Courtesy of Anthony Braxton
CHAT WITH ANTHONY BRAXTON
Puccini's Tosca, the lead heroine sings "Vissi d'arte" in the
second act. It is with passion and anguish then that the audience understands
the opera singer Floria Tosca is asking the heavens why she has suffered
so much for her art when she has devoted herself entirely to music. "Vissi
d'arte" rings closely to my soul because I know artists suffer. I
know jazz artists suffer in great numbers. And I know Anthony Braxton
suffers. What I did not know was to what degree. Anthony Braxton has suffered
greatly for his art. He has truly in every sense of the word suffered
for his art. This comes as profound sadness and great sorrow as Braxton
is one of the most profound and eloquent artists of my time. As I was
too young to witness first hand the immortality of John Coltrane and have
been relegated to gathering loose second hand recordings in a feeble attempt
to understand, Braxton, through his extensive documentations has left
a legacy that is a lifetime's worth of licorice vinyl. As with seemingly
everything these days, there is controversy. Some fail to even consider
him and ignore entirely his contributions to the lore of the music. Through
all this, Braxton has suffered. This Fireside was two years in the making.
Braxton spoke candidly about his art and why it has not been as warmly
received as those of his peers, the loss of his family, and of his daily
struggle to live. And through our conversation, I have learned that Anthony
Braxton is "vissi d'arte." I am honored to bring an intimate
portrait of one of the greatest composers of my time, unedited and in
his own words.
BRAXTON: Before we begin, Fred, let me say thank you for wanting to do
this. Thank you for holding in there for this last month. In fact, this
time period has been a period that I refer to as a period in exile for
me. That is to say, in many ways, in the last five, ten years, it has
become necessary for me to back up a bit and continue to pursue my effort,
this project that I've been working on for the last thirty five years.
So I'm grateful to have an opportunity to talk to you about it and thank
you for your interest in my work, Fred.
JUNG: You have been one of the preeminent voices in a generation, yet
mainstream notoriety has been elusive to you. And these self-imposed exiles
only further alienate you from the media's eye.
BRAXTON: More and more, it became clear to me, Fred, in seeking to understand
myself and the kind of so called music career experience that I've had,
that I found myself very much aware that my life and my work was a trans-idiomatic
phenomenon as opposed to a ethnic-centric or a political-centric or classical
or trans-Western art music, etc. phenomenon. More and more, with a move
towards the third millennium, it would become apparent to me that the
hopes I had and the hopes of many of my colleagues, as far as the hope
of transformation with respect to the position of our work re-solidified
into some broader context that could in some way fulfill the hopes we
had in the time period of the Sixties, given the inheritance we were given.
It became clear to me when, what I call the jazz business complex would
reconfirm the antebellum components, setting up the proposition that we
find ourselves dealing with in this time period, where in many ways, this
time era, from my perspective, can be viewed as not separate from the
opening gamut movements to the modern era. And so a move back then would
involve understanding more and more that yes, I could think where the
jazz business complex would not see my work as being correct for jazz.
I could see where the African-American nationalist sector would feel a
mistrust in my direction. I reacted a long time ago against jazz and the
component of the Democratic Party and while I've always tried to respect
the Christians, my effort was always tri-centric. A guy like me could
not necessarily be acceptable to the components, which were coming together
to define what this time period would be about and yet, I must say hurray
for the Creator. I thank the Creator of the universe to have discovered
the discipline of music was the greatest gift that I could have been given,
the possibility to be a student working in the world of sonic imagery
is more than what I could have ever dreamed or hoped for. And so a period
in exile for me is not a negative component, but rather an opportunity
to continue my work based on what's possible. I've only tried to work
with what is possible. From the beginning, I most certainly was open to
having success. I most certainly wanted to be successful in the way the
concept is classically defined. Only later would it become apparent that
if I were to pursue my effort in the way I defined it, than I would have
to build another structure that would grant me the right to continue my
work as a human being, born in this most incredible time period with universal
assumptions and the opportunity to be a part of trans-centric model constructs
that will support the entry into the third millennium. So, yes, I am in
the underground, but actually, it feels like home, Fred.
In a time when people eat cheese from a can, is the advanced citizenship
of your music too complex?
