Courtesy of Anthony Braxton


In 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.

ANTHONY 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.

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.

ANTHONY 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.

FJ: In a time when people eat cheese from a can, is the advanced citizenship of your music too complex?

ANTHONY 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.

FJ: 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.

ANTHONY 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 for granted.

FJ: What was the mission statement of the AACM?

ANTHONY 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.

FJ: Are you a revisionist?

ANTHONY 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.

FJ: Why is it that a white man striving for individuality is perceived as being liberal, but a Black man is termed radical or revolutionary?

ANTHONY 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 Stanley Crouch.

FJ: 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.

ANTHONY 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.

ANTHONY 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 subjects.

FJ: 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.

ANTHONY 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.

FJ: There must be a plague of narrow mindedness going around then since your recorded productivity is more than that of Coltrane, Coleman, and Ayler combined.

ANTHONY BRAXTON: 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 the planet.

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?

ANTHONY 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?

ANTHONY 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 a limitation.

FJ: Describe it in your own words.

ANTHONY 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.

FJ: Does art need to provoke?

ANTHONY 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.

ANTHONY 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?

ANTHONY 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.

ANTHONY 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?

ANTHONY 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?

ANTHONY 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 and positive.

FJ: The fire still burns within.

ANTHONY 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!

Fred Jung is the Editor-In-Chief and likes John Madden better than Dennis Miller. Comments? Email Him