Anthony Braxton

Piano Music 1 & 2 (1968-1988)

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In 1995 and 1996, Swiss pianist Hildegard Kleeb recorded a four-CD set containing nine of Anthony Braxton's notated piano works composed between 1968 and 1988, beginning with the piece that Braxton chose to designate as his first numbered "opus": "Composition No. 1 (1968)." Art Lange's textual commentary describes this thoughtful essay, with its divergent intervals, as a "song." The sonata-like "Composition No. 5 (1968)" might well have been its sequel. "Composition No. 139 (1988)" is a conventionally notated song-like cousin to the earlier works. All three exist within Braxton's designated realm of "frozen improvisation." These exercises in musical intuition appear to reflect the influence of Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, even while reflecting Braxton's own developing systems of creativity. "Composition No. 10 (1969)," dedicated to Russian painter and theoretician Wassily Kandinsky, uses a graphic score as a blueprint for improvisation. This means that composer and performer collaborate in ways (and with results) that cannot occur when every single note and dynamic directive are written down. "Composition No. 16 for Four Pianos (1971)" was originally improvised by the composer, and the nature of the graphic/symbolic score allows for maximum freedom of interpretation. Kleeb's overdubbed realization is gradual, employs silence as a structural element, and lasts twice as long as the original. "Composition No. 33 (1974)" introduces a horde of static nebulae. This work places unusual responsibilities upon the interpreter, including phraseology, dynamics, and tempi. Lange compares it with the works of Iannis Xenakis and Morton Feldman. "Composition No. 30 (1973)" is a living embodiment of Arnold Schoenberg's cardinal assignment: to search for the sake of searching. The 82-page score is an expansive and freely formed catalog of ideas and potential actions. "Composition No. 32 (1974)," resulting from a 76-page score, introduces note clusters which are generated with the sustaining pedal held to the floor. Lange rightly compares this piece with works by Cecil Taylor and Olivier Messiaen. The rafts of percussive tonality are similar to those conjured by Braxton himself when he demonstrated a thunderous keyboard technique with his Piano Quartet, recorded live at Yoshi's Nitespot in Oakland, CA in June of 1994. "Composition No. 31 (1974)" comes from an 85-page score dedicated to Iannis Xenakis. Here we encounter the most charming surprise of all, as Braxton is said to have cited Thomas "Fats" Waller as a major early influence -- right up there with Schoenberg and Stockhausen -- as both composer and improviser. Art Lange contributes wonderful insights as he identifies substantial parallels between Waller and Braxton, including "Collage Logic," "Language Forms, and "Shifting Points of Emphasis." Precious evidence that all music is relative; that the imagination is a non-linear, living organism that cannot be confined by critically cramped pigeon-holing, by historical delineation,or by market-based categorization; and that the ritual and spiritual functions, as the composer puts it, are of paramount importance. Composer Anthony Braxton and his interpreter Hildegard Kleeb have given the world nine piano rituals that can and will transform anyone who enters with an open mind.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 21:27
2 42:23

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 14:50
2 34:56
blue highlight denotes track pick