BRAXTON: Thank you for your question. In my opinion, I believe my work,
for whatever reason, in some way, has, I am viewed as the Negro who has
gone outside of the categories assigned to me. My work was not idio-centric,
in a way, where I could be of value to the forces, which are rebuilding
components in this time period. This is true for the African-American
antebellum traditionalist's sentiments who have always mistrusted me and
I can respect that. But at the same time, we're talking now about an effort
that is thirty-five to forty years and the isolation that I have experienced
is not unique when I think of the great work of Leroy Jenkins, the great
work of Henry Threadgill, the great work of Connie Crothers. So, no, the
jazz people couldn't use a guy like me because my work doesn't come separate
from defined components, including defined documentation about the systemic
components of my experience and finally, the transient implications of
my system. It is not the kind of thing that the jazz structure is prepared
to deal with. If I would say, "Swing baby, swing and burn it up,"
then there would be room for a guy like me. Let me back up, Fred. For
instance, if I would write a piece of music and celebrate the law of forces
or all the complexities, it might be possible to have my work embraced.
But my work is a tri-centric effort. My work is not simply about a composition.
For the last thirty-five years, I've worked to build tri-centric thought
unit that demonstrate architectonic logic experiences and finally, that
demonstrate ritual and ceremonial compositions. So the jazz community
is really the quadrant in my opinion that could be dying a viewpoint of
participation that can be, I don't want to say manipulated because anything
can be manipulated, but that makes sense to the Christian constructualists,
whether we're talking of efforts to have the Bush administration work
with the Black church. We've seen this in Reconstruction. The profound
disadvantages and the separation that's happening now on a global level
between the rich and the poor and the role of multi-national structures
inside of that and then, switching from there to the so called entertainment
industry and the zones which are set up that decide which people are going
to be successful and from what terms. So if I say, "Swing baby, swing,"
what I'm really doing, in my opinion, is conforming to the most basic
constructs that would underline the modern era anyway. One, the Europeans
are responsible for all the high level restructural information of humanity
and the polarity of that proposition is that African Americans have such
special rhythms and have the ability to play the blues. In other words,
we have this special feeling and of course, the African American community
believes that. But that's a racist assumption, the assumption that someone's
rhythm is more superior than someone else's rhythm. But these are the
tradeoff assumptions. So if I would talk the antebellum psychologies and
portray myself as a victim on the bi-plane, then it might be possible
to be given a hearing, which I would blow. In the end, all a guy can ask
for is a hearing. In the end, I've gone through thirty-five years of reacting
to these variables only to discover that in my isolation that actually
life is not so bad, that in fact, I've been fortunate to discover something
that I could give myself to and in the end, one has to do one's work and
try to advance to whatever degree if possible. Obviously, Fred, I have
reconciled myself with the Metropolitan Opera.
There is polarity between Black musicians who only hold fast to Black
composers, Ellington and Monk, and white Euro-centric musicians who find
solidarity with European stalwarts, Webern and Stockhausen. You've been
a thinking man's improviser by not denying the validity of any music,
assuming openness translates into academia.
BRAXTON: Thank you for your question, Fred. I see my work as part of the
opportunities that opened up in the time period of the 1960s. That opportunity
involved trans-idiomatic experiences. By trans-idiomatic experiences in
this context, I'm saying, when I think about the time period in the Sixties,
I think about the great work of John Coltrane that demonstrated one form
of modeling. I think of the great experience of Charlie Mingus, who demonstrated
another unique aspect of modeling, musics which changed speeds, suites,
double compositions. Mingus was incredible. I think of the great work
of Sun Ra, who demonstrated composite aesthetics. For myself, I was very
connected to Karlheinz Stockhausen, but I was also connected to Penderecki
and the great percussive work of Spike Jones, which we have all forgotten
about. I believe that one of the central challenges of the time period
of the 1960s that the Association for the Advancement of Musicians (AACM)
would react to would be the challenge of trans-idiomatic psychology, the
challenge of new formal constructs that would take into account composite
reality. And so, when I think of the jazz business complex and what has
become the race business, we're talking of ethnic-centric parameters constructed
as a way to contain the components of the phenomenon at the expense of
the tri-phenomenon. So suddenly, Coltrane solos become the "it"
of music, when in fact, the records and the notated solos are the sonic
footprints, the bone structure of what actually happened in the music.
