come out they wanna pay the students more
than the person who created it. In the case of Jackie McLean, I know the
students were making more money that he was making when he was playing.
So, this is one of the problems that needs to be sorted out.
So, to get back to that previous topic, your plan was to bring a larger
instrumentation than this five-people line-up?
It would have been the New Chamber Ensemble along with a few other
musicians, I was gonna have, like Craig Taborn, and Leon Dorsey, and I was
gonna have... Gerald Cleaver, doing percussion, like vibes...
So it was like, budgetary constraints?
I don't know what it was, it just that it never turned out to be what people were
saying it was gonna be in the first place. That's the best that I can figure out, you
know. People saying one thing, and... it didn't happen.
'Cause last year, in Roccella Ionica, the concert by the line-up with two pianos
etc. was very stimulating, and the timbral palette was wide...
I was just gonna say, this is one thing that we do, with the presentation we
can... blow you away. I've been doin' a series with percussion, lately, and when
people will look behind to see what we've done... we've been great performers,
multi-instrumentalists, composers, teachers, business people, they've been
everything. In fact, when you know it takes all of your time to do your art
(laughs).
But, you know, friends of mine, who had never heard you live, saw you in
Catania, two nights ago, but for them, unless they try to look for the records -
and the Lovely records, for instance, were not that easy to find even when they
first came out - they don't have the perspective of the situation presented to
them, so for them that concert is all that you do.
Yes, I know. I know. I know. So, people... well, I don't know, maybe there is a
difficulty dealing with that, that's why I've decided to give me more than one
outlet, more than one venue... the places where people really listen to chamber
music, they listen to contemporary chamber music. I have pieces done in those
context, you know. But certainly the audience nowadays is ready for pieces of all
styles.
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Do you teach in Madison?
No, I don't teach. I'm learning (laughs) - in this period, I mean, I've got some
work to do. I don't see how anybody can teach. I learn. That's what I have, an
individual student here and there.
What's Henry Threadgill doing these days?
I think he's in New York, doing some concerts. I haven't spoken to him for a
while. I think I'll talk to him when I get back home.
Because he had three CDs in a row for Columbia that saw the involvement of Bill
Laswell...
... I don't think he's with that company anymore.
I saw him in concert a long time ago, with the Sextett, in the '80s, when he was
with RCA, I think, and it was a very good concert - though the PA was not very
good the people responded. And it's a pity, because I think that people, if
presented with things, would go to them.
I think they would do. I sent some of my music to one of the largest record
companies and the guy wrote me this long letter saying he really loved the music
(laughs) but he didn't feel the other people in the company were gonna do
anything like that, he said he could hear, he could hear what was going on, that
was different music, high quality, but that the record company was going to
bring back the Young Lions or whatever. I liked better when there were more
independent labels, maybe some people like Chuck Nessa will do something.
It was exactly at this point that the second side of the C60 cassette tape I was
using to tape the interview ended. I asked Roscoe Mitchell whether I should put
another one into the tape recorder, but he gently refused ("I don't think I have
much more to say"). Then, he talked for about twenty more minutes. He asked
me about the instrumental balance during the first of the two concerts I had
attended ("Was the guitar too loud?" Yes. "That's what I suspected."),
expressed his disappointment about the Note Factory concert in Fano not having
been released on CD ("It should have been on sale at the same time of this
tour...") - by the way, as of this writing (24 Jan. 2003) it's not out yet - and
talked about other things I've since forgotten. No concert that day ("... and it
rains!"), the next day they were going to Rome.
Selected Discography
With the Art Ensemble Of Chicago
1967/68 (5 CD) (Nessa)
People In Sorrow ('69) (re-relased w/ Les stances Sophie as 1969-1970)
(Emi Jazztime)
Bap-Tizum ('72) (Atlantic)
Fanfare For The Warriors ('73) (Atlantic)
Nice Guys ('78) (ECM)
Full Force ('80) (ECM)
Urban Bushmen ('80) (ECM)
Roscoe Mitchell
Sound ('66) (Delmark)
Solo Saxophone Concerts ('73/'74) (Sackville) (out-of-print)
Nonaah ('77) (Nessa) (out-of-print)
L-R-G/The Maze/S II Examples ('78) (re-released on Chief)
Snurdy McGurdy And Her Dancing Shoes ('80) (Nessa) (out-of-print)
3X4 Eye ('81) (Black Saint)
New Music For Woodwinds And Voice ('81) (1750 Arch, re-released on Mutable
Music)
And The Sound And Space Ensembles ('83) (Black Saint)
An Interesting Breakfast Conversation ('84) (1750 Arch, re-released on Mutable
Music)
Four Compositions (87?) (Lovely Music)
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Duets And Solos (with Muhal Richard Abrams) ('90) (Black Saint)
This Dance Is For Steve McCall ('92) (Black Saint)
Pilgrimage ('94?) (Lovely Music)
Hey Donald ('94) (Delmark)
Sound Songs ('94) (Delmark)
First Meeting (with Borah Bergman) ('94) (Knitting Factory)
In Walked Buckner ('98) (Delmark)
Nine To Get Ready ('98) (ECM)
8 O'Clock: Two Improvisations (with Thomas Buckner) (2001) (Mutable Music)
Song For My Sister (2002) (PI Recordings)
See also:
Anthony Braxton - Creative Music Orchestra ('76) (RCA Bluebird)
George Lewis - Shadowgraph ('77) (Black Saint)
George Lewis - Voyager ('93) (Avant)
Tom Hamilton - Off-Hour Wait State ('95?) (O O Discs)
Matthew Shipp - Duo ('96?) (2.13.61)
Beppe Colli 2001 - 2003
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April 4th, 2008, 07:56 PM
Two new Braxton releases:
http://www.jazzloft.com/p-47103-quartet-2006-gtm.aspx
http://www.jazzloft.com/p-47102-pian...1968-2000.aspx
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April 5th, 2008, 09:38 AM
Another chunk of good news Braxtonian:
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/news.php?id=17786
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April 5th, 2008, 09:56 AM
The solo piano set is still a pre-order, but has anyone heard the Important
Records GTM set? I still have been unable to get a copy. I'm curious to hear a
"classic quartet" configuration play this music.
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Originally Posted by CoyotePalace
Two new Braxton releases:
http://www.jazzloft.com/p-47103-quartet-2006-gtm.aspx
http://www.jazzloft.com/p-47102-pian...1968-2000.aspx
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April 5th, 2008, 10:08 AM
I haven't heard any of this music yet, but I'm certainly interested in what quartet
GTM sounds like! It is for sale on eBay (being sold by the record label), so
maybe that's the quick way of getting that set of music.
#133
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Originally Posted by gregk
The solo piano set is still a pre-order, but has anyone heard the Important Records GTM
set? I still have been unable to get a copy. I'm curious to hear a "classic quartet"
configuration play this music.
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April 5th, 2008, 11:09 AM
I ordered the quartet set from The Jazz Loft (4 CDs for 24.95, that's cheap).
Any of you guys heard the Delmark quartet recording from 2000? It's one of my
favorites among recent Braxton releases.
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April 7th, 2008, 09:10 AM
Yeah I feel its one of the best GTM
things as you get to hear more of the
man himself and although you lose the
extra sonic weight of the larger groups
there's still lots of colour as well as a
leaner more cocentrated quality, closer
to his classic quartet of the the 80's.
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Originally Posted by FAH
I ordered the quartet set from The
Jazz Loft (4 CDs for 24.95, that's
cheap). Any of you guys heard the
Delmark quartet recording from 2000?
It's one of my favorites among recent
Braxton releases.
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September 24th, 2008, 08:39 AM
http://nightlights.blogs.wfiu.org/an...e-
liner-notes/
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You will find that their minds rarely move in a line...
http://web.mac.com/flowe/iWeb/Farrell%20Lowe/Welcome.html
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September 25th, 2008, 08:16 AM
Have we all heard about the new Mosaic boxed set?
The Complete Arista Recordings of Anthony Braxton (#242) - 8 CD's
Edit: Ah... Didn't click on the link in the previous post
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September 25th, 2008, 09:23 AM
#138
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Originally Posted by apricissimus
Have we all heard about the new Mosaic boxed set?
The Complete Arista Recordings of Anthony Braxton (#242) - 8 CD's
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It's all right. Hell, if you're as excited about this as I am, it's easy to see why it
should be double posted x 3 x 4 x5 x6 x100....
Edit: Ah... Didn't click on the link in the previous post
You will find that their minds rarely move in a line...
http://web.mac.com/flowe/iWeb/Farrell%20Lowe/Welcome.html
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September 26th, 2008, 12:11 PM
Pre-ordered my copy from Mosaic this week.
Why are there only six CDs on that picture???
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October 6th, 2008, 12:05 AM
fyi:
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With the upcoming release of Mosaic's "Complete Arista Recordings" box, I thought it
might be useful to republish those LPs' original liner notes (which will not be included with
the box), as well as some previously-published writings about these albums by Ran Blake,
John Corbett, Art Lange, & John Litweiler.
I've made these texts available in two forms:
from within my Braxton discography:
http://www.restructures.net/BraxDisco/BraxDisco.htm
and as iPaper:
http://tinyurl.com/Arista
When viewing the iPaper versions, I recommend maximizing the viewing space by clicking
the little box at the top-right corner of the document, and then adjusting the zoom; you
can select different View Modes via the "iPaper" menu at the top left. These iPaper
documents can also be downloaded as pdfs.
From within the discography, these texts can be accessed via the new "essays & reviews"
link in the upper-left frame of the discography; you can also click on the icon which
appears in an albums's discography entry.
In addition, I've added Composition Notes for each of the compositions which appears in
the Mosaic box (except for Comp. 40P, which I hope to add soon). The Composition Notes
can be accessed via the page for the particular composition that appears in the lower-right
frame: e.g., go to a particular album entry in the main discography, click on the
composition, and then the page for that composition (with the graphic title and a list of
recordings featuring that composition) will appear in the lower-left frame, where you'll see
an icon and red text which you'll click on to bring up the Composition Notes. Again, for the
moment, Composition Notes are available only for those compositions which appear on the
Arista albums.
Thanks to all of the authors for giving me permission to republish these texts.
Jason
ps - If you find any bad links, please let me know
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November 2nd, 2008, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by CoyotePalace
The Music of Anthony Braxton
(Greenwood Press, 1996) ISBN 0313299560
This is such an unprecedented and remarkably visionary book that it seems unfair to
categorize it. Incited by Anthony Braxton's music, Heffley accepts the challenge by going
wherever it takes him. His interrogation of Braxton's work is irresistible, and every page
dares the reader to keep up with him, whether to the beginnings of civilization or to the
outer reaches of space. Though it is as ambitious as The Road to Xanadu--J.L. Lowes'
exploration of the secrets which lie behind Coleridge's poetry--I know of nothing quite like
this extraordinary book.
