Braxton came to WKCR on a cold Tuesday afternoon during a rehearsal break for a three-night retrospective series of concerts presenting his orchestral music. He brought with him a box of cassettes of recent, unissued material and a few recent CDs. HBe unwound the first half-hour of the program, eating Chinese food and sipping a beer; then the discussion began. Braxton's previously visited me at WKCR in November 1993, concluding a week at the Knitting Factory with his quartet. The following conversation is a composite of the proceedings of the two interviews.
The 1995 interview began with a reference to the MacArthur Grant received by Braxton in 1994. The John T. and Catherine P. MacArthur Foundation awards some 50 grants each year to scientists, artists, social activists and others. The award has become known as a "genius grant," amounting to a sum of money in the six figures, spread over a period of five years, to be used as wished by the recipient.
[Music: Comp.134, Northwest Creative Orch. (1989); Comp. 146 (1990); Braxton/Smoker/Mengelberg (1994), "Hot House"]
TP: Many things have happened since we last met, and I guess the most notable and most public is that you are the recipient of a McArthur grant, which obviously has given you quite a bit of flexibility to realize various ambitious projects. AB: Well, I was very surprised and grateful. I see the McArthur Foundation as an example of the real possibilities here in our country. Certainly, I was not really directing myself toward having the kind of involvement with my work that would bring in any kind of money; by 1970, it was clear that I had committed to a direction that would guarantee economic complexities. So for the McArthur to come to me just before moving into the 50s time cycle, I am very grateful and I feel fortunate.
And yet, at the same time, I have no illusions about my position or my work. From the beginning I only sought to respond to those factors which were in the air in the period when I came up, in the 1950s and '60s. I am very grateful that my work symbolically has been endorsed on this level. But in fact, hmm. . .I was never interested in an unendorsement or an endorsement, although I am very happy to be a recipient from this incredible organization.
TP: The concerts this weekend are sponsored by the Tri-Centric Foundation, which I'll ask you to discuss. Was this organization in the works before you received the MacArthur Fellowship, or did the grant make it possible to establish it? AB: The Tri-Centric Foundation is the name of the platform I hope to build in the next time cycle. In fact, this platform had already come into being, in terms of primary structures, before the MacArthur.
By Tri-Centric Foundation, I am referring to a platform that will, one, give me an opportunity to further the processes of my musics, and the work of the Tri-Centric Ensemble, which has become a primary component in terms of my work and the hope I have for my work.
Two, the Tri-Centric Foundation will be the platform that I hope will give the possibility for artists who have related sensibilities, who are interested in the exploratory musics, or at least artists who have a relationship with their work that has the kind of value where it will be pursued whether or not the marketplace endorses it, whether or not the marketplace supports it (I'll come back to that later).
And three, the Tri-Centric Foundation will be, for me, a kind of platform for intellectual discussion and documentation for those individuals who are thinking about the exploratory possibilities of creative music and the role and the relationship of music to composite society and the ability of creativity, and imagination, and science, and history and mythology to provide the kind of positive balances where, as a nation, we can begin to move into the third millennia in a way that would be consistent with the wonderful properties that we have in our country. Even though everything is complex, on all three planes, I am very grateful to be an American and to have had the experience of coming up in this great country of ours. The Tri-Centric Foundation. . .well, it's like America, in that it seeks to celebrate the wonder of universality and how universal balances are reflected in every direction -- and when approached with the right balances, that it might be possible to set the constructs in place for the challenges of the next time cycle.
So I was very grateful to see the Tri-Centric Foundation come together before the MacArthur. We began last summer rehearsing. During that period I discovered that, even as a virtuoso complainer, in fact, I was really very fortunate, because some of our most talented and profound masters have decided to make time to help me with my project. And in that spirit of giving, the musicians, men and women from every sector of our country, or from many sectors of our country, would come together to give an old crutzer like me an opportunity to hear some of the extended piece and, in making that decision, to give me a kind of symbolic vibrational endorsement and kind of help, spiritual help to continue my work.
It would happen at a time that would really help me. As you know, musicians like myself, who have in the last 30 and 40 years, and in the last 3,000 years, tried to practice their craft and practice it based on their value systems, have historically met complexities. My understanding of this time period is that nothing has changed. Symbolically and vibrationally for me, this would really complete the ritual change of this time cycle.
The heart of my effort, from the beginning, has always been about the hope to change oneself, to change the community, and to find the kind of vibrational alignment that could reflect the kind of spiritual-unspiritual values of the individual, or Friendly Experiencer. And so, to answer your question, the Tri-Centric Foundation and its related ensembles would be part of my hope and strategy for evolving my work, for creating a context where I can learn from colleagues -- colleagues being children, men, women, scientists, ventriloquists, physicists, herbists, geologists.
My viewpoint of creativity is that everything is connected. It just depends on which axis the connections are made upon. When I think about the next thousand years, I find myself hoping that I will continue to have opportunities to meet and work and learn from the great people of America, and the great people of Earth, and the wonderful spirits and non-spirits which help to hold this experience.
TP: Well, it seems that your creativity has always been linked with collectivity, and that finding the AACM 30 years ago was a key that unlocked a realm of possibilities that could be actualized through its existence. AB: For instance, me receiving the MacArthur -- how wonderful. I am really very grateful. But I am not interested in losing my balance in any way, because in fact, you are right. The AACM, the Association For The Advancement of Creative Musicians, which was the organization that I had the incredible good fortune to discover and become part of in the '60s, would in fact represent a point of definition in my life experiences.
The first day that I returned home to Chicago, after a three-year period in the Army, I would, because of my cousin Rafiki, be made aware of the concert series at the Lincoln Center in Chicago, where the AACM was coming together. I immediately went to Lincoln Center and met my old friend Roscoe Mitchell, who introduced me to Muhal Richard Abrams and brought me into the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.
TP: Where had you met Roscoe Mitchell previously? AB: Roscoe and I went to Wilson Junior College together in 1963, '62, somewhere in that time period. It was in that period that I began to discover the dynamic implications of the post-Ayler musics. And Roscoe Mitchell would open up new possibilities for me. Even in 1963, he had already arrived at a dynamic creative music. Roscoe, along with Joseph Jarman and Muhal Richard Abrams, would in the early period begin to build on the Ganges of the post- Coleman processes, build on the Ganges of the work of Charlie Mingus. Their work would open up my life in a way that I can never thank them enough for.