But now, we are seeing the techno-crafts take the stuff of the music and
recast that on the second plane saying the actual notes are the music,
when in fact, the system that I've been working on is not a Pythagorean
affair. It's a tri-centric affair. Any real attempt to examine the undercomponents
of world creativity would find a composite demonstration of formal qualities.
So this is why we're seeing in this time period, a big surprise, "Oh,
we're not seeing creativity." Now the jazz business complex finds
themselves unhappy. In fact, young people at most universities have grown
up through the methods of many of my colleagues who have written their
arpeggiations and exercises as an example of what that music was creating
a generation and two generations of young people who can play Coltrane
solos better than Coltrane, even play Mr. Coltrane's mistakes under the
guise that this is jazz. But in fact, Fred, the reduction of the aesthetic
parameters of the music would recast the aesthetics and in my opinion,
shift the focus to the wonder of the techno-craft, to the wonder of the
craftsmen, which of course is important. I for one have always embraced
trans-temporality tradition, present time and future as one unit in the
system that I'm working on. It's only with the separation of the re-structural
musics that we find the body drawing on itself. In every other discipline,
in every other community, re-structural exams and innovation is taken
What was the mission statement of the AACM?
BRAXTON: Thank you for these questions, Fred. I'm blown away. OK, yes,
the AACM, the thing I think is most important for one to know about the
AACM is the AACM was comprised of a group of men and women who were the
believers and by believers in this context, I'm saying in the time period
of the middle Sixties, it is important to remember that the last time
I saw John Coltrane at the Plugged Nickel, the club had like ten, fifteen
people and most of the people were from the AACM. People were leaving
in droves. The arguments from the Fifties again would be the polarity
arguments that would resurface in the Sixties. In the Fifties, it was
presented as hard bop on one end. On the other end, you had like Lou Donaldson
or Horace Silver playing the more funky musics. In the Sixties, you had
the fusion or whatever. The AACM, what made the AACM special in my opinion,
was that the musicians were open to the great work of Albert Ayler, were
open to the great work of Sun Ra, that the membership was very excited
about the changes that were taken place in the music and did not greet
those changes from the perspective of is this guy a good technician? Is
he the best technician on his instrument? Is this how Louis Armstrong
would have done it? Let me be clear here. When I think of the great work
of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, I think of Lester Bowie, Leo Smith,
and Muhal Richard Abrams as three of the main guys in the Sixties who
talked about the importance of those guys to everyone who would listen.
So the AACM was not a reaction to the tradition in the sense of feeling
that we hated Louis Armstrong or we hated New Orleans or we hated Kansas
City. It was an affirmation of the musics of the trans-distances of the
music. It was an attempt to solidify the music and to respond to the vibrational
challenge of that time period, the vibrational challenge being the future,
the hope of the future. That time period, the time period of the Sixties
was very complex and extreme in some ways and yet at the same time, the
AACM would demonstrate a union of men and women were one. No one tried
to tell the other what to think. It was a multiple hierarchical psychology
taking place. Two, the AACM was a spiritual union that genuflected in
the direction of the East before every meeting. The organization was not
perceived as a bi-plane political operative, but rather a collective where
we can begin to re-evaluate the components of our situation. We evaluate
the great work of Scott Joplin and in case of a guy like myself, I wanted
the right to listen to whatever I wanted to listen to and to integrate
whatever I wanted to integrate. As far as I'm concerned, the AACM demonstrated
a model of what I call the "house of music" on the tri-plane
in a way that would set the direction of my life. This would become, for
me, the most significant gathering of musicians of its kind historically.
This would be like a poignant definition in the evolution of the music.
So to now have that organization or the information that has come through
that organization kicked to the side and to have total disrespect for
restructural development is a far out position, especially in the context
of everything else on the planet, everything else in terms of forces which
are redefining themselves, can be observed on any plane.
Are you a revisionist?
BRAXTON: No, that is not correct. I have just wanted to do my work. I
wanted to have the right of definition. The right of definition in my
opinion was part of what that struggle was at the time period, the Sixties.
You remember, Fred, it was in the Fifties when John Cage did his Three
Minutes and Thirty-Three Seconds (Four Minutes, Thirty-Three Seconds),
the composition with no actual notes. In the time period of the Sixties,
I wanted the right to do what I wanted to do with my own definitions.