John Szwed, Yale University, author of
Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (Pantheon, 1997)
This magnificent study is the ideal guide to a better appreciation of Anthony Braxton's
visionary music. Writing with real flair and insight, Mike Heffley mixes panoramic overview
and microscopic detail to explicate the complex brilliance of Braxton's sound-world. Like its
subject, his book grips and inspires. It is the most exciting, creative, thought-provoking
book on music I have read in years.
Graham Lock, author of
Forces in Motion: Anthony Braxton and the
Meta-Reality of Creative Music (Quartet Books, 1988)
Confronted by the staggering breadth and complexity of Anthony Braxton's musical
cosmology, Mike Heffley does not flinch; he creates a metaphorical ontology of his own,
exploring Braxton's multifaceted work and far-reaching vision from mythological,
philosophical, and scientific angles that extend beyond ordinary music criticism into realms
of sociology and cultural anthropology. Then he turns to the music, and finds his way
through the labyrinth of recordings, compositional strategies, and improvisational systems,
leaving a trail of solid analysis and informed interpretation for us to follow. This is more
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So, does anyone here actually have this book (or read it)? Any opinions,
thoughts? It's pretty expensive but with this weekend's 40% Borders coupon
I'm considering buying it.
than just scholarship; it is an extraordinary achievement, a document of courage and
imagination, consideration and care.
Art Lange, editor of Down Beatmagazine 1980-87
Mike Heffley is the author of a veritable thesis of 495 pages, The Music of Anthony Braxton
(Greenwood Press, London, 1996). This work is without a doubt the old and new
testament on Anthony Braxton. It is no light reading, but despite the absence of a
discography it represents a level of achievement rarely attained. It will be the delight of
Braxton aficionados.
Jazz Hot (Paris)
The Music of Anthony Braxton draws on mysticism, numerology, the civilizations of ancient
Africa, Greece and Rome. . . Heffley's labor of love brings a welcome, ambitious scale to
the enterprise of jazz criticism.
In These Times (Chicago)
Heffley clearly acknowledges the importance of both Lock's and Radano's books . . . Given
the success of these books, it is to Heffley's credit that he is able to find his own space
within this spectrum. . . Heffley's contribution to an understanding of Braxton's work results
in a book which, quite intentionally, is as complex and diverse as the music itself. . .
Heffley's content is often rich in insights and conveys a real understanding of both
Braxton's music and its relationship to previous musical traditions. . . . For many listeners,
the main difficulty with Braxton's music may be situated in this blurring of imaginary
boundaries between the improvisatory nature of American jazz . . . and the controlling
impulses within the Western tradition. . . The resulting collision between these two distinct
sound-worlds produces a vibrant, stimulating music of which Heffley's somewhat
idiosyncratic prose captures the essence. . . . The challenging nature of Heffley's book,
with its idiosyncracies of structure and presentation, no doubt leaves it open to criticism
from several different perspectives. However, it does present a valuable range of insights
into Braxton's music, and . . . can make its own distinctive contribution to an understanding
of both Braxton's music in particular and the "trans-African tradition of creative music" in
general.
Music and Letters (London)
While tough reading, it is the best book about Braxton yet. This is the most thorough
examination of Braxton's music and the various contexts from which it emerges. It is the
only book to date that very successfully explores the mystical side of Braxton, and Heffley
does so with clarity, integrity, and genuine respect for Braxton. Because of its ambitious
nature, this book is probably not the best place to begin when studying Braxton. But its
ambitious nature has also created a book that matches the ambition of its subject matter,
i.e., Braxton himself. This is essential reading for Braxtonians.
Amazon.com reader review
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November 2nd, 2008, 03:28 PM
I have this and have read it. My opinion of the book that it is the definitive
Braxton book (outside of Braxton's own Tri-Axiom writings). It is in-depth and
covers Braxton's extensive career very well. If you're a Braxton fan or student
of his music and/or musical concepts, you will find this book invaluable!
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Originally Posted by gregk
So, does anyone here actually have this book (or read it)? Any opinions, thoughts? It's
pretty expensive but with this weekend's 40% Borders coupon I'm considering buying it.
You will find that their minds rarely move in a line...
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http://web.mac.com/flowe/iWeb/Farrell%20Lowe/Welcome.html
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November 27th, 2008, 09:23 AM
Check this out!!
http://thecurator.podomatic.com/entr...15_11_16-08_00
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December 8th, 2008, 11:45 AM
Braxton seems to be one of those daunting musicians who is nearly impossible
to approach for someone looking to familiarize themselves with his work. I feel
like, as with many ultra-prolific musicians, there's a lot of stuff in his catalog that
is probably dispensable, and true gems are scattered throughout that take a lot
of listening to uncover. The only thing I own by him is a copy of Creative
Orchestra Music on vinyl that I found in a musty old record shop.
I actually saw Braxton perform with an ensemble of his graduate students at
Weslyean a few years back, and it was pretty impressive. It's interesting how his
students really seem to appreciate and incorporate his unique approach and
vision. I most clearly remember a sort of "dueling pianos" set-up, with two
pianists positioned facing each other, trading lines back and forth amid the rest
of the improvisers.
#144
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December 8th, 2008, 01:19 PM
I think his Arista catalogue is untouchable. And most of his discs on Victo records
are great. All of his solo records are pure joy. The only thing I won't touch are
his standards interpretations.
#145
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December 9th, 2008, 09:58 AM
At least try his Charlie Parker Project on hat. With Misha Mengelberg, Han
Bennink, Paul Smoker, Ari Brown, etc. It's a wonderful album, a neglected classic
if you ask me.
#146
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Originally Posted by Masada
The only thing I won't touch are his standards interpretations.
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http://jazzviking.blogspot.com/
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December 9th, 2008, 04:12 PM
Han Bennink? Sounds good to me!
#147
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Originally Posted by FAH
At least try his Charlie Parker Project on hat. With Misha Mengelberg, Han Bennink, Paul
Smoker, Ari Brown, etc. It's a wonderful album, a neglected classic if you ask me.
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December 9th, 2008, 08:26 PM
Agreed. Another one that would I think surprise is the Ran Blake, Braxton duet
disc "A Memory of Vienna" (hatOLOGY). Track listing:
'Round Midnight
Yardbird Suite
You Go To My Head
Just Friends
Alone Together
Four
Soul Eyes
I'm Getting Sentimental Over You.
Might be my favorite version of 'Round Midnight. I've never heard Braxton so
lyrical. In that sense, it's somewhat of a different animal than his other standards
stuff. Highly recommended (to me by Save. Many thanks).
#148
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Originally Posted by FAH
At least try his Charlie Parker Project on hat. With Misha Mengelberg, Han Bennink, Paul
Smoker, Ari Brown, etc. It's a wonderful album, a neglected classic if you ask me.
"There comes a time in all of our lives where silence is a betrayal." -- The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr.
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December 12th, 2008, 07:43 PM
I tried doing a search, so please don't flame me if it was already mentioned, but
what does everyone here think of Braxton's album with Milford Graves and
William Parker that came out recently on Tzadik? It's my first Braxton cd
purchase, and one of my favorite buys of the year.
I particularly dig Graves (capital G). He really brings it all together and really
grooves, in his own way. It's hard to describe. Parker isn't as prominent in the
mix as i would like, but what I can hear is enjoyable. Braxton's multiple
instruments add variety. I'm holding out hope that they recorded even more
that might be released in a future volume...
#149
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Justin V
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When I grow up, I want to be like Roy Haynes.
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December 12th, 2008, 08:00 PM
#150
CoyotePalace
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Justin, you don't have to worry much
about flamers on this thread. This thread
was started for the love of music, not
the love of being right. Sounds like you
dig this music recording a lot, so please
tell us more about your first Braxton
experience! I haven't heard this one yet,
but I do know the players involved, so
my guess would be that the benchmark
is set pretty high, and that the music is
regal!
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Heuristic of the Mystic
Originally Posted by Justin V
I tried doing a search, so please don't
flame me if it was already mentioned,
but what does everyone here think of
Braxton's album with Milford Graves
and William Parker that came out
recently on Tzadik? It's my first
Braxton cd purchase, and one of my
favorite buys of the year.
I particularly dig Graves (capital G). He
really brings it all together and really
grooves, in his own way. It's hard to
describe. Parker isn't as prominent in
the mix as i would like, but what I can
hear is enjoyable. Braxton's multiple
instruments add variety. I'm holding
out hope that they recorded even
more that might be released in a
future volume...
You will find that their minds rarely move in a line...
http://web.mac.com/flowe/iWeb/Farrell%20Lowe/Welcome.html
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December 15th, 2008, 11:09 PM
Here's a little review I discovered on this
album:
#151
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Heuristic of the Mystic
Originally Posted by Justin V
I tried doing a search, so please don't
flame me if it was already mentioned,
but what does everyone here think of
Braxton's album with Milford Graves
and William Parker that came out
recently on Tzadik? It's my first
Braxton cd purchase, and one of my
favorite buys of the year.
I particularly dig Graves (capital G). He
really brings it all together and really
grooves, in his own way. It's hard to
describe. Parker isn't as prominent in
the mix as i would like, but what I can
hear is enjoyable. Braxton's multiple
instruments add variety. I'm holding
out hope that they recorded even
more that might be released in a
future volume...
All Things Anthony Braxton!!! 19/09/2014
http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/showthread.php?29539-All-Things-Anthony-Braxton!!! 158 / 237
"I think Braxton is at his best when he
improvises, as he does on this album.
On most of his other albums, his
compositions are often abstract, distant
and cerebral, unfortunately. But once in
a while, as on the 100th release of
Clean Feed, and here on "Beyond
Quantum", wonderfully accompanied by
William Parker on bass and Milford
Graves on drums, Braxton
demonstrates his absolute superiority
on the sax. The album consists of five
tracks, each representing a "meeting"
between the three artists, ... and meet
they do! This isn't a Braxton record, it's
a real trio album in which the three of
them create the music together.
Braxton has got soul on this record,
pushed forward, challenged by Parker
and Graves who are staggeringly good.
Graves' percussion is as multifaceted as
it is unrelenting, as if he has a few arms
more than ordinary people. Parker is
again nothing less than superb,
anchoring the rhythms, creating
repetitive vamps at times, or clusters of
notes at others, while Braxton keeps
changing his horn all the time, soaring,
stuttering, wailing, screeching, but most
of the time very lyrical and soulful. This
is free jazz at its best : with an
incredible drive, purely improvised, with
lots of variation and expressive delivery.
