Godspeed You, Anthony Braxton!


“I know I’m an African-American, and I know I play the saxophone, but I’m not a jazz musician. I’m not a classical musician, either. My music is like my life: It’s in between these areas.”

We have reached the end of an era.

In a chilly, crowded rehearsal hall on December 3, John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Anthony Braxton ended his last class of the semester, as he has for many years, discussing Ornette Coleman and the politics of being alive. But this was his last class session for undergraduates here at Wes–and after over 40 years of teaching, he’s ready to go. He was near tears as he described how lucky he has been to have worked so closely with so many great masters, and to have had the chance to work with college-age students for so long; his outlook on our generation is refreshing, given all the crap we’ve been getting lately. He expressed amazement at the ability of each generation to “do the work that needs to be done,” and said unequivocally that there is nothing this generation can’t do, if we set out to do it.

The recently named National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master is looking forward to an active retirement full of new works, remastering old works, and contrabass martinis. His presence has been a great gift to Wesleyan, and we wish him nothing but the best.

For some choice Braxton quotes from this semester’s MUSC276 (Music of Mingus, Coltrane, & Coleman), follow the jump.


“It’s noise. It’s art. It just depends on how we’re feeling when we take it in.”

Mary Lou Williams, Leveda Snow, and other female jazz masters–“the great masters who happen to not be in the boys’ club.”

“Yes, there is such a thing as the Jazz Industrial Complex.”

“If there’s anything that can unite this country, it’s creativity.”

“Is jazz a rhythm, or is it a vibration?”

4 BRAXIOMS for Musicians and Performers:

1. “Royalties are a joke.”

2. “BMI is a joke.”

3. “Government support is a joke.”

4. “Jazz polls are a joke.”

(In the end, his message is clear: go forward in your own style, stay true to your vision, flourish outside the system, and f*ck the h8rs.)

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10 thoughts on “Godspeed You, Anthony Braxton!

  1. Pingback: Braxton leaving Wesleyan | The Musical Omnivore

  2. Batte_A

    …hate to do this, but I think the likely proper title of this post is “Godspeed You! Anthony Braxton”. (Or God Speed You! Anthony Braxton, for real purists.)

  3. Zach

    He’s just entering the fourth restructural cycle of the trans-idiomatic percussive musics of the Jazz Industrial Complex continuum. ? ? Braxaton

  4. Joe Giardullo

    There are not enough words to say what AB means to me. Some of it even has to do with music. It’s good to know that there are still a few giants walking the earth.

    Take no prisoners, Anthony!

  5. Pingback: Anthony Braxton Retires From Teaching | Avant Music News

  6. mheffley

    May your saga continue through golden decades and moments; my memories of our time together are certainly all golden, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to follow up the gold standard they set. If our paths should never cross again in person, what’s in the heart and mind and path ahead is full and riding on their pasts. All best…MH

      1. okok

        Nope. “mheffley” was a music grad student while I was an undergrad, I believe, and has a book about Braxton.

      2. nhcf

        Michael Heffley; also check out his dissertation in Olin. It’s a 6-volume 2000+ page history of free jazz label FMP.

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