I wanted the right to define a proposition that would make sense for me
based on the experiences I was having. So revisionism, the word revisionism
doesn't take into account all the components. In a way, everything has
to be revived because I believe the third millennium will be a trans-ethnocentric
thought unit anyway. It won't be only Africa. It won't be only Europe.
It won't be only Asia. In the system that I have been working on, it is
a system that celebrates a mediation and meditation, one, two, the rational
polarity and three, the instinct and instinctual and intuitive mechanisms.
I felt that the time period of the Sixties was a time period where a fresh
platform of definitions could come together. What I wanted for myself
was to build a music then that would respond to composite reality because
it was becoming very clear that we had already arrived at a point where
it was very clear to me listening to Boulez, Stockhausen and Cage that
it wasn't that different from what Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman
were doing, but rather than celebrate the similarities and differences,
the problem has always been the right of a guy like me to have a thought
to begin with, not that they disagreed with my thought, but my right to
even have a thought. So the time period of the Sixties was a time period
where people would fight for the right of definition and go from that
point to build a kind of model or have a kind of experience that respected
a set of definitions that made sense.
Why is it that a white man striving for individuality is perceived as
being liberal, but a Black man is termed radical or revolutionary?
BRAXTON: You put your finger right on it, Fred. I turn on the television
set sometimes and they are talking about Silicon Valley. The guys are
saying that they have these sessions where they just kind of get together
and push ideas around and we're changing these models, we're doing this
and we're doing that. Suddenly they switch to Bill Gates or any of the
visionaries who've become very successful. They talk about whatever they've
come up with. Yes, it is always received on the level that it is intended
in the sense that this is something that can be considered, accepted or
rejected, but it is something that can be considered. For instance, when
Lee Konitz in Wire magazine went to put me down, me didn't say, "I
don't like what Braxton's doing." No, the first thing he made sure
to do was undermine my credentials. "Oh, he isn't qualified."
"Oh, he made a technical mistake." So the question then is not
what Braxton is doing, but suddenly I am operating from this deficit.
This has been the game that has been played against guys like me from
every sector. The Lincoln Center sector says, "Oh, well, he doesn't
play the blues." What they are really saying is the he doesn't have
the kind of idiomatic psychology that we can see as playing ball in a
way where this guy doesn't have to be challenged, not to mention, what
we have here is a profound myth understanding in my opinion of the whole
blues tradition. I trace these understandings to Mr. Albert Murray and
The psychology of failure and the stereotypes of poverty are not easy
obstacles to overcome. A Black man moving into white suburbia is going
to raise just as many eyebrows from the white folks as it would from Blacks.
BRAXTON: That's right because most African Americans, especially the men
and women from my generation, would accept the nationalist gambit that
says only European Americans can be racists, which is an interesting gambit.
Normally, the African American nationalist sector says anything you can
do, I can do better. I would think that the African American nationalists
would think we could be much greater racists than the Europeans could
ever be, but no, in the Sixties, we would also see a sector that would
seek to redefine components in a way that would be equal to the misdefinitions
of the Europeans or at least a misuse of the trans-European information.
So, yes, more and more, I would find myself backing away from all of the
"isms," all of the communities. I have always been able to be
misused by every community (laughing). But that is OK. I would rather
be misused than neglected (laughing).
FJ: The jazz community places too great an importance on technical ability,
that in order for one's statement to hold any validity, one has to be
technically proficient on their instrument.
BRAXTON: I agree with you completely, Fred. If you go back to the time
period of the Sixties, I think, for me, what was most apparent was that
for the musicians who were technically advanced, who had evolved themselves
in a way where one would have the hope something fresh was going to happen,
in many cases, those individuals would not be the individuals whose work
would change the language. The challenge of that change in many cases
was born through musicians whose technically abilities were different.
I define different as not inferior. I define technique as how a person
does what that person does or how something happens. Technique doesn't
have anything to do with the way it's being used in this time period.