The first track is the perfect opener : a
sensitive reconnoitering of the
possibilities, still within the range of
accessibility, with great polyrhythmics
and a very meditative Braxton, weaving
beautiful sounds over the often odd
rhythmic parts. "Second Meeting" starts
with high-pitched wailing sax playing,
moving to tribal shouting and chanting
and rhythms, creating a kind of spiritual
and ritual and sometimes festive mood,
while "Third Meeting" is more
adventurous, especially because Braxton
explores the full tonal range of his
instrument. "Fourth Meeting" starts with
high whistling, joined by Parker on arco,
followed by some otherworldly and
unique soprano playing, while Graves
keeps moving about, hitting all his
cymbals and toms simultaneously
without hesitation or sign of fatigue. This
is raw but deep. On "Fifth Meeting"
Parker moves to reeds too, playing his
Indian shenai (I think), adding a world
music flavor to it. This is great. This is
music without boundaries. Anything is
possible. Because of their skills. Because
of their vision. Because of their
creativity. This is music that
demonstrates that any written part
would have acted like a cage. This is wild
All Things Anthony Braxton!!! 19/09/2014
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as it should be. True. Fierce. Naturally
restrained. Authentic. This is free in its
truest sense. You, as a listener, can
share in the joy of this freedom when
listening to it. Enjoy!"
source:
http://cellule75.blogspot.com/2008/0...
ilford_22.html
You will find that their minds rarely move in a line...
http://web.mac.com/flowe/iWeb/Farrell%20Lowe/Welcome.html
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January 8th, 2009, 01:03 PM
I have the Heffley book, and it is a fun read if you are a Braxtonian. But as with
his work on the FMP guys, Heffley often loses me with his deep digressions into
ancient history that go on for dozens of pages. But he is an academic, and I'm
not an enthnomusicologist, just a fan, so the limitations are likely mine. When he
writes directly about the music, I find his commentary wonderful. I think he did a
good job being direct in the Mosaic liners to the Braxton set.
#152
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martini
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Originally Posted by gregk
So, does anyone here actually have this book (or read it)? Any opinions, thoughts? It's
pretty expensive but with this weekend's 40% Borders coupon I'm considering buying it.
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January 8th, 2009, 05:45 PM
I recently picked up Braxton's Quartet Moscow (2008) and it is a beautiful
album! I find the music to be fascinating and thoughtful throughout. The group
personnel is superb, especially guitarist Mary Halverson.
#153
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Heuristic of the Mystic
You will find that their minds rarely move in a line...
http://web.mac.com/flowe/iWeb/Farrell%20Lowe/Welcome.html
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January 17th, 2009, 10:43 AM
Just got those :
5 Pieces (Arista)
Duets 1976 (Arista)
Quartet (Live 1979) (HatHut)
I love this man!
Question : What do you guys think of the following 4? Theyre the only Arista
albums I have yet to get ...
Creative Orchestra Music 1976
NW5-9M4: For Trio
For Two Pianos
For Four Orchestras
#154
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January 17th, 2009, 12:21 PM
As far as I'm concerned, I think that all of the Arista recordings are very much
worth having...but why didn't you just get the Mosaic box set of the Arista
recordings?
http://www.mosaicrecords.com/prodinf...mber=242-MD-CD
#155
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Heuristic of the Mystic
Originally Posted by Masada
Just got those :
5 Pieces (Arista)
Duets 1976 (Arista)
Quartet (Live 1979) (HatHut)
I love this man!
Question : What do you guys think of the following 4? Theyre the only Arista albums I have
yet to get ...
Creative Orchestra Music 1976
NW5-9M4: For Trio
For Two Pianos
For Four Orchestras
You will find that their minds rarely move in a line...
http://web.mac.com/flowe/iWeb/Farrell%20Lowe/Welcome.html
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January 17th, 2009, 01:59 PM
It's much more expansive...
5 Pieces : 15$
Alto Solo :15$
Duets 76: 10$
Germany: 15$
NY, '74 : 10$
On the other hand, I can't get that Mosaic thing for under 160$, if you include
shipping and all. PLUS, I already had 3 of those before i even knew about the
set.
And vinyl > cd
But yeah, is Braxton even playing on For Two Pianos and For Four Orchestras?
#156
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January 17th, 2009, 04:05 PM
Frederic Rzewski and Ursula Oppens are the musicians playing on "For Two
Pianos". While "For Four Orchestras" consists of four 39-piece orchestras.
Braxton doesn't play on either recording, but don't let that be an issue!
#157
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Heuristic of the Mystic
You will find that their minds rarely move in a line...
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http://web.mac.com/flowe/iWeb/Farrell%20Lowe/Welcome.html
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January 18th, 2009, 09:43 PM
I downloaded Beyond Quantum from itunes, and really enjoy it. It's a challenging
listen, but worth it.
#158
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Sweeney
Registered User
Originally Posted by CoyotePalace
Here's a little review I discovered on this album:
"I think Braxton is at his best when he improvises, as he does on this album. On most of
his other albums, his compositions are often abstract, distant and cerebral, unfortunately.
But once in a while, as on the 100th release of Clean Feed, and here on "Beyond
Quantum", wonderfully accompanied by William Parker on bass and Milford Graves on
drums, Braxton demonstrates his absolute superiority on the sax. The album consists of
five tracks, each representing a "meeting" between the three artists, ... and meet they do!
This isn't a Braxton record, it's a real trio album in which the three of them create the
music together. Braxton has got soul on this record, pushed forward, challenged by Parker
and Graves who are staggeringly good. Graves' percussion is as multifaceted as it is
unrelenting, as if he has a few arms more than ordinary people. Parker is again nothing
less than superb, anchoring the rhythms, creating repetitive vamps at times, or clusters of
notes at others, while Braxton keeps changing his horn all the time, soaring, stuttering,
wailing, screeching, but most of the time very lyrical and soulful. This is free jazz at its
best : with an incredible drive, purely improvised, with lots of variation and expressive
delivery. The first track is the perfect opener : a sensitive reconnoitering of the
possibilities, still within the range of accessibility, with great polyrhythmics and a very
meditative Braxton, weaving beautiful sounds over the often odd rhythmic parts. "Second
Meeting" starts with high-pitched wailing sax playing, moving to tribal shouting and
chanting and rhythms, creating a kind of spiritual and ritual and sometimes festive mood,
while "Third Meeting" is more adventurous, especially because Braxton explores the full
tonal range of his instrument. "Fourth Meeting" starts with high whistling, joined by Parker
on arco, followed by some otherworldly and unique soprano playing, while Graves keeps
moving about, hitting all his cymbals and toms simultaneously without hesitation or sign of
fatigue. This is raw but deep. On "Fifth Meeting" Parker moves to reeds too, playing his
Indian shenai (I think), adding a world music flavor to it. This is great. This is music
without boundaries. Anything is possible. Because of their skills. Because of their vision.
Because of their creativity. This is music that demonstrates that any written part would
have acted like a cage. This is wild as it should be. True. Fierce. Naturally restrained.
Authentic. This is free in its truest sense. You, as a listener, can share in the joy of this
freedom when listening to it. Enjoy!"
source: http://cellule75.blogspot.com/2008/0...ilford_22.html
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March 13th, 2009, 10:30 AM
Anthony Braxton's For Alto Liner Notes
These are the original liner notes to Anthony Braxton's For Alto, written by
Braxton himself but never used. Braxton made a revision in 1970 to the original
text, editing out bits which have been restored to give a more complete idea of
Braxton's original thoughts. Text edited by Braxton appears in blocks [ ].
Pictures of the original notes are also available, click for pages: one, two, three,
four. (Note that these are jpeg files of around 400 K each).
SOMETHING
I was going to say that I was deeply indebted to Stockhausen but I changed my
mind. I changed my mind because I am sitting on this desk trying to think of
valid ideas to write on the back of a record [but the whole scene is a
drag]&emdash; right now my leg is itching [but I am not afraid] &emdash;
anyway I had planned to write about the different approaches to the music on
this record but I feel so ridiculous because it's so stupid to try and explain
anything [especially since you don't know where it is anyway that even as Lynn
#159
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anything [especially since you don't know where it is anyway that even as Lynn
types this I become more and more frustrated and yet I do want the money for
writing liner notes so I must continue, especially since I've already been paid]. I
would like to also use my liner notes as a chance to voice my dissatisfaction with
the rising rate of the CTA.
I have wanted to do a solo saxophone record for the last two years and as such
have been preparing material so I was very happy to have the opportunity to
record this music, some points because I recorded them myself the sound
quality is not quite as clear as I would like for it to be. In fact, there are several
sections where the quality is bad [horrible] [I apologize for this (now why did I
say that because I really don't feel bad about it). I think I was just saying that
but I don't know why people should constantly have to say things they don't
mean, especially when it's not benefiting me. ( I'm really embarrassed. I just
received a Dear John letter. I really don't understand it but onward, we must
always go onward, but I don't mean to be cruel. I don't understand that last
remark of mine because I'm the one who got the Dear John letter] &emdash;
but because I was happy with the music I decided to include them anyway
&emdash; also I wrote the extra noises in on the score &emdash; so its all right.
This is a very nice room that I'm in right now but since I've decided not to
mention Lynn's name I'll merely confine my remarks to the scenery as such
(whatever that means), If this record doesn't sell a million copies I will be very
disappointed. Already I am making room on my mantle for a gold record and I
am going to have parties and I am preparing an acceptance speech.
[About my saxophone, I've had Lucy for six years and while she has been
repaired several times I love her very much (until I can get some money to get
her traded in) I am really surprised about that Dear John letter &emdash; I mean
there must be other ways]
I went to an electronic music concert the other day and was very pleasantly
surprised with the realization of Frank Gordon and Donald Stark, This has been a
good week for me &emdash; Leo Smith gave a concert at the University of
Chicago which I was fortunate to catch also and then Richard Abrams, who was
in a good mood at the time, even wrote up my astrology chart to which I'm
very grateful. My sun sign is Gemini with Virgo risings, I thought I had Libra
risings and so I was surprised Richard has always helped me. [I am getting very
tired trying to write these liner notes]
[How do I feel right now? Well, I'm not consciously in pain] I haven't had the
chance to play music in some time. I would like to play but the conditions are so
strange that I find myself staying home more often than not, This is a very
strange period for contemporary music and there seems to be no end in sight
unless of course this is my ego and maybe I have no right to feel that way. Of
course, I might not feel that way. I am happy that Lynn says she will miss me
when I go to New York. I wonder if she really means it. I hope she does though.
She has been with me in a very different period of my life and for that I am very
grateful. I only heard Ornette Coleman live for the first time last year and I was
very impressed both with his music, with the horn and without the horn. I tried
to meet Stockhausen, but was unsuccessful. I am really surprised how little the
musicians know about each other &emdash; or what each other is doing
&emdash; but maybe someday that might be corrected. I am going for my
driver's license, hopefully tomorrow and if I don't pass the test I will be very
unhappy &emdash; I lost my license in the Army when it fell out on the ground in
training. This is the first chance I've had to get it again. I wish Warne Marsh
would record something soon.
