Quartet (Hamburg) 1981 – 01.21

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Quartet (Hamburg) 1981 – 01.21

  • Quartet (Hamburg) 1981 – 01.21


“Since 1978 I have gradually felt more of a need to structure the whole of a given performance of my music from beginning to end – as opposed to only creating a platform for extended improvisation – or a theme to improvise on. I realized then, as now, that the use of composition in this manner would necessarily create problems for those individuals who have long had the need to neatly catalogue musical styles and I also realized that many people would interpret this desire as a move away from the essence of creative music (or creative improvised music, anyway). This viewpoint is understandable for the collective information that surrounds creative music in this time period has never really taken the composite music into account on its own terms without applying alien definitions to suit their own separate intentions (and needs). Nevertheless since the late seventies I have come to utilize more and more controlled – and/or closed if that be the term – approaches, as a means to get particular ‘objectives’ realized in a given performance – or from a given composition. I have chosen this route because I believe that there are many important answers for my own personal growth in this direction, and I have also chosen this path because of the creative and musical challenges related to this direction. I for one have never believed that natural conflicts must exist between extended composition and improvisation – let along extended composition and creativity. To view the works of Bach or Stockhausen – or Ellington and Mingus – only underscores this belief, if anything. In this period I find myself more attracted to composition as a means to balance the twenty-and-some-year involvement I have sustained with ‘accented’ improvisation. Yet a the same time I have not meant to advance any one direction as the only direction for me – either in this period or in the future. These are really only questions for the moment. The optimum state of creativity and the creative person – as I am able to understand it – is to pursue the spectrum of creativity with respect to what is true and honest to that individual – as opposed to following that which is considered safe or current. What this means is that the creative musicians cannot afford to be hemmed in by imposed definitions or prejudices – regardless of time zone or focus. Transformational creativity must move towards that which is most real and spiritual. Certainly in briefly stating this viewpoint I have oversimplified to some degree the reality particulars of this most important subject (and there are of course many other factors to be considered). But the seriousness of creative music and world change demands that the spectrum of creativity remain open for those individuals whose insight or attraction compels them to investigate ‘other’ focuses. To a great extent, this tolerance has never existed in the western creative music community – especially in the so-called jazz community. I believe that the future of extended creativity will necessitate a wider basis for observation, for the vision of music that compels my work transcends present-day notions concerning what is jazz, classical or even what is western music, for that matter. I believe that the future of creative participation will involve many new levels of interchange (fusion) involving every form (projection) of earth music, and I see this phenomenon as positive not negative. Inherent in this growth will be new attempts (which are old attempts) to re-utilize and understand creative fundamentals and particulars. These desires are really in accordance with the dynamics of world change and life continuance. There is no consideration (focus) so fixed in this time period that it cannot be re-examined (especially since – in this time period – there is no real spiritualism or spiritual tenet ‘all-structure’ on which to base a given postulation form). For myself, I look forward to the present, past and future of creativity – and living. I believe that the next immediate cycle (say, the next one hundred years) promises to be extremely interesting – and not interesting – and interesting!

Compostion #98 was begun in December 1980 and completed in early January 1981 at my home in Woodstock, New York. The solidification of this work advances several different areas of my involvement with alternative compositional techniques – especially as this subject concerns extended approaches for the creative improvisational instrumentalist and/or composer. To date #98 is the third completed work from its respective series and each new addition continues to introduce its own unique demands as well as discoveries. The thrust of this work will undoubtedly play an important role in the route of my future creative efforts and research. I would like to thank Ray Anderson, Marilyn Crispell and Hugh Ragin for the life they have breathed into this project and for the understanding and support that they have given me throughout the whole of this undertaking. Working with such expert musicians has helped me better understand the new problems and challenges that are presented in works of this nature. #98 is dedicated to Leo, Kathy Sarhanna and Kaghala Smith. Their friendship has been a great source of strength and beauty in my life, and I look forward to our collective futures.

The most distinguishing characteristic of this series of works – as I stated  in the introduction to these notes – is the use of composite structural and infrastructural devices. All of the material in this series of works has been composed from beginning to end. What this means is that Composition #98 is not a vehicle for extended improvisation as we have now come to view this consideration (in the last twenty to forty years) but rather the focus of this work is directed towards advancing other aspects of ensemble dynamics. The particulars of this work have been designed to focus on the collective weight of the total music as opposed to the separate brilliance of a given individual extension (or solo). As such, the integration of composition and improvisation in #98 is total. Throughout the whole of this work the listener can experience dynamic improvisation intermixed inside of extended notated sequences – this is true in every section of the music. As the music progresses it will be extremely difficult to pinpoint what parts of its ingredients are written (calculated) or improvised (postulated) – for the nature of this integration is extremely dense and complex. A given instrument will suddenly play what seems to be an improvisation yet be so sequenced with the total ensemble that it could not have been spontaneous (at least this is how it will seem). In a given section of the music one instrumentalist will be improvising next to three sections of notated music and later the same improvisation will transform itself into two written (closed) parts against two open parts – or later, three against one, one against three, etc. The challenge of performing a work of this type brings many new factors into play. Even the particulars of a wrong page turn can damage the  performance of this work – not to mention the 250 cues underlying the progression of he score. #98 has been structured to allow for different types of interplay to happen in the music – interplays which call for different kinds of responses from the musicians as well as from myself (as a composer). The challenge of this new involvement has already opened up new possibilities for my future growth, and hopefully this effort will be rewarding for the listener to experience as well.

