Sunday, February 22, 2009

pisa trio 1980

this very interesting recording was brought to my attention the other day, and just in case anyone has any thoughts about it (or knows any more info), i thought it worth a post all of its own... (i did actually try and leave a comment on ubu-roi's blog, but apparently it didn't accept it..?)

crediting this to the "anthony braxton trio" is, i presume, a gloss added later. to an extent braxton does indeed take the lead, but these are surely not his pieces being played - the music has the feel of three-way group improv throughout, at least once the full trio is in action; the first short piece, on which rzewski isn't heard until near the end, seems to have been a simple idea worked out by b. and lewis beforehand, a drone-with-depth effect on which lewis' multiphonics summon the dead across vast freezing marshes, even as he continues playing the drone. as the second file begins it appears that all plans and blueprints have been scrapped, and the three-way construction which follows sounds at times a little hesitant. (piano is maybe not the most obvious voice for this sort of music..?) the audience, too, are maddeningly distracted as is obvious during the quieter passages. this, in turn, can only be somewhat off-putting for the performers, though they are all seasoned players and must be used to it. still, one does wonder what this audience was expecting, exactly. when the longest piece finishes, the eventual applause sounds rather perfunctory as if the crowd don't really know what they're applauding.

braxton seizes control with the next piece, opening with a prolonged squeal (a device which john zorn particularly likes also) and setting in the process a furious "pace" for the group territory which is very much taken up by the other two. effectively the piece becomes a triple solo statement, the three players snaking around and under each other at high speed until the burning intensity is spent and the music gently winds down. again, rather confused applause precedes the last piece here, what sounds like an improvised ballad structure. i wasn't totally convinced by this one, and again, the audience seems to be elsewhere entirely for much of it. typically enough, only when the performers take their bows do the penguins suddenly remember what their role is supposed to be. a few even cry for more, though there is not much suggestion that many were really troubling to listen the first time round.

pisa was the venue for another improv trio two years later, of course: i dealt with that one here (my upload, alas, is no longer live). bailey is a more natural partner for this sort of stuff, having been in on the ground floor so to speak. still, this earlier trio is fascinating for all braxton (and lewis) fans and well worth hearing... check it out and let us know what you think!

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that last reference to "us" was not delusional, by the way... the post dated the 9th feb really was by mcclintic sphere, as some readers may perhaps not have realised. after a long absence, the founder of this blog has returned to it, a cause for (dignified!) celebration i would think. some of you reading will probably not even remember who he is, others will suspect that i made him up - but older hands will recall him from the comments pages in c#9 and may well have downloaded some of his rips. i hope regular readers will join me in welcoming him back. the blog still has it in itself to evolve :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

critical massage 3: student studies

AT LAST at fucking last and only after much hesitation/procrastination, and with easy justification for same deriving from the radical change(s) in my immediate environment during the last year; hold page 13, i have started to read the tri-axium writings. this is really the first time i've tried in depth to follow a really detailed system of philosophy since i read ouspensky in my late twenties... and even that was essentially quite different, since much of the core text is not written by him as such but transcribed from q&a sessions (ideal stress- and ego-free way of doing it, in principle). braxton's writing takes me right back to my last year of uni, heidegger's being and time as my english edition is called; in order to crack that (very difficult) linguistic code i had to get all the forensic tools out and really dismantle the stuff sentence by dragging sentence, constantly annotating with abbreviations to ensure that every fragment was grasped before inching onto the next... four or five hours of this, during which time i covered a surprisingly large chunk of the first half of the book, all that i really needed to know once the massive implications had had time to settle, following the series of earth-splitting reverberations detonated inside my head, on the occasion of that one late-night total immersion...

... this time is somewhat similar in that the beginning is very, very dense and requires painstaking and meticulous reading, the writer going to great lengths to present the eye (and impatient questing mind) with structures both seen and unseen, entirely personal and therefore new and fresh models for arranging communicative or discourse-related information for purposes of dissemination. or something like that (ahem). actually, once the main body text is underway, the ideas and words flow very smoothly and efficiently with no wastage, only such repetition as is necessary (and already stated at the outset as a core principle) in order to keep presenting and re-presenting the new ideas and models from as many different angles as practicable within a written text. (heidegger never reached that stage for me; maybe one individual sentence might be brief and/or simple, but never an entire block of text actually "readable"...)

already, after just a few pages there are so many details i could go into that i have to rein myself in almost completely, not allow any digression into details of the text (yet) but simply point out the most poignant aspect of the work at this time, when so few of the writer's hopeful hopes have been realised on any significant scale; yet; but a new phase is, indeed underway - and although there are never any guarantees (except the obvious one or two) and it's best not to get too carried away with ones hopes for the human race, there is still time for major and radical change to occur, with the sort of shake-up which could (indeed) destroy empires, but would by no means extinguish human life in so doing, merely perhaps draw the line under an obsessive, unhealthy and ultimately futile and self-defeating (ask alexander the great) target-driven approach to life. that is what it might take, at this point... the potential to end up as another failed experiment (this particular life form called the human race at this time) is still not only there and considerable but in terms of betting, it's where the money was... till very recently, since of course now "they" aren't sure whether any of them are gonna be left with any money once the buildings have stopped shaking...

i never did read radano last year beyond the first couple of pages, can't remember why really, never even read more than a chapter or two of george e. lewis (yet - neither of these books is going anywhere) - and had enough reasons for that anyway, as i did for leaving the braxton books in their box for a while, daunted by vast mountain-ranges of detail - at a time when i couldn't even keep the braxtothon going, and pre-parenthood time was ticking away week by week - but now that i have made the effort to engage with this major work of profound social value (as it seems to me - feeling always confident that i know the ring of truth when i hear it being spoken or channelled) i shall keep up with it, for sure, as time and circ's permit. as the warmer weather approaches, light advances / dark recedes, new undertakings are timely and apposite... as usual, watch this space... long, slow, deep breaths ;-)

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ask me some other time to tell you about the music i've been listening to during the last 72 fairly hectic hours... and maybe just maybe i'll have time to tell you about it :)

cent x

Monday, February 9, 2009

Last night a DJ saved my life

A review of the Complete Arista Recordings, broadcast in the US last week on NPR.