TP: Where were you in your own development at the time that you met Roscoe Mitchell? AB: Well, by the time I met Roscoe Mitchell, I had been kicked out of maybe 500 sessions for calling "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo A La Turk." And I was discovering that as an African-American who was deeply involved in the music of Paul Desmond, there seemed to be a context of complexities that I would have to get used to. Roscoe would help to expose me to musicians that I did not know about.
From that point, after getting out of the Army, I met Claudine [Amina Claudine Myers]. Amina and Ajaramu [a veteran AACM drummer] gave me my first concert, gave me the opportunity to have the first performance in Chicago. We worked together for a period of a couple of years. In fact, Amina and Ajaramu would take me to New York City for the first time, and it would be in their company where I would begin to learn about the greater dynamics taking place in New York, along with the American master percussionist Billy Hart. I feel very fortunate that in my (quote-unquote) "so-called career" that I have had the good fortune to meet such incredible individuals, and I am grateful for that.
In that time period and with that organization, or at least with that group of people, I would have the opportunity to better understand my own experience and experiences, and I'd have a broader context to reflect on a context that would give me the opportunity to learn from the American master visionary Muhal Richard Abrams. Having the opportunity to meet Mr. Muhal Richard Abrams would change my life in every way. I think Mr. Abrams is a great man, and I do not use the term lightly. Mr. Abrams would spearhead the movement into the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. He of course was one of the original founders. But more than that, Mr. Abrams was the original president of the AACM.
In this time period, Muhal tends to underplay his influence. And I understand it, because in fact, just concerning his own work, Mr. Abrams has evolved a body of musics and thoughts which are dynamic and unparalleled. My hope in the future would be that his work would somehow be reexamined for what it is, as a dynamic offering of restructural and creative musics that will be consistent with the breakthroughs occurring in this time period, as it will relate to the next thousand years. He's a great musician in the tradition of the master musicians who have come to reshape and give us unlimited possibilities for creativity and exploration. Muhal is an important American restructuralist thinker, and the music is a component in his thoughts.
Having said that, I would also say that Mr. Abrams did help. He helped all of us. He was one of the guiding forces in the early period. He was the first president of the Association For the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Mr. Abrams would help me to believe in myself and not be afraid to go forth with my beliefs. He is a kind man, and a very spiritual man, a hard worker, and he understands the importance of individual development and pursuits, as well as the significance of the group. He has great knowledge and many different directions. I have learned so much from him, there's no way I could possibly detail what I have learned from the man. Knowing him and having the opportunity to work with him has been one of the joys in my life, and I'd like to hope that we will in various time periods come together and continue to do projects.
TP: I'm sure you were a participant in the Experimental Band and the AACM Big Band sessions of the 1960's. AB: Yes, I was. The Experimental Band was consistent with the ideals and goals of the AACM, in that it was a platform for exploration, a group exploration. It was an opportunity to compose music and work together, and play Mr. Jarman's music, play Mr. Abrams' music, work on compositions of Roscoe Mitchell or John Stubblefield. . . Well, it gave us an opportunity to try out things. And we were always encouraged to try out new ideas, not be afraid to be different.
In the AACM I was able to learn from the work of my. . .I'll say brothers. . . I don't mean any kind of '60s' jargon. But in fact, when I think of Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill and John Stubblefield and Ari Brown, the American master Leo Smith and Leroy Jenkins -- we all worked together. And at every point, our hope was to have an involvement based on our beliefs, based on the excitement of the music on its own plane. The opportunity to meet and learn from these musicians was a blessing. I thank the Creator for my good fortune to meet these people. I thank the cosmos that I've had the opportunity to grow up with guys with that kind of vision and dedication and hard work, and I learned a great deal from them. As far as I am concerned, the McArthur could go to any of those musicians, including Amina Claudine Myers.
We were of the group that Douglas Ewart and I now refer to as the Believers. And that to me has been one of the life markers. As well as later having the opportunity, for instance, to work with Fred Rzewski, Richard Teitelbaum, Maryann Amacher. I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunities to meet and experience and learn from the men and women of our culture, of our nation and of our planet. I met Mr. Teitelbaum in something like five feet of mud in Belgium, in Almavise(?), at a festival. I met Mr. Teitelbaum at the same time that I met the American master Fred Rzewski, and the American master Alvin Curran. All of us were in our 20s, excited about music and the idea of music as a component to change the world. We were going to change the world with our work. We were idealistic and excited.
It was a very beautiful time. Teitelbaum and Frederick were moving away from Stockhausen; more and more they were becoming interested in improvisation and the transAfrican restructural musics. I had records of Fred Rzewski playing "Contrapunter," Stockhausen, and "Klavierstucke 10," and I was very curious about the restructural breakthroughs of the post-Webern composers. So we kind of met in the middle of this sector. I learned a great deal about the post- Webern continuum from Mr. Teitelbaum and Mr. Rzewski and Curran. From that point, I had the good fortune to be asked to join Musica Elettronica Viva, and in doing that, I had opportunities to meet American masters like Maryann Amacher. . . .
What am I really talking about? I'm talking about the underground. By underground in this context, I am only saying that there is a great love that's always been here in America. I see it right now, all over our country, a great love, men and women who are not Democrats or Republicans, they're not nationalists or feminists, or anti-feminists or anti-nationalists, but men and women who are concerned about evolution and culture, music, who are dedicating themselves to their work, whether or not it's understood. And I align myself with that group, from the old school. We love music, we try to do our best, we kick it about.
This area of the music is not talked about very much. and this sector of values has kind of become obscured. In the '90s we talk about what you can't do as a way to define a participation. But the group I come from, we talk about what you can do, and it's not defined in a way that says you can't be who you are because of some idiomatic concept based on what is correct.
And so, I look at Mr. Teitelbaum or Ms. Amacher or Fred Rzewski or Mr. Alvin Curran as a part of this underground brotherhood-sisterhood that is permeated with love and respect -- and of course, poverty! That's how I see my work. That is the proper context for my work. It's a part of the old underground. We're still excited about music, or the playing of music, and we still have great hope for America. I hope to continue my work based on the spirit of what I have learned through my path. I feel very fortunate to be able to talk of those individuals.
