Wednesday, October 26, 2011

some omissions...

damn, i knew i'd forgotten something. (and then i didn't get round to posting about it for another week or so anyway. but then... i'd missed the boat already of course.)

i only found out very late (from thb) and couldn't possibly have attended anyway, but there was recently a major event - esp. in these aforementioned times of no live braxton {{{arrggghhh}}} - , to wit:- energies, ideas, intuitions... a smallish-but-perfectly-formed braxfest. i haven't heard anything about it since, being totally out of touch with fan forums etc for music generally (and indeed for anything else really... i'm not a networker, in case that is not already crashingly obvious - !); i really really hope it went well and was a positive and intense (series of) experience(s) for all involved - as well as relatively stress-free for those such as thb, who were getting stuck in at the sharp end of the organising. (i have great respect for non-exploitative organisers since i myself am so disorganised. ahem).

the line-up for this thang was/is mouth-watering enough - and introduces what to me is an entirely new term, since the first concert began with "pine top aerial music" to be played by the maestro with thb, former giant-ensemble quadrant leader matt bauder on further reeds and vocalist anne rhodes (she of this collaboration, one which i have not yet heard actually), with two dancers by the look of it. no, i don't know what sort of music that is... yet! the final part of that first night, after a solo piano recital (comp. 30), was an eyebrow-raising brax-plus-quartet, the latter all female, something i suspect mr b. has been trying to set up for a while (knowing his long-expressed fervent wish to get women more involved not just in creative music but in all aspects of human life); actually my eyebrow was more raised at the name ingrid laubrock, a german-born, british-based (well... used to be at any rate!) saxophonist who was quite heavily plugged by jazz on 3 a few years back. i wouldn't really have expected to see her cropping up in such illustrious company... well, good for her, and again, hope it all went swimmingly :))

- and dcw on night two, followed by the tri-centric orchestra... a gtm "syntactical choir" plus star-studded echo echo mirror house music on night three (the latter being a term i've seen around a bit, but i've never encountered the music for real)... and two acts from trillium j on the final night. yeah, i'm repeating this cos i don't think that link will last long, but also cos... well, it bears repeating. now, of course, if anything knows anything about recordings from any of these concerts... you know whom to call right? :-D


once again i seem to have found myself in a rock phase - after scarcely listening to anything for a month or two, i eased myself back in with a real variety of stuff, but re-established contact with an old friend has seen me delving back into metal for an intense spell (brought to an abrupt close when i knackered my mp3 player. me and technology, honestly). then again, i did finally the other day get round to hearing trio and duet which i had never owned and - having found a rip online weeks ago - was only just getting round to playing at all. and... it was extremely enjoyable! all of those early albums are gonna need to be covered as gap-fillers one of these days. all i shall say in the meantime is that i recognise comp. 36, have defintiely heard it before in live recordings without knowing what it was... it may well be the missing number from the "mystery concert". haven't actually sat down to do a comparison yet. what an interesting piece, though... side two of the album was the duet part of course, three standards with holland, and although that naturally piques my interest less, it was highly enjoyable and intelligent entertainment.


i did mail mr leo feigin a while ago regarding the peculiarities in the recording of comp. 126, which have been mentioned in these parts once or twice. not received a reply yet though... not sure i'm gonna get one.


practically all of the (not many) files i had up with rapidshare have been wiped. this includes the 65th birthday files which had been up for well over a year, unmolested (no longer) as well as the more recent braxton/parker mp3 files. ok, so... i'll try and put them all back up somewhere that allows multiple-choice downloads: might mean popups unfortunately, but r-share have become a total pain in the arse about killing uploaded files... what you gonna do. assume for the time being that all links are dead; i'll advise when this situation changes.


braxtothon phase five will continue shortly(ish) with the details from session 5.01 - !

Saturday, October 8, 2011

if it's quarter past october...