Technique or the subject of race, all of these end up being used as political
weapons. So suddenly you have a guy who is very technical and can play
"Giant Steps" in twelve different keys. I remember when I learned
"Giant Steps" in twelve different keys and then you go out to
the clubs and what do the guys call? "Blues in B Flat" and "I
Remember April," but that's OK. You can find a group of guys to get
together and play "Giant Steps" among yourselves in twelve different
keys. If that gives you pleasure, that's great, but the subject of technical
dynamics and the subject of dynamic creativity and focus is two different
Writers rarely understand the music they are writing about. It is a blue
moon to find one who can articulate sound into words. Writers depict your
music in mathematical terms, only adding to the confusion and alienating
the listening public.
BRAXTON: I am most certainly interested in architectonic targets and the
question of identity. The reality of music structure cannot be divorced
from mathematics. By mathematics, in many cases, my enemies or my opponents
are focusing more on the vibrational spirit of the connection and to use
that as a tool to challenge whether or not it's valid on some level or
not. My point is this, Fred. Albert Ayler was a mathematician. Cecil Taylor
is a mathematician in the sonic space. At the same time, we tend to, when
we think of the subject of mathematics, we tend to think only of certain
methodologies or parameters. At the same time, Berg would apply the twelve-tone
technique very different from Arnold Schonberg. It is really just a question
in my opinion of allowing for diversity in the various quadrants and idioms
and suddenly, some of these questions would be answered even before they're
asked. Is my interest in mathematics healthy or not healthy? I don't have
the slightest idea, Fred, but I will say this much. I am interested in
the study of music and the discipline of music and the experience of music
and music as a esoteric mechanism to continue my real intentions. Mathematics,
the application of mathematics on the bi-plane would be a narrow interpretation
of my processes.
There must be a plague of narrow mindedness going around then since your
recorded productivity is more than that of Coltrane, Coleman, and Ayler
Well, I thank you for that, Fred. That helps me, especially since tomorrow,
I will be completely out of money and I'm going around trying to borrow
money from my friends to get my car started, so let me say, thank you
very much, Mr. Jung. This keeps me going. In fact, I've been very fortunate.
I've discovered something that I love and I've tried to stay with it.
My music system for me is an extension of model railroad set. It's an
extension of my love of TV cameras and TV network systems. It's an extension
of my love for melody. It is an extension of my love for poetic space.
Five point five billion dollars would be maybe asking for too much. Nobody
has everything in their life. But I'm glad or at least, I feel fortunate
to know at fifty-six, that there is a small group around the planet who
can hear my work and I'm happy about that. That means that my effort is
not in total isolation. I never meant for it to be esoteric in the sense
of not something that a broader sector of the public could relate to.
I was only trying to do my work in the way of my heroes and role models.
So at fifty-six to have discovered that there does seem to be a small
group of people who are interested, that is great for me. That is all
I could ask for. So, yes, in many ways, I feel like the luckiest guy on
FJ: With that level of productivity comes the flipside of that coin. Do
you fear being a jack of many trades and master of none?
BRAXTON: Well, I've tried to define my experience in a way where it could
give me maximum possibilities for learning and exploring. I wanted a system
that would be equal to the dynamics of curiosity. I wanted to have a music
where I could have some fun. And I wanted to build a system that would
give me the possibility to keep adding to it. I feel one quality of the
third millennium will be structural mechanisms that contain internal intelligences
that can be experienced like a sonic amusement park of twelve different
territories where the friendly experiencer, single or group tours, can
come into this space and have an experience on the tri-plane involving
opportunities to walk into the middle of an opera and take on the role
of one of the characters or interact with the character involving time
and space mechanisms that will give the possibilities to have images,
holographic images superimposed in the real time space and look for transient
portal strategies. I believe that the coming time cycle promises to be
totally dynamic. The system that I'm trying to build will be a system
that will connect into the internet, that will give three dimensional
image logic propositions where in the future it won't be about the listeners
in the audience and the musicians on the stage, but rather, a composite
time-area-space experience platform where people can come and have fun
and get involved in the improvisation and have all kind of different actions
taking place in the space. I believe that some aspect of this quality
is going to be a component of the third millennium.
FJ: Should music be defined and more importantly, can it be defined?