One day I would like to do an album &emdash; no on second though I'd rather
not talk about it. It'd be very silly to write about things I should be doing rather
than what I do. Ann says that she has plenty of ideas for my liner notes, one of
which is to put my favorite cookie recipe down and if we need some room on
the notes I'll do just that. I met Jimmy Lyons the other day in Maywood, Illinois.
I was very glad to meet and talk to him and his wife Barbara. We talked about a
black critique, I disagreed with his ideas but had a very stimulating evening and
Barbara's mother served us delicious chili. I had a very difficult time when I was
at Roosevelt University, especially in the music school. I could get no one to play
my music and very few of the composers sympathized with my ideas on art and
I didn't like the food in the lunchroom. In Paris I met a very interesting
Yugoslavian chess player who I studied with. He was the strongest chess player
I've ever seen in my life and if we could have communicated, he spoke hardly
any English, I would have studied with him indefinitely. I would very much like to
go back to school and complete my studies. There are so many things
happening in this period to learn about and plus I am so tired of my situation as it
stands now. Right now I am somewhat worried that when I return to New York,
my music, which I have been writing for the last four years, might not be there. I
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seem to be constantly making stupid moves but if I lose my music what a drag.
I should be leaving Thursday. [If I had my instrument right now I would like to
play] "Ruby, My Dear" by Thelonious Monk [. That] is such a beautiful piece of
music. Thelonious Monk has always been one of my favorite composer
musicians and if could find the name of the Albert King tune that I like I would
purchase it immediately. The last three years in the A.A.C.M. has seen radical
changes in the techniques employed on all instruments, especially the saxophone
with accomplished players like Jarman, Mitchell, Threadgill, Stubblefield, McIntyre
as well as musicians like Wallace Macmillan &emdash; there is always a
stimulating atmosphere. Chicago is very fortunate to have these people. The
A.A.C.M. in my opinion, the last-first hope of the music. Hopefully we will not be
crushed. John Cage hardly ever comes to Chicago. I can hardly concentrate with
you in the room. Lynn is very mysterious. I have been searching for Gemini
composers and was happy to find that Stravinsky is a Gemini but there seems
to be more Sagittarius composers. I wonder what that means. I disagree with
Henry Pleasant's book, The Agony of Modern Music. I wish Bunky Green could
record more. He has always been one of my favorite alto saxophone players. I
first heard him when I had just gotten out of the Army. He is one of the most
exciting alto saxophones I have ever heard. I seem to constantly miss the
Kontarsky Brothers when they come to Chicago. I have been told that they
perform a piece of Earl Brown's. I would really like to hear that. Earl Brown is
one of the strongest composers in the past seven years. Now why did I say
seven years? Why couldn't I just say I really like Earl Brown, which is true. I
sometimes think about the future of jazz magazines. I don't really understand
what's happening with the jazz critics: unless that avenue can be corrected,
creative music will always be surpressed, which is to say we will surpress
ourselves. Last week, Dan Morganston accepted one of my articles for his
magazine. I was very happy to write but I fear my article will be misunderstood,
but what can one do? Musicians are going to have to write about their
music&emdash;making attempts to narrow the gap between the audience and
the music. Donald Stark asked me to explain my mathematical approaches last
Saturday and I talked for a half hour but was unsuccessful I fear. It has become
increasingly difficult for me to explain anything. If I go to the West Coast I would
really like to see Donald Garrett. I am very much impressed by Stockhausen's
piano music. I seem to be in a piano music period and lately I find myself listening
to early piano pieces exclusively. I would like to go back and study piano as soon
as possible. I have always wanted to play Berg's Sonata. In St. Louis Julius
Hemphill and Oliver Lake are two of the most original players of the music that I
have heard in that area. It would be very good to hear them again as I have not
heard them for more than a year and I wonder what Phillip Wilson is doing. I
think he is playing with Paul Butterfield right now. I disagree with McLuhan's
essays on media but I refuse to tell why. In this period I find Dostoyevsky very
attractive. I have decided to accept for my philosophy an excerpt from his Notes
on the Underground &emdash; "My liver is diseased. Well, let it get worse." I
don't really know how I feel about Frank Zappa but maybe I should listen to him
more. I am still trying to learn the words to "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands." [I
have always been against Aristotle's systems of logic that most of us have
unconsciously accepted in the way that we live. His concepts are frightening to
say the least.] The philosophy department at Roosevelt is full of shit.
Why doesn't someone write about Bobby Blue Bland. It seems to me that he is
without peers. I have never heard him play live and on the next occasion I will
definitely catch him. Yesterday, I heard him play on record his version of "Please
Save Your Love for Me" which is incredible. I would like to make a blues record
one day, Koester has called the blues on this record high society blues &emdash;
told me I don't know anything about blues even. I was very unhappy with the
reception of my first record but I have now gotten used to it. I read in Coda
Magazine that our music was a poor example of Webern. The jazz musicians
say it is not jazz and the classical musicians say it is not classical. I like the
jacket though...
There must be something else to say. Oh, the music on this album is almost a
year old. Today is Feb., 23rd. Hopefully, this record will be out soon. I was
pleasantly surprised to hear that Lester Lashley was awarded "New Trombone
Player of the Year" or something like that in Down Beat. There are very few
trombonists of his caliber. If there were recording opportunities in Chicago I feel
that American Contemporary music would be benefited. Chicago is the center of
the new music without a doubt. Steve McCall told me recently that he is going
back to Europe. Needless to say I was surprised. He only recently came back to
Chicago after being away two years. I believe LeRoy Jenkins is the most
advanced violin player performing. That he hasn't gotten the recognition and
exposure he should have is appalling. Lynn's back is tired. I hope I can finish my
liner notes before she gives up. I would like to hear Maurice McIntyre play before
I leave Chicago. I think his soul is incredible and I have always loved his music. I
think it's obvious that notions of Mathematical music will have to be completely
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altered if it is to continue to be creative. I think constantly about the gap
between where the music is at and where the music is at. I've found on the
whole that the people in Europe were more receptive to our music than here in
Chicago. Maybe that might account for some of the advance players I met. One
day I would like to get my orchestra music performed. It is very difficult to have
any music performed. Hopefully this album is the first of a series of solo albums
for myself. Most of the music on this record has been performed at different
recitals that I have given in Chicago. At Lincoln Center on the South Side of
Chicago and at the Parkway Community Center in '68. I was thinking about
growing a beard but have changed my mind because it hurts so much after one
week. I don't think I would like to live in Chicago any more. Several of the pieces
on this record were inspired extensions of different principles in contemporary
classical music, notably Klavestuck 6 and 4 of Stockhausen and Morton Fillman's
Durations. With different forms of music being so readily available it has become
very difficult to distinguish between forms or approaches. Maybe we are at the
junction where we will not need this anymore. I had given up sweet rolls because
they aren't healthy but find I myself going back to them. The sweet rolls in
France were horrible.
Braxton 2/23/69 [revised in 1970]
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March 13th, 2009, 01:20 PM
The most intelligent and articulate musician? Probably.
#160
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March 13th, 2009, 04:45 PM
Clifford Allen is conducting an interview with Braxton this month (so hope to
publish in April) that promises, according to Braxton himself, the definitive
interview. The benefit of being web-based is there can be no limits on how far an
interview can go, so this is going to be a great one. I just finished a three hour
interview with Jon Hassell, so that's going to be another in-depth and fully
comprehensive interview.
Man, you gotta love writing for a website!
John
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March 13th, 2009, 07:12 PM
#162
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Originally Posted by jkelman
Clifford Allen is conducting an interview with Braxton this month (so hope to publish in
April) that promises, according to Braxton himself, the definitive interview. The benefit of
being web-based is there can be no limits on how far an interview can go, so this is going
to be a great one. I just finished a three hour interview with Jon Hassell, so that's going to
be another in-depth and fully comprehensive interview.
Man, you gotta love writing for a website!
John
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John, can't wait to see the Braxton and Hassell interviews!
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March 14th, 2009, 12:38 AM
Arcanus (Anthony Braxton)
Anthony Braxton's music was an inspiration for my painting Arcanus.
Jazz music has allowed me to not only hear things differently, but to see things
differently as well.
I am continuing to explore jazz music and search the link between jazz and
cubism. I would like to share this painting with you.
http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/m...l?tab=visitors
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April 5th, 2009, 09:22 AM
Listening to "Opus 63" from the Complete Arista Recordings Mosaic box.
Amazing Sunday morning music!!!!
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April 5th, 2009, 06:56 PM
It seems like he's been very quite in the
last months. I wish he'd be more active,
he never does the same thing twice.
#165
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April 6th, 2009, 01:08 AM
#166
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He's playing April 16, 17, 18th at the
Irondale Center For the Arts in Brooklyn.
Irondale Center
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Fri Mar 13, 09 4:42 pm EST
The Irondale Center Presents:
Anthony Braxton and Walter Thompson
Premiere
A New Soundpainting Composition
In celebration of their recent opening,
the BAM cultural districts first new
performing arts destination, The Irondale
Center premieres an exciting new work
from two highly acclaimed artists.
Anthony Braxton, one of musics most
original composers and instrumentalists,
has composed a new work in
collaboration with Soundpainter Walter
Thompson and the Walter Thompson
Orchestra. Mr. Thompson will combine
Mr. Braxtons Language Music System
with Soundpainting - the multidisciplinary
live - composing sign language created
by Mr. Thompson. The concerts will
feature performances by Anthony
Braxton, a woodwind virtuoso and
multi-instrumentalist and the fifteen
musicians and actors of the Walter
Thompson Orchestra. Performances will
run from April 16 to April 18, 2009 at
7:30 pm at The Irondale Center in the
historic Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian
Church, 85 South Oxford St., Brooklyn,
NY, between Lafayette and Fulton
Streets. Tickets are $20/$15 (for
students and working artists) and can
be purchased by going to
www.irondale.org or by calling
212.352.3101.
Mr. Thompson will soundpaint Mr.
Braxtons notation, text, and drawings
(called Palettes in the Soundpainting
language) and then transform them in
the canvas of the work. They become
the colors and textures used by Mr.
Thompson to shape and guide the
overall direction of the piece. The
resulting composition will be created
entirely in the moment. Each of the
three performances will assume a
unique shape dependent on the
recombination of the Palettes, the
Soundpainters gestures, and the
response of the performers. In this
unique form of artistic collaboration, the
components of the Soundpainting
coalesce to saturate the performance in
a dynamic interplay.
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Originally Posted by Masada
It seems like he's been very quite in
the last months. I wish he'd be more
active, he never does the same thing
twice.
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There is no end to the variations and
combinations possible in Walter
Thompsons Soundpainting. Elating!