... and the third anniversary of a major change in my life has just been and gone... then this blog must have turned four during the last week. happy birthday to you, happy birthday... etc :)

 yep, as before i do find myself wondering at times why i am still plugging away at this - but not so often these days. i've answered that question before: i do it for the benefit of the tiny minority who may be interested here and now, as well as for posterity, for the composer himself... and for me. that's ultimately the point, because i would very probably continue with this even if i knew for certain that no-one ever read it: i feel better for doing it, and tend to feel worse about myself during the periods when it gets neglected. alors, on continue... there will be more on the way, regardless of who is or isn't around to see it..!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

braxtothon vol.2/5.01: background "history"

that is: history ('fin voilà quoi, merci m. derrida)

ok, so... after all this mulling and distilling, plenty of time to reflect deeply and all that... here's how it breaks down:

mr lewis never exactly spells anything out, and heaven forbid the spectre of QT be invoked - oops - (*1) but in ch.7 of his magnum opus he nonetheless wishes us to understand that competitiveness, or the implied threat of competitiveness, was an issue for the aacm when things really got underway (*2). in purely metaphysical terms - or indeed totally pragmatic ones - this is hardly surprising since a large number of alpha genius-level creators had swum upstream and arrived in one small co-operative pool, each with his /(occasionally/potentially) her own ideas about everything: harmony, structure, composition, tonality, instrumental technique and historical interpretation, strategies of self-promotion, the works. that doesn't leave a lot of elbow room at those meetings... everyone better wise up and look sharp, constantly on, the reason above all why the use of psychonautic triskaidekamania (*3) was strictly off the menu on any and all such occasions - iirc muhal chuckled when recalling that little detail (NO DRUGS) in his interview with hank shteamer - not meaning "who the hell would wanna do that?" but rather "haha, no, i've been there once or twice and that way of life wasn't gonna cut it..." - these guys had not arrived at the small pool just to indulge in a pissing contest, they had the team for the job because they knew precisely how goddamn high the odds were stacked against them, and hard work was an absolute basic requirement for involvement - a curious enthusiast would be offered plenty of chances to realise he was in way over his head, nor would it take long...

NOW - that's the basic environmental context, but there is another matter again, focussing in a level closer on the perceived competition between messrs braxton and mitchell, supposedly an open secret among music connoisseurs, or collectors at least... which presumably includes critics too... tongues might be persuaded to wag after a generous single malt or brandy, who knows... scene gossip... whatever... it's widely "known" or at least taken for granted (apparently) in some circles.

the context within which it emerges in a power... regards the question (slightly vexed as it turnes out) of "who got there first" when it came to the aacm in europe - "history" once again told us all that the art ensemble blazed the first trail, and braxton and co came next. right? well, that's not quite the version which unfolds in lewis, it has to be said... the art ensemble did indeed make the journey first (well... sort of *4), but they didn't necessarily come up with the original idea. in their interviews with lewis for his book, b. and leroy jenkins both say that their unit with leo smith was the first to be talking about, hey, let's move to paris and see how that goes; and b. continues: they mentioned this at a meeting and got shot down by the art ensemble especially - "aw man, you guys are thinking about going to europe? we need you here." (*5) before you know it, the aeoc is off to paris and it's already a done deal. see you later fellows... and that in turn, by b's own admission, spurred the others on to get their asses over there regardless, b. himself first, and not wasting any time. (priceless anecdote in one of b's interviews about the look on joseph jarman's face when he subsequently ran into braxton near montparnasse.)

- ok, so we've already established that the south side of chicago is crawling with weapons-grade talent by this time (1969), and within that basic framework, the two outfits thrust out into the hinterlands to scout and build roads are basically the art ensemble and braxton/smith/jenkins... taking the aacm to europe then becomes a specific concern, and a race is begun which the art ensemble win, if only by rather underhand tactics... ok, so we can see how all this could lead to a bit of bad blood (at worst) or serious rivalry at any rate (jenkins himself was clear at least in his own mind about this, as i've said before). but then, for b. at least, paris just never really worked out that well and like miles before him, he was called back (very short version of story) to work while the art ensemble carried all before them with a show so up-front exotic that the french could pigeonhole it and rapture over it simultaneously; few would have concentrated on the quiet one (mitchell) who kept to himself, little or no make-up... one might not necessarily notice him much at all, never mind identify him correctly as another super-intellect like braxton and therefore potentially threatening to french artistic hegemony in this field of serious music: when b. announced himself as a composer not a jazz musician, remember (lock and elsewhere), he reckons he was more or less told to go back to swinging in his tree; in paris it was jazz or nothing for his type, and the love affair was stillborn effectively. mitchell... well, he went about it all a bit differently, only very gradually declaring his interest in "serious composition" (though of course this is precisely how the aacm saw all their musical endeavours, and rightly so) - this difference in approach is in turn emblematic of a more fundamental distinction, as we shall see.

