Anthony Braxton, Emeritus Professor of Music at Wesleyan, has boldly redefined the boundaries of American music for more than 40 years. Drawing on such lifelong influences as jazz saxophonists Warne Marsh and Albert Ayler, innovative American composers John Cage and Charles Ives and pioneering European Avant-Garde figures Karlheinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis, he created a unique musical system that embraces a variety of traditions and genres while defying categorisation of its own.
Braxton developed a dozen “Language Types,” or sound parameters, to guide improvisation. These languages can be applied to a series of graphic scores Braxton called Falling River Music. The Vocal Constructivists performed a selection of these works in 2013, in Arcola Theatre and on their US tour.
Excerpts from the liner notes to Anthony Braxton/Matt Bauder – 2+2 Compositions (2005, 482 Music) by Charlie Wilmoth:
Braxton has done so many things over the course of his amazing career that it’s difficult to ever say that he’s doing something he has never done. It seems safe to say, however, that in the last few years, Braxton has been paying more attention to timbre and texture than ever before. This interpretation of recent trends in Braxton’s work seems even more plausible when we consider his new Falling River Musics.
Braxton writes, “Falling River Musics is the name of a new structural prototype class of compositions in my music system that will seek to explore image logic construct ‘paintings’ as the score’s extract music notation.” Falling River scores consist of large, colorful drawings (reminiscent of the titles of Braxton’s earlier compositions) alongside much smaller writings.
These smaller writings are accompanied by an intentionally vague legend that begins near the top of the page with a quarter note. Subsequent drawings in the legend look less and less like musical notation, and they quickly become unrecognizable as such. Braxton refuses to assign any specific meanings to the notations of his Falling River scores, since part of their purpose is to allow each performer to find her own way through them. He explains, “I am particularly interested in this direction as a means to balance the demands of traditional notation interpretation and esoteric inter-targeting.”