“When In Doubt, We Follow Braxton”: Music Prof Featured in Tri-Centic Festival

“Were it not for his tenured post at Wesleyan, where he has taught for more than 20 years, ‘maybe I would be driving a taxicab or something,’ he said.”

With Professor Lucier’s long anticipated retirement finally taking effect, who takes up the mantle of the avant-garde in the Wesleyan music department? Who leads the way, towards seniority and distinction and towards the Arts pages of the New York Times?

“When in doubt, we follow Braxton,” comes the reply—from Taylor Ho Bynum ’98, MA ’04, cornetist, composer, bandleader, and former student of Braxton. He is conducting the group of vocalists that comprise the Syntactical Ghost Trance Music Choir; they are rehearsing Braxton’s “Composition No. 256,” preparing for a four-day festival of Braxton’s career and works that begins today in Brooklyn. “Encompassing unorthodox works and concepts from across his prolific career,” NYT‘s Nate Chinen writes, the festival is to be “as broad a survey of Braxtonia as has been presented in this country.” From yesterday’s New York Times comes this deeply appreciative piece on the Tri-Centric Festival and on the Wesleyan professor’s storied career. The festival itself is “a signal achievement for the Tri-Centric Foundation, a nonprofit group devoted to the preservation of [Braxton’s] work.”

Of most interest, perhaps, are the interview quotes with Braxton, looking backwards over his career—a new project  is a “new prototype,” in the professor’s terminology—and the “equally irreducible theoretical discourse surrounding it”:

“I wanted to have an experience like my role models,” Mr. Braxton said after the rehearsal, at a nearby pub. “Karlheinz Stockhausen, Charlie Mingus, Iannis Xenakis, Sun Ra, Hildegard von Bingen. The people who were thinking large scale and small scale. I might not have been able to get the money to do what I would have liked to do. But you can still compose it and have the hope that maybe in the future it can be realized.”

Mr. Braxton has often suggested that his sprawling output — and the equally irreducible theoretical discourse surrounding it — should be understood as a single body of work. To that end, his music has become a bit more accessible recently, thanks to a spate of archival releases. But that hasn’t made things easier for Mr. Braxton.

. . . and expressing sincere gratitude towards his professorship at Wesleyan:

“This is a somewhat frustrating time cycle for me, in the sense that I rarely work anymore,” he said. “My work has been marginalized as far as the jazz-business complex is concerned, or the contemporary-music complex.” Were it not for his tenured post at Wesleyan, where he has taught for more than 20 years, “maybe I would be driving a taxicab or something,” he said.

Wooooord—and here’s to twenty more.

Full article via New York Times.

If you’re in New York, catch the Tri-Centric Festival between today and Sunday in Brooklyn, at Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue, Boerum Hill. More info at roulette.org.

[New York Times]

THANK YOU KEELIN Q. RYAN ’14 FOR THE TIP