Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: The Middle Picture

Table of Contents



by Taylor Ho Bynum pg 3



Like a Giant Choo-Choo Train System”

by Jonathan Piper pg 4


Anthony Braxton and the Tradition of Mentorship in Creative Music”

by Stephen H. Lehman pg 12


The Newcomer”

by Nicole Mitchell pg 13


Set Commentaries

Composition No. 350 (3/16/06 1st Set)

by Walter Thompson pg 15


Composition No. 351 (3/16/06 2nd Set)

The Man from Utopia”

by Steve Smith pg 16


Composition No. 352 (3/17/06 1st Set)

Personal Best”

by Dave Douglas pg 18


Composition No. 353 (3/17/06 2nd Set)

I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Trance with You”

by Steve Smith pg 20


Composition No. 354 (3/18/06 1st Set)

by Mary Halvorson pg 21


Composition No. 355 (3/18/06 2nd Set)

by Timo Hoyer pg 22


Composition No. 356 (3/18/06 3rd Set)

by Aaron Siegel pg 23


Composition No. 357 (3/19/06 1st Set)

by Carl Testa pg 25


Composition No. 358 (3/19/06 2nd Set)

Focus Becomes Commonplace over a Night”

by Henry Grimes pg 26


Uncle Nonpareil on Parade”

by Margaret Davis pg 26


That Haunting Refrain”

by Steve Smith pg 27


Musician Bios pg 29

Anthony Braxton

Taylor Ho Bynum

Andrew Raffo Dewar

James Fei

Mary Halvorson

Steve Lehman

Nicole Mitchell

Jessica Pavone

Reut Regev

Jay Rozen

Sara Schoenbeck

Aaron Siegel

Carl Testa



When an artist with as rich and revolutionary a career as Anthony Braxton calls a project “THE point of definition in my work thus far,” as Braxton has described these recordings, you know you have something special on your hands. Certainly, the musicians and the audience at the Iridium sensed this by the end of the first night, and by the end of the run the atmosphere in the club was positively giddy with excitement as all involved began to suspect the historic nature of this music.


In preparing these recordings it seemed necessary to present them in as complete and authoritative a manner as possible, in an attempt to do the music justice. Therefore, in addition to the almost ten hours of music, there is the DVD documentary by Jason Guthartz, which illustrates and presents Braxton’s core concepts with exceptional clarity through lecture and performance footage; the extended essay on Braxton’s Ghost Trance Music by Jonathan Piper, which combines the thoughtful insight of a scholar with the passionate enthusiasm of a fan; thoughts and recollections on the experience and the music from both audience members and ensemble musicians; and the visual documentation of performance photographs, score samples, and, of course, Braxton’s increasingly artistic and evocative graphic titles.


This wealth of material should provide active listeners and students of Braxton’s music some added context and new perspectives to better understand and appreciate the work. However, I would stress that years of research or a PhD are by no means necessary to enjoy this music; it more than stands on its own. Any listener with open ears will be entranced by the moments of beauty and layers of activity within, and I would urge everyone, even the most knowledgeable Braxton devotee, to occasionally try and experience this music with that kind of “beginner’s mind.” While all the concepts and theories and descriptions are a part of it, another part is ineffable and indescribable, too magical to be captured by words.


As one of the musicians in the ensemble, I can testify to the sheer fun of playing this music. It certainly presents a challenge: the compositions test the limits of your technique and endurance, the system demands focus and creativity and responsibility. But the total experience is joyful, one of infinite possibility and surprise. The listener, or “friendly experiencer,” as Braxton would say, is offered the same challenge, and the same reward. I do not see this set as simply a collection of nine albums, or recordings of nine compositions. These CDs offer nine portals to another world: a world with its own set of rules, its own geography, its own sense of time, its own opportunities. A world that we can learn from and be inspired by. Please enjoy.


Taylor Ho Bynum

Like a Giant Choo-Choo Train System”


The Anthony Braxton 12(+1)tet’s four-night stand at Iridium Jazz Club in March 2006 had the air of a Braxton mini-festival or celebration. It was a rare chance to hear Braxton play an extended run on an American stage. And just a stone’s throw from Times Square, the Mecca of U.S. popular culture. Braxton on Broadway! Luminaries from the New York’s improvised music world, younger musicians and writers, along with devoted fans traveling from Michigan, Missouri, even Germany, poured in to listen.


On sabbatical at Wesleyan University, Braxton spent the first months of 2006 writing compositions 350 to 360, the final works in his 11-year Ghost Trance Music (GTM) project, in itself a major milestone. Just as important, the Iridium performances are a big step toward realizing Braxton’s goal of an integral music system in which any page or note from his hundreds of works can be played on any instrument at any tempo, and combined with any other composition. For Braxton, these sets are the “the state of the state” of his Tri-centric music.


The final keys to success are the intelligence and rapport of the musicians. Most of them have played together regularly with Braxton (and each other) in 5tets, 6tets and larger ensembles (some for as long as ten years). Collectively they are a “who’s who” list of the up and coming on New York’s creative music scene, regulars at the Stone and Brooklyn’s new clubs. The one newcomer is Nicole Mitchell, rising star and leader of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), who jumps into Braxton’s music headfirst. The mix of typically classical and jazz instruments gives the music a rich but transparent texture, mixing chamber delicacy and raucous bite, brought vividly to life by Jon Rosenberg’s masterful engineering.


Multiple Logics Music”

Braxton’s music system grew from his own experiences as a young AACM member in the late 1960s. It all started with a self-perceived flop—his first AACM all-solo saxophone concert at age 22. “In that time period,” Braxton recalls, “I thought I could approach solo music simply through improvisation. After the first five minutes of the concert, I noticed I was repeating myself. After the second five minutes, I found myself thinking, ‘Well, Braxton, I hate to be the one to say this, but this is horrible’–and there must be some way to avoid the complexities of existential freedom. Because in fact, I was not interested in freedom or non-freedom. What I wanted was a context where I could evolve my work and have some way to measure change.” Braxton was confronted by the “question of identity,” the question of finding his own voice, his own work, and digging into the identity of music itself.


Like other AACM musicians, Braxton was exploring the new world of high-energy multiphonics and overtones pioneered in New York by saxophone giants like Albert Ayler and John Coltrane. The AACM was creating a different approach to freedom by slowing down the New Yorkers’ frenetic “fire music,” as on the title track of Roscoe Mitchell’s landmark sextet album Sound (1966), where the soloists’ whistles and plaintive cries seem to float past, surrounded by plenty of free space.


Braxton was less interested than his AACM colleagues in the individual points of sound, instead looking for structural connections to organize the sounds. He began working with a syntax of what he dubbed “sonic units” or “language music”—long sustained notes, high register multiphonics, trills, ballad-style phrasing—ascribing to each unit its own graphic notation composed of squiggles, shapes and arrows. For his second solo concert, Braxton sketched compositions highlighting just a couple of these language musics as a basis for improvisation—say, a combination of trills, accented attacks, bass register growls and pitch leaps. Braxton found he could fashion a solo around these simple materials, much as earlier improvisers used chord changes or rhythmic motifs. Over the decades, Braxton codified twelve main language music options, which have also framed the “sonic geometry” for his compositions. For example, the “long sounds option” might morph into an orchestral composition based on long sustained chords. The twelve personae of Braxton’s Trillium operas likewise correspond to the different language musics (Shala–long sounds; Ashmenton–accented (active) long sounds; Joreo–multiphonics, and so on).


Braxton also experimented with other new structures for improvisation and composition, drawing heavily on the European avant-garde, particularly Arnold Schönberg, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis, along with American iconoclasts like John Cage (who had worked with the AACM’s Joseph Jarman in 1965). He was particularly drawn to the idea of indeterminate musical forms, like Stockhausen’s Klavierstücke XI (1956), where the order of playing the various musical episodes is decided in mid-performance, or Zyklus (1959), in which the score can be turned in any angle. Braxton used similar forms for some of his compositions in the 1970s.


By the decade’s end, however, he was looking for ways to go beyond the corners of a particular composition and hook the works together. In his quartet performances Braxton started to tie several compositions into one continuous set, building hour-long suites that he called “coordinate music.” Shortly before the concert began, Braxton would pick a few quartet compositions (from a “book” of sixty or so pieces), choosing works that he felt would allow the improvisers to explore a variety of musical possibilities. Transitions between the compositions were improvised.


He also explored Cage’s notion of the “simultaneity of unrelated intentions,” mirroring the sound environments of everyday life where environmental sounds—conversations, traffic, natural noises—overlap without any predetermined or unifying logic. That approach was central to Braxton’s early Chicago and Paris recordings with Wadada Leo Smith, Leroy Jenkins and Steve McCall, where musicians often played seemingly unrelated lines and rhythms, sometimes even with actual street noise thrown into the mix. In the 1980’s Braxton extended this approach with his “collage music,” where the members of his classic quartet (Marilyn Crispell, Mark Dresser, Gerry Hemingway) would each play music from separate compositions all at the same time. Braxton likens the collage music to a walk down the hall of a music school, where “everybody’s playing something different in each room.” Along the road, Braxton developed his “pulse track music,” a series of notated rhythmic phrases for the drummer or bassist, against which Braxton and other soloists could play a separate pitch-based composition.


Through these developments, Braxton came to conceive of his musical output as a single integral musical system, in which any page or note of any composition could be played on any instrument, at any tempo, in combination with any piece of any other composition. Braxton explains: “Where in the past ‘Composition 27’ was only performed one time, and I had like 12 tons of music in the basement not being performed, suddenly, the trimetric breakthroughs of my system would give me the possibility to have all of that material integrated into the quartet context, where a given performance of the quartet would give possibilities where a ‘Composition 96 for Orchestra and Four Slide Projectors’ could be suddenly performed by the quartet. Not only that, we could perform ‘Composition 96’ and connect it to ‘Composition 108A.’” For Braxton, a performance that draws on and connects the whole body of his compositions is “the aesthetic conceptual/vibrational/fulfillment of my music.”