BRAXTON: I don't know, Fred. For me, at this point in my life, when I
try to understand, when I look at questions like this, more and more,
I find it hard to differentiate the differences between what we call music
and what we call not music. In fact, more and more, I find myself thinking
that my interests can't be spoken of in the domain of music and music
experience, but actually, I was interested in sonic distribution and experience
as part of a holistic component. So the word music itself in some ways
is a limitation because my interest from the beginning has been, I wanted
to live. I wanted to be alive. This experience goes by very quickly. Part
of the radiance of a moment, in my opinion, involves that which we call
music. You're talking to a person and you both come to a vibration where
you understand something and someone smiles. That's music. You're walking
down the street and the sun comes up and no matter how bad things are,
at least you're not Timothy McVeigh. The word music is a convenient way
to talk about what I'm interested in, but actually, in some ways, it's
FJ: Describe it in your own words.
BRAXTON: Well, at this point, I see my work as in a cull position. For
instance, to deal with you're question I would say that I am interested
in creative music, universal creative music, or American creative music,
America i.e. universal. But actually, what would I really say? I'm looking
for a way through life. Now the aesthetics base of my system is navigation
through form. I'm looking to try to be positive, try to be grateful for
the fact that this is happening, try to put out a viewpoint that makes
sense to my experience, understanding too that I've made so many mistakes
in my life that I'm a lucky guy to be alive. I'm grateful to have a chance
to still be alive. So what would I call my position? I don't know. I would
call it the other or the opportunity, the experience of opportunity. Yes,
I would build a system that respected an opportunity and in the end, you
have come to see the aesthetic components of my work as a cull, in the
sense that with the performance of "Trillium R" in this context,
representing a turning of the first key in my music, what I call a diamond
structure. Diamond structure in this context being a kin to that camping
knife when you go into the country that you can open the Campbell's Soup
cans. You can open different kinds of whatever. The diamond structures
are like the master keys in my system. The performance of "Trillium
R" from my perspective was a kin to turning the first of the master
keys in my system. I say that because the system itself is now alive and
will do its own work although I need at least two more diamond structures
to be performed before I will be able to feel that component of the system.
How would I want my work to be perceived or referred to? I would say it
is just an opportunity effort, an effort to take advantage of an opportunity.
Does art need to provoke?
BRAXTON: I would say creativity should cover the spectrum and by that,
I would say that there are different kinds of creativities, all designed
for different kind of poetic propositions and experiences. How wonderful
it is that we have so much diversity in human experience. For those regions
which are for whatever reason are expanding and redefining and provoking,
I say those regions should be allowed to exist and should have to fight
for their lives like everything else. I do not mind being in the underground.
FJ: It's cozy.
BRAXTON: I would have preferred in the beginning to have a normal life.
That's what I wanted like everyone else, to work hard and to have a good
material existence, the whole bit. Here I am, Fred, at fifty-six, my marriage
of twenty-two years has blown up. My children and I find ourselves in
this complex structure as we all fight to find a way to connect with one
another. Life is really something. But as far as the question of creativity
that provokes or doesn't provoke, my viewpoint is we need a context that
allows for, that is inclusive and allows for the different components
to be expressed in the space. That, to me, would be the optimum dynamic.
FJ: Are there sacrifices you have made for art's sake that you now regret?
BRAXTON: Complex question, Fred. (Long pause) My life has been very beautiful
and complex. I have been the recipient of many positive experiences and
yes, I have made more than my share of mistakes. What would I take back?
I can't deal with that question because I'm still trying to figure out
what is what and what is not what on every plane. I can say this much.
I can't look at my work as a sacrifice or look at myself as somehow going
through sacrifices to do my work. I'm doing what I want to do. OK, it
is true. I'm in academia. I went into academia because it was the only
thing that made sense and plus it would be possible to continue to push
my project forward in this environment even though academia places a different
set of strains on you. So what would I have done differently? I don't
know. I went to Paris for the first time. I had a one way ticket and fifty
dollars. If the customs agent had asked to see my return ticket home,
they probably would not have let me in Paris. I got into the taxicab and
thirty dollars was spent going into the city, only to look out of the
cab and there was Steve McCall. I had felt he was going to be in Paris.
The cosmics helped me again. What am I saying? I am saying that I had
nothing to lose. I understood that very early. I'm not from a family of
money or has experienced abundance. I had to fight for my life. This is
what I've tried to talk to my children about. If you can find something
that you care about, you have the right to pursue it like anyone else.
