Anthony Braxton/Graham Lock interview (edit)
Quartet (Coventry) 1985
Leo : 1993
Outside of the music itself, one of the key elements of Anthony Braxton’s art has been his ongoing effort to articulate it. From the earliest stages of his career, he has tried to maintain and foster, in the face of extreme opposition, his own context for the appreciation of his creative work. Sometimes eloquent, sometimes obscure, rarely at a loss for words — Braxton has, more than any other musician of his ilk, provided ample written and spoken explanations of what he is up to, for those inclined to pursue them.
As a result, there is an astonishingly rich cache of information available to anyone with access to a decent internet connection and/or a library card. In this post we are highlighting some key locales for the intrepid Braxton fan, whether casual tourist or seasoned traveler.
The first and best stop has to be Graham Lock’s essential book, Forces in Motion. We have named-checked this work multiple times over the course of the past few weeks, and that’s because it is an invaluable resource to Braxton’s music, and to Braxton’s thoughts on his music. That it is also an unbelievably delightful and engaging read is somewhat miraculous, and a testament to the fruitful collaboration between Lock and Braxton. Writer Hank Shteamer spent some time spelling out his love for Forces in Motion; we agree wholeheartedly with his profound admiration for it, and encourage all readers to first consult Hank’s post, then rush out and buy your own copy. (Mersh note: D:O is now an Amazon affiliate.)
The other crucial source is Jason Guthartz’ lovingly comprehensive Restructures.net, the motherlode of online Braxtonalia. Many of you will doubtless already be familiar with this site, but for the uninitiated, be forewarned: you can lose days here. Foremost at Restructures is the detailed and up-to-the-second Braxton discography, which not only runs down the basic discographical details, including an album index and composition index, but also includes individual links to the graphical representations of each Braxton composition. There is also a thorough-going collection of links (scroll down to the B section for a long list of Braxton links). Most recently, and most relevantly given the Mosaic box, Jason has, with the kind permission of the original authors, uploaded the liner notes to each of the Arista albums that make up the Mosaic set:
- New York, Fall 1974
- Five Pieces 1975
- The Montreux/Berlin Concerts
- Creative Orchestra Music 1976
- Duets 1976
- For Trio
- For Four Orchestras
- Alto Saxophone Improvisations 1979
- For Two Pianos (this actually links to a section from John Litweiler’s The Freedom Principle)
These notes are not included in the Mosaic liners, so this is a considerable trove, and we owe our thanks to Jason for making it available. Mosaic commissioned Mike Heffley, author of The Music of Anthony Braxton, to pen a new set of notes. Some of what Mike wrote ended up on the cutting room floor, and he’s posted these outtakes for the curious here [pdf].
Those wishing to advance their Braxton studies at the deep blogger level are advised to head speedily in the direction of If you know what I’m saying. Under the direction of centrifuge, late of the now-defunct Church Number 9 (and very much more recently a new daddy), this blog has been singlehandedly and singlemindedly running down the Braxton oeuvre with intellectual vigor and huge ears. Cent’s own Braxtothon took place last year: he listened to the albums in chronological order and related his thoughts on each. Follow from the beginning…
Brian Olewnick, blogging at Just Outside, also chronicled some thoughts on Braxton’s output in a series of posts in 2007. We find Olewnick to be consistently one of the most sensitive and fair-minded writers on music, and we recommend that you check out his reactions and reminiscences (in tempo) on For Alto; Circle/Paris Concert and The Complete Braxton; Saxophone Improvisations/Series F and others from the same period; the Sackville Trio and Duet; New York, Fall 1974; and the balance of the Arista LPs.
For more of Braxton in his own words, follow this link for a 1971 recording of an interview in which he relates his attempt to say as little as possible in as many words as possible (or something to that effect), to short-circuit those that would misinterpret him; and the two long audio sections here, from 1985, which feature words and music, principally “Comp. 26B.” The WFMU blog featured a couple of smashing Dortmund 1976 tracks in a post from earlier this year, in addition to the Coventry interview that we’ve copped here. One can also see, hear, and/or read Braxton’s keynote address from last year’s Guelph Jazz Festival.
And so on. We welcome suggestions for further AB investigation in the comments, particularly any YouTube hits of consequence.
Coming up soon: contest #2 (how’d you like to win one of these?) and some contributions by folks in a better position than us to comment on listening to and playing with Braxton.