The Ghost Trance Musics

By the early 1990s the quartet had produced an influential and well-documented body of music, but Braxton felt the group had largely said what it had to say. He wanted to extend his system to allow still greater integration of the compositions, while at the same time opening even more space for individual expression. In 1993 Braxton told Graham Lock he was looking for “a system of tracks, like a giant choo-choo train system that will show the connections, so where a soloist is moving along a track, that will connect to duo logics, trio logics, quartet logics. So, for instance, if you’re traveling from ‘Composition 47,’ which is a small town, to a city like ‘Composition 96,’ the model will demonstrate the nature of combinations and connections in between systems.”


Braxton also wanted to extend the ritual and ceremonial side of his music, his end goal being a 12-day “festival of world dynamics” capped by the Trillium opera cycle. Think of twelve hour Ghost Trance jams with musicians, dancers and actors in clubs, concert halls, parks or even on sidewalks around the world hooked up via internet video connections, with friendly on-lookers interacting with the musicians. (He experimented with this concept in his as-yet unreleased Genome Project of 2003, in which over fifty musicians performed for eight continuous hours moving about a Wesleyan University hockey stadium.) “My hope is to create a holistic music that respects body, mind, known, unknown and intuition,” says Braxton. “My interest in creative music is not just simply an existential interest in looking at sound, but rather I agree with the aesthetic of the AACM and Muhal Richard Abrams when he talked of the first challenge for the creative artist is to deal with his or her self, the idea of self-realization.”


Things fell into place in 1995 after Braxton sat in on a Native American music course and studied the Ghost Dance rituals of the late 1800s. For Braxton, the Ghost Dance had great resonance. “The Ghost Dance music, when it was put together, that came about in a time after the American Indian had been decimated, 98 percent of their culture destroyed,” Braxton recalls. “Various tribes came together and compiled whatever information they had left. And the Ghost Dance music was described as a curtain—one side is reality for us, and the other side is the ancestors. And the Ghost Dance music would provide a forum to connect with the ancestors. That had a tremendous impact on me.” Drawing on the example of all night Ghost Dance ceremonies (and other world trance musics), Braxton looked to construct a “melody that doesn’t end” to serve as the train tracks to cohere his system. The Ghost Trance Music was born.


From the outset Braxton intended to build a substantial and varied body of GTM works, on a par with the book of quartet music that had fueled his performances throughout the first three decades of his career. GTM has evolved through several different “species” or “classes” since 1995, but the basic format has remained the same. The performance begins with the primary material, based on a sequence of mostly staccato notes played in unison over a constant pulse. The “primary” melody is notated in what Braxton calls “diamond clef,” allowing each musician to play the music in any transposition or clef. These primary melodies are colored by the “sonic geometries” of one or more language music options, some melodies having a staccato character, others related to trills and ornamentation, others intervallic, or a combination of these. Each composition also includes four pages of “secondary material,” generally trios in both standard and graphic notation, which can be interjected at any point in the performance. In addition, Braxton suggests additional compositions from his oeuvre (“tertiary material”) that he thinks would be well suited to incorporate with the new GTM piece. For the 12tet performances, Braxton also looked to the section leaders to introduce pre-planned “secret” material of their own choosing.


The different GTM “species” are mainly distinguished by the varying rhythmic schemes of the melody lines. “First species GTM” (roughly from 1995 to 1998) was based on a regular stream of eighth notes. “Second Species” (starting with Composition 222 in 1998) broke up the steady stream by including rhythmic breaks, often triplets or 16th note runs. With “Third Species” GTM (beginning around 2001 with composition 277), the basic eighth note patterns are periodically interrupted by polyrhythmic ‘tuplets, irregular rhythms with a ratio to the main pulse of, for example, 5:1, 5:2, 7:4 or 7:3, generously sprinkled with grace note figures. Since 2004, Braxton has been composing “accelerator class” GTM. Now the irregular ‘tuplet rhythms have almost completely taken over, so that the regular eighth note pulse is almost never sounded by the performers, but “played around” with constantly shifting polyrhythms in even larger ratios (e.g., 9:1; 13:2, 16:2, 20:2). This gives the “accelerator” melodies their characteristic feeling of constantly speeding up and then stopping to catch their breath.


The GTM scores generally contain notations to let the players vary the melodic line (playing sustained notes or slurs, for example) and usually there are also designated breaks for momentary improvisation. For compositions 351 to 360 (dubbed “accelerator whip”), there are graphic “freeze frames,” black boxes or ovals drawn around particular notes in the score where the musicians have an option of simply playing through in regular time, or dropping out and improvising on the circled notes, and then either rejoining the ensemble or moving into a new territory. On set 7, all hell breaks loose at the first freeze-frame just 90 seconds in, the GTM melody all but falling by the wayside. Contrast this with the final set, where the GTM stays on track a full 10 minutes, maneuvering past several freezes.


Iridium 2006: Navigation through Form

The 13 band members crowd the Iridium stage, each with an arsenal of instruments, two music stands apiece, ankle deep in Braxton scores. In the center is an hourglass, which Braxton turns at the start of each set and then, with a few hand gestures to set the tempo, leads the ensemble into the opening primary GTM melody. After the music begins to open out, the musicians break into the smaller groups, communicating with a system of sign language and eraser board messages.


Anyone lucky enough to be at the Iridium concerts took away a host of vivid memories. Taylor Ho Bynum conducting a trio with his shoulders and hips, his cornet as baton, and later dueling with Reut Regev, their muted horns like two samurai swords. Sara Schoenbeck throwing her whole body into a bubbling bassoon melody, while the ever-cool Steve Lehman uncorks a stream of edgy polyrhythms. Jessica Pavone gracefully plucking strings with Mary Halvorson (heard, if not seen, from the corner). The sly gleam in James Fei’s eye as he brings out a score he knows will really kick it; Andrew Raffo Dewar pulling the saxes together in an overpowering chord. Carl Testa jumping into a notated rhythm, wide eyes glued to the page. And then some weird sound arising from the mix, something you can’t quite place at first—it might be the rattling pie pan stuck in the bell of Jay Rozen’s tuba, Aaron Siegel bowing metal harmonics from his vibes, or Nikki Mitchell’s spine-tingling vocalise. Up front Braxton toweling sweat off his brow, eyes closed, taking it all in, nodding, smiling.


Ensemble leaders like Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Barry Guy, Walter Thompson, Butch Morris and John Zorn have explored a variety of structures for large scale improvisation, generally shaping the overall form (sections or cells), and supplying specific materials (traditional or graphic notation, chords, textual or gestured instructions) for the players to work with. But I don’t know of anyone besides Braxton who essentially hands a six inch stack of scores to the players and lets them choose what to play, when to play, and who to play it with—for an hour long set! It is an act of creative courage, and a testament to his confidence in the music and the musicians. As leader, Braxton seeks a form of ensemble organization that is “multi-hierarchic,” in contrast to the “mono-hierarchic” approach essentially deriving from 19th-century European conducting. His leading role consists of initiating the opening melody, restating the melody a couple of times during the set, and perhaps calling the final melody or cadence. In between, it is largely up for grabs, with Braxton first among equals in keeping the music in motion.


While Braxton’s recent quintet and sextet outings mainly explore the possibilities of a single GTM composition, the larger forces of the 12(+1)tet provide the critical mass to play four or more compositions, including all GTM species and classes, at once. Writ large, this structure could be expanded to a group of 100 or more performers in a series of groups and subgroups. The multiple GTM melodies, in all their richness, variety and versatility, are what tie these Iridium performances together. At least half the time a GTM melody is playing somewhere in the band, sometimes as many as three distinct GTM melodies layered atop each other. When they first appeared in 1995, the GTM melodies seemed like such an abrupt shift in Braxton’s music. But with the 12(+1)tet performances we can see how the GTM melodies serve as the pathways Braxton had been looking for to help link all his other compositions together. The musical structure arises as a map of the musicians’ myriad choices—an approach Braxton calls “navigation through form.”


These 12(+1)tet sets are a real celebration of Ghost Trance lines, as the musicians joyfully explore different ways to use the melodies as orchestral devices—as walking bass lines, countermelodies, refrains, anthems, vamps or leitmotivs. One minute first species GTM glides in cool vibe and bass, then accelerator whip burbles in flute and bassoon. Listen around 15 minutes into set 2, where Pavone leads a stately anthem-like statement of first species GTM that serves as a well-lined grid against which Bynum splashes colors. Or try ten minutes into set 3, as Testa plays a first species melody like a walking bass line, with an accelerator melody and Bynum’s horn quickly layered on top. Or 25 minutes into set 5, where a series of GTM lines delicately twine around Halvorson’s guitar, then step forward onto center stage. As the sets progress, it is obvious that the performers have fallen in love with the Ghost Trance melodies!


Older Braxton compositions rear their heads in familiar and unfamiliar ways. But don’t expect a medley of favorite Braxton tunes. Here and there a warhorse from the quartet book pops into full view, as when Fei prompts Braxton to join him on composition 40B toward the end of set 8, or when the scales of Composition No. 114 provide a glorious whirling backdrop some 47 minutes into set 4. Most often the notated materials have a subtler impact—a familiar phrase appears once, or is repeated briefly, then is gone. Sitting below Bynum on Saturday night, I could see him open a score, circle two notes with his finger to Regev, and then the two of them launched into one of their uproarious brass battles, using just those two notes as inspiration.


