Thursday, January 29, 2009

muddling through...

actual free time all to myself is a pretty rare commodity these days, and i have to fill it accordingly... when i last did get the chance to play some music in a suitably receptive state, i had other things to do as well, so that only so much of my attention was available for listening. yes, it's a shame, but... well, look, i can at least admit it. (there are some out there who insist that just being present within half a mile of a recording being played means that they took in every last grace note and rimshot, with full comprehension, regardless of whatever else they were doing at the time... but this is just not possible.)

anyway... as the picture suggests, my listening on this last occasion was the leo double two compositions (trio) 1998. that is, two consecutive first species gtm works, explored by two different all-reed trios (braxton himself being the only one who played in both groupings) for the enjoyment and edification of a lucky audience at wesleyan u...

... and during the first piece (featuring chris jonas and david novak, neither of them a familiar name to me) i had also to write a long-overdue email, so that although i stopped several times just to listen, i found later on that my memory of the piece had been wiped pretty much clean. all i remember clearly is how it ends abruptly in mid-stream, as though the piece itself were an endless loop... well, i did enjoy it at the time! but part of the reason for this amnesia (aside from my not making any notes) was the more vivid impression left by the second piece.

comp. 228 features a lot of low-end. the master is credited here with just bass and contrabass sax, and contrabass clarinet; seth misterka and jackson moore (the latter a section-leader in b's larger groups by this time) both play baritone sax as well as higher-pitched reeds. the written theme sticks to the low stuff, and irresistibly recalls for me comp. 40p (which got me quite excited a few months ago) with its rumbustious, down-and-dirty flavour. during the "breakout" sections of this piece, all sorts of remarkable things happen - the leader (just for a change) has me gasping at some of his more exotic expostulations, and of course with the low horns in play, there is ample potential for drones too, an effect which is very well deployed at times. however, the real moments of beauty for me came from outside the recording itself.

see, what i like about doing two or more things at once, where listening to music is one of those things - it doesn't always happen, but i have noticed it on many occasions - is that coincidence so often intervenes. what's happening in the music reflects what is going on elsewhere, and vice versa, creating a multimedia effect which adds something to both parts of the experience, a gestalt effect in which the whole really is more than just the sum of its parts. on this occasion i had downloaded a few old recordings by wolf eyes (see comments), and was preparing the files to burn to cd; with the volume low so as not to spoil the reed trio, i kicked off the first track on dead hills on the computer, and then temporarily forgot about it, back with the low reeds; and then the two sound sources just sort of conjoined. right at the time that the wolf eyes track stopped being a menacing throb and broke out into something more active, the three reedmen on the stereo began doing something truly spellbinding, and the overall effect made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

with this synchronicity established, it didn't surprise me at all that my next task (both more mundane and more private, so i shan't go into any detail for a change) was similarly "commentated" by the music - and that effect seemed to last right up to the end of the cd. well, it works for me... anyone else ever noticed this? (i think of it as being similar to some of the better work in comics, those by alan moore for example - text which comments on image, to build up a layered effect. and yes, of course it's the case that the more one looks for these coincidences, the more frequently they seem to turn up - but that doesn't mean the patterns are not really there, does it?)

* * *

no, there's not as much detail as i like to provide here, but until such time as i can get back to "real" work, this sort of half-arsed post is probably the best i can do... hopefully it isn't a complete waste of space. something's better than nothing, right..?

Friday, January 16, 2009

cent's 2009 manifesto

right then. here i still am, but where is here, exactly?

one of my main intentions when i first got involved in all this was to try and create a meeting-place for anyone interested in anthony braxton's work. ok, a blog probably wasn't the ideal format but still, pretty clearly, i've failed in this! any number of people over the months have told me, publicly or privately, that they felt too intimidated to contribute (which most certainly was not the desired effect); i lost my "partner" early on, and never got him back - even though the site was actually his idea to begin with; i lost the energy needed to continue my own work, during the last summer (or what passed for a summer over here); and of course, over the last few months i have also fallen out with several sections of the online musical community in which i had formerly been involved. whatever else i have done here, i haven't really "made friends and influenced people". quite the reverse, apparently.

then again... as a few recent comments have confirmed, and despite the blog's almost total lack of activity lately, people with an interest in braxton's music do still check in here. this is of course reassuring, and it reminds me about something else i've been trying to do with this: contribute towards a greater understanding of the man's music. others are engaged in the same work, but probably not that many; certainly i've long since come to the conclusion that most of the critics (and many others) who claim to be fans of braxton's music don't actually listen to it very closely at all, and rarely have anything much to say about it - beyond paraphrasing someone else's liner notes or repeating discographical details. one thing i can guarantee is that i've put some serious thought into any analytical writing you read here. if you are really interested in braxton and his music, i hope that you will find this site to be worth a visit.

- and besides: as one reader pointed out a while ago, one on level what i do here is entirely for me. that's reason enough to keep going, and that's what i plan to do; how often i am able to post, and how much actual braxtothon work i can produce as a new parent, remains to be seen! the braxtothon is not the blog... the braxtothon was a specific project and by no means all of the articles on here are a part of it. at the outset, really what i had in mind was to try and continue that project as far as 1985, perhaps even 1993: one of my (undeclared) aims was to gain a better personal understanding of the "forces in motion" quartet and its formidably complex music. of course, back then i had no idea how slow my own progress would turn out to be, but still... i'm planning on going at least as far as 1985, if i can. what form the braxtothon will take by then, i'm not even going to guess at; right now, i still have to finish up with the last few entries from 2008, which is to say dortmund, montreux/berlin, and some general conclusions about the two versions of the quartet showcased on the latter double album. fingers crossed that i can get all that done within the next few months... check in from time to time and see how i'm doing ;-)

finally, to all those who are still reading and providing encouragement: thank you.

cent x