“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.
The first in a series on the on-campus intersections of gender, race, and music performance
If I could conduct a survey about gender and music performance, it would go something like this:
- How old were you when you began playing music?
- What instrument(s) did you start playing at a young age?
- What instruments did you pick up as you got older?
- When was the last time you performed in public?
My questionable pollster skills notwithstanding, I would guess that the results would look something like this: started playing piano/trombone/oboe at age 6/7/8, picked up guitar/bass/synth at age 15, etc. According to my hypothesis, a gender divide wouldn’t start to show until Question 2–for the lucky ones who got an early start in musical education, our instrument choices would probably follow a gendered pattern: with a few exceptions, boys generally chose saxophones and baritone horns while girls chose flutes and oboes. By the time everyone quit band in high school, many boys got their hands on guitars and drum kits and began performing at school functions and family parties. And the girls learned guitar in their rooms, and never played in public again, unless under the influence of alcohol. The end?