Anthony Braxton at Alabama

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I’m so excited to be part of Anthony Braxton’s week-long residency at the University of Alabama kicking off tonight with a free solo saxophone concert at the Bama Theatre and running through February 25th. Sonic Frontiers is presenting these events; visit their site for the full schedule of events. All events are free.

I’ll be performing on Friday’s concert as part of the Falling River Music Septet along with Anthony Braxton (reeds), Taylor Ho Bynum (brass), Andrew Raffo Dewar (soprano saxophone), Tim Feeney (percussion), Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Ingrid Laubrock (reeds). This is such an amazing lineup, and it’s just one of many throughout the 6-concert residency.

In preparation for this residency I’ve been listening to many Braxton recordings, starting with For Alto and moving through the entire Arista Records box set. I thought I had a grasp of Braxton’s work having heard selections here and there (likely beginning with the Muhal Richard Abrams duo on the Smithsonian Jazz compilation). But I was completely unprepared for both the amount of musical material and the incredible range represented: from ragtime and marching band music to post-bop solos and Sun Ra-like grooves, from the density of his music for four orchestras to the spare, spacey explorations on For Trio. And that barely gets us through the 1970s! I can’t think of another composer with such stylistic richness and diversity.

51 3rd Recordings – Everyone Looks to a Sumatran, Virginian Curlew

Here are live recordings of my set from November’s show at 51 3rd Street that also included performances by Keir Neuringer and Rambutan (Eric Hardiman). It’s an eclectic set beginning with a slightly dysfunctional performance of

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Everyone Looks to the Sky

No one but me would know that the computer is responding to my playing differently than anticipated. Such is the fun of interactive computer music: you just have to work with it, ride with it, fight it, respond to the moment, change your plans. In this case, the conception of the piece is already so circumscribed that the content of the work is hardly changed, though the form is clearly different–and maybe more dramatic as a result.

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Batak Batak

A recent binge of Indonesian music led me to dust off this piece. I never felt I had worked out the sax part enough when the piece was new, which might account for why I shelved it. Revisiting the piece, I discovered very few indications of what I had intended for the sax part–little more than a scribbled microtonal scale. There’s clearly still work to do here, but I’m less bothered than I might have been in the past by the elliptical playing.

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East Virginia

This has become one of my go-to banjo pieces; a surefire way to find my place on the instrument.

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Curlew

A brand-new piece getting its first public airing. I learn so much by performing new material and can’t wait to revise this tune as a result. Yet another song with bird imagery (YASWBI).

Everyone Looks to the Sky

Photo: Diana Cooper

Here’s a recording of a new piece called Everyone Looks to the Sky.

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Everyone Looks to the Sky

I made the piece and the recording during my recent residency with David Behrman at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. The work is for any sustaining instrument with computer (here, I’m playing the soprano saxophone). The computer produces a gradually rising tone that matches the first note of each gesture (see the score below). The result is–yes, more glissando music–and a curious kind of interactive piece that always ends the same way.

Here are the juicy bits from the score:

Gesture 1
• Play 5 notes in an ascending series, beginning near the lowest note on your instrument.
For a performance lasting 10 mintues, each note should last 7 or many more seconds. Each note should be separated by a rest of approximately 7 or many more seconds–at a minimum, allow enough time between notes to perceive the computer’s pitch rising. For longer performances, adjust the durations appropriately.

Gesture 2
• Play 4 notes in an ascending series, beginning on any pitch lower than the last pitch of Gesture 1.
Durations of notes and rests are as in Gesture 1.

Gesture 3
• Play 3 notes in an ascending series, beginning on any pitch lower than the last pitch of Gesture 2.
Durations of notes and rests are as in Gesture 1.

Gesture 4
• Play 2 notes in an ascending series, beginning on any pitch lower than the last pitch of Gesture 3.
Durations of notes and rests are as in Gesture 1.

Gesture 5
• Play 5 or more notes in an ascending series, beginning on any pitch lower than the last pitch of Gesture 4.
Durations of notes and rests are as in Gesture 1, with a few notes or rests lasting shorter than 7 seconds, if desired.
Repeat as needed until the piece ends. The last 4 or more pitches played should be near the highest note on your instrument.