Saturday, March 17, 2007


the snow has kept me inside, but there's been some good music happening.

listened to all of Braxton's "Six Compositions (Quartet) 1984." it's an absolutely beautiful record, and for me, an easier-to-digest document of Braxton's '80s quartet ideas than the double-disc live Leo sets from '85. i was thinking how important it is to be able to read Braxton's liner notes and look at the images of his scores while you're listening. i have burned copies of a lot of the other quartet stuff--hey, a lot of it isn't too easy to come by--but i've got this one on vinyl and i'm glad i do.

with the studio records from this period, the compositions are performed separately, as opposed to the live ones, where they're strung together. so you can see how each composition is like a little laboratory experiment; each one has its own little area of research. the one i'm listening to right now is 110A, of which Braxton says it "seeks to emphasize curved sound dynamics." i'm not sure exactly what that means, but you can definitely hear a sense of gradual curving in the methodical up-and-down lines that make up the piece. the graphic title has these hooded, grey ghostlike figures; very cool and spooky. i love how these images complement the pieces.

the record also has two "impressionistic ballade structures" dedicated to Braxton's wife, Nickie. "chamber jazz" gets thrown around a lot, but that's pretty much what these pieces are: brief, reflective, fairly meticulous. but there's some really nice, subdued soloing as well, especially Braxton's clarinet improv on "Composition No. 110D," which has a really lonely, liquid sound. the graphic title of the piece contains the really awesome text "Nickie Journeys to the City of Clouds to Make a Decision." wow.

the record also contains the awesome 115, which is, as Braxton puts it, "an accordion sound space context that stretches and contracts the sound space." basically what this means is that the tempo increases and decreases throughout the piece. this could be a disaster, but the band functions so tightly (or i guess that would be loosely) that it sounds completely amazing. a real feat, that one.

No. 116 is a motherfucker, with some very heavy pulse-tracking going on. in the liners, Braxton's talking about how he's very excited about this method and in "Forces in Motion," he posits 116 as kind of the epitome of pulse-tracking. a pulse track is basically a long notated series of accents, with improv spaces of defined numbers of beats interspersed. usually, it's just bass and drums getting in on this, but here the sax and piano do as well; Braxton points out that sometimes at least three separate rhythms are happening. i think i've successfully heard two at a time in this piece, but i'm not sure. the overall effect, though, is that you're always second-guessing whether each player's part is composed or improvised; you have to listen very closely to hear who's synching up and who's just blowing. very dense and amazing.

anyway, this is a serious record; probably in print but tough to find on CD. unfortunately the graphic scores aren't on the Restructures page, so you'll just have to pick the record up. again, to restate, it's very enriching to have the titles and composition notes handy while listening (as he says in "Forces in Motion," a record producer who doesn't print his titles or composition notes is "no friend of mine." all in all, a very good reason to buy rather than burn Braxton if you possibly can.


just finished watching one of my favorites movies, "The Talented Mr. Ripley." has there ever been a better embodiment of bourgeois decadence than Jude Law's Dickie Greenleaf? his perfect tan coupled with his dabbling in jazz (he names his sailboat "Bird") just makes for epic WASP pretension. you want to believe that Law is so good at playing this character b/c he simply is this character, but that's probably not giving him enough credit.

Damon is formidable as well. he does an amazing job at projecting insecurity and nerdiness. his trauma becomes very real by the end. it's just a really disturbing and powerful movie, mainly because you sympathize a lot with Damon wanting to be a part of Law's perfect world, even while you judge him as a madman. Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman, etc. it goes on and on. part of me wants to live in the happy, sunny, Italian parts of this movie. it's just a really, really intoxicating piece of scene-setting and therefore it's all the more poignant when everything comes crashing down.

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