Anthony Braxton’s Trillium Cycle is the ongoing project closest to his heart, where he brings his “restructuralist” vision to the grandest of Western musical traditions: opera. Three of Braxton’s operas have been performed thus far: Trillium A(one act, fully staged in San Diego in 1985), Trillium M (two acts, in a concert performance in London in 1994), andTrillium R (four acts, fully staged in NYC in 1996). The performances of Trillium M and Trillium R both resulted in CDs, with Trillium R released by the previous incarnation of Braxton’s label, Braxton House, and now available here for download. Since 2000, Braxton completed another four-act opera, Trillium E, and is currently working on two more,Trillium J and Trillum X.
Trillium E was recently recorded on March 18-21, 2010 at Systems Two Recording Studio in Brooklyn, NY and is currently in post-production. A cast of 12 vocalists, 12 solo instrumentalists and a 40-piece orchestra was assembled for this session; this cast forms the core of Braxton’s new opera company, and will continue to record, tour and premiere his operatic works in the United States and abroad.
The name “Trillium” is derived from Braxton’s “Tri-Axium” philosophical writings. He sees The Trillium Project as representing the three partials of his life’s work: music (sound logic) systems, thought (philosophical) systems, and ritual and ceremonial (belief) systems. Braxton describes The Trillium Project as an opera complex” of autonomous one-act settings interconnected through twelve recurring character archetypes that illustrate the basic components of his logic system, represented both by the twelve singers and by the same number of improvising instrumental soloists. Each act occurs within a specific dramatic context, but there is no overarching narrative structure; rather, the interest is in how the characters interact within the parameters of a given situation. (These situations range from a corporate board meeting to interplanetary space travel.) Braxton does not shy away from the melodramatic potential of traditional opera: there are swordfights and chases, giants and plagues. However, the “apparent story” is just one of three levels; underlying each act are the “philosophical” and “mystical” dynamics that so deeply inform Braxton’s libretto and music.
Braxton writes, “Events in this sound world attempt to act out a given central concept from many different points of view. There is no single story line in Trillium because there is no point of focus being generated. Instead the audience is given a multi-level event state that fulfills vertical and horizontal strategies (objectives). The wonder of this approach brings a fresh vitality to the music and will allow for a broad range of interpretations. I believe that the medium of opera is directly relevant to cultural alignment and evolution.”