Sonloco, Sweden
Imagine a great erector set where
every component can be refashioned
based on the dictates of the moment.
Ted Panken, on Anthony Braxton,
Downbeat Magazine
The Walter Thompson Orchestra
commissioned this project by Anthony
Braxton with the support from the Mary
Flagler Cary Charitable Trust. The Walter
Thompson Orchestra is supported by a
grant from the New York State Council
on the Arts. For further information
about Anthony Braxton visit
www.akamu.net, and for Walter
Thompson, www.soundpainting.com.
The Irondale Project, established in
1983, is a theater company that creates
and presents original work, through the
research and exploration of emerging
themes in our society. Irondale has
produced 42 major Off-Broadway
shows including the American premier of
Brechts Conversations In Exile and 16
original pieces. Irondale is a constituent
member of TCG Art New York and
founding member of the Network of
Ensemble Theaters and is funded in part
by the National Endowment for the Arts,
the New York State Council on the Arts,
and the New York City Department of
Cultural Affairs.
_________________
Irondale Center for the Arts
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April 6th, 2009, 10:30 AM
That sounds trippy, I wish he'd tour that!!
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April 6th, 2009, 09:08 PM
I'm in the process of reading through this entire thread. Talk about a treasure
trove... trying to take my time: do it justice and avoid skimming through the
interviews. A lot to digest! Times like these i love the internet.
#168
xybert
Registered User
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interviews. A lot to digest! Times like these i love the internet.
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April 17th, 2009, 05:23 PM
I recently acquired "Beyond Quantum" by Braxton, William Parker, and Milford
Graves. Run, don't walk to yr cyberhut download emporium and acquire it yrself!
I am very pleased with the recording and performance!
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April 27th, 2009, 07:14 PM
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=32678
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May 28th, 2009, 05:20 PM
Recently, I've started going through his Arista records. Such masterpieces. It's
just a mindblowing streak of amazing records. The more I listen to them, the
more I think he's THE best composer/arranger ever. I've been listening especially
to his Five Pieces album and his Duets 76 with Muhal Richard Abrams. Duets 76
features this amazing number on contrabass sax as well as terrifying
interpretations of classic songs.
I can't wait to receive my For 4 Orchestras 3LP (that I got from eBay)!!
Anybody else geeking out on Braxton's Arista Years, or the Mosaic set?
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May 28th, 2009, 06:28 PM
#172
gregk
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Originally Posted by Masada
Recently, I've started going through his Arista records. Such masterpieces. It's just a
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I got the Mosaic when it came out (I still can't believe it actually happened!) and
I'm still trying to understand it all. The Duets with Muhal are probably what I've
listened to the most.
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mindblowing streak of amazing records. The more I listen to them, the more I think he's
THE best composer/arranger ever. I've been listening especially to his Five Pieces album
and his Duets 76 with Muhal Richard Abrams. Duets 76 features this amazing number on
contrabass sax as well as terrifying interpretations of classic songs.
I can't wait to receive my For 4 Orchestras 3LP (that I got from eBay)!!
Anybody else geeking out on Braxton's Arista Years, or the Mosaic set?
Reply With Quote
May 28th, 2009, 06:38 PM
The Montreux and Berlin concerts are on that, too. That's some incredible music.
#173
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Originally Posted by gregk
I got the Mosaic when it came out (I still can't believe it actually happened!) and I'm still
trying to understand it all. The Duets with Muhal are probably what I've listened to the
most.
"There comes a time in all of our lives where silence is a betrayal." -- The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr.
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May 28th, 2009, 07:46 PM
I bought the Mosaic Arista set to replace my worn out LPs of that period of
Braxton's music. Every recording is a gem!
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May 28th, 2009, 07:49 PM
A Conversation with Anthony Braxton
with Volkan Terzioglu and Sabri Erdem
in Istanbul on Sunday, October 15th, 1995
text by Volkan Terzioglu
Below there is a conversation that I and Sabri Erdem had in Istanbul with
Anthony Braxton. Braxton was in Istanbul for Akbank International Jazz Festival
with his Sextet to perform his Ghost Trance Compositions. He also had a
seminar on the vocabulary of the music. He and the Sextet toured Istanbul and
we found opportunity to talk to him for one and a half hour. I also have the
video recording of the conversation. Many times I tried to get the confirmation
for, but I could not manage. Therefore this may involve several
misunderstandings, mistakes which had been unavoidable. Intentionally I am
calling the below text a conversation instead of an interview, because I think that
this is not formal enough.
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If you have any comments, please drop e-mail to volkan.terzioglu@gmail.com
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Terzioglu - Well, Mr. Braxton, first of all I would like to begin with the subject of
jazz criticism. I know that in 70's you had very strong feelings against jazz
criticism. Because there have been some misunderstandings that critics have not
even listened to the music thoroughly and what is the description of a jazz critic
has been answered that, once you have 10 jazz records, then you can be a
critic. Do you remember that?
Braxton - Yes, for me the question and subject of Jazz Criticism has been a
complex subject for me for something like 30 years. I remember in the early
1960's, after reading record reviews of John Coltrane's music in Down Beat
magazine, I remember even then that I did not agree with them...
Terzioglu - the recordings with Eric Dolphy?
Braxton -the recordings with Eric Dolphy, the recording Ascension, the recordings
after Giant Steps as Mr. Coltrane's began to change, many of the jazz
journalists would say "No, this is not jazz, this is...
Terzioglu - ... anti jazz
Braxton - ... hate music, anti jazz and when they wrote about Mr. Coltrane's
music, they would write very negatively and for me even in that time period, I
felt something is wrong, there is the definitions of the musicians who talk about
their music and then there is the definitions of the journalistic communities. They
are completely separate definitions when Mr. Coltrane recorded the record "A
Love Supreme", well he was talking about the love of the Creator and Universal
Love, not just sexual love, political love and in the last 30 years, we have seen
even "A Love Supreme" converted to a market place philosophy. And this has
been consistent with the history of journalism and the criticism and the criticism
with the music.
There have been complexities based on several reasons : 1. the inability of the
jazz journalistic community to understand the meta-reality of the music on its
own terms. 2. there has been an inability to understand the intellectual agenda of
the music and no recognition of the real intellectual agenda of the music and of
course 3. there have been the political complexities related to market place
philosophies, Albert Ayler's music perceived as not commercial enough for
market place.
Terzioglu - I knew that he could not find any opportunity to make records and
John Coltrane helped to get him market place by Impulse Records.
Braxton -Yes and this has been part of the struggle that in my opinion began in
1920's with the recording industry and the establishment of race records,
country and western music. They separate all of the various categories of the
music. This was established in the 20's, 1910, as part of the emergence of the
new technology of the recording industry and the related business complex that
would surround the music. And so for me, 1965 it was in that period that I begin
to recognize profound differences between how the musicians talked about their
music and how the journalists write of the music. And this problem is still with us
today although it is complex. The music from the Association for the
Advancement for the Creative Musicians (AACM) period, even in the black
community, even among African Americans is not understood. It is complex and
African Americans have not been so interested in jazz music since Charlie Parker.
No one wants to talk about that. But America is an interesting country, because
it has so many different people and yet at the same time because it is such a
young country, we have not been able to find the healthiest balances so that all
selections, sectors of the community can express themselves and make the
definitions and value systems and spirituality understood and so the music we
call jazz is in the middle of these problems. Jazz for me came about because of
the need for individual creativity, for group creativity and for connection to
spiritual intuitive thoughts and creativity. Ever since the emancipation
proclamation in America that freed slaves, we have seen in America a long
journey, the story of post slavery movements and how creative music and
dance and painting and art is connected to human aspiration and creativity. On
one hand and on the other hand, you have the jazz music complex, you have
the classical music complex, you have the control on the popular music
machinery that makes millions and billions of dollars. The music we call jazz does
not make billions of dollars like rock'n'roll or popular musics, but it makes
enough money for the jazz business complex to continue to release the records
to bring about a situation where you have a group of musicians who say "well,
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we are jazz people" and they record them and they can play their music. The
definitions with the music are reserved for the power structure, for the political
structure. The intellectuals in America use jazz for many different things. Jazz is
used to say "I'm black, I'm black, I'm black", Jazz is used to say "I'm hip, I'm
hip, I'm hip", Jazz is used to sell instruments, to produce instruments. Magazines
like Down Beat magazine, published once a month and there are many different
jazz magazines and in the last 20 years, we have seen jazz to come into
academia and so and even high school and you have young people playing what
they call jazz. All of these connects with the music industry, however it gets
complex because, for me much of the music that we call jazz in this time period
does not correspond necessarily to what jazz used to be. For instance, when I
was coming up in Chicago, if you want to learn how to play jazz, you go to
sessions and there will be opportunities for the musicians to play and learn the
repertoire. The understanding was this: mastership in Jazz meant you have to
find your music, your own music...
Terzioglu - own an individual sound
Braxton - You have to find your own sound. It was not enough to find your own
sound. It was not enough to imitate Charlie Parker. It was not enough to imitate
John Coltrane. Rather the aesthetic reality of the music insisted that each person
must find or discover self realization about themselves and to evolve one's own
sound and to find your life in your music. This was what jazz was. If complex,
the music that we call Bebop came about because of the post World War II
vibrational factors. You had in 1945 another migration of African Americans from
the Southern part of the America, up to the North part from places like
Mississippi or Alabama, a great influx of African Americans will go to Chicago, to
Detroit to Philadelphia to Saint Louis. In that time period, the challenge was to
move away from the Southern part of America where there were segregation
concepts of separate but equal which really involved inequalities to African
Americans and from that point a migration took place after World War II. That
migration also involved African American men and women who would begin to
think about the music from political perspective, from a philosophical perspective
from many different connections where in the 30's and 40's the emphasis in the
music was directed towards big bands and orchestration. Suddenly after World
War II, emphasis would be redirected back to the individual and the era of the
virtuoso for soloists would begin. Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie's music
would mark a change from an orchestra group music to small groups that would
emphasize solos and the individual. This change in my opinion was part of a
composite phenomenon that they concern not just the music but the literature,
the journalism. A new group of writers would evolve asking questions of African
American life, asking questions of America, what is America?, asking questions
about what is world...
Terzioglu - the existence
Braxton - what is existence and how we felt in existence. This aspect of the
music in the 90's is not understood. More and more, since what I call the 6th
restructural cycle movement that have been Albert Ayler; the 1st cycle being
New Orleans, 2nd cycle Chicago, 3rd cycle New York, 4th cycle Kansas City, 5th
cycle bebop, Charlie Parker, 6th being Albert Ayler, 7th cycle being the AACM and
the music I am a part of. So by 1950, the intellectual reality of the music had
already started to change. There were problems. The problems with the
journalists in my opinion involved the significance of definition as well as the
complexities of wrong definitions. In America it is always been fashionable even
in the early periods, for European Americans to look at African American music
and think in terms of entertainment - "Oh, this is happy music, these guys play is
nice and happy and they are happy, everything is happy"...