I actually like the review pretty well, except for the bit about Sousa's band marching into a wall.  To me, the creative orchestra track in question is the sound of a joyful march into freedom... not at all a destructive image.

But overall, pretty solid.  And great publicity for our man.

These records were my first introduction to Braxton, about 15 years ago.  I have a lot of them on vinyl already, and they're some of my favorite recordings.  It's great to have them in print... I would say "again," but have they ever all been in print at the same time?  And wasn't "For Four Orchestras" in print for about a week?
McC. S.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

300 duets

as we know, the years after the breakup of the "great quartet" (1993) were largely dominated by the massive meta-project known as ghost trance music (routinely rendered on this blog, and indeed elsewhere, as gtm). it's easy at times to assume that any opus number upwards of about 180 will refer to a gtm map/layout - but this is by no means always the case. the 323 series, for example, is a short book of diamond curtain wall blueprints for trios or quartets to use with the supercollider software.

- and another tradition continued in this era, that of b's writing pieces specifically to fuel his never-ending fascination with playing duets (which itself runs parallel to his core discipline of playing solo, a one-off requirement for aacm acolytes which became a lifelong gong fu practice for our man). as the opus numbers ticked into their fourth century, another clutch of duo territories sprang forth to provide fodder for another series of duets. frequently these pieces feature those half-mocking, interval-spanning birdcalls - messages fed to your ears by intelligent birds, seemingly offering the secret passwords to your dreams. (this hallmark, in turn, can be traced back into the early seventies and probably beyond... by 1976 the duo pieces b. was examining with george lewis seem to throw up eerily-familiar melodic fragments.) an example is comp. 304, evidently written with thb in mind, for the master's full album of duets with his new "disciple"...

... and two more are comps. 310 and 311, which if conceived in a different mood or another day might perhaps have begun life as 310 a&b... this time the duet date was with master percussionist andrew cyrille, the resulting material spread over two paired releases. far from being the full-on free jazz blowout some might have expected (?*), this meeting saw information shared and exchanged at a very subtle level, forceful dynamics rarely the chief concern. as well as the birdcall motifs which link these two braxton originals with comp. 304 (and with their common ancestors), all three recent pieces seem to include a basic stipulation that very precise modulations and inflections of tone and timbre will be employed at times. this is certainly the case for the leader, but to an extent it is mirrored in what bynum and cyrille bring forth in return. bynum is a very expressive player anyway, who prefers cornet to trumpet for that reason (expressiveness/tonal versatility) and who still probably has a special place in his heart for arch-trickster lester bowie; cyrille, all drummers to all people, becomes here a micro-explorer of the oceans of sound which lie scattered around his drum set. i'm guessing that those colourful signs and symbols we glimpse tantalisingly in partial reproductions of recent braxton charts were used quite liberally on these scores; that is, liberally but precisely, that word once more.

all three pieces have helped me enjoy the day, now it's evening and in writing just the vaguest outline about them i'm resisting the temptation to listen again with full focus to any of 'em, never mind all of 'em... we could be here for a long time if i did! the well never runs dry... i know from the half-listening which took place earlier that full concentration would see me engulfed, swallowed whole as if by a huge, friendly but hungry monster. one thing i can tell you for sure is that the fineness of those reed calibrations is getting ridiculous... by the time the millennium came and went, countless hours of informed practice were reflected by a supernatural degree of control over all the potential variables governing b's next individual utterance. for a duet partner this must be thrilling, intimidating and inspiring all at once... or so i like to imagine :)

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just to get really nerdy for a minute, a quick word regarding a list... my list-making/fetishising proclivity has been reasonably well reined in for some time now, i try not to make them at all unless they are actually gonna be functional... and as regards my number one obsession, i can honestly say that i don't know how many braxton albums i have (in whatever form), because i don't need to know but i *do* maintain a master-list of all his recordings i have, arranged chronologically for obvious reasons. that list, at the time of the original braxtothon week, numbered exactly 100 entries; at present time of writing it runs to a manageable 183. (an entry might be a full-length album or live show, a box set, or a live fragment; news from the 70s comprises five different entries, the iridium box just one, as befits a monolith.) just to get really nerdy for a sec... right now all the post-millennium entries occupy one full page on my screen, something which has the added pleaser that there are no entries for 1999 anyway, this being one very few "dry" years i have left... may even be the only one. see, i'm not going to check -

- and in any case, what i actually wanted to pass on was the more relevant synchronicity which came as the answer to one of my own queries. 1985 or 1993, my finish-line for the braxtothon? well, again at time of writing the last entry for 1985 (coventry) occurs at line 113, which of course has a special significance in braxtonian numerology... so that's that, 1985 it is - whenever the damn behemoth rolls back over and onto its wheelbase, and however long it takes to get there it will terminate at the end of the 1985 u.k. tour. who knows, if i live long enough to see it, i may even embark on a separate series of voyages to the later realms explored by that same "quartet's quartet"...

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