In this time period, we find ourselves as Americans dealing with the '90s . Geopolitical transformations taking place all over. The end of Communism. The start of the new era. Five years away from the new millennium. I have great hopes that our children will be able to have the kind of involvement that I have had with my work, and I would like to be a part of those forces which will seek to unite and include opinions and viewpoints from different persuasions. I find myself at 50 in the ironic position of actually loving America. I am very proud to be an American. I feel our country is a young experiment. We have everyone here, different peoples, peoples fighting against one another -- but it's natural. Yet, the American Experiment is unique and it's universal, and I take great pride in being a part of this incredible venture into the next time cycle.
Back to the Association For the Advancement of Creative Musicians: I feel the AACM has been a profoundly important organization. In this time period, I have come to talk of the AACM as the Seventh Restructural Cycle of the music, or at least a point of definition for the seventh restructural cycle changes of the trans-African, trans-composite American musics. In this time period I feel there has been profound misunderstandings about the organization. And of course, with the complexities from the last 20 years, there has been a move away from the restructural breakthroughs that the AACM opened up. Yet, I feel that the work of the AACM will one day be viewed a porthole into the next thousand years.
The AACM at no point sought to erect any two-dimensional construct as the parameters for what is correct or not for any individual. Rather, the AACM sought to look for the community, to look at the community of the music, and to look at the dynamic implications of the music from its own terms. The Association For The Advancement of Creative Musicians in the early period would create a music school where we would go and pick up young children and bring them to the organization for free music lessons, and take them home after the lessons. As part of the character of the organization, there was always a community component involving our responsibility as creative artists to work in the community and have a composite relationship with our work. This viewpoint would later get obscured along with everything else.
But in fact, the AACM was never about a form of music. It was a trans- idiomatic alliance that sought to better understand the challenge of the restructural breakthroughs of the '60s, restructural breakthroughs relating to the evolving music of Ornette Coleman, the evolving music of John Coltrane, the evolving music of, well, Charlie Mingus, and also responding to the breakthroughs of the Jazz Composers Guild, which was an organization that had come together maybe five or six years earlier, the organization that American masters like Bill Dixon and Cecil Taylor and Paul Bley and Sun Ra worked to put together.
The AACM would be the second opportunity to move towards that kind of organization separate from the complexities, say, of New York City, with the media and political components taking place here in New York. It was an opportunity for musicians to talk about music and share ideas and work together and learn and study music. When I think about that time period, I feel extremely grateful to have been a part of it.
TP: Multi-instrumentalism seems to touch on the very essence of your identity as an improviser. AB: From the very beginning, I have only wanted to have the kind of involvement with my work based on whether or not the work itself could keep me interested. That is, I was never interested in a concept of postulation that would be transmitted separate from whether it served my own interest or whether it served my own attraction mechanisms. As such, from the very beginning, I found that the natural limitations of any idiomatic domain would at some point maybe not adhere to that which I was looking for.
All I am saying in that is that I was interested in rock 'n' roll, so-called -- that's how it was referred to in the '50s anyway; I don't know if the young people say rock 'n' roll any more. I would find myself interested in the Fifth Restructural Cycle musics, the musics we now refer to as bebop, and that the world of bebop would satisfy my essence on every level -- until it was time to go to another zone.
I am only saying that to say that part of the beauty of form and part of the wonder of an idiom is that it defines a context. More and more I would find by 1966 that we had come to a point, because of the exploratory and great work of restructural exploring musicians like Ornette Coleman, like Cecil Taylor, like Pauline Oliveros, like Albert Ayler, like Karlheinz Stockhausen, like John Cage, like Marian Williams, like the Florida State University Marching Band, like Frank Sinatra, like the Platters, where it might be necessary to redefine the context of terms that supports our relationship with a given methodology.
This for me had become the case, because not only would there be the forward vibrational motion and excitement of those musics, but also there would be the fact of the radio and the television, and that information was coming in from many different directions in a way that was different from the early period. That is, that the so-called Modern Era and the point of technology we had come to has produced a situation that found me in the '60s feeling we had come to a point where the concept of relationships had to be reexamined.
For myself, without knowing it, I would move to construct a model that would give me some insight into what later would become the genesis unit of my work. In the middle '60s, however, I tried to respond to the various challenges of that time period -- understanding, too, that I came through the period of the 1950s, the period where it was possible to experience, for instance, the work of the Modern Jazz Quartet, and the great work of the American master John Lewis, who no one talks about any more. That group would demonstrate a context of structure and creative balance that would give a fresh understanding of improvisation and composition and architectonic building.
In the same time there was the work of Dave Brubeck. We like to dump on M. Brubeck. But if it were possible to go back and reexamine his music, one would see a universe of creativity with many different kinds of approaches and structures, attempts to experiment with time. Mr. Brubeck would be an important role model, and his work would help me to clarify some understanding of forward motion.
This would also be the case with the American master Max Roach.
In other words, I am just saying, hmm, all of these things were in the air, and "How High The Moon," in itself, I found that this construct of experience and structure would not contain in itself all of the components that I would need to have the kind of "surprise" that I needed to keep me feeling healthy.
So by 1966, after the opportunity to experience and start the process of learning about the Sixth Restructural Cycle musics, including the early musics moving into the gateway of the modern era, especially the work of Arnold Schoenberg, especially the work of Scott Joplin, especially the work of Scriabin and the mystic European spiritual masters, but no disrespect to the great Indian masters. . . I discovered by 1966 that I could be a professional student of music. Which was lucky for me -- because hanging with Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman ensured me that I would always be a student! Because those guys are always working. Pauline Oliveros, she's always doing something.
What that meant for me was the research and development button would have to become a necessary component in my idea of participation and postulation.
So to answer your question, yes, in 1966, meeting the men and women from the Association For the Advancement of Creative Musicians as the third point of definition shift in my life, after growing up with my parents and the Army, that would be a profound experience for me. Because of that experience, when I began to think about my own music, I would find myself thinking, "Hmm." I needed to have a space where I could have a flash of consciousness. I needed a space where I could have memory, where there could be some context to look at identity. And finally, I would have a context where I could begin to explore symbolic relationships and synthesis relationships.