Without a steady beat or harmonic sequence to mark progress, what propels the music are the transitions from one musical landscape to the next, terrain that may be defined by a particular riff, cross-rhythm or mood, holding our attention for a few seconds or perhaps a few minutes. To trace the changing layers in this collage requires very concentrated listening, and the reward can be a sense of meditative timelessness—those synergistic moments where “known, unknown and mystery” intertwine. “I try to make sure that there’s always ‘that much’ of everything I do that I don’t know what’s going to happen. I can be close to the ‘It’ so something can happen that I don’t know about,” Braxton has said. “I try to find a way of communicating that can leave holes for people to hear what they want to hear. That’s what improvisation’s all about: having a discipline where there are enough holes in it so you can find who you are.” One of those “It” moments, very picturesque, comes 52 minutes into set 5 when Halvorson releases a meteor shower of chords, and then Mitchell’s chanting rises from behind the GTM to lead the horns into a mystical séance. There is also plenty of room for plain old fun, like Fei and Siegel’s frazzled march (Composition No. 40E) a little earlier in set 5, or the mouthwatering lounge groove two thirds into set 7.


In this group context, Braxton does not look for the limelight, often playing under the music, filling a gap or nudging the music forward. The “standout” moments are collective moments too—if one musician takes center stage it is because everyone else has opened that space. When Braxton started to pour out tears of joy on sopranino toward the end of the last set, you could see that several musicians were on the verge of launching their own subgroup ideas, but held back sensing that Braxton had something special to say. Some other Braxton solo highlights are the furious alto eruption toward the end of Set 1, or the contrabass clarinet blasts 49 minutes into set 5. Many of Braxton’s interventions combine lovely ballad phrases and roller coaster runs of fast notes. The interplay of the slow and fast music can be magical—check out the gorgeous bluesy solo in this vein that comes 22 minutes into set 7. The fast flurries can be heard as sonic textures, buzzy, feathery, complementing or countering the surrounding music, but there is also a wealth of micro melodic and rhythmic variation going on inside the textures.


Braxton’s juxtaposition of soulful slow and ecstatic fast music brings to mind the story of how he almost walked out the first time he heard John Coltrane play live in the mid-1960s. After Coltrane played a furiously fast “out there” solo, “I decided this man is crazy, I want nothing to do with it. And the composition came to an end, and then this is what took me out: he played the ballad, ‘It's So Easy to Remember and So Hard to Forget.’ And he played it straight, and it was beautiful, and it was profound, and it took me out…I found myself with this paradox: how can this guy play so beautifully when he plays this ballad, then he goes back to this other music and it's all sound again? There must be something happening that I don't know about!”


Braxton still pursues that kind of challenge, and draws listeners who seek the same thing. Just when we think we’ve deciphered Braxton’s last project, he recalibrates the system. And with the final GTM melodies now written, new schemes are already on the horizon, such as Falling River Music with colorful graphic scores, and Diamond Curtain Wall Music incorporating the supercollider computer software. (While composition 360 rounds out the book of GTM compositions, GTM will continue to be performed as part of Braxton’s ongoing music.) Braxton increasingly applies a cartographic metaphor, where the language music prototypes will define musical territories (e.g., Shalaland, Ashmentonland, Joreoland) with recognizable sonic landscapes. In the future, he hopes to connect these territories by providing the players with computer screen menus of compositional choices, and projecting video footage of train and auto travel.


Looking forward—“Forty years down the road, what am I thinking about as an instrumentalist?” Braxton muses. “I’m really thinking more now about having some fun, play something that’s honest, kick it about, don’t play too long, give everyone a chance to play, try to learn from what my colleagues are playing.” He adds: “And do your best. And that’s really what we work for. Knowing that after the concert we’ll have some wine, maybe a cognac. This is why I play music.”


Jonathan Piper


Jonathan Piper, a Chicago attorney, is coordinating an online “gigography” of Anthony Braxton’s live performances, posted at jazzdiscography.com.


Sources of Braxton Quotes: Anthony Braxton, Catalog of Works (1989); Graham Lock, Forces in Motion (1988); Graham Lock, Mixtery (1995); Patrice Michaels, “Anthony Braxton in the Open Space,” Banff Letters (Win/Spr 1984); Ted Panken WKCR-FM interview (2/5/1995); Mike Heffley, “The Third-Millennial Interview” (2001); Anthony Braxton, seminar at Columbia University (3/17/2006).


Exemplary (Currently in Print) Recordings: For Alto (Delmark) (solo language music); Quartet (Coventry) 1985 (Leo) (coordinate music); Ninetet (Yoshi’s) 1997 Vols. 1-3 (Leo) (1st Species GTM); Four Compositions (GTM) 2000 (Delmark) (2nd Species); Six Compositions (GTM) 2001 (Rastacan) (3rd Species); Quintet (London) 2004 (Leo) (accelerator class GTM); 4 Compositions (Ulrichsberg) 2005 Phonomanie VIII (Leo) (includes Diamond Curtain Wall Trio).


Anthony Braxton and the Tradition of Mentorship in Creative Music


In a musical career now spanning nearly forty years, Anthony Braxton (b. 1945) has established himself as an essential figure in the history of creative music. And though his innovative work as a composer, an improviser, a theorist, and a scholar is widely recognized, his legacy as a mentor to several generations of aspiring musicians is perhaps less known.


Beginning in the 1960s, with his involvement in the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Braxton learned, from Muhal Richard Abrams and others, the importance of integrating pedagogy into his professional practice. Like other AACM members such as Wadada Leo Smith and George Lewis, and like Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Betty Carter, Horace Tapscott, Jackie McLean, and Steve Coleman, Braxton has made significant contributions to the ongoing tradition of African-American composer/performers who have actively sought to nurture young musicians. The critical acclaim that his music has received since the 1970s has allowed him to use his performing and recording ensembles to encourage emergent talent in a particularly effective manner. Teaching positions at Mills College, and later at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, have afforded further opportunities to mentor new generations of creative musicians.


If one looks at the great diversity of musicians whose careers have been transformed as a direct result of their association with Anthony Braxton, it seems fair to suggest that he has been one of the most significant mentor figures of the past thirty years in creative music. Among the many musicians who first came to the attention of the international creative music community after their professional affiliation with Braxton, one can count trombonists George Lewis and Ray Anderson, bassists Mark Dresser, Mark Helias and John Lindberg, percussionists Gerry Hemmingway, Kevin Norton and Guillermo E. Brown, violinist Jason Kao Hwang and violist Jessica Pavone, pianist Marilyn Crispell, guitarists James Emery, Kevin O’Neil, and Mary Halvorson, bagpiper Matthew Welch, trumpeters Kenny Wheeler, Paul Smoker and Taylor Ho Bynum, accordionist Ted Reichman, and saxophonists Marty Ehrlich, Ned Rothenberg, Vinny Golia, Michael Attias, Aaron Stewart, James Fei, and myself.


One should be aware that this list includes only those musicians who have performed and/or recorded under Braxton’s leadership and does not reflect the wider influence of his performances and his recorded and published works, nor the full impact of his work as a professor at Mills College and Wesleyan University. Performer/composers John Zorn, Steve Coleman, Don Byron, Dave Douglas, Ken Vandermark, and Vijay Iyer, for example, are musicians who are significantly indebted to Braxton’s music despite having never or rarely been part of one of his ensembles.


One reason, perhaps, for his wide-ranging influence is that Braxton, rather than insisting on the adoption of his own musical techniques and practices, has guided and inspired several generations of young musicians to develop and refine their own creative perspectives. Viewing pedagogy as a transactional process, Braxton has used his engagement with younger generations of musicians to both encourage and stay abreast of fresh ideas and new creative currents. In many ways, this non-hierarchical view of mentorship is characteristic of his approach to music making more generally and nowhere is this more evident than in the music included in this 9-CD box set. Over the course of four nights at the Iridium in New York City, Braxton challenged the young members of his ensemble to engage with a meticulously crafted sound world, while simultaneously providing them with the creative agency to assert their own individual musical identities, and to transform themselves and each other in so doing.


Stephen H. Lehman


The Newcomer


Mysterious Notes

A few days before the rehearsal I got a package in the mail; two multicolored booklets at least 20 pages long with stuff like 15 against 2 and 11 against 2 and 7-tuplets and so forth. There were a lot of symbols that weren't explained. What the hell? Fascinating.


Winding Path There

I missed my plane. My car wouldn't leave the driveway. At 4:30 in the morning on the south side (Chicago) there wasn't a cab I could call. So I got my car (barely) running and drove as fast as I could (20mph) downtown, parked it and jumped in a cab. The plane hadn't left, but they wouldn't let me on! I had to get there! Another flight left without me, before I finally boarded a flight to Newark. On the plane I kept looking at my watch trying to see how was I going to get there in time…the rehearsal was at 2pm and the plane was scheduled to land at 1:45 in New Jersey.


Meeting the Disciples

I rang the bell and took the elevator to the 3rd floor. When I got off there was a white-haired lady standing outside her door, and I was still looking for the room where the rehearsal was. I looked around and felt like I just had walked into a time warp. This apartment was decorated as if it was in the 1950's, with wood paneled walls and old furniture, pictures and a cat washing itself on the coffee table. Was I in the right place? How strange. I followed her through the house. I didn't even hear any music. We went through a hallway and then she opened a brown door. In the dark, surrounded by dim little lamps and music stands, was a quiet circle of musicians--devotees--Braxton devotees. I felt right at home. They were just about to take a breath to start. Braxton was nowhere to be found. “Oh, Nicole you made it just in time,” said the young man. “Here's your music.” This was completely different music then the books I got in the mail. I was so relieved to have made it to the rehearsal that I didn't have time to question myself, what I was doing, or how to do it.


