Braxton: Four Compositions (Washington, DC) 1998: No. 46, 70, 222, 223

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COMPOSERS: Braxton
LABELS: Braxton House
WORKS: Four Compositions (Washington, DC) 1998: No. 46, 70, 222, 223
PERFORMER: Anthony Braxton (reeds), Rachel Thompson (violin), Eric Ronick (piano); various ensembles/Anthony Braxton
CATALOGUE NO: BH 009 (distr. Impetus)
Some of today’s most compelling and innovative music is coming from the Chicago-based AACM, an organisation described by member Anthony Braxton as ‘a school of restructuralists’, though it’s more generally (mis)represented as part of the free jazz movement. Because many AACM musicians experiment as much with form/structure/notation as with improvisation, their work tends to slip between categories and is often overlooked by both ‘classical’ and ‘jazz’ media. Braxton, a world-renowned saxophonist with an opera, string quartet and several orchestral pieces on record, has led the charge out of this de facto critical ghettoisation, though discs by AACM colleagues like Roscoe Mitchell (Pilgrimage), George Lewis (Endless Shout) and Wadada Leo Smith (Tao-Njia, Light Upon Light) show he’s not alone.

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This 1998 Washington, DC, concert comprises four chamber works that mix post-Webern structural dynamics (Composition 46) with post-Coleman collectivism (Composition 70) and also include two examples of Braxton’s new ‘Ghost Trance Music’, which he’s called ‘a process that is both composition and improvisation’. Composition 222, for violin and piano, offers a shy, bare-boned lyricism. Composition 223 is for four multi-instrumental trios. A rugged flow of swirling textures and singsong repetition, its fierce, strange beauty does indeed entrance. Graham Lock