Sunday, January 27, 2008

...and above all truth and beauty

a (non-braxtophile) regular on the r3 messagebored grew concerned recently with what he perceived to be the sanctification of certain musicians (well... one in particular shall we say) and the concomitant denunciation of others. as far as the latter is concerned, i can say that perhaps one or two of us in that place have been damning of some players on some occasions, but as regards the exaltation of "saint anthony" - it's just the way his music makes some of us feel. more than one of us (hardened, even brutalised cynics in some cases) has talked of b's music making the world seem worth living in. from the outside, i can imagine how this might sound: fanciful-bordering-on-hysterical at best, insufferably pretentious at worst. yet neither of these inferences touches the truth of the matter.

thursday evening saw me sitting in front of the computer with any number of things i could have done, time on my hands, yet immediate inspiration lacking; after slumping further and further on my chair and losing all interest in anything, i eventually shut down the computer in disgust and went off downstairs to sulk and listen to some music. i took the third volume of the yoshi's ninetets with me (1997 gtm, for those of you who don't use the discog on a daily basis..!). it's taken me a whole month to get through these three double cds, (what turned out to be) my xmas present to myself: six discs, six gtm compositions, six horns among nine players; i needed to pick the right occasion each time. and each time has been different: most successful and enjoyable so far was the second half of vol. 2 (comp. 210), but for whatever reason, i had retained almost no memory of the fifth disc which followed. now here i was poised for the sixth... finish the sequence, probably just start again - this all being (among other things!) practice for the iridium box, the rosetta stone (to pinch an image from morton and cook and apply it elsewhere*).

i wasn't in the best of moods to listen, in theory, but at least i did use headphones (usually don't). anyway... within minutes my mood, my whole being, felt transfigured.

yes, the world seems more bearable when i remember that braxton is still at work within it.

and not just bearable - limitlessly beautiful. tone colours it seems i have never encountered before are generated, time and time again, by the controlled collision of disparate elements. one would call it a clash, except that what results is anything but that. the extraordinary depths of assonance which open up, like underground wells, all throughout the territory we're exploring together... at times i must force myself to remember that on first encountering b's melodies my ear, too, seemed almost to recoil from what sounded perversely, stubbornly alienating. and this after all those years of my seeking out unpopular music - ! even i struggled at first. this is how deeply we are conditioned to believe that skin-deep glamour is the same as beauty. yet beauty is entirely different and has depths which may never be sounded.

yes, the music also satisfies my intellectual demands, my desire for conceptual complexity, also indulges that part of me which sometimes fetishises (extended) instrumental technique. but what keeps me here is above all the sense of truth and beauty... without these precious qualities my interest might be piqued - but seldom retained for very long.

and yes, we each find beauty in different places. (this, too, is beautiful truth!). i have no desire to denigrate anyone else's taste, nor am i positing my own as superior to another's. i am just saying: this is what i was looking for, this is enough for me. for the time being, at least, that is true! at least half my listening time at present is occupied by mr braxton. everything else has to compete for slots in the remaining portion... i am happy to do this for the time being, not out of any sense of obligation (or "obsessive fixated doggedness" as one r3 boredee had it) but because there is literally nothing else i would rather hear.

the alchemical process completed, mood lightened and perspective expanded, i spent another couple of hours then cherry-picking from among my braxcanon... but that is really part of another story.

*one of the penguin jazz guides refers to (the collected) miles at the plugged nickel in these terms.


ubu XXIII said...

Yes, he's taking on all the complex elements inherent in a music that would respond to urban life in the (post-)industrial 21st century, in the way few other 'jazz' musicians have even tried (George Russell? Muhal Richard Abrams? Paul Bley? Barry Guy? -you'd probably disagree with this one, cent- Simon H.Fell? Butch Morris? George Lewis?) Is it jazz these guys are doing? When it's so much more adventurous & worthy of so many more repeated listenings than a lot of what passes for jazz nowadays, I hardly care about categories any more.
As for the project of listening to evn all the Braxton recordings you can fInd, well good luck; you'll need all the time & energy you can muster.

centrifuge said...

hi ubu - disagree with barry guy, or with simon h fell? shf ain't quite there yet, maybe... or was the recent (jazz on 3) commission atypical, more caricatured than some of his work? or - was it just my limitations as a listener? (would it have helped if full details of the movements and interludes had been published on the webpage?)

like you, i don't care about these terms either... jazz is sometimes a convenient banner under which to gather; other times it's useless... mr b. himself seems to use it as a fairly precise idiom and can happily move in and out of it... it's only one aspect of his music, even in his most bop-influenced 70s work i think that considering it as jazz is only some of the full truth.

i'll need time, yes... the energy seems to find itself once i start listening. of course i may need to find extra energy, if i'm actually gonna write about any of it ;-)

centrifuge said...

just to reassure people i do still listen to things *other than* the recorded wroks of anthony braxton... currently kistening to magma (mekanik destruktiw kommandoh... atanase turned me on to this when i met up with him for those gigs in november)... and wouldn't you know it, right at the start (and indeed throughout) one could draw thematic, conceptual and straightforwardly musical parallels between this music and gtm in particular... i guess i knew that on some level anyway but hadn't thought of it before... zappa and krautrock (can especially), what came to mind right away and coloured my next couple of hearings also... can still hear both zappa and can in there for sure! and it isn't really like listening to gtm at all but there idea of the endless pulse is right there at the heart of this extraordinary, super-egotistical masterpiece... so far it is improving in my estimation with each hearing :)

hope that sets a few minds at rest... c x

Anonymous said...

you may already have these but then maybe not, hope you enjoy cdj

centrifuge said...

thanks c :)

i actually *haven't* got that one - it's the first and only item which has turned up online that i didn't grab (this was months ago though, on a diff. blog, inconstant sol). it was famously very (very!) underrehearsed and what was salvageable represents rather less than half the score... but you never know, i could be tempted still, he did say that there was no lack of effort on the part of the musicians... and that the piece could be attempted at all was a minor miracle. basically michael cuscuna and steve backer got b. some amazing opportunities while no-one higher up was looking...

centrifuge said...

mr improv - are you there? i'd be more inclined to discuss spiritual questions here than on the bored... can't guarantee to give any clear answers though, or ones which would make sense to you - have you encountered any taoist philosophy at all? it's often difficult for western-trained minds to grasp... indeed the desire/need to grasp in the first place is probably a part of the problem ;-)

the irony is that i (mainly) use a chinese five-element model precisely to analyse (people, relationships etc) in great depth... my vague terms/picturesque but woolly images may hinder analysis for you but they facilitate it in me.