Without a doubt, this is Anthony Braxton at his most abstract. It's as if he's been able to put into reality, some of the theories in his "Tri Axiom" writings. This piece is a play with a text, though it is not performed (it's more of an "inspiration" to the performers). It has to do with, of all things, building a ski resort, skiing, and its impact on the environment. Yes, this is Braxton being "political." The ten percussionists are not playing any discernible rhythm; the narrator is spouting something like gibberish, though it probably made some sense to the ensemble performing it (and to Braxton himself, of course). For the listener, it is reminiscent of some of the radio plays John Cage did in the late '40s with poet Kenneth Patchen ("The City Wears a Slouch Hat"), or the early works of playwright Richard Foreman. But that doesn't make it compelling in any way. This work, though conceived by one of the most truly brilliant men of the 20th century, Composition No. 174 is proof that human beings are fallible. It may be art, but that doesn't make it enjoyable; it's duller than radio static.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek