Monday, October 10, 2011

Forthcoming: The Tri-Centric Music of Anthony Braxton (Article)

Last week and weekend, I was in New York for a celebration of the music of composer-reedman Anthony Braxton at Roulette’s new space near the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Each night presented a series of wonderful and amazing contrasts - small group music including the venerable Diamond Curtain Wall trio as well as new integrated performance strategies like Pine Top Aerial Music, piano music, choral music, the dense electronic hybrid Echo Echo Mirror House, and orchestral music. The closing night featured two movements from Trillium J, the latest installation in Braxton’s opera cycle. The cast of musicians was drawn from “regular” participants in Braxton’s work - Mary Halvorson, Taylor Ho Bynum, Jessica Pavone, Carl Testa, Aaron Siegel, Anne Rhodes, Sara Schoenbeck, Erica Dicker, Matt Bauder, Andrew Raffo Dewar - as well as local heavyweights not normally part of the Braxton circle who nevertheless fit in splendidly (Nate Wooley, Ken Filiano, Josh Sinton, Tomas Fujiwara, Mark Taylor). Having only listened to Braxton’s music on record, it was a great opportunity to see these works – some of them in first or otherwise rare performances – in the flesh.

There is a vibe around festivals that’s often harried but usually quite friendly. Roulette and the Tri-Centric Foundation made this festival work – or appear to work – seamlessly, so that everything was on time and the players were relaxed and happy, as was the audience. Braxton is, of course, an extraordinarily kind, warm and generous individual so the reality is that he encourages a similar environment around his work. Whether people were there to experience the works from an audience perspective or if they were playing in the ensembles, the overarching feeling was that people were similarly warm and engaged, happy to be with one another sharing in Braxton and his music. The Tri-Centric vibe is, in the best sense, a familial one.

My plan is to generate some sort of text from all of this, culled from notes taken during the performances, memories, listening, reading, and interviews with participants. It also looks (fingers crossed) like the interview that Anthony and I did a while back will finally be fine-tuned and brought up to contemporary speed so these might make an interesting complementary pair. In any event, what I hope emerges isn’t your standard festival/concert review, but an impression of the experience of this music and the environment surrounding it, and how that environmental sensibility works as part of the Braxton worldview. At the very least, it’ll be something worth reading whether you were there or not. I have no idea where this as-yet-unplanted seed will take root, but I’ll be sure to link it when such a thing occurs.

Until then, it’s catch-up time as usual. If you want to learn more about Anthony Braxton and the Tri-Centric Foundation, check them out on the web here.