In that early period I would start the process of looking for what would be, one, genesis concepts and fundamentals of my work, and what could that mean in terms of an exploratory position as far as I wanted to have a context of involvement that I could live with. I mean, at the heart of all of this, I wanted to have an involvement that would give me the possibility to stay interested in my work. That's all.
TP: You've discussed the almost laboratory quality of musical process in the AACM during that early period. Part of that was a focus on the presentation of solo performance, which you've credited in some interviews as leading you to your idea of structure, of compartmentalizing your musical expression into different musical realms. Can you comment on that somewhat? AB: Yes, sir. In 1967, I gave a solo concert at the Abraham Lincoln Center in Chicago. In that time period, I thought I could approach solo music simply through improvisation. After the first five minutes of the concert, I noticed I was repeating myself. After the second five minutes, I found myself thinking, "Well, Braxton, I hate to be the one to say this, but this is horrible" -- and there must be some way to avoid the complexities of existential freedom. Because in fact, I was not interested in freedom or non- freedom. What I wanted was a context where I could evolve my work and have some way to measure change. And after the first ten minutes of the solo concert, as the pies began to form around my forehead and the eggs, I found myself thinking either buy a glass booth or something to stop the objects before. . .well, before. . .or at least develop a taste for eggs. Or, go back to the drawing board and look for some way to have the kind of definition that could make a difference.
I did not feel, then or now, that I possessed infinite creativity. What I learned was the kind of model that would give me a way to have a good concert even on a bad night, when inspiration wasn't flowing; that there would be fundamental components and devices that I could go to which would help me to have the kind of creative experience and the kind of definition where as a musical experience it could still be interesting -- and hopefully meaningful.
By 1968, of the music of Arnold Schoenberg and Karlheinz Stockhausen and Fats Waller, I had developed a real love for solo piano music. I was not a good enough pianist to participate in that area of the music, and I wanted then to, with the alto saxophone, see if it was possible to create a state of solo music that would have the same component possibilities as Mr. Schoenberg's or Mr. Stockhausen's or Mr. Waller's, but Stockhausen's piano music. As far as I am concerned, the gateway to the future, in terms of vocabulary and language, really begins there. Or at least, I have a great love for Mr. Stockhausen's piano music. It helped me to better understand definition and how it could work in the solo medium. In fact, the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen has helped me on many different levels.
And so, the solo musics, which start at that point, would be an attempt to clarify the vocabulary, to better understand vocabulary and solo music logics. The language music materials and models would help me to then begin to understand genesis materials. From that point, based on the solo materials, I would find myself with a genetic component that in this time period I have come to talk of in the way that we talk of DNA, as genetic materials that could be used not only on an individual level, but I have tried to, from the solo musics, from the instrumental musics, through improvisation, to create those kind of logic components that could be fed into the group context, the group parameter.
In taking that decision and in making that leap, I would in fact align myself with the Baroque masters. I mean, Johann Sebastian Bach was an improviser, he was a creative theorist, and he was also a composer. This was also the case for restructural composers like Duke Ellington or Fletcher Henderson. This balance is a historical balance that has been consistent with our species.
What I wanted, then and now, was to have a total involvement with my work. Because I discovered very early that I was interested in every aspect of music. I am interested in music signs. I am interested in creative theory or not creative theory, and I am interested in the beauty of instrumentalism, and a physical involvement. I feel very fortunate that I would discover in the discipline of music something that would be all-encompassing, something that would give me the possibility to be a student forever. Because there is always something new to learn in music.
TP: The next selection we'll hear is Braxton's first composition, "Piano Piece #1." AB: Piano Piece #1 I think was composed in 1966. This is the first of the Stable Logic Structures, the so-called compositions -- compositions, yes, even a composition! In my system, from the very beginning, I would seek to build a context of mutable, stable and synthesis logics. Mutable logics would be the improvised musics and the improvised strategies. Stable logics would be the notated music. In the same way that we talk of improvisation as blood or liquid fluid strategies, by Stable Logics, I would be referring to notated strategies, and strategies and targets which one could come back to. This, then, would be akin to the skeleton of my system.
[Music: "Piano Piece #1," Hildegarde Kleeb (1995); "Comp. 173" Creative Orchestra; "Epistrophy" (1994) Braxton Piano Quartet Live at the Knitting Factory]
TP: Although our listeners may have thought the alto saxophonist on "Epistrophy" was Anthony Braxton, it was Marty Ehrlich, while Braxton played piano. This new quartet made its first public appearances last spring. AB: Yes. In fact, Marty Ehrlich, Joe Fonda and myself, including Mr. Arthur Fuller on percussion, played last summer at Yoshi's, in Oakland, California. My hope is that this year some of the music will come out. The Knitting Factory musics will come out on Leo Records, two 2-CD sets, and the Yoshi's project will come out on Music and Arts -- I hope. There is another project with the American master Mario Pavone, a project where I had the opportunity to work with Thomas Chapin and Dave Douglas on saxophone and trumpet, respectively, the great master Pheeroan Aklaff, and Mr. Pavone and myself. We try to come together every now and then, and do a project. We are neighbors in Connecticut, and he is an old friend of mine, a musician I have long admired.
TP: You recorded some duets with him in 1993. AB: That's right. Mario Pavone has been one of the masters who have worked with dedication at his craft. We have known each other for years, Mr. Pavone, as well as the American master Joe Fonda. I kind of feel, in some ways, those guys have been holding me up. It's been very beautiful. Joe Fonda is also a virtuoso bass-player-composer who has had a career of dedication to the music. Mr. Fonda and I, we come together in many different contexts as well. I would also say Mr. Fonda, along with Melinda Newman, who is a virtuoso oboe player as well as a scholar, were the people who helped me the most to put together the Tri-Centric Ensemble. I want my work to be connected with American masters of her caliber.
TP: "Piano Piece #1 " was performed by Hildegarde Kleeb, who is a member of the Tri-Centric Ensemble. AB: Hildegarde Kleeb, in this period, is recording the complete piano musics, and I could not have been more fortunate. She is a virtuoso and dedicated musician. My hope is that in the coming cycle, I will have the tri-partial solo musics documented in a way where I can begin to. . . For music students who are interested in the science of possibilities, I can play examples of the Mutable Logic Vocabulary Musics as a context to talk about Mutable Logic similarities and differences. Because of Miss Kleeb, I will soon be able to talk of the Stable Logic similarities and differences, and synthesis strategies that permeate the Stable Logic structures. In compositions like "113" I am able to have examples of the Ritual and Ceremonial Synthesis Musics, which seek to combine methodology and process with the fire of intention.