First Date

When I came back to New York for the gig, I finally met Braxton, who happens to be one of the most gracious, humble and generous people I've met. He gave us each 10 new compositions ranging from 20-70 pages long each, and a whole pile of another few hundred pages of older compositions that would be played simultaneously to the new ones. We did a 15-minute sound check and then did the hit. It was marvelous! The whole thing was a big dent in my musical life experience, and now I have to reevaluate my aesthetic for my own stuff and what I like. I thought I might have to go home and throw a whole bunch of my music out the window. It was a blast.


Ghost Trance Impressions and Perceptions

Dear Mr. Braxton,


This is partly a reflection because last night was my first experience performing with the group, but I feel that you’ve succeeded in creating a holistic experience for the musicians performing because it involves such a high intellectual activity and at the same time it's intuitive. The music not only deals with your compositions but also the compositional minds of the musicians. You're dealing with the pulse in a creative way by creating these very complex rhythmical structures. And what was really interesting to me, with the Ghost Trance, is that it basically moves us through such a high mental challenge that we become entranced as musicians in order to play it, because intellectually you just can’t do it. You have to involve your whole being in order to perform it, which is a type of meditational exercise. It was really inspiring to me and I feel that I’m really learning a lot from the experience.


Because you have struggle involved in the music, that’s so beautiful to me. You’re creating an image of something that’s not a brittle and clear image but it’s something that’s more fuzzy, something you can’t quite see. You’re creating an image, the ghost of what you’re saying. The name of it is exactly what it is. When you listen to most music, there is a very identified and clear melody that is easy for the musicians to perform, you have all these musicians playing this thing and it’s very defined. But what you have is something that’s more of a rough definition because you have people struggling to do it, and you have people that are doing it right on, and you have people in the struggle which creates...creates...really it creates a being, that is within the dimension of sound. But it’s a living being.


Nicole Mitchell


Composition No. 350 (Thursday, 3/16/06, 1st set)


I met Anthony Braxton in the fall of 1974 in Woodstock, New York. I had just moved to Woodstock after spending some time at Berklee. The previous year I purchased Conference of the Birds, and after hearing Anthony play, I decided this was the direction I would take my music. I learned through a friend that Anthony was moving to Woodstock. I called him and asked for saxophone and composition lessons soon after he arrived. Anthony said he hadn’t planned on teaching, but he changed his mind after we spoke further. My first lesson took place on a cold snowy day. We met one afternoon during the week. Prior to our first meeting, Anthony asked me to bring the method books with which I had been working. After I arrived at his house, we talked and got to know each other a bit. Then we went into a small room to begin the lesson. He first asked to see what books I brought with me. He took one of my books of patterns for jazz, took a brief look at it, and threw it against the wall! It was a fine throw and made a good splat as it hit the wall, falling to a crumpled mess on the floor. I was surprised and shocked. I asked, “Why?” His answer was that such a book was extremely harmful to the personal development of an artist; art is about self-expression and, ultimately, not the mimicking of others. His statement hit hard. It immediately sunk in and made sense. In this brief and shocking moment he had summarized what a true artist is, someone who continually challenges him- or herself to move ahead, very often into unknown and uncomfortable places. Good enough for me! I spent the next 8 years studying with Anthony. It was the most important time of my creative development, and Anthony was the most important influence on my work. I stopped studying in 1980 and moved to New York City. Anthony and I stayed in touch on and off throughout the years, but time goes by, and it is so easy to get involved in your work and lose touch with the people who are important to you.


It had been almost 10 years since I had seen my dear friend and one-time mentor, Anthony Braxton. Much of today’s performing and visual art lives in the safe zones. Not true of Anthony; he always goes to the edge. Since I hadn’t heard Anthony’s work in a while I was not surprised that I would be surprised. The piece was about an hour long and remained elusive in its forward motion. If you can predict where art is going, why bother! I was very interested to see Anthony working with a hand-gesture signing system. Not only would he sign, but other members of the ensemble, at different times in the piece, would also sign, resulting in an ever-evolving open communication between what was notated, improvised, and signed individually and collectively. Art is not created in a safe place—there’s no point in doing it if you don’t take an adventure. Anthony Braxton is one of the greatest artists of all time, not only for his vast accomplishments, but for his continued desire to remain on the adventure.


Walter Thompson


Walter Thompson is the creator of Soundpainting - the universal multidisciplinary live composing sign language.


Composition No. 351 (Thursday, 3/16/06, 2nd set)


The Man from Utopia

Anthony Braxton settled into the Iridium tonight for the first evening of a four-night run, and even after a day of general malfunction at the office, I made a point of catching this ever-challenging artist's second set. I've followed Braxton's career and collected his recordings, sometimes fairly obsessively, for just about two decades now. For a lot of that time, I've felt like I was always just a few steps behind, straining to comprehend one creative phase even as he had moved on to the next.


For example, I actually had the great privilege of witnessing in concert Braxton's sublime quartet with Marilyn Crispell, Mark Dresser and Gerry Hemingway at the old Knitting Factory, one of the late stops on its final tour in 1993. And, having only heard his recordings of the late '60s and the fertile Arista stretch of the '70s, I was utterly flummoxed by the sheer density of information that poured forth from that stage. It took years of further research—and especially the experiences of reading Graham Lock's quite brilliant Forces in Motion and listening to the epochal Willisau (1991) Quartet box set—to truly relate to what had been going on that evening. I'd certainly sensed during that Knitting Factory show that I was hearing one of the greatest ensembles in the history of creative music—one I have no reluctance in ranking with Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Sevens, Charlie Parker's Dial and Savoy combos, Miles Davis's two great quintets, John Coltrane's quartet, the Bill Evans Trio with LaFaro and Motian, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. But it was only years later that I actually understood just why that was.


Much to my surprise, then, Braxton's 12(+1)tet tonight posed no such problem for me, mainly because the creative paradigm it documents—dubbed Accelerated Ghost Trance Music—strikes me as both a summarization of recent concerns and a reconciliation of Braxton's past designs with the Ghost Trance Music compositions that have consumed him for the past decade. After the extreme technical complexity and polyphonic density of the '80s-'90s quartet, Braxton turned toward a minimalism-canted sort of ritualism in Ghost Trance Music (GTM), the earliest examples of which—documented during the mid-'90s on the late, lamented Braxton House label—often seemed to primarily consist of hour-long strings of stair-stepping eighth notes played by full ensembles, whether sextet or chamber orchestra.


When I caught Braxton's large ensemble at the Bowery Poetry Club in 2003, I noticed immediately that a new element had crept into the GTM model: Small groupings of players were renting the rat-a-tat momentum with forcible incursions of alternate rhythms and trajectories, touched off by meaningful glances or, more often, elaborate hand signals. This layering of melodic and rhythmic impetus resembled nothing so much as the intricate collages constructed in real time by the preceding quartet.


The music I'd heard in 2003 was a developmental stage in an evolution toward the Accelerated Ghost Trance, tonight presented as Braxton's Composition No. 351. The eighth-note pulsation of earlier GTM pieces is still present, but more often than not, it's subliminal; it rises to the surface not infrequently, but no longer is it the primary element of the music.


Instead, Braxton marshals his forces in a massive, always forward-moving trajectory through more invisible means. (The "ghost" in GTM is finally more than a metaphor.) It took less than ten minutes for smaller sub-groups to emerge from the band, renting the overall fabric of the composition with private conversations drawing upon other Braxton pieces—some of them GTM pulsations, more of them not. The dizzying layering that occurred when several of these smaller units interjected simultaneous incursions exploded potentials closer to Ives and Berio than to any jazz antecedent, although contemporary creative-music composers such as Barry Guy, Simon Fell and Scott Fields have mined similar ground.


Two pages of notes scribbled in the dark, commenting upon this or that worthy highlight during the piece's roughly 70-minute duration (marked by a massive hour-glass positioned at center stage) seem fairly useless to me now. Isolated felicities—the voluble contributions of brass savant Taylor Ho Bynum, often echoed by Reut Regev's trombone and "flugelbone" and Jay Rozen's euphonium and tuba; the gorgeous trio sonata confluences of Jessica Pavone's violin and viola, Nicole Mitchell's flutes and voice, and Sara Schoenbeck's bassoon and shenai; saxophonist Steve Lehman's steady virtuosity; Carl Testa's earthy bass and Aaron Siegel's pattering percussion—made constant impressions. Saxophonists James Fei and Andrew Raffo Dewar and guitarist Mary Halvorson completed the ensemble, if perhaps less demonstratively. Dewar was new to me, but Fei and Halvorson have stood out in this or that previous Braxton project, so their relative deference tonight didn't especially trouble me.


Ultimately, Braxton's marshalling of these headstrong players, many of them his students at Wesleyan University, made a greater impression than his own playing during the set. He never claimed an extended solo of his own, mostly contenting himself instead to insert nattering sopranino saxophone and gassy contrabass clarinet into the overall clamor.


Still, to Braxton belongs the ultimate credit for a substantial and satisfying ensemble effort. Somewhere near the end of the set, I was struck by a thought: Braxton's Accelerated Ghost Trance Music is less a compositional strategy, and more a utopian model for an ideal democracy. There are rules to follow, laws to abide, and these are largely controlled by the ruler of the clan. But those laws are more guidelines than strictures; if followed properly, the result affords complete individual freedom within a well-defined societal structure that hums along quite musically.


That it didn't work for some listeners—most notably the noisy klatch of tourists seated directly behind me—is no failure on Braxton's part, but simply a reflection of its setting. A club on Broadway, just blocks north of busy Times Square, probably isn't the ideal headquarters from which to foment revolution, and certainly not among passersby most likely anticipating a mellow evening of post-theater swing to accompany their conversations. On the other hand, most of the generally youngish crowd seemed to get Braxton's message just fine.