You're not a victim unless you want to be a victim. If you are going to
be a victim, at least be a victim on the tri-plane. What would I take
back in my own life? What would I focus on? I don't know. I would say,
yes, I have had to struggle in my life, but then everybody has to struggle
in their life. So I try not to take my struggle as a target personal cosmic
phenomenon and to realize instead that it was an opportunity to struggle.
By that I am only saying that everybody is struggling on this planet,
but not everybody had the good fortune to be born in a country like our
country. Even though as Americans we tend not to be able to see our country.
Our people are spoiled. Our people are the recipients of some of the greatest
advances on this planet, but nobody sees it. Everybody in America is angry
about something. At the same time, looking at the continent of Africa,
looking around the planet, this country has more abundance than any other
spot on the globe and somehow, we have to find a way to help our people
understand we need to take advantage of our possibilities and find a fresh
attitude and find a way to unify and to get ready to move into the future
because the challenges are still there. It is worth it to be alive.
FJ: I am told you're known to enjoy chess now and then.
BRAXTON: I love chess, but I must say, Fred, at this point, when my son
sits down in front of me, I start to shake and tremble like a man in total
terror. My son is moving on towards grandmaster status. The way I see
it, I will have to hire professionals to ruff this guy up before each
game. Otherwise, I won't have a chance (laughing).
FJ: What are the lessons that can be derived from chess into life and
your art form?
BRAXTON: The beautiful thing about chess for me is the ability of the
game to help one start to sense forces, geometric forces, pressures, resolving
complexities, setting up propositions, backing up propositions, playing
for target positions to set up the next psychological and force parameter.
Chess is so beautiful. There is a poetic dimension to the game in terms
of transformation of materials. There is something very tri-centric about
the game of chess. It teaches you about the beauty of mutable experiences.
It teaches you about the beauty of fixed position targets and strategies.
It teaches you about the transitory components of logic constructs, military
constructs, propositions, and throughout the whole game, there is a very
beautiful dance taking place. I was very excited to discover a game like
chess because it kind of totally connected to the model railroad sets
I was building in that period. And more and more, I start to understand
that I was interested in circuitry and distribution. So for me, the game
of chess relates to everything, just like everything related to everything.
FJ: And the future?
BRAXTON: Right now, I am working on several parts of my system. One, I
am working on "Trillium J." I am trying to correct the libretto.
Once summer vacation started and I had a chance to go through the new
libretto, I discovered so many problems that I've been working with that
for the last week or so. Using this summer for me will involve working
on "Trillium J" and getting the libretto correct and defining
the components of "Trillium J." At the same time, I'm working
on the "Ghost Trance Music," the forth species compositions.
I feel at this point, I can be finished with the "Ghost Trance Musics"
in maybe another twenty compositions. Finally, I hope this summer is to
go back to sound edit and sound deck and start to try to move towards
electronic music. It has been an area that I've wanted to work in all
my life. I'm very unhappy where I'm at right now in the world of electronic
music. Things have not worked out in the way I originally intended. I'm
still recovering from the last five years after the performance of "Trillium
R." I am recovering in the sense of trying to rebuild my life and
trying to put things together. To answer your question, Fred, at this
point in my life, the basic outline of the music system has been defined
and I am working to flush out those components, that being the solidification
of a tri-centric thought experience, a cult unit or esoteric unit or transcendent
unit. I am seeking to flush out what this means, the components of the
system, whether those components are reflected upon a quadrant space proposition,
all the way to a tri-galactic space proposition. What I want to do is
to fulfill the components in my system in a way where it will be as much
fun as possible. It will be as positive as possible. It will have the
components for positive curiosity and it will hopefully have the kind
of documentation or literary component documentation that will be friendly
FJ: The fire still burns within.
BRAXTON: I feel very lucky that I'm still alive. I'm fifty-six years old.
I've outlived my older brothers. My brother Joe died at forty-two. Lafayette
died at something like fifty-one. I'm very much aware in this time that
time has gone by very quickly and I feel fortunate that there are things
that I want to do and there is music. There is the wonderful discipline
of music and the ability of music to keep on opening up fresh prospects.
I must say, what a discipline!
Jung is the Editor-In-Chief and likes John Madden better than Dennis Miller.
Comments? Email Him