My new trio premieres at Chatter this Sunday. I’ll be at the piano, with David Felberg (violin) and Jesse Tatum (flute). I talked to Spencer Beckwith at KUNM about the project, and there was also a little piece in the Albuquerque Journal. I wrote about the trio in this space a while back. I’ve also taken on a new role this year with Chatter as Company Manager. I look forward to applying more elbow grease toward presenting a variety of music to our community here in New Mexico.
I’ve been reading the 30th anniversary edition of Forces in Motion, Graham Lock’s landmark book about Anthony Braxton. The subject is a famously prolific composer and reputedly impenetrable thinker, and the book takes a friendly approach, dropping us into one specific moment along the continuum of Braxton’s life and work. Lock traveled England with Braxton’s quartet in 1985, and the book includes tour diaries, reflections on the concerts, and interviews with the musicians. The interviews are illuminating: here is a smart and engaged person really trying to pin Braxton down on a wide range of issues. Most importantly, it’s encouraging for anyone curious about the music. It’s easy to be flummoxed by the mountainous volume of Braxton’s output. If nothing else, Lock shows us that the most deeply researched, well-intentioned, and closely accessed of attempts to decode Braxton’s system will still hit locked doors and dead ends. So you may as well just have a listen. At one point Braxton calls his ideal audience “friendly experiencers.” That much any of us can offer.
It is poignant to read this book in 2019 and notice many timeless correspondences—concerns about political and ecological degradation that are absolutely current if you find and replace “Reagan” with the current occupant of the White House and “acid rain” with “climate change”—as well as sea changes in the musical environment, especially as regards access and distribution of scores and recordings. It is always instructive to hear creative musicians in the heyday of the American recording industry complain about their relationships with record companies. At one point in the text Braxton fantasizes about a box set of tour recordings, and a footnote briefly documents his subsequent struggles to get those recordings released. Today Braxton has his own label, and recordings of the ’85 quartet are on Spotify. The grave illness of the record industry and our attendant loss of the habit of buying recordings has not, in general, been positive for musicians. But here is one artist who has been able to document his work and present it in the way he chooses.
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• Gone Walkabout
• Music as Drama
• Crossroads II
• 10 Best of 2014
• January: Wyoming and the Open
• February: New Mexico and the Holes
• Coming Up
• Notes on The Accounts
• Crossroad Blues