For me, this was easily the most fulfilling live Braxton encounter I've had to date. I hope to catch at least one or two more sets before this run ends on Sunday night, not the least reason being that the Iridium run marks the conclusion of Braxton's GTM compositional activities. That milestone makes this particular run seem a bit more portentous—but honestly, my reasons for wanting to hear more are purely sensual.


Steve Smith


Steve Smith writes for Time Out New York, the New York Times, and his award-winning blog, Night After Night.

Composition No. 352 (Friday, 3/17/06, 1st set)


Personal Best

Going to hear Anthony Braxton in Times Square is unique event. Iridium is in a basement on the block where Mamma Mia is playing. There are singing waiters and waitresses upstairs, and St. Patrick’s Day revelry is just beginning.


I knew my friend was running in the Brooklyn half marathon early the next day, but I also knew he had never heard Anthony play live, and I insisted he come down.


Excitement in the crowd as this extraordinary group of musicians and instruments come out onto the stage. Even a small commotion, as we wait through the customary Iridium announcement. Mostly eagerness to hear this music. Maybe wondering what that big instrument is. But also curiosity about the oversized hourglass Braxton turns over before starting the music.


A small signal and it began. All the musicians playing together, but together in a completely unexpected way, with rich variations in timbre and tone color and wildly divergent tempi and melodies and phrasing but clearly "together." Not too loud, in fact quite subtle, but otherworldly in a self-induced trance.


An uneasy shift in the dynamic of the room as it soon becomes clear that something is happening. The quizzical looks of tourists who just happened to come down for this set and seem to be asking themselves if this is some sort of introduction to something else or if in fact this is the thing itself. Rapt listeners aware that we are in for a very special treat. These musicians are speaking the language of Braxton's music and he has convened a very special group of players to do it.


As different members of the group cue each other and lead the group in improvisation the piece metamorphoses freely through different instrument families and all sorts of material. There was a refrain of a running steady stream of notes that sometimes reminded of walking bass, sometimes a groove, but ultimately it was exactly that: a constantly shifting, constantly changing pulse moving through the band.


Time changes. It has been clear to me from the start of the piece that the hourglass held all the grains that we were going to hear, and as a result of knowing that I started to process the passing of time differently. In a way, through all the changes the music gave me the feeling of permanence. Of immediately knowing: We're here. We have always been here, we always will. There is infinite variation. Music will continue. The timelessness of existing in this moment.


To be honest I saw that some of the less intrepid listeners were getting the same idea, but it was having a different effect on them.


The tension was palpable, and it was inspiring to think that after all these years of brilliance, years of composing, performing, teaching, writing, living, this man is still on the front edge of what it means to hear new music, to be in time, to exist.


Bravery comes in many forms. The construction of a framework for one’s ideas and the dedicated enactment of it. The challenge of overcoming definitions and misapprehensions. Ultimately, to face each moment as a new chance to create something beyond understanding. Braxton has said: “I want the undefined component of my music to be on an equal par with the defined component.”


The music was inspiring not least because every musician embodied this quality. There is a power in this music that urges us to do better, to learn, to grow, to change and adapt. To excel in each moment.


My friend, overwhelmed by the music, but also eager to rush off to bed, thanked me and went home. Early the next morning he ran his personal best.


Dave Douglas


Dave Douglas is a composer and trumpeter living in New York. He is artistic director of Greenleaf Music and also directs the Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music at the Banff Centre and the Festival of New Trumpet Music.

Composition No. 353 (Friday, 3/17/06, 2nd set)


I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Trance with You

A funny thing happens when a bassist plays one of Braxton's basic eighth-note Ghost Trance Music patterns at a fastish clip and lets the notes ring out, rather than clipping them off in a dry staccato: The result is effectively the kind of walking bass line that's animated jazz performances since time immemorial.


The sensation that I'm describing arrived some five minutes into Composition No. 353. It followed what seemed like a lengthy, slow motion prologue that in real time only lasted some three minutes or so. A saxophone-quartet interlude was followed by simultaneous incursions—the duo of James Fei and Taylor Ho Bynum, and the trio of Jessica Pavone, Nicole Mitchell and Sara Schoenbeck. Carl Testa broke into a buoyant pulse paired with rubbery bop runs by Mary Halvorson, touching upon a conventional jazz mode that hadn't surfaced the previous evening.


This segment didn't last long—there was no danger of this ensemble suddenly transforming into Uncle Tony's Hot Club of Middletown. Yet somehow, it struck a looser, altogether more playful tone that extended throughout the evening. This piece somehow seemed more rhythmically charged than the one I’d heard the previous evening. That's not to say it was always busy; in fact, moments of complete silence punctuated the ongoing babble on several occasions.


The variety of tonight's set extended to its subgroupings, many of them combinations that hadn't been struck the night before. Reut Regev found more common ground with Jay Rozen, and combined with Schoenbeck for a series of puckish interruptions later in the piece. Just a bit earlier, Schoenbeck had paired her bassoon with Mitchell's glowing alto flute, an especially gorgeous blend. Pavone colluded with Bynum; Bynum egged on Andrew Raffo Dewar; Dewar teamed up with Steve Lehman; Lehman duetted with Fei; Fei riffed with Braxton. And so on.


These incursions seemed to scamper across the primary flow of the composition with increased frequency; in addition to the hand signals and quietly mouthed verbal cues, both Braxton and Bynum waved dry-erase boards with shorthand instructions, indicating new tangents. And more of these byways seemed to be based on repeating rhythmic cells—clusters of five-note patterns played again and again, and stair-stepping melodic patterns that sounded like finger exercises for a student pianist (one-two-three-four-five-four-three-two-one).


The Jazz Thing broke out again about 40 minutes into the piece. Hard to believe, but there it was: Aaron Siegel played that familiar "ching, ching-a-ding, ching-a-ding..." on ride cymbal, although his time waxed and waned like a bop side warped in a hot car. Turned out that, as had been the case with Testa earlier in the set, Siegel was cutting loose with Halvorson, who plucked larky lines behind the stark horn choir in the foreground.


Extended instrumental techniques crept into the latter stretches of the piece with increasingly frequency: Fei and Lehman punched in a duo of dry, nattering quacks, while Rozen rattled and buzzed with a pie plate shoved into his tuba's bell. Mitchell offered a tremendously impressive interlude of vocal glossolalia.


So great were the contributions of his ensemble members that only eventually did I notice—during a brief, huffing contrabass clarinet passage—that Braxton himself seemed to have played rather less tonight. Just then, he uncorked a torrential alto saxophone solo that sliced through the density of its surroundings. Near the end, we were treated to a good, old-fashioned drum solo by Siegel. Braxton, shuddering in approval, jumped in with a snake-charming sopranino incantation.


The appearance of a seemingly familiar rhythmic tattoo made me think for an instant that one of Braxton's old quartet tunes was about to break out. Lofting a dry erase board upon which was scribbled the number “19,” which, I later learned, was a cue for page 19 in the score, Braxton massed his forces for a slinky closing passage. Rather than summing up, the conclusion of Composition No. 353 leaves the door open to future possibilities.


Steve Smith


Composition No. 354 (Saturday, 3/18/06, 1st set)


From the area where I was sitting during these Iridium showsnear the back stage left behind a daunting collage of music stands, scores, musicians, and hornsI was unable to see the hourglass which had been placed front center to ensure that each set would last (more or less) an hour. I liked the idea of the hourglass and several people from the audience also mentioned how they enjoyed being able to watch the time passing by. However, not being able to see it ended up having a magical sort of effect as I found myself in a time warp where I had no idea how long each set had gone on; it basically felt like time didn't exist. I continually found myself surprised when the sets ended. This effect was most pronounced on Saturday. The thought of playing three over-an-hour-long sets of incredibly intense music had seemed overwhelming to me beforehand; however, the moment the first set began I had already lost track of time. The energy level that began during the first set did not seem to die out in the third; no one sounded tired. At the end of the night I was pleasantly surprised when I realized playing three sets didn't feel all that different than playing one or two sets. It seems that this phenomenon of timelessness is a beautiful and intangible property unique to the music of Anthony Braxton.


Mary Halvorson



Composition No. 355 (Saturday, 3/18/06, 2nd set)


The 12tet is the beginning of the kind of ensemble that I really want to have.” So Anthony Braxton characterized his new twelvetet on August 20, 2005, one day before its world premiere in Antwerp (Belgium). “The 12tet,” he added, “will be the nuclear ensemble. There will be the possibility to demonstrate the extended components of my music-system, because I have 12 people.” One almost wonders why Braxton did not conceive of a twelve-headed ensemble to match his 12-component musical system much earlier. No other group format appears as well suited to the realization of his ambitious aesthetic program in which everything is aimed at the synthesis of disparate elements. The Antwerp concert (composition 348) already provided a good indication of the synthesizing power of this “nuclear ensemble.” It gave a musical promise that was fulfilled at the Iridium concerts in New York City. And the ensemble more than met expectations! Only in one respect were Braxton’s goals not quite realized: “The 12tet was conceived to be one half men, one half women.” The feminine side of the 12(+1)tet falls slightly short numerically but most certainly not musically. Rather, the concerts at Iridium have confirmed how well justified were Braxton’s hopes for a fruitful mix of the genders. “I am not interested in the boys-only club anymore. I hope to have a connection with the creative woman in the 3rd millennium.”


Each of the nine concerts tells its own wordless tale, combining countless small stories, anecdotes and lyrical aperçus. The music dispenses with a linear narration; there are ruptures, parallel activities and changes in perspective. This is, if one wishes to put it that way, a postmodern music. Its heterogeneity and multi-layeredness cannot truly be represented through language.


