Anthony Braxton has sat on the fringes of music for as long as I can remember. It’s overly reductive to call him a jazz musician whose inspiration comes from the European avant-garde, but it’s as good a place to start as any. I don’t remember a time when he wasn’t, at best, called an "experimental jazz musician." And he’s experimented hard, pushed as far and as determinedly into the hinterland as anyone. To the point where what he’s doing is fairly hard to describe as "music." In a lot of ways, he’s further out in the tall weeds than the likes of Merzbow, who does at least have intent and themes and the desire to touch. Anthony Braxton’s modern work all sounds like this:
Mr Braxton is the elder man in the cardigan who appears to be rubbing himself against what I think is an oversized contrabass saxaphone. As you can see, the performance involves making random noises while side-artists run up and down scales and the audience ignores them. The point where "free jazz" just degenerates into empty chaos. Those jazz reporters who love him describe his sound as "galactic." Everyone else… well, the scene kind of embodies something Rob Gretton once said, which roughly goes: “you can always tell jazz by the way the people on stage are having more fun than the audience.”
Mr Braxton releases a lot of records. A lot. To ears that are only used to, say, music, they all pretty much sound the same. And by his own admission he pays for the release of many of them. He seems to conceive of them as public documents of his thought process. Because the meat of his work seems to be less in the performance, and more in the conception.
He’s deeply into the idea of creating new forms of music. In some respects, he’s the last science fiction writer in jazz — especially since those “dressing up to play jazz” conservatives have sought to edit the popular history of the form to remove the likes of Sun Ra and even Miles Davis from view. Now, Sun Ra, there’s a man who could do “galactic.”
What Braxton does is conjure great vaulted intellectual cathedrals of ideas for his music. Take his Ghost Trance Musics, which he once described as “a process that is both composition and improvisation, a form of meditation that establishes ritual and symbolic connections (which) go beyond time parameters and become a state of being in the same way as the trance musics of ancient West Africa and Persia.” It’s also intended to have a pulsed structure with bonding points wherein composed pieces can be inserted into the improvisation. It often seems to be a mathematics for music, a logic system.
He has also, late last year, premiered a new form called Falling River Musics: “Falling River Musics is the name of a new structural prototype class of compositions in my music system that will seek to explore image logic construct ‘paintings’ as the score’s extract music notation.” This is a wonderful sentence that makes almost no sense. But it does the work of science fiction neologism and novum in suggesting strange things in the imagination. There is also “The Echo Echo Mirror House music, which is meant to hone in many different types of performance arts in addition to music,” and the “Diamond Curtain Wall Music,” which apparently involve “reactive laptop electronics” (although some reporters say any laptop element is barely audible and unreactive). And in between times, Braxton (father of Tyondai Braxton, currently of breakout math band Battles) will go right off the reservation and do a record with the likes of Wolf Eyes.
Braxton spends his life just thinking this shit up. It almost doesn’t matter that it all sounds the same. Just google his name and look for interviews, and you’ll find the most fantastic, unchained thinking, ideas tossed out by the truckload that could be applied to any number of other things. Just try this on, from an interview at Tomajazz:
Now, the Ghost Trance Musics… is a prototype that’s a transport prototype, that allows for the friendly experiencer to be re-positioned inside of the space of the music, the area space of the music… Ghost Trance Music is a telemic prototype, and by telemic I’m saying that, if the area space is solar system or galactic, the Ghost Trance Musics is the point to have telemic signals come back, in the same way as satellites circling the planet give signals. Ghost Trance Musics… if the area space analogy is the subway system of New York City, the first species of Ghost Trance Music, which is metric pulses [sings] PAH-pah-pah-PAH-pah-pah-pah-PAH-pah-pah-pah… the analogy would be to the local train that stops at every stop. Second-species, Ghost Trance, would be analogous to the express train, and the construction logic would be PAH-pah-pah-PAH-pah-pah… AH-HA-HA-HA, AH-HA-HA-HA… PAH-pah-pah-pah… in other words, metric to imbalance to metric. Third-species, Ghost Trance, would be imbalances… AH… HA-HA-HA-HA… A-HA-HA-HA… A-HA… and that would be analogous to cross-town trains.