TP: The quartet music we just heard was a departure from the instrumental configuration you've appeared with over the years, where you have played saxophone. The quartet formation seems to be an ideal situation, a laboratory format within you are able to contain all of your music. AB: Well, the quartet musics have changed over the years. In the beginning, I approached the quartet musics from a post-Coleman perspective that would establish thematic identities, and from that point improvisational elaboration in an open time-space continuum. Later, as I began to factor compositional procedures, I would move into more schematicized musics that sought to plot strategies within the total schematic time space. Later, I would find that the quartet would be the proper forum to begin the trimetric implementations.
TP: By which you mean? Trimetric: One term to elaborate for the audience. AB: By the term "trimetric" in this context, I am saying that by 1980, I had arrived at a point in my system where every composition would have three-by- three components; three-by-three-by-three components. And by that I'm saying, for example, the bass part of "Composition 83" can be extracted and itself be played by the orchestra. Every composition is an orchestra piece. Every composition is a chamber piece. Every composition is a solo piece. But it's even more than that. Every composition can be connected to another state. That is, every composition at this point is composed with respect to its origin identity state, with respect to its correspondence identity state, and finally with respect to its synthesis identity state.
And what that means is, suddenly there would be the opportunity to put compositions together. . . Imagine a giant erector set where every component can be refashioned based on the dictates of the moment. By adopting this structural context, I would in fact find myself in a post-Baroque structural arena that would seek to emphasize trimetric, or three-dimensional components.
What am I saying? I am saying that. . .as we move into the next thousand years, it will be important to remember that the new technologies are already here. We have already, for all practical purposes, arrived at the future as envisioned, say, in science fiction imagery of what's going to constitute the future. . . I remember Dick Tracy having a television in his watch. And so now I go to Radio Shack -- there it is! We are moving to the post-future components.
The nature of the breakthroughs in technology, in computer science, for example, has brought us to a point where we have virtual reality systems. And I believe in the future, a given creative experience will evolve, every individual having a chance to interact with that experience -- a walk into the music. Turn on the television set, walk into the television set. Walk into the music and have the opportunity and have the opportunity to kick it about in the same way as the musicians.
And as we move into this state, I have tried to, with my model, create a tri- metric component that will better clarify three-dimensional constructs as it will relate to navigation through the sonic reins based on trimetric correspondence. Menu logics. Navigational components. This, I feel, will be a part of the next thousand years. And the quartet musics for me is the platform for the trimetric breakthroughs of my system. What that means is, where in the past "Composition 27" was only performed one time, and I had like 12 tons of music in the basement not being performed, suddenly, the trimetric breakthroughs of my system would give me the possibility to have all of that material integrated into the quartet context, where a given performance of the quartet would give possibilities where a "Composition 96 For Orchestra and Four Slide Projectors" could be suddenly performed by the quartet. Not only that, we could perform "Composition 96" and connect it to "Composition 108-A."
As a result, in this time period, the quartet has demonstrated the trimetric components of my system. And by that, I'm only saying stable logic events, stable logic events in the sense of, say. . . For instance, Marilyn Crispell might play "Composition 30," which is a notated structure from beginning to end, in the space. At the same time, Gerry Hemingway and Mark Dresser might play "Composition 108-B," which is a pulse track, and I might take an improvisation based on the language music materials. The net effect of that participation establishes individual events, local events, and summation events.
This is what I mean by "trimetric." And I mention this in the context of the quartet at this time period as a platform for multiple logic strategies. And so to answer your question: Yes, the quartet musics have become the platform for all of the strategies and materials of my system, in the sense that, in this time period, we can take any of the constructs and use it for our purposes.
Let me say this, though -- because this could be important. As Ronald Reagan would say, "There he goes again!" I'm talking about process and science. I can imagine some of my enemies saying, "Yeah, I told you he wasn't jazz!" [Pauses, breathes deeply]
Let me back up. I talk about the processes of the music because I am excited about music science. But in fact, at the heart of my effort is only to have an experience in music and to kick it about in the old way, to have some fun, to hopefully play something that can mean something to myself, and to have an involvement with the family of the music -- the family in this context being the quartet. As far as I am concerned, there's no difference in my work from that of someone like George Clinton, or Barbra Streisand. I love music, and my intention has always been, or at least my hope has always been, that people will like the music, and that it can be something positive. We can play music. It's just music. That's all I was interested in.
All I've tried to do is have an involvement that respects what I have learned about the tradition. But not simply an academic involvement or a scientific involvement. I have tried to approach my music from the very beginning based on the constructs given to me by Frankie Lymon and Bill Haley and the Comets. And of course, Little Richard, who I guess was complex for me in the beginning, but later I found myself thinking, "Little Richard is the Man, and there's nothing that be done about it. Bow to the great master, and learn from him." All I have wanted to do, since I couldn't sing like Marvin Gaye, who was my man. . . I found myself thinking, "Well, what can you do? You don't have the voice, so you might as well learn an instrument and kick it about."
That's what I have tried to do, and that would be how I would want my music to be perceived. Not as a scientific laboratory, because I am not interested in science before music. All I wanted to do was to create a context of musics where we could do our best, and at the same time stay aligned to the fundamental components of our discipline. It is not a laboratory. It's more like a Jurassic Park.
TP: I'd like to discuss other aspects of the distinctive terminology that you use in your discourse on music. One word you've repeated a number of times in the course of our conversation today is "restructuralist." What is a restructuralist? How does a restructuralist function within a tradition of music? AB: By the term "restructuralist," I am only referring to those points of definition where the fundamental components of the given construct are realigned in a way to. . .to allow for fresh possibilities. And this is a normal component in progressionalism.