In the sixth setsecond of three on this nightas in each of the nine performances, the game of transformations begins with a shared experience. The primary melody, performed by the entire ensemble, creates a group identity. In addition, the source material of composition 355 also constitutes a kind of collective memory for the ensemble. The musicians will occasionally return to it throughout the course of the concert, continue it, leave it again only to go back to it yet again at a later point. After some five minutes the predefined structures dissolve. A short phase of contemplation, as if the music was holding its breath, before new structures solidify. A gentle reminiscence to the primary melody here, a squeaking saxophone there, eruptive bass lines, followed by an mercurial sopranino solo by Braxton, whose intensity eventually transmits to the entire ensemble (a similar situation will arise near the end of the performance, but that time the group refuses to fall in with the torrential saxophone playing). Meanwhile, the 12(+1)tet has already divided itself into independent subgroupings which introduce older Braxton compositions into the performance. Then suddenly, the turbulent musical interaction breaks off. A rare moment of complete silence. After briefly catching its breath, the ensemble, first carefully then more decisively, reorganises itself. And this is only the beginning of a kaleidoscopic narrative that continues just as changeable and unpredictable as, well, life itself.


We have to thank the musicians of the 12(+1)tet for this brilliant realisation of Braxton’s complex musical concepts in New York. They have turned every performance into an event of almost unparalleled richness in subtle moods, surprising ideas and sound combinations, of rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic variability. Those who wish to delve more deeply into the substructures of composition 355 should occasionally focus on a single instrument, for example, the guitar. On the small stage at the Iridium Mary Halvorson was relegated to the second row. But that simply owed to the small space. In Braxton’s musical universe, hierarchical categories have become entirely meaningless. It is fascinating here to follow Halvorson as she veers away from the primary material at the beginning, keeps the music suspended, joins various duo and trio subgroupings, sometimes follows her own completely separate trajectory or occasionally submerges, only to reappear with new accents soon thereafter. And she is just one out of thirteen musicians responsible for the creative shaping of the whole. Thus, the 12(+1)tet realises within itself not only a musical but also a social utopia of equality, participation, and shared responsibility.


Timo Hoyer (translated by Jens Tilsner)


Timo Hoyer is a scholar working at the Sigmund-Freud-Institute in Frankfurt-am-Main and at the University of Kassel, and has written about Anthony Braxton for several German music magazines.

Composition No. 356 (Saturday, 3/18/06, 3rd set)


It’s Saturday, close to midnight, and we’re about to go on for the third set of the evening. Sure, three sets are a standard event in the club world, but in the world of Anthony Braxton, three sets in a night is a rare thing indeed. When the 12(+1)tet descended upon Times Square for this stay at the Iridium, I had been playing Anthony’s latest incarnation of the ghost trance musics for almost two and a half years. Never, during that time, had the magical hourglass been flipped more than twice in the same night.


Which is not to say that I didn’t know what would happen during this last set. I did. Well, as much as I do before any ghost trance performance.


Whether we perform in a small club in Manhattan or an outdoor amphitheatre in Portugal, the progression is the same: backstage, wild invoices for millions of dollars are invoked, potential erasures of a single instrument on the final recording discussed, white wine and smoke abound, and then a ramble onto the stage, stepping over piles of music, weaving between the countless instruments, big and small, that stand awaiting our arrival. After glancing for probably the second time at the 30 or so pages of music on the stand we eye Anthony, and wait for his raised thumb in the air and the wave of four conducting strokes: 1, 2, 3, 4….


On Saturday night at the Iridium, I had been preparing for this third set. I tried to save some energy for it, maybe looking to the ensemble during the first two sets to lean more into each other for inspiration. Not an unusual thing, but if we are going to be able to summon the concentration for reading through a third, highly complex composition, a dire necessity.


For the third set, I decided to come out swinging. You can put your own spin on the Ghost Trance written materials, and that set, my spin would be a rigorous one, on the attack. I am not sure whether I wanted to kick-start the ensemble with some fired-up energy or I just wanted to wake myself up for the long set, but I had a plan and I was going to stick with it. It turns out everyone else had a plan too. Anthony came roaring out of the first section of written material with a blistering growl solo. The rest of the ensemble also seemed more active, splitting off immediately into several discreet groupings: bass and sopranino, violin and flute, tuba and trombone.


The first half of the piece emerged as a largely active exploration of the GTM territory: layered ensemble sections, solo space, tertiary compositions and conducted improvisations. But it was loaded with a particular intensity. Every gesture, even the most delicate, could be heard. I remember thinking that the music was moving along almost by itself. Each player calling upon, of course, what the moment called for. Stepping forwards and backwards in a gentle choreography to shape a coherent structure.


It’s impossible to generalize about the form of the GTMs, but there is often a pause after the initial exposition where a stillness descends and the ensemble, thrust out of the momentum of their activities, must face up to their creative and physical fatigue and find something else to do. That Saturday night, our collective back against the wall, this stillness felt like a gift. At twenty-five minutes, with the bassoon and tuba teetering in the background we took up the stillness and caressed it. Instead of moving towards familiar territory we stepped out into the mystery of the music. For that moment, the piles of compositions, by now strewn about the stage, were not there. Neither were any of the other doubled instruments that made it impossible to move more than necessary. No. All we had was each other and the vibrations of music. And, on the other side of that moment, just four more conducting strokes in the air to count off the next section.


Aaron Siegel



Composition No. 357 (Sunday, 3/19/06, 1st set)


By the last night of the Anthony Braxton (12+1)tet concerts at the Iridium, it was clear that the ensemble had evolved. The ensemble had played nine sets over four nights! Seldom does a large ensemble get the opportunity to perform several consecutive shows in one venue. It is even rarer that one of Anthony’s larger groups gets the chance to perform in an extended run.


I find that a certain freedom arises when one has the opportunity to work on music over multiple performances. Suddenly, you are free to try whatever you imagine. You don‘t have to worry about an idea not working out exactly as you planned, because there will be another performance in which to try something else. This is especially true in Anthony’s music because there are so many possibilities at every moment of a tri-centric performance to try new strategies. In this instance, what resulted was an ensemble that morphed into a new entity every time we stepped on the stage.


Anthony has often referred to his music system itself as an entity with its own set of needs, desires, and intentions separate from one’s own. Each time we got on stage during the Iridium run, the living entity of Anthony’s system sprang into being as the ensemble collectively brought forth the latent possibilities in each set.


The (12+1)tet contains Braxton’s core Sextet as well as musicians who have been associated with Anthony in various other contexts. This was the first time Anthony’s new group played his most recent Accelerator/Whip Ghost Trance Music. By the third night, the ensemble was executing the technically challenging notated material impeccably. Rhythms bounced and shifted. The resulting chords popped out all over. This was possible because the ensemble’s musicians are all incredibly talented and aware, and the extended run gave the group the chance to really coalesce. The results were, to say the least, incredible.


By the time we performed Composition 357 on the last night, I found myself paying more attention to the notated material for a longer amount of time than I had before. In some ways, I had used my improvisational energies so much the previous nights that I desired to focus only on the primary notated material of 357. Fortunately, there was more than enough material for me to play from during the hour-long set. I was still able to branch out into improvisations and tertiary pieces, but my focus for the last two sets was on the primary material.


I could not conclude these brief notes without acknowledging all of the musicians who contributed to these very special sessions. I am privileged to have had the opportunity to perform with musicians of this caliber, and I cannot thank them enough for one of the most inspiring musical experiences of my life thus far. I look forward to many more chances to create with these beautiful people.


Carl Testa

Composition No. 358 (Sunday, 3/19/06, 2nd set)


Focus Become Commonplace over a Night

I love to hear music that has come to me over a night via a system of communication or communion through or by a place like the Iridium, on such a night as when the music becomes manifest and the music, as experienced, a great communicator. Time and sense reveal to the listener music messages that are really new to this world.


Anthony Braxton’s music is that regardless of what you say about it. It must strike your ears below the eardrums with the realization of new life, focusing new inspirations from the place of new sound and body near to cause and effect that was created by an absolute newness—of it. This is what Anthony Braxton’s performance was with his big band or ensemble there at the Iridium. This is talking about evolution—new perspective or old.


The music has opened a new perspective to me, for me. I now know what music in the future will mean for me. Anthony Braxton, his composing and playing, will bring new musical courage to musicians both old and new. This experience becomes more than a commonplace one.

Thank the musicians for their concepts and the instruments of their choice, also for the musical notes that they play on them. Anthony Braxton is also a great leader and a great instrumentalist. During his tenure at Wesleyan University, he’s instituted this new and great music in what must be in all forms. Concepts go somewhere or arrive in all new forms in this sense; concept or perspect does bridge other perspective forms. Through and over time, it is well understood as the phenomenality of new course.


One thing that I have learned is that this music is universal, embracing and embellishing new cultures, becoming one and the same with them to condition culture, what it has come to mean worldwide. Knowing this, our world has become this knowledge of brother-sisterhood with new conditioning and emotional theories bordering on international growth that understanding can meet understanding.


Henry Grimes


Henry Grimes is one of the great acoustic bassists in the history of the music know as “jazz”.


Uncle Nonpareil on Parade

Sing we fatherbrother Walt Whitman:


I sing the Body electric;

The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them;

they will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,

And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the Soul.”


So he knew you were coming, Anthony Braxton,

and this is the culmination:

spacewalking trudgery, elegant and frisky,

ever upward, ever conversatin’,

bubbling and churning, moonwalking caper-wise in tumultisonic disorder,

but all the while ears on the signal and getting there

and us along thank you thank you.


Trumpet fanfare thang,

drums the catapult engine up the mountain

tumbling the message like dice in a cup

describing / deciding our fate.