So, what am I describing? I’m describing First House functions, First House in the circle, area space; in the rectangle, architectonics; in the triangle, virtual positioning and signals. And so, this is a music of three different layers: one layer is pulses; the next layer is secondary, compositions that fit in too; third layer would be any part of the music system, of the existing systems, can be fitted into this construct, the understanding been that in the Tri-Centric musics every composition has an origin identity logic, every composition has a secondary identity logic… and the tertiary identity is genetic splicing: two measures of Composition 96 can be taken out and put into Composition 103, so it’s like gene-splicing….
If you have an hour to kill, soon? Seriously. Google his name and read some of these interviews. You’ll be glad of it.
I am really fucking busy and do not have time to think about this. So here I am doing it anyway.
Tabbloid: you put an RSS feed into it. Every day, at a time you select, it’ll wrap whatever’s been on that RSS feed into a PDF and mail it to you for printing off.
I tested it with the New Scientist News RSS, and got eight pages’ worth. And New Scientist only puts headlines and ledes in its RSS.
If you’ve got the magic fingers to roll your own custom RSS feeds using Yahoo! Pipes or something, I imagine you could get Tabbloid to spit you out a useful single sheet of paper. This is partway to something usefully Papernetty, I think. You might find uses for it in any case. Take a look at it, you can shove any number of RSS feeds into it.
Artist Spencer Davis has made a Lenora Claire inspired Booty Babe www.bootybabeart.com/ Of course my bottom half doesn’t really look like that but he was true to his big booty lovin’ style. My nipples aren’t red either:)
I haven’t thought about this band in years, but they suddenly popped into my head for no good reason this morning. A mate of mine had everything they did — discovered them because he really liked the song titles while browsing in a record shop, as I recall. And the first song that popped up on a wide YouTube search was the title I remember liking the best: "Fanciable Headcase." Which is associated in my head with all night drinking sessions at said mate’s place, and his worrying habit of using cheap lager as deodorant/cologne the morning after.
I run an email list called Bad Signal. It’s been around in one form or another for more than ten years. Only I can post to the list, and the content is basically unedited braindumping, less structured and more meandering even than the stuff that appears here. You can join it here.
Recently, the venerable and cracked machine on which the Signal runs had one of its occasional cardiac episodes. After surgery, however, it ended up that the Signal, which was sending from lists.flirble.org, now sends from mailman.flirble.org.
The other week, I culled some dead addresses and then did a census experiment. The upshot of which is that the Signal goes out to ten thousand addresses, but only around 5500 people receive them.
So if you were on the Signal, and you haven’t had a Signal in a while, check your spamtraps for mail from mailman.flirble.org. Make sure you’re allowing your email client to receive email from badsignal at mailman flirble org. If you moved accounts, you can unsub it and resub with the new one here, too.
When Katie West started turning up in Flickrgeists again, people started complaining that they missed her. God knows she’s not hard to find. But in the interests of Giving The People What They Want, here she is again. Katie West is currently terrifying the unwary in and around the Toronto area, and is disturbed by the fact that people are recognising her in the street now.
* What new projects are you starting this spring? Tell us about them. Don’t care what field they’re in, so long as they are actual projects as opposed to "cleaning my room" or "finding someone to sleep with me who won’t cry and throw up."
* Musicians, bands, singers, noisemakers: Thread is open for people who make music to plug their new stuff, drop links to their sites, show off and talk among themselves. We like music here, and need more.
WARREN ELLIS is a graphic novelist, author and columnist. His new novel, GUN MACHINE, available now from Mulholland Books, is being developed for television by Chernin Entertainment and FOX. His first non-fiction book, from FSG, is due in 2014. RED 2, the sequel to the Bruce Willis-Helen Mirren film RED based on his book of the same name, will be released in August 2013.