Charlie Parker was a restructuralist, the American master Max Roach was a restructuralist in that they. . . Mr. Roach would bring together a context of formalism that did not exist before he began his work. The same with Charlie Parker. His music would be the summation logic from the Fifth Restructural Cycle components, or Fourth Restructural Cycle components in Kansas City. And Charlie Parker's music would open up a new context. . .a fresh context of, one, line-forming logics; two, his music would bring with it a fresh rhythmic component; three, his music would reemphasize individual postulation in a way that was fresh and different from, say, the swing era.
John Cage would be an example of a restructuralist composer who would respond to the dictates and dynamics of Western art music and rearrange the components of the music in a way that would bring about the possibility for fresh experiences.
Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Coltrane are restructuralists in the sense that the reality of their involvement would bring forth fresh solutions in a way that would allow for fresh areas of exploration, fresh concepts of vocabulary, fresh concepts of interaction dynamics, and a fresh integration of material components.
By "restructuralist" and by the term "restructuralism," I am only referring to those points of progressionalism or of continuity that realigns fundamental components.
Cecil Taylor would be a restructuralist. The Great Man would give us another understanding of material integration. His record Unit Structures, for example, would give us an understanding of extended form and extended time spaces in a way that would give fresh areas of exploration for creative musicians or musicians who wanted to be creative. And I will always be grateful for his insistence on doing the work of the music based on the plane of the music, based on his own individual tendencies and visions.
And so, by the term "restructuralist" and by the term "restructuralism," I am only referring to natural points of change in a given construct, and that at those points of change there is a possibility for a new continuum of involvement.
For instance, in the past 15 and 20 years, when I think of Miles Davis' quintet with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams and Ron Carter, their approach would provide a context for much of the stylistic variations taking place in this time period. And when I think of the work of Charlie Parker, suddenly I find myself thinking, "Wow, generations of musicians have been able to have an experience based on the gains which came from the work of Mr. Parker and Mr. Roach, Mr. Powell, and the work of the great Thelonious Monk." Because of their courage and vision and insistence on evolving their music in a way that was consistent with their own value systems and beliefs, we would have the time period of the '50s and '60s and '70s and '80s and '90s where generations of musicians would have the opportunity to participate in the devices given to us from those individuals.
We must always acknowledge the fact that the gift of realignment comes from the restructural masters and the restructural masters' tradition. And so that's what I mean by the term "restructuralist," that without the work of the great restructural masters, we would not have the kind of evolution that we enjoy as part of our normal heritage. In fact, it's normal only because there has always been a generation of men and women who have worked to give us more options, not less options, and their work has vibrationally planted the paths and possibilities that we enjoy as a nation, as a culture. I am very grateful to have learned, or at least I'm trying to learn, from the wonderful restructuralist tradition, the tradition that gives possibilities as opposed to taking away possibilities.
TP: A second terminological question I think will also touch upon your own specific metaphysics. In an interview that was done with you on the recent quartet album, Victoriaville, you referred to the concept of "solar system repetitive signature logics." AB: I have tried, and I am trying in my work, to establish an involvement that is consistent with my experiences and the body of information that's available on the planet, that can be used in whatever way one wants to use it, to build a music that would give me the opportunity to have the greatest possible involvement. Because of that, I have tried to, well, have an involvement with structural dynamics, have an involvement with idiomatic dynamics that could increase choices as opposed to take away from choices.
By "solar system logics" in this context, I am only saying that the reality of a given model is not separate from what parameters it addresses. For instance, if I would say, "I want to play that Charlie Parker, I want to play bebop" in the way that it had been defined from the masters in that 1940s-50s restructural cycle, then suddenly I would use those properties and have an involvement with those properties. What I saw, as a young guy growing up in Chicago who had the benefit of experiencing and learning from masters like Max Roach or Harry Partch. . . I wanted to create a construct that would give me an opportunity to experience what I have learned from their work, as well as the work of an American master like Dinah Washington or Barbra Streisand.
The concept of solar system logics, then, would not be separate from the move towards imprint logic constructs that would be consistent with what we have learned about from astrology and from the position of the planets, and how apparent physicality seems to work, the laws that underline apparent physicality. I wanted, as a young man, and I want now to build a model and a construct that takes into account the state of information in this time period, so that I would have maximum exploratory possibilities.
The solar system structures, then, would be an attempt to take into account that which has been given to us in terms of information about relationships in the planets, and the concept and phenomenon of cycles and repetitive logics as a way to encode identities which will be consistent with a particular space, identities which will be stated and at some point come back as a way to delight in the formal components of a given sound space. In the same way that, if we played "A Night In Tunisia," a composition which establishes an identity space, and then after that we'll play something like "Misty". . .
The beauty of bebop for me is. . . Well, one, it's so diverse. I mean, you can play a so-called Latin composition. You can play a so-called ballad. You can play within a particular harmonic strata or a set of chord progressions.
But in the post-Ayler sector of the music, which was the sector which moved into the trans-harmonic implications that had been raised, as opposed to atonality. . . I was never interested in atonality. I was interested in incorporating and building up on that which already existed. In the trans- harmonic, in the trans-structural components opened up by Albert Ayler and by the AACM, suddenly there would be the possibility to build structural models that would even take into account the solar system components of what we know about as far as the relationship of the planets, as far as the wonder of the galaxy, and how to factor that information into a broad, formal context that would give us, as instrumentalists, more possibilities for exploratory experiences.
And so the solar system pulse track structures, as exemplified, say, by "Composition 158" or "159" would be a way of taking that aspect of formalism, cyclic logics as exemplified in the state of solar system relationships, and include that in the music. This would, in my system, be another aspect of pulse track strategies and formal states. And in doing so, solar system strategies in the context of the music would give me the possibilities to have identities which are evolving at short time-space distances, medium time-space distances, and extended or very long time-space distances.
TP: In interviews you've mentioned that the respective orbits of Mercury, Mars and Uranus would all have different velocities within a fixed system. AB: Yes.
TP: And that could translate into what the musicians who are performing with you would have as defined strategies for their improvising and performing within a particular space. AB: Yes. The understanding being that the reality of structure establishes a context of relationships and identities, in the same way that the chord changes of "How High The Moon" establishes a state of harmonic recognition that is different from, say, playing the composition "Half Nelson." And of course, we delight in playing both compositions. We delight in it because each composition gives a state of possibilities. In my system, which is a trans-idiomatic system, I sought to have the same components, as opposed to the concept of, "Oh, okay, we're gonna play; it's free, man! Yay!" I wasn't interested in that. I was more interested in establishing contexts of recognition, contexts of relationships that would help to reflect the improvisational decisions and cast those decisions in a state of recognition based on structural components that could be depended upon, in the same way that "How High The Moon" has a state of chord changes that helps to define the nature of the postulations taking place in it.