Avant guitar ((“Body electric we sing”)),

below the radar, scoping the terrain,

clear and steady, rain on stone

to wash away our sins

and for the rest to follow


She made it you can make it too


all cross the graveyard, we sing we sing we sing we

sing we fatherbrother Walt Whitman:

sing we master Ornette Coleman:


scampering towards night like tots in a playground let’s play pirates go for the sandbox the slide the slide no the sprinkler the pool the sandbox again NO BOYS ALOUD


Come to find


sound as round as planets in orbit

having an unconvention

(“strange mathematics rhythmic equations”)

Sun Ra sing we Sun Ra...


Who can tell you what we listeners found there at Iridium

(named for the meteorite element that extinguished the dinosaurs)

what we found there, what we learned there,

too beautiful to know:


that in the absence of dinosaurs

we lived to hear this

and in the absence of Jesus

in the presence of this music




born again.


(So pushing the penvelope this is my fanfare)


Margaret Davis


Margaret Davis is a New York City writer, musicians' advocate, and activist.


That Haunting Refrain

Back at the Iridium tonight for the final set of Anthony Braxton's Manhattan residency with his 12(+1)tet, Composition No. 358 filled the room with the sounds of surprise. During the course of an extended run by just about any band, you might anticipate a sense of routine to creep in by the end. Not so in this case; in fact, of the three sets I heard this weekend, this one was perhaps the most consistently unpredictable.


A lemon-frosting sweet-tart fundamental pulsation, sustained longer than those of the previous pieces I'd heard, elicited scorching solos by the leader, first on sopranino saxophone, then on alto. A lovely trio of sopranino and soprano saxophones was backed by plucked violin and bass strings, clattering metal percussion from Taylor Ho Bynum and Reut Regev, and Jay Rozen's buzzing pie-plate prepared tuba. An eruption from Bynum's muted trumpet and Nicole Mitchell's voice led to a busy viola solo by Jessica Pavone, chorused and contradicted by Sara Schoenbeck's bassoon and Mitchell's flute. Braxton, saxophonist James Fei and bassist Carl Testa reasserted the pulse, fought off by piercing stabs from Bynum and saxophonists Andrew Raffo Dewar and Steve Lehman. The burbling activity ceased, bringing on a magical, time-suspended interlude painted by long tones on bass flute, shenai, conch shell and overblown reeds, over which Braxton blew a lyrical alto soliloquy. After what felt like ages, multiple rhythm streams sprouted simultaneously, while Pavone and guitarist Mary Halvorson carried on a scratchy long-distance conversation in the background. Bynum's cornet danced with Mitchell's piccolo; Aaron Siegel's snare drum described one march, while Rozen and Regev offered another. Everything fell silent, save for a graceful dance by violin, flute and bassoon. Eventually, Lehman grew impatient with the unchallenged beauty, defacing its surface with his multiphonic snarl. Testa restored the pulse under an agitated alto solo by Braxton and an exuberant vocal outburst by Mitchell. As the ensemble piled on once more, Mitchell alternated between voice and flute. The big band dropped out, allowing a gossamer passage for violin, flute and bassoon that was soon challenged by bullying brass and guitar. As Pavone, Mitchell and Schoenbeck settled into a basic GTM pulse, Bynum signaled for an incursion by himself and Fei; when the trio abruptly ceased its statement, Bynum immediately called off his intended countermove. Braxton jumped in with a scabrous unaccompanied sopranino solo, which elicited the first mid-performance round of applause I'd witnessed.


New partnerships were still being forged during the home stretch: Lehman turned around to chat with Regev, while Schoenbeck found a hole through which she could link up with Halvorson. Brittle fanfares sounded out, ringing in the silences that followed. As the final grains of sand fell through the hourglass at mid-stage, Braxton signaled a unison conclusion, then ended the set as ever by hurriedly calling off a list of the performers' names, then dashing from the stage.


But tonight, unlike Thursday and Friday, the lusty ovation that followed the set actually brought Braxton back out to the stage, where he visibly—and movingly—exulted in the overwhelming feats that he and his colleagues had achieved. The band shared handshakes and hugs, and with that, this momentous engagement became history.


Steve Smith

Anthony Braxton is widely and critically acclaimed as a seminal figure in the music of the late 20th and early 21st century. His work, both as saxophonist and composer, has broken new conceptual and technical ground in the trans-African and trans-European (a.k.a. "jazz" and "American Experimental") musical traditions in North America; traditions defined by master improvisers such as Warne Marsh, John Coltrane, Paul Desmond, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, and Braxton and his own peers in the historic Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians; and by American composers such as Charles Ives, Harry Partch, and John Cage. Braxton has developed a unique and personal musical language through a synthesis of those American traditions with 20th-century European art music as defined by Schoenberg, Stockhausen, Xenakis, Varese and others. Braxton’s extensions of instrumental technique, timbre, meter and rhythm, voicing and ensemble make-up, harmony and melody, and improvisation and notation have revolutionized modern American music.


Braxton's five decades worth of recorded output is kaleidoscopic and prolific, with well over 150 recordings to his credit. He has won and continues to win prestigious awards and critical praise, including the MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship. Books, anthology chapters, scholarly studies, reviews and interviews and other media and academic attention to him and his work have also accumulated steadily and increasingly throughout the years. His own self-published writings about the musical traditions from which he works and their historical and cultural contexts (Tri-Axium Writings 1-3) and his five-volume Composition Notes A-E are unparalleled by artists from the oral and unmatched by those in the literate tradition.


Braxton is a tenured professor at Wesleyan University, one of the world's centers of world music. His teaching career began at Mills College in Oakland, California, and has become as much a part of his creative life as his own work. It includes training and leading performance ensembles and private tutorials in his own music, computer and electronic music, and history courses in the music of his major musical influences, from the Western Medieval composer Hildegard von Bingen to contemporary masters like Cage and Coleman.


Braxton's name continues to stand for the broadest integration of oft-conflicting poles in the current cultural debates about the nature and place of the Western and African-American musical traditions in America, poles such as “creative freedom” and “responsibility”, discipline and energy, and vision of the future and respect for tradition. The music of his newest ensembles brings to that debate a voice that is fresh and strong, still as creative as ever even as it takes on the authority of a seasoned master. 2005 was a watershed year, as Braxton celebrated his 60th birthday and the AACM celebrated its 40th anniversary, and in performances throughout the world, Braxton was again recognized as one of the preeminent figures in contemporary creative music.


Website: www.anthonybraxton.com

Online discography: available at www.restructures.net.

Taylor Ho Bynum is a performer on cornet and various brass instruments, composer and bandleader. Born in 1975, Bynum was raised in Boston and presently resides in Brooklyn. His projects cover a wide range of artistic expression: from ensembles in the jazz tradition, to work with DJs, contemporary classical composers and world music ensembles, to composing for film and theater, to collaborations with dancers and visual artists. He presently leads his Trio, his Sextet, and the nine-piece ensemble SpiderMonkey Strings, and has developed a body of solo music for cornet and duo work with dancer/choreographer Rachel Bernsen. Bynum's recent CD with SpiderMonkey Strings, Other Stories (Three Suites), was described as “the best album of the year” (All About Jazz) and “beautiful music and challenging throughout” (The Wire). In addition to leading his own groups, Bynum regularly performs with some of the most innovative figures in creative music, such as Anthony Braxton and Cecil Taylor. He is featured on over thirty recordings, and has performed throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. His work with Anthony Braxton spans over ten years and ranges from duo to orchestra, with several recent tours and recordings. Their CD Duets (Wesleyan) 2002 received wide critical acclaim.


Selected recordings: Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings, Other Stories (Three Suites) (482 Music, 2005); Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet, The Middle Picture (Firehouse 12 Records, 2007).

Website: www.taylorhobynum.com.


Andrew Raffo Dewar (b. 1975 Rosario, Argentina) is a composer, improviser, woodwind instrumentalist and ethnomusicologist. Since 1995, he has been active in the music communities of Minneapolis, New Orleans, the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City, performing his work in North America, Southeast Asia and Europe. He has had the good fortune to study and make music with saxophonist/composers Steve Lacy, Anthony Braxton and Phillip Greenlief, composer Alvin Lucier, trumpeter/composer Bill Dixon and improviser Milo Fine. He has also had a long involvement with Indonesian traditional and experimental music. As a composer, Dewar's music has been performed by the Flux Quartet (NYC), Sekar Anu (Indonesia), the Koto Phase ensemble (USA/Japan) and the XYZ composer collective (NYC). He has received grants from Arts International and Meet The Composer to support this work. As a scholar, his work focuses on musical experimentalism in different sites, from the Indonesian archipelago to the work of trumpeter/composer Bill Dixon and seminal electronic music group the Sonic Arts Union.


Website: www.freemovementarts.com.


James Fei (b. Taipei, Taiwan) moved to the US in 1992 to pursue a degree in electrical engineering. He has since been active as a composer and performer on saxophones and live electronics. Works by Fei have been performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble, MATA Micro Orchestra and Noord-Hollands Philharmonisch Orkest. Recordings can be found on Leo Records, Improvised Music from Japan, CRI, Krabbesholm and Organized Sound. In addition to performing in his own ensembles (Alto Quartet, Proun Space, Sieves), Fei also creates sound installations and teaches experimental music and intermedia. Fei joined the faculty of Mills College in 2006.


Selected Recordings: Alto Quartets (Organized Sound Recordings 4); Sieves (with Kato Hideki) (Improvised Music from Japan IMJ-522).

Website: www.jamesfei.com.


