"Get ready for the Third Millennium, people!"
December 19, 2005 8:39 PM   Subscribe

Anthony Braxton and the Tri-Centric Foundation | Wesleyan University recently hosted a semester-long 60th birthday celebration for visionary composer and musician Anthony Braxton. Learn about Braxton's foundation for musical exploration, and his peculiar system for naming his compositions; read a few of his dense and cryptic research papers on many subjects (full contents here); peruse a remarkably comprehensive discography of his works; read a brief and interesting interview with him, and if that doesn't feed your curiosity, dive head-first into an absolutely gargantuan interview with this important composer; listen to interviews with Braxton from 1971 and 1985; and, finally, give a listen to Composition No. 186, part of Braxton's "Ghost-Trance" series.
posted by Dr. Wu (13 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
From the absolutely gargantuan interview: We didn't know exactly what sea change or revelation the new [millennium] would bring, but we knew we liked the numerological dimensions of the number "three" and the mythico-theological ones of the unit "thousand." The rest would be details.
posted by ericost at 8:50 PM on December 19, 2005

Some of Braxton's considerable oeuvre is a little arcane for my tastes, but if you want to hear some of the most fearsomely swinging free-ish jazz ever recorded, check out Dave Holland's exquisite album Conference of the Birds, which features Braxton. It's one of the best jazz albums of all time, and of particular interest because the three players on it other than Holland -- Braxton, fellow horn man Sam Rivers, and drummer Barry Altschul -- are all underappreciated flamin' fuckin' geniuses at the very peak of their form. (Rivers occupied Wayne Shorter's seat in the Miles Davis Quintet briefly, but was too "out" for Miles or something.)

It really does not get better than this -- if you have a jazz-loving friend with adventurous tastes who doesn't already own this album, consider it for a Christmas gift. The fragile beauty of the title track alone brings tears to my eyes.
posted by digaman at 9:23 PM on December 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

digaman, you're not kidding about Conference of the Birds. That's one freaking awesome jazz album. I got to see Sam Rivers, Barry Atschul and Dave Holland live way back when I was 14, and that was truly one of the greatest concerts I've seen in my life. Anthony Braxton's "Creative Orchestra Music" was also a favorite of mine, especially for his impression of marching band music on it.
posted by Eekacat at 9:31 PM on December 19, 2005

Never heard of Anthony Braxton, but #186 is fantastic. It is very much like using a mantra in meditation: the theme is always here, varying a little, but leading the listener into whole new insights which reflect back on the mantra. Really incredibly good!
posted by Johnjay at 9:38 PM on December 19, 2005

I loved "The Heat."
posted by gottabefunky at 10:01 PM on December 19, 2005

I got to see Sam Rivers, Barry Altschul and Dave Holland live way back when I was 14

Lucky boy!
posted by digaman at 11:23 PM on December 19, 2005

Like the music. The philosophy sounds exactly like the sort that people who don't know any come up with though - "tri-vibrational" this and that. Pass me a crystal.
posted by A189Nut at 4:19 AM on December 20, 2005

As someone who owns a couple of dozen Braxton CDs, I'm delighted to see a post about my man. On the other hand, I've never been able to make head nor tail of his theories, and I am not fond of his "ghost trance" stuff, which sounds like Minimalism Meets Jazz to me. I enthusiastically join in the recommendations for Conference of the Birds, but it's not really representative of Braxton; anyone who wants to get to know his wonderful music should try one of the sets he made with his classic quartet of the '80s (Marilyn Crispell on piano, Mark Dresser bass, Gerry Hemingway drums):
Quartet (London) 1985 (Leo CD LR 200/201, 2-CD, 1990)
Quartet (Birmingham) 1985 (Leo CD LR 202/203, 2-CD, 1991, reissued 2002)
Quartet (Coventry) 1985 (Leo CD LR 204/205, 2-CD, 1993, reissued 2002)
Quartet (Santa Cruz) 1993 (hatART 6190, 2-CD, 1997)

To hear his superb playing matched to other people's music, try:
In The Tradition, Vol. 1 & 2 (1974) [aka What's New In The Tradition, SteepleChase SCCD 37003/4, 2-CD, 1991]
and especially the superb
Six Monk’s Compositions (1987) (Black Saint 120116-2, CD, 1993)

And presumably
Seven Compositions (Trio) 1989 (hatART 6025, CD, 1989)
about which the Penguin Guide to Jazz said "Whatever the prevailing definition of jazz..., this music conforms majestically: rhythmic, virtuosic, powerfully emotive, constantly reinventing itself... If you've room for only one Braxton, or are about to do 'Desert Island Discs', look no further; no question at all as to the validity of this particular release." But sonofabitching hatART let it go out of print almost immediately and for some godforsaken reason hasn't included it in its reissue program; I've been looking for it for almost 15 years now. Grr.
posted by languagehat at 6:07 AM on December 20, 2005 [1 favorite]

Here ya go, languagehat. I hope you still listen to LPs.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:12 AM on December 20, 2005

Earlier this year Anthony Braxton shocked some people by declaring his love of Wolf Eyes. After buying all the available merchandise at a previous gig, he ended up playing with them.

Anthony's son, Tyondai, is also worth checking out. He's currently touring with his band, Battles, although he does some solo shows as well.
posted by mikeh at 6:45 AM on December 20, 2005

his peculiar system for naming his compositions...

My favorite titles are on Creative Orchestra Music, which gave me pause when I reviewed it many years ago. There's no easy way to write that your favorite tune on the album, aka Composition 58, is called "big triangle dotted line little triangle balanced atop another little triangle more dotted line, with a few letters and numbers." Very exciting music.

p.s. I've also always liked the song about you, Dr. Wu. Excellent post.
posted by LeLiLo at 1:24 PM on December 20, 2005

Braxton's always held a special place for me. His (continuing) work with Richard Teitelbaum amazed me, especially pieces like "Crossing" and "Behemoth."

It's unforgivable how much his work has been ignored outside of select circles.
posted by converge at 2:11 PM on December 20, 2005

I'll get around to appreciating it but give me time ..all the highbrow trappings are making it hard for a simpleton like me to easily digest ....does it have anything to do with threeism?
posted by celerystick at 9:48 PM on December 21, 2005

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