ANTHONY BRAXTON’S COMPOSITION #19 AND ME
I first learned of Anthony Braxton’s Composition #19 for 100 Tubas as an undergraduate music student at Ithaca College in the early 1970s. I used to regularly pour over the unparalleled magazine for experimental music SOURCE, MUSIC OF THE AVANT GARDE. In issue #10 an Anthony Braxton piece was published. What I noticed first, however, was the photograph of Mr. Braxton, in which he was in rehearsal, the only instrument seen being a tuba. In the list of his compositions (short in 1971), two tuba pieces are listed, his tuba quintet from 1968 and his piece for 100 tubas from 1971, which must have been newly written at that time. I don’t remember if I tried to get these pieces (something I was to do regularly with composers beginning a few years later).
It wasn’t long before I procured the double LP THE COMPLETE BRAXTON 1971, which included the tuba quintet as well as other delicious low pieces for or including the contrabass clarinet and contrabass saxophone. By this time I knew that Anthony Braxton loved low sounds and that he was a friend of the tuba.
Fast forward to 2005 when Anthony asked me to join the Anthony Braxton Sextet, which started performing all over the world. One of the first things I asked him about was his 100 tuba piece, or Composition #19. By this time I had read about the piece in Anthony’s Trillium Writings, learning that it was for 4 marching tuba bands. He told me that the music was lost but he would be happy to reconstruct it if a performance could be arranged. I approached my friend David Lang of the Bang-on-a-Can organization to see if we could set up a performance during one of their yearly marathon concerts. The stars all seemed to align and before I knew it, there we were, marching around the Wintergarden in downtown New York to open the 6/4/2006 Bang-on-a-Can Marathon Concert.
One aspect of the piece that took everyone by surprise, I think, was the look of the piece. Tubas come in all different shapes and sizes, from the smaller tenor tuba (or euphonium) to the large bass tuba, which includes the over-the-shoulder sousaphone. Some bells went to the left, some to the right. Some were bent, some went straight up. It was a phantasmagoria of brass.
Organizing and participating in the performance of Composition #19 was one of the most satisfying events of my musical life. It seemed everyone loved Composition #19; performers and audience alike. As they say, a good time was had by all. —– Jay Rozen 29 July 2011
|Recording Date||Jun 3, 2006|
|Location||World Financial Center, NYC|
CONDUCTOR: ANTHONY BRAXTON