TP: Why do you use the term "post-Ayler music" to refer to the period you identify with? Why is Albert Ayler the signpost at which music changes? And how did he restructuralize the music to bring about this whole other field of possibilities for the last several generations of musicians? AB: I say "post-Ayler" because it's convenient, in the same way that the term "post-Webern" is used. And yet, at the same time, I recognize it's complex. For instance, we talk about post-Webern or the work of Arnold Schoenberg, and somehow, in a way, it obscures the great work of composers like Scriabin, who I feel is profoundly important, or the work of Harry Partch, or Ruth Crawford Seeger. As far as I'm concerned, their work would help to bring about the dynamic implications of the transidiomatic musics.
Post-Ayler? Well, Albert Ayler's work would be a very clear way of talking of a move not only of the trans-idiomatic musics, but Albert Ayler's music would come to personify the emergence of sound mass logics as a context for elaboration. Albert Ayler's music would go back to the source-initiated components of the trans-African and composite American musics in that it gave us an opportunity to experience the fresh fundamentals of the music. It gave us an opportunity to look at the tenor saxophone in a fresh way, separate from dialectical components involving pitch, involving the state of bebop by 1962 or '63. Albert Ayler bypassed the functional components of extended bebop, and in its place opened up sound mass logics, in its place opened up the folk components of the music in terms of the use of marches, the beauty of collective improvisation and the family of the music. Albert Ayler's music would come to personify the reemergence of individual creativity and dynamics, and how the individual in the post-nuclear age could begin to move forward and redefine the components of the music.
Yet Mr. Ayler's work was not separate from what he learned from the great American master Sun Ra, or the work of Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman, or the work of Don Ellis. Nobody talks about Don Ellis! But Don Ellis was bad!!
So yes, "post-Ayler" is a convenient way of talking about the emergence of the trans-harmonic musics, the entry into sound mass evolution as a logical- unlogical response to the complexities that opened up after Beethoven.
TP: You are notorious for the avidity of your interest in chess, and your interest in mathematics is evident to anyone who has followed your work. Can you discuss the relationship between music, chess and mathematics? AB: The beauty of chess for me is that it gives a wonderful opportunity to look at structure and relationships, and intentions, and target strategies, and the relationship between target strategies and variables and objectives, and fulfilling objectives. The beauty of chess also extends into physics and pressures and. . . I don't know. As far as I'm concerned, chess demonstrates everything. I mean, there's something very beautiful about the dynamics of chess. I had to back away from it, though. Suddenly, I found myself a grown man with three children, my wife and myself, and here I was playing chess, doing my music, and I found myself thinking. . . I had to get away from chess, because. . .I don't know. . . Maybe I loved it too much.
TP: I'd like to reframe the earlier question about multi-instrumentalism. Lately you've added piano to the arsenal of instruments on which you publicly perform. Do different selves emerge when playing piano as opposed to saxophone? Do different instruments bring out different aspects of your thought? AB: As I've said, I wanted to have an involvement where all of me could be involved. So to answer your question: Yes!
But to really answer your question, I would have to go back to the sign of the triangle, which is the synthesis Third Partial emanations in my system. In this context, I would talk of the twelve constructs of my system based through its Third Plane Identities. By that I am only saying that if, in 1966, I talked of when referring to the solo music processes, 12 components involving geosonic metric constructs (I can't even say "metric". Boy, I need another beer!), I was referring to, in that period, number one, long sounds; number two, accident long sounds; number three, trios; number four, staccato line formulas; number five, intervallic formulas; number six, multiphonics; number seven, short attacks; number eight, angular attacks; number nine, legato formings; number ten, diatonic formings; number 11, gradient formings; number 12, self-identity formings.
If, in the beginning, I would find geosonic constructs to provide the genesis material that could help clarify definition for me as an improviser, to have an involvement where I could measure similarities, differences and duplications, I wanted to have that possibility, because I was not interested in repeating myself unless it was part of a decision or strategy. From that point, I would seek to extend the 12 constructs in its extended sense as it related to that which was greater than me -- in this context, "greater than me" would be that which involves the group.
As far as extended placements of those constructs, suddenly the long sound became the sustained space -- static. Number two became the sequential space -- active. Number three became trill strategies for the group. Number four became staccato line formings, or very fast sequential logic bases for the group. All the way down to 12.
Now, to answer your question, and your question is: Are there many different selves that can be expressed with different instruments? I would go back to 1966. Part of the challenge of that period would be to respond to the forethrust of the restructural musics as it was offered to us. In that period, for instance, the spectra of the individual as it relates to instrumental decisions and dynamics in that period had already been set into place by master musicians like Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who demonstrated the possibility of playing three instruments at one time -- not to mention on one instrument he was a total virtuoso. There would also be the great work of the American master Eddie Harris. We've forgotten about Mr. Harris, but. . .
TP: Saxophone and piano. AB: And trumpet! And he's always inventing instruments. When learning from him in the '60s, I recall him talking of the importance of looking for different ways of expressing yourself, and not aligning yourself on one instrument in a way that would narrow your possibilities.
So by 1966, after I got out of the Army, I had experienced the work of Eric Dolphy, who would advance and extend the technical domain of multi- instrumentalism, the conceptual domain of multi-instrumentalism. He would hand to the AACM a concept of multi-instrumentalism that would allow for the possibility to express oneself on the flute, clarinet and the bass clarinet, and postulations in the lower register where there are different kinds of logics needed to have an "effective/uneffective" postulation, depending upon what the person wants. For myself, I discovered that some of the music I was hearing on the flute didn't translate on the baritone saxophone, but that it wasn't because the baritone saxophone had in itself some kind of limitation. Rather, the baritone saxophone has its own set of properties.