Terzioglu - The sweating brow concept
Braxton - The sweating brow. More and more the musicians themselves will say
"wait a minute, there is more to the music than entertainment, there is more to
the music than how Leonard Feather writes about the music, there is more to
what we do than the jazz poll concept that comes every year". Many of these
strategies were market place strategies, they had nothing to do with the music
and so by 1960 with the 6th restructural cycle, musics as personified by the
music of Albert Ayler, this was a very complex time in the 1960's in America.
Three assassinations, President Kennedy, Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy; at the
same time, the Vietnam War, at the same time riots all over America in effect
the events of the decade in the 60's which make it possible for musicians like
myself to ask the question "What's happening?". We had a new, fresh
opportunity to begin again, a fresh opportunity to explore the music separate
from the market place being able to control the definitions of the music and for
me that is part of the importance of the 6th restructural cycle musics. That it
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was an opportunity to clean the mirror, which is the expression in America, to
start anew and to create music that would 1. unify the composite spectrum of
the creative trans-African musics, 2. that would unify the American musics, 3.
that would unify a service of platform to solidify a world culture, and 4. that
would be a part of a composite movement for world change and re-evaluation
that would encompass the changes brought about in the modern era from
nuclear physics, from Einstein, changes that would incorporate mythology,
composite mythology changes, that would take into account the new
technologies, television set where we can turn on the television set and see
Istanbul immediately, we can put on the record and have music from Japan, we
can turn on the radio, we can hear music from Rio De Janeiro and we can see
the people in Rio De Janeiro. All of these matters will effect the aesthetic reality
of the music. And from that point the musicians would begin to ask their own
questions, but the market place would have many problems. For a period of 20
years, the market place has been looking for ways to make this music a market
place commodity. It was only with the neo classic movement that came about in
the 1980's where the market place after 20 years was able to come back into
the music...
Terzioglu - with Wynton Marsalis
Braxton - with Wynton Marsalis, many of the younger African American who
were come up who went to the university. This is interesting. Wynton with
classical people and the jazz people as well as his father. Then he went to New
York and studied at Juilliard and while he was studying, it was obvious that he
was talented as a stylist, technician at CBS records Doctor Frank Butler, an
African American who became an A and R man at Columbia...
Terzioglu - A and R man? what is that?
Braxton - This is the man who makes the decisions about what musicians they
are going to record.
Terzioglu - OK
Braxton - and so they chose Wynton Marsalis, they kicked out Woody Shaw.
Terzioglu - I see, a new commodity has arrived
Braxton - A new commodity, not only had a new commodity arrived, but a new
commodity whose understanding of reality was just like the market place, in
terms of jazz is jazz and everything else is different, we just want to play jazz,
we gonna play jazz just like Charlie Parker starting from 1945 and ending for
around 1963 with Miles Davis group with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock. This
group in effect would say this. African American culture starts at New Orleans
and ends at 1963 and restarts again at 1980 and goes forth and from 1960 to
1980, this is not jazz, this is not black, it is anti jazz (laughter). Political
implications of that position is profound because it is taken for granted that
every other group can learn from any group it was (wants?) to learn from. But
the market place is the same. No, no, no! African Americans start here, stop
here and you can not go outside of that. So if that is true, the jazz is dead. Jazz
is like European classical music from Monteverdi stopping at maybe Wagner.
Wagner gets kind of complex, but certainly Mahler and, but of course we know
that Europeans continue to evolve their music post Schumann, post Wagner,
and went into the modern era. But it is always ironic that everyone is doing this.
The market place says "No, African Americans stays right there". And so
connected with the same subject is a profound split in the African American
community itself. A split that says in one hand you must play the Blues, you
must play Bebop, you must think like Malcolm X, not DU BOIS but the 60's
writers many of the African American nationalists like Amiri Baraka who came to
the fore 1960's. It have an alliance with Joe Hammond and Columbia records
when they say, "No, no, no", black must be here and then on the other side you
have an African American middle class and upper class that has sent his sons and
daughters to the University, they come out as professionals and they are not
interested in Blues, they are not interested in jazz, but maybe now, they might
like the new neo classic jazz. They wear suits and for this group when they see
the Art Ensemble of Chicago, they say "they are painting up and they are playing
this African music, I don't like it". And so suddenly you see the Black Community
divided into many different sections fighting with another and that is here and
then on top of that the composite market place which controls all of the
information. It is very interesting.
Terzioglu - Well, in University, in Economy classes they taught us the
demand/supply curves
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Braxton - Yes, yes and the same is true for music even now. They say music
works like this. This is the sound, you have the system, you must play right,
perfect pitch, you must have the good technique, but they never talk of the
importance of life, the importance of ....
Terzioglu - existence
Braxton - existence and learning yourself, and the fundamental laws that relate
to music, science, astrology, the building blocks, the real building blocks. They
don't talk about the real building blocks, they talk about style, and they make
style "God".
Terzioglu - Relating to your music, as far as I listened to your music, I did not
listen to your any Trillium operas. I want to refer the vocals, that are too much
related to spirituality, and as far as I know, you use vocals firstly, they tell
words. Because I remember "For Trio" record with Joseph Jarman, Henry
Threadgill and Roscoe Mitchell, you use your voices but they are not
understandable words. As far as I know they are orchestral pieces as well,
opera; the significance of them. I mean I could not understand the Ashmenton,
Bubba John Jack,...
Braxton - Yes ...
Terzioglu - Can you give some clues that we would understand them ?
Sabri Erdem - Spiritual wholeness between operas and your three degree
system; image musics, language musics and poetic language and their
implications with these 12 system. For instance Zaccko figure and I read an
article showing the parallels with you and Wassily Kandinski, the painter, he has
the Saint George figure fighting against pure rational, pure logical world
representing his view, his spirituality...
Terzioglu - Because it is too abstract to put into words...
Braxton OK, Trillium, let me talk you about Trillium. When completed will be an
opera complex that will consist of 32 - 36 separate act that can fit together in
any order. At this point, I have completed Trillium A, Trillium M, and Trillium R.
Trillium is the second degree of the philosophical system Tri-axium. Joe Fonda
has one of the books Tri-axium.
Terzioglu - Yes, but unfortunately, it has been impossible for me to..., I mean in
two days ...
Braxton - No, no, I just want you to see the connection, it is connected to Tri-
axium which is the philosophical system. And in Tri-axium, I tried to build a
thinking system, a system of thought that does not tell anybody what to think,
but rather it gives people different ways to look at things and then you find your
own way. Because I think philosophy should not tell people what to think as we
move to the third millennium, but it should help people to find their way and let
the people find themselves what they think. With the opera complex Trillium,
what I try to do was to take the philosophical arguments in the Tri-axium
writings and to expand the particular arguments into story form to discuss the
arguments and so the category of works that I call Trillium is really a context of
dialogues in the same way that played on would adopt thesis - antithesis form ...
Erdem - Dialectic
Braxton - Dialectic to have a discussion, I would try to extract arguments from
the Tri-axium writings and make stories and so Trillium B talks of transformation,
world transformation; Trillium M is a story based on value systems as it relates
to four of the schematic designs, schematic arguments from the Tri-axium
writings. Maybe when we finish talking, or before we leave Istanbul ask Fonda
for the Tri-axium writings, I will show you what I mean when I say schematic so
that you can understand how the form of schematic looks. That is ...
Terzioglu - Do you have anything that you meant, in this book (showing the
book "Mixtery")?
Braxton - No, I don't think so, nothing with the schematics, no. And so, Trillium,
each opera tells the story of an argument, and in every opera, there are three
primary arguments and one secondary argument. And in the future after you are
able to look at Tri-axium, I will send you a cassette of Trillium A which was
recorded...
Terzioglu - I will be delighted ....
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Braxton - will send it in a couple of weeks, I had a performance of Trillium A in
1985, in the University of California at San Diego. I also had a performance of
one half of Trillium M in London and we did the same music in New York as well
and I will send that to you as well as Composition 175 which is opera but is not
in the Trillium System, it's in the story telling system, it is another category, but I
will send that to you as well.
Terzioglu - Could you give some clues about story telling and image musics?
Braxton - OK, and so Trillium is designed for the complete classical orchestra,
with 12 singers, each singer has an instrumentalist that works for the singer and
each singer has a dancer that works, the understanding being in my system I am
trying to make a composite esthetic music where the sound, the color, the
gesture, the movements are the same and ...
Terzioglu - Opera means gesture as well, there is mise-en-scene...
Braxton - Yes, gesture and intention in our work and plus I am talking of gesture
in the sense of particular movements. Sitting movements, arm movements,
different movements of the arm. I am seeking with my system to map
parameters, to map various parameters whether it is arm movements, body
movement, the saxophone player, he plays movements (he shows some
saxophone playing positions) that kind of movements.
Terzioglu - I see
Braxton - My hope is more and more because it is impossible to get the classical
orchestra groups to give me a performance, I am thinking more and more of
having a giant tent, like circus tent and have my own tent and then do the
operas inside of the tent.
Terzioglu - So, you mention about the instrumentalists, that classical music
orchestras will not perform?
Braxton - This has been the problem.
Terzioglu - Is this the question of a place of performance, because you
mentioned about a tent?
Braxton - For the last 10 - 15 years, 20 years, I have been begging, begging the
classical performing spaces to help me by performing some of the orchestra
music, or performing the operas.
Terzioglu - You mentioned about Lincoln Center, in an interview, if you had been
the manager of the Lincoln Center, you would choose your own instrumentalists,
well, you like best. Is it related to Trillium operas' performances?
Braxton - If there were possibilities to perform my music at Lincoln Center, they
have the musicians, they have the money, they have the space, but rather than
perform modern operas, the established structure is based on the performance
of the early operas, the early European operas. It is just very complex and very
difficult for a living composer to get a performance, especially for a composer,
like myself who is an African American who goes his own way. I am looking to
do my operas from a self reliant perspective. More and more I am thinking in
terms of I will just do it myself, look for ways to have a small cheap
performance. It could be very nice for me because I do not have to have a
100000 dollars for a grand performance. I need maybe 5000 dollars, I can make
little small scenes (?) and have the singers.
Terzioglu - It is same everywhere in the world, because I have some friends who
are composers, young composers, and they can not even have the opportunity
to find an orchestra even a small orchestra, an ensemble to perform their
compositions.
Braxton - This is a universal problem (laughter)
Terzioglu - And the philosophical thoughts and spirituality...
Erdem - Before that I want to ask you an additive question, you said when they
are performing, they have some gestures, do you expect a kind of education for
that like performing with their bodies, with bodies, for this performing, do they,
the performers need an education, instruction, a period of instruction or
workshop ...?