even the rivalries between the two bands - which are all perfectly understandable really, there would more or less have to be some unresolved ego issues (at what was still a very early stage) - is a bit of a red herring when we're really concerned with the relationship between mitchell and braxton specifically. now, b. is several years younger and for a while during his formative years, as he acknowledges later (to lock) he learns more from mitchell than vice versa. when he gets into the army (already mentioned this also), b. works with joe stephenson who compliments him on his incredible appetite for work - joe can only remember one student who was equally driven about his own music, a cat named roscoe mitchell... back in chicago, the latter gets the first record date out, and as a leader to boot; braxton is again slightly behind, and it's a sideman credit first time out (though since the leader is muhal, this is almost a special exception); but b. is quick to catch up and, in any case, within a year or two he has dropped on the music community the depth charge that was/is for alto, stealing a great deal of thunder in the process. so... b's internal drive may well have been fuelled by some mutual rivalry at first, or at least a desire, not necessarily fully conscious, to feel that he was on a level equal to mitchell, whatever else he was doing; but the thing is, these two are both (quite clearly) smart enough to realise early on that they are really no "threat" to each other at all, far from it. they play with fundamentally different approaches to music which transcend mere style (even as the results may sometimes sound similar in a given instance). braxton seems much of the time to need to say all he can say, as quickly as he can squeeze it all in; mitchell naturally thinks in rhythms which are much longer and slower, which take time to develop into a form which can be recognised from without. [this in itself is a gross generalisation but one which (i think) is based on something useful.] mitchell, let's not forget, played that gig in 1976 (*6) where the audience turned up expecting to see braxton and were vocally disappointed; the late arrival's response is that he proceeds to play one phrase, all jagged lines and sharp corners, over and over again with only silence in between, for five minutes before even introducing any tonal modulation, and somehow, somehow this actually did get the rowdy listeners eating out of his hand. it's hard to imagine anyone else utilising such an approach with much success... but then this is typical of the man: although on that occasion he was motivated by a need to bring to heel a difficult audience, he has spoken more generally of his need to warm up gradually before the saxophone tells him "ok, you can play me now". (*7)

by the time 1976 is drawing to a close and the chance to do a duo album comes round, you can't tell me there is still any serious question of unresolved rivalry: on the contrary, using the aacm's turn-it-all-into-art alchemical principles, they encourage each other to the "loftiest heights" critics are so fond of envisaging (but which seldom seem to exist in this imperfect world), producing music in the process which, as we know, had professional producers getting all hot under the collar and saying things they would never normally say... yes, each creator knows the other will be playing at the top of his game, but that need not be intimidating. the album is straightforwardly balanced: two players, one side for mitchell's music, one for b's, absolute equality and mutual respect - and if it's still technically mitchell's show, duets with anthony braxton not the other way round, this is really only a fairly trivial thing, perhaps fitting in any case because of that slight seniority, and besides - within a year the roles will have been reversed, mitchell (and jarman and...) appearing on b's album and playing b's music, too. it all works itself out perfectly and by 1980, if not before, the two men are co-leading a creative orchestra quite successfully on the euro tour circuit. rivalry? really? and this is why i believe b. when he says that it is non-existent - i think perhaps the real truth is that whatever ego-related static may have once pertained to the situation, it has so long since been resolved that it's scarcely worth remembering, at any rate. both men are creators, first and foremost. no time to dick around - and like that, we're finally off and rolling again.

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