Mary Halvorson is a guitarist, composer and improviser living in Brooklyn. She grew up in Boston and studied jazz at Wesleyan University and the New School. Since 2000 she has been performing regularly in New York with various groups and has toured Europe and the U.S. with the Anthony Braxton Quintet and Trevor Dunn’s Trio-Convulsant. She has also performed alongside Joe Morris, Nels Cline, John Tchicai, Elliott Sharp, Lee Ranaldo, Andrea Parkins, Tony Malaby, Oscar Noriega and John Hollenbeck. Current projects that Mary composes for and performs with include a chamber-music duo with violist Jessica Pavone and the avant-rock band People. She also performs regularly in ensembles led by Taylor Ho Bynum, Ted Reichman, Peter Evans, Tatsuya Nakatani, Jason Cady, Matthew Welch, Brian Chase and Curtis Hasselbring.


Selected Recordings: Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone, Prairies (Lucky Kitchen, 2005); People, People (I & Ear, 2005).

Website: www.maryhalvorson.com.


Steve Lehman (b. New York City, 1978) is a composer, performer, educator, and scholar who works across a broad spectrum of experimental musical idioms. Lehman's pieces for large orchestra and chamber ensembles have been performed by the Janacek Philharmonic, members of Ensemble 21 and Ensemble Sospeso, and by the pianist Marilyn Nonken. An alto and sopranino saxophonist, Lehman has performed and recorded nationally and internationally with his own ensembles and with those led by Anthony Braxton, Dave Burrell, Mark Dresser, Vijay Iyer, Oliver Lake, and Meshell Ndegeocello. His work has received critical acclaim in publications such as The Wire, The New York Times, and Downbeat Magazine, and on National Public Radio. As a Fulbright scholar in France during the 2002-2003 academic year, Lehman was invited to teach a weekly undergraduate course on current trends in improvised music at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris. His recent article in the academic journal Critical Studies in Improvisation, "I Love You with an Asterisk: African- American Experimental Music and the French Jazz Press, 1970-1980" is based on his Fulbright Research. Lehman is currently a doctoral candidate in Music Composition at Columbia University where he is a departmental fellow.


Selected Recordings: Demian as Posthuman (Pi Recordings 17); Interface (Clean Feed Records 22).

Website: www.stevelehman.com.


Nicole Mitchell is one of few African American women to take the path as a creative instrumentalist, composer and bandleader. Her life is dedicated to sharing the spiritual power of music in an effort to create visionary worlds and to bring healing. She has been a highlight at art venues and festivals throughout Europe and Canada. Co-president of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Nicole Mitchell explores new sounds and creative techniques as a flutist and as a composer. She has performed with creative luminaries including George Lewis, Miya Masaoka, Lori Freeman and Muhal Richard Abrams. Mitchell also works on ongoing projects with Hamid Drake, David Boykin, Ed Wilkerson, Dee Alexander, Rob Mazurek and Avreeayl Ra. Mitchell was charted #1 in Downbeat magazine Critics’ Poll for Rising Star Flutist 2006. Black Earth Ensemble (BEE), Black Earth Strings (BES), and Harambee Project, all founded by Mitchell, are forums for her compositions and creative vision. Nicole Mitchell is also a recipient of the Illinois Arts Council fellowship for music composition (2005, 2002). Her piece "Dream Deferred for piano" inspired by Robert Shumann's "Scenes from Childhood," premiered at Ravinia in September 2006. As an educator, Mitchell has also done a variety of residencies, workshops and panel discussions in Europe, Canada and the U.S. with a focus on creative music.


Selected Recordings: Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble, Hope, Future and Destiny (Dreamtime Records); Nicole Mitchell, Ed Wilkerson, Harrison Bankhead, Avreeayl Ra, Frequency (Thrill Jockey).

Website: www.nicolemitchell.com.

New York native Jessica Pavone is a string instrumentalist and composer based in Brooklyn, NY. She studied Viola Performance and Music Education at the Hartt School of Music, improvisation with Leroy Jenkins, viola with Victoria Chiang and Midhat Serbagi, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Music Composition at Brooklyn College where she was awarded the Cerf Scholarship in Music. She presently performs as a violist in a collaborative duo with guitarist Mary Halvorson, tours Europe and the United States with The Anthony Braxton Sextet, leads her own ensemble, thepavones, consisting of a horn and rhythm section that is dedicated to performing her works as well as her arrangements of classic soul songs, improvises with Imaginary Folk and The Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet, and plays bass guitar with the bands Minnows and Jason Cady & the Artificials. As a composer, she has received commissions to write chamber music for The Eastern Winds and Till by Turning. As an instrumentalist, she has interpreted new music by composers such as Anthony Braxton, Glenn Branca, Amnon Wolman, David Grubbs, Butch Morris, Matthew Welch, Matana Roberts, James Fei, Matt Bauder, Aaron Siegel, Evan Hause, Kevin O'Neil, and Andrew Raffo Dewar. Since 2000, she has documented her music via her self-run label Peacock Recordings, which was recently awarded a grant from The Aaron Copland Fund for Music Recording Program.


Selected Recordings: Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone, Prairies (Lucky Kitchen); Jessica Pavone: 27 Epigrams (Peacock).

Website: www.jessicapavone.com.

Reut Regev, trombonist, composer, and educator, was born and raised in Israel. Since arriving in New York City in 1998 Reut has taken part in various musical projects, playing jazz, Latin music, contemporary classical, world music and much more. She has worked with Butch Morris, Mark Helias, Eddie Bobè, Reggie Nicholson, Dave Douglas, Rasul Siddik, Billy Bang, Frank London, among many other great musicians. Throughout the years Reut has also led many projects of her own or co-led with her husband, drummer Igal Foni, including her current project R*TIME. Reut Regev was awarded the title "Best new talent of 2004" by All About Jazz Magazine. “Funk-driven trombonist Reut Regev could signal the beginnings of the jazz equivalent of alternative rock's Riot Grrrl phenomenon of the early 1990's” (New York Times).


Website: www.reutregev.com


Tubist/Composer/Improviser Jay Rozen studied at Ithaca College, Yale University and the University of North Texas. From 1977-1980, he was the principal tubist with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. During his Texas Years (1984-1999), he performed regularly with the Creative Opportunity Orchestra (jazz ensemble), the Capitol of Texas Brass Quintet, the Austin Klezmorim and the European Tuba Quartet. Rozen has performed at such eclectic venues as the Bang-on-a-Can Marathon in New York and the Zappanale Festival in Germany. A long-time champion of new music, Mr. Rozen has had works written for him by many composers, including Virgil Thomson and David Lang. He is a published composer and arranger, and has appeared on many CDs, including his own Killer Tuba Songs and David Lang’s Are You Experienced, on which he plays the electric-tuba. Since moving to New York in 1999, he has played with the Orchestra of the SEM Ensemble, the Long Island BrassWorks, his tuba trio THREE and the Lennon/Tabacco/Zappa Band with Frank Zappa’s sister Candy. He has also performed with such jazz luminaries as Ray Anderson, Charli Persip, Hamiett Bluiett, Wadada Leo Smith, Butch Morris and Burton Greene, among others. Jay currently plays in The PJs with clarinetist Perry Robinson and drummer Jay Rosen as well as the Anthony Braxton Sextet and Twelvetet.


Sara Schoenbeck is a bassoonist who dedicates herself to expanding the sound and role of the bassoon in the worlds of contemporary notated and improvised music. The Wire magazine places her in the “tiny club of bassoon pioneers” at work in contemporary music today and the New York Times has called her "riveting, mixing textural experiments with a big, confident sound." Sara currently is a member of Vinny Golia’s Large Ensemble, Wayne Horvitz’s Gravitas Quartet, Anthony Braxton (12+1)tet, Adam Rudolph’s Go Organic Orchestra, the contemporary music group Ensemble Green, and Dakah Hip Hop Orchestra. She has also shared the stage with many luminaries such as Yusef Lateef, Fred Frith, John Butcher, Gino Robair, Mark Dresser, Pauline Oliveros, Wadada Leo Smith and Nels Cline. Sara spends most of her time in Los Angeles where she has been adjunct faculty at the California Institute of the Arts teaching improvisation for bassoonists. She records for television, movies and limited release projects, performs regularly throughout North America and Europe, and has been featured in articles for the Los Angeles Times and Windplayer magazine.


Selected Recordings: Gravitas Quartet, Way Out East (Songlines); Tiner Phillips, Sara Schoenbeck, Breathe In, Feed Out (pfmenutm).

Website: www.myspace.com/saraschoenbeck.


Composer/Percussionist Aaron Siegel lives in Brooklyn, NY where he produces concert events involving his own compositions as well as the works of other members of the experimental arts community. His work ranges from solo compositions and chamber music to improvised ensembles and collaborative theater pieces. The Cabinet, Siegel’s solo percussion CD, is available on Longbox Recordings. He has released limited edition CDs of his electronic music including Rooms and Spaces and Sounding Place. Forthcoming are two new recordings: one of chamber works on Brooklyn-based Peacock Records, and the other on 482 Music featuring Memorize the Sky, a collaboration with reedist Matt Bauder and bassist Zach Wallace.


Website: www.aaronsiegel.net.


Carl Testa (b. 1984) is a composer, improviser, bassist and bass clarinetist. A native of Chicago, Illinois, he presently resides in New Haven, CT, with his wife, vocalist Anne Rhodes. While in Chicago, he attended the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) School of Music, where he studied with Ernest Dawkins, Mwata Bowden, Avreeayl Ra, Ann Ward and Steve Berry. He also performed regularly with Ernest Dawkins, Aaron Getsug, Isaiah Spencer, Stephen Ptacek, and Will Faber. In 2002, he moved to Middletown, CT to study music and sociology at Wesleyan University, where he performed regularly with Aaron Siegel, Angela Opell, Anne Rhodes, Andrew Raffo Dewar, Gergely Kiss, Daniel Raimi, and many others. He graduated from Wesleyan in 2006. He currently tours with the Anthony Braxton Sextet and (12+1)tet. His current compositional focus is on small clarinet ensembles and electronics.


Website: www.carltesta.net.