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Braxton - They need much instruction, much workshop. They have to, the
musicians who will be performing in the operas must learn the system of my
music, not the classical orchestra, the classical orchestra for the Trillium operas
have normal notated music, that they understand. But the singers, the solo
instrumentalists and the dancers must learn the system of my music. More and
more it's becoming impossible to simply meet a musician and say "OK, we
wanna music playing and let's go play". It is becoming impossible. I have to have
musicians who are interested in learning the system in my music. It might take a
year, it might take two years, but there is a system that must be understood at
this point to really play the music and so for your question much preparation ...
Erdem - Are there some kind of school, like your lectures in Wesleyan University,
some kind of series of lectures or some kind of, new kind of education because
music education and body movement education, if I understand correctly, must
combine and get into each other, so I think when you are talking to us, it needs
another kind of education, more complex kind of education...
Braxton - Yes, yes...
Erdem - besides music...
Braxton - Last year I formed the Tri-centric Foundation and the Tri-centric
Foundation...
Terzioglu - Ted Reichman just mentioned about it.
Braxton - It was formed exactly because what you have raised, because of your
idea for the need to have a platform, a school to begin to teach the musicians
about the new systems. Tri-centric Foundation in the Future will seek to
promote the study of my music. It will also be a platform to help other
composers, especially young men and young women who are serious about
their music, who are starting out, somebody has to help these people and I
would like to hope that the Tri-centric Foundation will continue to expand; it is
very young right now.
Terzioglu - A non-profit organization, Isn't it?
Braxton - Yes, yes and also the Tri-centric Foundation was put together to help
me the Tri-centric Orchestra which is something like 40 people. We will play two
nights in a 6 day festival in the Knitting Factory in November an my hope is to
hold this group together. Right now Trillium A and Trillium R is being copied and
my hope is by next year, we can start to form Trillium R which I am very excited
about.
Terzioglu - I wish that we had that performance right in Turkey.
Braxton - Oh, I wish so of course, but it is crazy, very difficult, but I will send you
cassettes of one Trillium A and one half Trillium M
Terzioglu - And the spirituality, the characters, Ashmenton, Bubba John Jack?
Braxton - The characters, I try to find 12 names, 12 character types that would
reflect the characteristics of composite earth, there is the sun dance character,
sun dances, a compilation of native American tendencies Ojuwain, Bubba John
Jack, a certain kind of American... ... let me back up a little bit and talk about the
aesthetics of the characters. My hope is to build a music system that can be
looked at as far as it is city-state analogy, it is continental analogies, it is planet
analogies, and the solar system in galactic analogies. Now on the plane of city-
state, if we can imagine a continent with 12 different territories, 12 different
lands and each land has a group of people, it is from that point that the
Ashmenton character is really related to Ashmenton country which is really
related to language number 2 and the system that I am trying to build is a
system of 12 lands but with 3 roads, one road of stable logic connections,
another road of water connections, so improvisational connections and then
another connection of symbolic connections. My hope is to for the city-state
analogy to have a music moving through different rounds of architectonic
tendencies and ancient thoughts about life and death and marriage and friendship
and change, I would like to with my system, build a microcosm model of the
universe and the energies in the universe. The stable logic energies, the
vibrational energies and the emotional energies. And so the characters are
compilations of an attempt to not account (?) for different experiences because
I don't know enough for that but only to have 12 characters that will give me
the possibilities to connect into different zones, and so I can tell different kinds of
stories, a story from the sun dance mentality will be different than the stories
from the Ashmenton mentality in terms of language, fundamental language form
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and form states and arguments. What we call the mythologies, I am seeking to
build my own context of mythologies and to have it based upon principal
constructs as I understand the subject of mythology and of course I have much
more to learn.
Terzioglu - Coming to the poetic logics, image musics and collage musics, again I
want some clues to approach them by myself. I understand the language musics
that you showed in the workshop, after reading Mr. Graham Lock's "An
Approach to your Solo Work", what I want to ask first of all is that while
constructing these language types, the question was "How to proceed?", asking
to yourself and I understand that it was for your solo music, right?
Braxton - Well that was the original building blocks of the language music came
about because of the solo musics in improvisation. But after that, I have tried to
take the same information and then move it into the domain composition...
Terzioglu - any composition, orchestral, everything?
Braxton - any composition. Every composition I have written is connected to the
language musics, same for the operas. That is why yesterday in the lecture I
drew a cycle with my hand said that language music, then I drew a rectangle and
talked structure space music and I drew a triangle as a way to talk of ritual of
ritual and ceremonial music strategies started through improvisation which is
water and circle and from that point I started to create compositions with the
same material and put it in the structure space, the rectangle where in the
rectangle space stable logics it is frozen, I can come back to it and it does not
change just like if we play a composition "How High the Moon" whenever we
come back to play it, it is still "How High the Moon", we can do something
different with it. To me this difference between improvisation and mutable logic
and stable logics and composition and then the next degree is to take the
improvisation and the composition, put it together and push it to the triangle,
and add intention, and with intention, I did not look for ways of creating the
music that has a summation logic; for instance in the language musics number 4
Ashmenton plays staccato lines "padada dududu dd dududu". Composition
number 37 for four saxophones also has a staccato line logic, this in the
composition that in 1974, I did with Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake and Hamiett
Bluiett. Later they would go on to ...
Terzioglu - The World Saxophone Quartet
Braxton - ... make World Saxophone Quartet, but composition number 37 was
the second degree of Language number 4. Now for an example, of the triangle, if
I would say "Ha ha ha ha - hallo, ho ho ho how are you", if I am stammer, this is
staccato line logic. So if I wrote in the opera, "Hallo, it is good to-to-to-to-to-to
see you", that would be an example of language 4 inside of the language logic of
the singer and that would be a way of using language 4 in a ritual construct. And
that would be an example of how an improvisation, something is taken and then
put into the structure space for just the abstract the abstract musics and then
into the concrete where people are talking and someone happens to be a
stammer. From the abstract to concrete, this for me is a part of the Tri-centric
approach.
Terzioglu - For the story telling, yes those are close parallel, I mean I began to
somehow understand the image musics, to perform story tellings, you are
talking about the stammer person, it is somehow story telling for me. Am I
right?
Braxton - Uhm, yes sir. There is another example, for instance in composition
113, for soprano saxophone that composition has a story as well and for
composition 113, there are 6 microphones all around and different heights and
the instrumentalist is turning and playing in different positions and there are also
12 melodic pitch sets. That represents humor, fear, anger, or something and the
instrumentalist is asked to re-enact the story of Ojuwain on a train, by chance
are you with me with this composition?
Terzioglu - No...
Braxton - It is available on Sound Aspects in America. It is composition 113 and
it is one of the story telling structures. This composition is story telling for the
individual separate from the Trillium actual opera musics.
Terzioglu - What about talking into instruments, I mean when I read the
interview with Mr. Graham Lock and you, at the end of the book, you were
talking about some performance, that you've done so far and you were talking
into saxophone.
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Braxton - Yes.
Terzioglu - And there were jokes and the context has blown out and it is just a
question mark for me. How do you talk into the instrument?, in the literal sense
how could it happen ? Was it a story telling?
Braxton - More and more I am learning how to speak while I am playing, while
circular breathing.
Terzioglu - Yes
Braxton - The actual speech, the libretto of the speech is a story. Another
approach is to take on the character of Ashmenton and to speak. This approach
is akin talking in tongues. Have you heard that expression?
Terzioglu - Yes I read but could not understand...
Braxton - Talking in tongues is akin to in every person there are many different
people, many different aspects of every person and so you try to go that
person.
Terzioglu - OK, I see.
Braxton - Just like being an actor, how an actor takes on someone else's
personality. What I'm trying to do is to take on the personalities of the 12 major
characters in my system...
Terzioglu - You talk in tongues of the ...
Braxton - of the characters. That's one approach. And the other approach is to
have actual librettos and have the musicians read and talk, how they talk when
they are playing. For me, this is going to be one of the areas to evolve in the
future, but already, I'm doing this talking to the instrument.
Terzioglu - The reason that you play alto sax solo, you don't play..., well is it
true that you play sopranino saxophone solos somehow?
Braxton - I've recordings of sopranino saxophone solos, but I prefer to use the
alto saxophone as my piano.
Terzioglu - As your piano?
Braxton - Yes, this is really like for me, the piano, my main instrument and I like
to challenge of playing one concert with only one instrument as opposed to one
piece on the saxophone, one piece on the flute; I play maybe a flute solo just
one composition but then do something else, but with the alto saxophone, I like
to have the whole concert, because it represents a real challenge for me and it is
also possible to show how language music works because there is no mirrors,
no magic. It's just one instrument playing music and you can begin to see and
hear the actual languages. For me as an instrumentalist and as an improviser,
this is a good challenge. And this is why I prefer the solo concerts only on the
alto saxophone.
Terzioglu - But it is true that language type musics can be performed on every
instrument
Braxton - Yes, yes
Terzioglu - But you prefer alto saxophone
Braxton - Only because, I have a special relationship with the alto saxophone.
Terzioglu - The sound of contrabass clarinet is very tragic.
Braxton - Oh, yes
Terzioglu - We'd like to hear other instruments that you play solo.
Braxton - I have a contrabass saxophone and one day it should ever possible,
I'd like to come and bring. I have a contrabass saxophone, a bass saxophone, a
baritone saxophone...
Terzioglu - Whole family, but not tenor I think...
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Braxton - No, no I have tenor, tenor and baritone, I have F-sax. For me part of
the fun of being an instrumentalist is to play different instruments like you don't
want to eat chicken everyday (laughter). But for the instruments, I would like to
have diversity plus there is a different challenge for each instrument because
flute instrument is very different than the saxophone and the clarinet and the
contrabass clarinet very different from the sax, and so for me as an
instrumentalist, it gave a possibility to learn about the "LOW WORLD" (...
sounding a very low pitch...) and the "HIGH WORLD" (... sounding a very high
pitch ...). Two different strategies; this is part for me of the fun and challenge of
being an instrumentalist.
Terzioglu - I just watched a movie about Thelonious Monk. Some stupid person
asking him questions "Oh Mr. Monk, what do you think of yourself, as an
instrumentalist or as a composer" and Monk answers "Both" (laughter). About
the things that you do presently, I mean Ghost Trance, there is any transition?
Braxton - Yes
Terzioglu - The first performance here in Istanbul, well no, not the first
performance, you put it on a CD, right?
Braxton - We, about two months ago, did a quartet recording of four Ghost
Trance structures. At this point, the material is in my office and it has not been
sold to anyone. My hope is to get this material out next year. And...
Terzioglu - So, you recorded but not put on a CD, right?