Composition #98 has been structured with respect to seven visual shapes as the principal tool for its improvisation code and form scheme. Each of these shapes have been designed – and are in conjunction with – seven different ensemble textural situations. This is so because each of these given contexts changes the interaction of the actual music as well as its nature (emotional dynamics). The actual foundation  material of #98 can be broken into four categories, that being (1) conventional notation (written especially for this work) to be executed in the traditional manner, (2) visual material – which governs the length and character of a given improvisation (and how it is to be utilized), (3) adopted material – from Composition #82 (for four orchestras) – utilizing a color and structural factor, and finally (4) unconventional notations – as a tool to activate different types of extended approaches. Before this work can be performed is must first be presented to the musicians for adaptation. This is necessary because while #98 is scored for one woodwind, two brass and one keyboard, each musician in the ensemble decides what instruments are to be utilized for given sections of the music. What this means is that #98 should sound different every time it is played – both actually (with respect to the real music created from its designers) as well as timbrely. I have specified in the score that each musician (with the exception of the pianist) should play at least three different instruments on this work (the pianist is also free to utilize other keyboard instruments – even though on this recording we did not use this option). The actual character (interpretation) of #98 is also open to each individual’s expressive treatment throughout the whole of its form. There are both fixed and open interpretive sections in every section of this work. Two versions of #98 are included in this record set as a means to better view the realness of what these techniques mean in actual terms. One version was recorded in the normal studio context and the other was recorded in Bern, Switzerland – in a live club performance situation. I found each interpretation to be quite unique and indicative of what can happen in this work.

Composition #98 was premiered in Paris – at the space garden on January 14th, 1981 and later performed in eleven different cities throughout Europe. The challenge of touring with this work provided us with an opportunity to better understand the new demands of extended material. Rather than having a theme or outline structure as a basis for improvisation – like we normally have in my quartet music – each musician in #98 has a fifty-two page completed score to read from. Moreover, the rate of this material goes by so quickly that the dynamics of a given interpretation  involves much more than one’s intuitive improvisational ability – as concerns the isolated music (especially since the whole of a given solo might last from two to five seconds) – but rather the challenge of this work casts light on one’s total ability to function in a multi-context for the execution particulars of this work are not separate from the problems of all extended twentieth century notated music. Yet the dynamics of its invention-ratio transcends any one context. For #98 is not notated or open but rather a bridge between both disciplines. The reality of this work corresponds with my belief in a ‘trans-music’ or unification discipline – a discipline that brings together many different areas and devices, musics that bring people together.

The germ procedure underlying Composition #98 involves the relationship between visual shapes and musical postulation. Improvisation in this composition is based on the transposition of given visual shapes – in the actual notation – into creative musical phrases. This procedure is constant throughout the entire composition – although the terms of a given utilization vary depending on what section of the work is being focused on. I have long been fascinated by the interrelationship of music and visual art – and the basis of my compositional attraction since the early sixties has stemmed from this interest. In this time period it is fashionable to think of music and visual art as separate disciplines – having nothing in common. But this viewpoint does not correspond with the tenet structure world culture has long maintained with creativity. The fact is, in world culture terms, there is a music for every visual reality – or at least the particulars of a given visual reality have a complementary music that serves to affirm the same vibrational postulates. This is not only the case with music and visual art, for the progressional realness of world culture has never totally separated its extended information or ritual disciplines to the degree where a given focus is not equally manifested throughout its composite affinity dynamics. WIth this context in mind, the integration of sound and visual particulars does indeed have precedents. This phenomenon can be viewed as in accordance with world culture dynamic functionalism.

Throughout the tour of this work Hugh Ragin insisted that I include in my notes the nature of responses Composition #98 seems to inspire. And by the sixth or seventh concert this subject had become something of a joke between us because somewhere after the first one or two concerts we noticed that there seemed to be a definite pattern related to the audiences’ reception of this work – a pattern that held throughout the whole tour. As a result of this phenomenon I  have decided to include what I now call the ‘reception dynamics’ of #98 because even though we viewed this pattern as something that was amazing, we also recognized that its particulars did have meaning as well.

The ‘reception dynamics’ of Composition #98 are: (1) Where is dee jazz? (2) Boredom (3) Humor (4) Anger and (5) What is it? It is my hope that the fifth degree of this response will find the listener open to our music, for after all of the writings on this record are read and all of the so-called theories and explanations are understood or not understood, the real intention behind this effort is only the desire to present creative music (something challenging to play – so that we can learn and grow – and something challenging to experience).”

-Anthony Braxton
Composition Notes Book E (pp. 77-88)

Additional Information

Catalog Number BL030
Product Type Download
Recording Date Jan 21, 1981
Location NDR JAZZ WORKSHOP Nr.:158 (Norddeutscher Rundfunk) TV and Radio Broadcast, Hamburg, Germany

Anthony Braxton: soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, sopranino, C-melody sax
Marilyn Crispell: piano
Hugh Ragin: trumpet, flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet
Ray Anderson: trombone

  1. Composition No. 98 by Anthony Braxton [47:37]
  2. Track 2 [27:05]
  3. Track 3 (Solo) [03:16

The three tracks for Quartet (Hamburg) 1981 originally came in multiple segments, with cut off points at various point during the performance. Tri-Centric Foundation consolidated the multiple files, then separated them at breaks between compositions.]


{Primary Source: CD-R; Videotape}