Braxton - Yes, yes. It's just a, it needs to be edited and finished and mixed and
... Last night was the first actual performance of the Ghost Trance musics.
Terzioglu - What's the point of Ghost Trance in your work? Is that ... For
example, I think the Trillium operas as the point that you want to target at or
you have targeted at and the Ghost Trance a new music...
Braxton - Yes
Terzioglu - I must say that I'm just surprised because it's a new beginning and
totally, maybe not the correct word, but different from Trillium operas
Braxton - Uh, hum
Erdem - Because transformation, some kind of transformation
Terzioglu - Transition, trance, you know meditation
Erdem - Yes, meditation
Braxton - Uhhhhh, we would, both of you. The Ghost Trance musics will give me
a way to move into the trance music ways. I mean this is why I want to go and
buy as many CD's as much as I can of the Turkish Musics and the African
musics, the Indian musics as I seek to examine the House number 1 which is the
long sound. In India you have the Drone "Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm"
Terzioglu - Yes.
Braxton - The Turkish music have the dervishes, this is a trance music. There are
different kinds of African Trance musics. And I'm interested in the real, the very
long time it just keep going. The concept of Ghost Trance musics involve stream
of consciousness structures that are conceived based on the 12 constructs of
my system. In terms of stream of consciousness in the House of 1, stream of
consciousness in the House of 8, stream of consciousness in the different
Houses of the system. And meanwhile, once established, it becomes part of
mutable logic construct where the other compositions become on top of it,
improvisation .....(?) to it. In the same way, that the pulse track structures...
Terzioglu - Pulse track structures?
Braxton - Pulse track structures are structures that have notated music on
target time spaces, improvisation and the more notated music, and so on.
Unlike bebop, where you play "How High the Moon", the bass player plays the
chord changes and the drummer plays the time, but the pulse track structures,
you have with material open improvisation, with material open improvisation,
and, on top of that another notated piece and then someone detect a solo or
play a notated solo, mutable logic. Three different energies happening at the
same time. That was the beginning for me of the mutable logic musics, the use
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of pulse track structures. I would ask you, are you with me with the Willisau four
CD set?
Terzioglu - No, unfortunately...
Braxton - Are you with me with 6 compositions of the Black Saint?
Terzioglu - No, I don't think so, but I have composition number 96, 100,
orchestral pieces, but I'm not sure...
Braxton - After we finish talking, I will tell you which CD's have examples and
should you find that material, you could hear the pulse track structures, mutable
logic musics. I mention that, because the Ghost Trance musics take this process
to another, to the next level where there is a stream of consciousness of
notated material, that's always happening. And these compositions put on top of
that, this improvisation put on that. And to listen to the music is not to hear just
one thing, but there are many things happening, so you can listen to this part of
it, this part of it or you can back up and you can hear all of it, but it is these
energies working in the same space and so the concept of Ghost Trance is really
a stream of consciousness music like the whirling dervishes that uses the 12
constructs from the language musics. It is like a solar system, a stable logic solar
system with improvisation happening in it and then with extra compositions
inside of it, like planets, so it's going around and all of the things so happen and it
gives a fresh sense of holistic (?) identity. This is what I am interested in.
Erdem - Ghost implies spirit?
Braxton - That is the next aspect of it. I have been studying the music of the
native American Indians. And more and more I find myself influenced by their
spiritualism. And Ghost Trance for me is the beginning of seeking to retain the
memory of, well personal individuals, national individuals and spiritual individuals
and I feel that this approach will be part of an attempt to resurrect a fresh
platform for Gods and Goddesses, for heroes, for community heroes, for the
firemen and firewomen and the school teachers; Ghost Trance will be a way to
celebrate the memory of given individuals and thoughts.
Terzioglu - Ted Reichman and Roland Dahinden mentioned about the native
Indians. They should be the point of departure to the Ghost Trance.
Braxton - Uh, hu
Terzioglu - Maybe out of context, but I just want to ask about your lectures in
Wesleyan University. Do you mention about the philosophical thought and the
structural base? Do one have to be an instrumentalist to attend the courses?
Braxton - No...
Terzioglu - So, the target that you are going to at the end of the courses, is that
to form an ensemble to perform music? Is that true?
Braxton - At Wesleyan University, I have history classes, I teach the history of
African American music, I have taught the history of European music, I have a
class of history of women in creative music. I teach a class on music of John
Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Charlie Mingus. I used to teach orchestration but
since coming to Wesleyan, I have not taught orchestration. I have an ensemble
class and in the ensemble class, I use the materials of my system and I have a
seminar class, compositional seminar tutorial class where it is open for anyone
who would like to take it. If you are an architect or if you are only interested in
cooking food or if you want to make statues. And in the composition seminar
class, we talk about form, building blocks of form and I give analysis of my
music. I talk to my students about the music of Arnold Schoenberg and Karlheinz
Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis and in a year or so, I will talk to them about my
new Turkish whirling dervish musics, but I need a couple of years to study this
music, but whatever I learn or discover, I take to my students and start to share
with them not like I have all the answers, I'm not that kind of professor. I tell my
students I have no answers, but I have good questions (laughter)
Erdem - I have some questions about title drawings...
(...)
Terzioglu - I mentioned about a lady that has radio shows in official radio station,
when I talked to her at the first night you came here, she told me that she would
like to know and get some clues about the title drawings. She told me that she
would like to learn something about the title drawings. Since you know that they
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are complex structures and as far as I've seen the latest compositions have
titles just like pictures, that have meanings...
Braxton - Yes...
Terzioglu - There is a town, there is a road passing by...
Braxton - Yes, yes
Terzioglu - There are signs...
Erdem - Flashes and lights...
Braxton - Yes. For the system of music that I have been trying to build every
composition has 3 names. There is the opus number, involving the order of the
compositions; there is the coded title, involving numbers and there is the graphic
title, involving the image. There are at least 6 degrees of the image titles. In the
beginning, in the early 60's, as I looked for a way to name my music, I
discovered that I did not want to write a piece of music and call it "The Sun
Came Over the Mountain" or "Braxton's Blues", so I would in the beginnings try
to have what I called the formula titles, by formula titles, I try to express sound
type, velocity, temperate date and to express my the ingredients of the
composition in terms of the formula of mixtures of relationships. Involving the
pitch, the geometric and geosonicmetric characteristics of the composition
would be the formula titles. The next set of titles would be the alternative coding
titles. And by alternative coding titles, I'm referring to the decision of, to look for
extra-musical factors and include that in the paradigm for the composition. For
instance in the middle 60's my hero Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky would
playing chess and I try to factor chess moves as part of the compositional
process. I used friends initials and immigrated that into, I use astrology and
Number Theory in association and integrated that information into composition
and so that class of musics, I call the coding titles. Number 3, the schematic
titles. By schematic titles, I try to, in the graphic image, to express the
composite form state of the music, in terms of what was happening from
beginning to the end in the music.
Erdem - The relation, one of them is visible, the title graph drawings; one of
them audible, the music is audible. You listen to the music and you see the title
drawings...
Braxton - Uhm, yes, but not necessarily in literal two dimensional sense, uhm,
schematic in the sense of the processes employ at the beginning, the processes
employ at the middle, the processes employ at the end for the person listening
to the music, it might not always be possible to see the actual processes unless
the person would analyze the compositions and analyze all of the components
of the composition, but more and more, I begin to move towards three
dimensional processes that would not always be audible. For the schematic
structures, well the major changes in the composition in terms of mass, density,
time is expressed in the titles. From the schematic titles, I moved into the
dimensional joins titles, and by dimensional joins, I began to try to factor
intention, spheres of intentions and zones of intentions, moving into a kind of
holographic construct. From the dimensional joins, I moved into the color titles
and part of the color titles and dimensional joins titles are the same. Because in
the same period, I began to factor color into the actual music moving more and
more into factoring body and color and extra musical paradigms. From the
dimensional joins, moving into the color titles, somewhere after that I began to
move into images. Image strategies have nothing to do with the actual
components of each little specific element, but moving into the mysteries of the
music, to the spiritual connections of the music. And so formula titles, coding
titles, schematic titles, the dimensional titles, the color titles moving to
holographics into total imagery titles, and that is how the titles have progressed.
More and more I am starting to try to use titles to express other dimensions of
connection, but the initial idea was I didn't want simply to say, here is a piece of
music "The Sun Came Over the Mountain" or "Braxton's Blues", rather I want it
...(laughter)
Erdem - One of the articles I read, character Zaccko appears on your title
drawings , they claim that (showing the title drawings of the compositions with
numbers, ..., ..., and ....)
Braxton - So we're moving to the image models now. These titles have nothing
to do, but the strict processes in a literal way. More and more by the time we're
moving into this zone of titles, I am seeking to have the visual image or visual
configuration of the processes, that's a summation logic as opposed to
dialectical relationship. And More and more, it moves to dreams into intuition,
All Things Anthony Braxton!!! 19/09/2014
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into I finished the piece "Sun was that" "Three o'clock" or "what day is the day"
and "add up the numbers" or whatevers...
Erdem - In that kind of image, can we talk about the synthesis of the whole
piece or composition?
Braxton - No, because, if we do that, it would be like trying to decode or discuss
the mysteries like that. Uhm, by the time we moved up into, by the time
composition 102 was complete, the process of titling the musics can't be
communicated in a literal way anymore. It's moving something else and I'm just
going along with it but more and more I am not interested in rationalism. More
and more, I find that for me, future evolution will have to move into the
mysteries and the mysterious. Because I'm (NOT???) interested in music just as
the scientist. I'm interested to learn about myself, and I want to have a music
that has helped from the cosmics which is right even in the early periods. I did
not want to have serial processes or...
Terzioglu - Serial processes?
Braxton - Strict mathematical models, because I wanted to have a little room
each time for something unknown to come into the music.
Terzioglu - You're interested in known and unknown...
Braxton - I'm interested in known and unknown and to talk about the titles after
96 -93 (?) some takes the title and puts it on the table and the titles have
moved away from the ingredients of the music. In the beginning the titles were
long sound, Major 4, short sound, Major 5, fortissimo here, later it became like
"well, alright, this block and this block" and later "this block" and then, later
"hmmmm", and later ......... and later ....... . More and more I'm looking for,
even now in the act of composing and the reason that Ghost Trance music is
important for me, I'm not interested just in the mind. I'm looking for something
past the mind. And the only way, I have discovered this far, to disk (?) with this
is to myself move towards the trance mentality so that something can happen
that's more than me. Because I'm not interested in me I just wanted to do the
work of the music and let the music do the work. And I try to shape it. But of
course at the same time, I continue my processes, but it's different now. I'm
looking for a music that expresses everything in one moment.
...
And so the processes of the titling more and more, it's just like composing the
music. Sometimes I sit and think about an image and then I try to understand
how every image has a