So it was because of the wonder of multi-instrumental dynamics that the AACM was able to inherit that. The work of Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell and the Art Ensemble of Chicago extended the concept of multi-instrumentalism to include what Roscoe and Joseph referred to in that time period as "little instruments." At that point, Leo Smith and I, we went out, we got garbage cans, bricks, rocks. . . We couldn't let those guys out-do us! Anything we could find! We were trying to keep up with those guys. It was part of the beauty of that period. We were all bouncing off of one another, learning from one another. Roscoe would build his own instruments. The work of the American master John Cage would help us to have a broader understanding of instrumental dynamics and possibilities. And I wanted to have that gain included in my music as well, that being a broader understanding of sonic materials. So because of that, I have tried whenever possible to think in terms of fresh instrumentations, fresh combinations of instruments.
I mention that to say that by the Seventh Restructural Cycle of Musics, the concept of multi-instrumentalism had even extended into different domains. And I feel that one of the wonderful possibilities, or some of the wonderful possibilities which have opened up in the last ten or 15 years has been the wonder of instrumental dynamics and fresh timbre spaces. Too often, we've found ourselves dealing with conventional instrumentations in a way that kind of limits the possibilities. I mean, we think of jazz, we think of piano, bass and drums, and saxophone and trumpet, or we think of classical music and we think of string sections, brass, etc. But in fact, my interest in timbre dynamics transcends the conventional categories.
What I would like in the future more and more would be ensembles which have accordions, steel drums, garbage cans, bricks, not to mention defined instrumental components and undefined components, that being, you're playing the music and suddenly the Good Humor Ice Cream truck passes and becomes a part of the piece. And so the beauty of timbre expansion has, for me, involved looking for fresh instrumentations, a fresh combination of instruments, inclusion of instruments not normally associated with the music -- mandolins, accordions, whistles.
Now, back to your question: Can you reflect different aspects of yourself inside your creativity? I would say yes. And in my system, in the Tri- Centric musics, I have at this point been able to establish 12 points of identity which include 12 mythologies, or ways of being. I have taken that approach, because I felt then, as now, that it might be possible to continue to extend upon those sub-spiritual tendencies inside of us (which are not inside of us, which are inside of us), and to express that as part of the atomic unit, nuclear unit of my system, and also as part of an attempt to establish the poetic logics.
So in my system, rather than talk of, "Number One, long sounds," I can now talk Shala. Rather than talk of "Number Two, accented long sounds," I talk of Ashmenton, and number three, Helena, Zakko, Ntzockie, Joreo, Sundance, Bubba John-Jack, Ojuwain, David, Alva and Kim -- representing the 12 primary characters of my system in its ritual and ceremonial state.
>From that point, in terms of projective fantasy structures, when I talk of my system in its City-Nation form state scheme, I can now talk of a continent that has 12 different states, and inside each state there is a way of being and a system of connections. As such, by establishing and projecting that information into its extended tri-centric contexts, I can now begin the process of mapping and building structures to correspond with narrative structures. I have taken that route because even though I am in love with the science of the music, in every way, I have found that in the next time cycle, the kind of evolution that I wanted could not be expressed based on a two- dimensional relationship to anything, and that the meta-reality and myth secrets of my system could only be talked about based on some poetic attempt to establish narrative constructs, so that I could have the possibility then to talk of events in the Bubba John Jack sound space, based on the secrets of Mr. John Jack, and based on the fantasy myth story of Bubba John Jack.
I can take this approach, and jump past, or behind (depending upon how you look at it; either way I'll take it) present-day complexities involving intellectual snarls concerning: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or: Who killed who? Did you kill me first, or did I kill you first? Or: How did you get to be so much of a liberal that you became a Republican? Many of these questions, questions which underlie assumptions in this time period that I respect and love and bow to, have very little to do with how I have defined my work. Rather than figure out who killed Cock Robin in 1722, my system is directed to the next thousand years, and how we as a species can set constructs into place that can give us an opportunity to make fresh mistakes as opposed to old mistakes.
[Music: "Comp. 173" (exc.); "Comp. 120" (1985); "Comp. 174" (1994)]
AB: The three compositions we just heard, the last three compositions that we played, "Composition 173," "Composition 174" and "Composition 120," would be an example of the new narrative logic musics. In the case of "Composition 173," this would be an example of the Tri-Mutable Logic Strategies, Tri- Mutable Logic Strategies in the sense that "173" is composed with the use of combined and created words, and inside of that there are synchronous hook-ups with an improviser. The nature of the hookup has no bearings on Stable Logic pitch information as much as contour. The improviser traces the contour of the actor.
TP: To what degree are the actors improvising within that? AB: The text is written. The actors are reading but improvising. I never really told the actors exactly what the play was about. In the future, I might have that as part of the esthetics of the play. But in fact, within "Composition 173," the play, there are three stories all happening at the same time. It just depends on whatever the friendly experiencer feels comfortable with.
The first story is a group of people, four people, have just completed a bank robbery, and they are about to expand out into the country to get away from the police, and they are plotting ways to get out. That is the apparent story.
The secondary story is about mapping, mapping in the Tri-Mutable space, and mapping in terms of having conjunction logics that would give the Friendly Experiencer-Improviser an opportunity to have a postulation inside of a narrative context that establishes the use of magic words (yes, I'll say that; magic words), the use of interlocking strategies, and the use of spatial strategies. This composition, "#173," then would be an example of the circle.
"Composition 174," which was the last piece we heard, is scored for ten percussionists. A given performance of "174" in its origin state would involve three screens of slide projectors. It is the story of a group of mountaineers, as far as the apparent story. In fact, the secondary structural story is really about mapping gradient logics, the idea of a mountain in this context and the story of mountain climbing in this context represents a point to establish gradient logics. I think "Composition #174" is in the 11th House, or Land Number 11, the Alvalands.
The second composition was "Composition 120," which is "Trillium A." This was the first of the Trillium Complex Operas. When completed, Trillium will contain 36 autonomous acts that can go together in any order to establish an opera complex that will project the conceptual constructs of the Tri-Axium Writings, which is my philosophical system, into the ritual and ceremonial space. "Composition 120," then, is a dialogue form that seeks to portray the philosophical arguments in Tri-Axium writings.
The three compositions, then, "Composition 173," "174" and "Composition 120," would be three examples of the new narrative logic structures. This is one of the areas of my work that I am very excited about. But so what?! [Loud laugh]
TP: I'd like you to discuss the nature of your interaction with serious improvisers, the impact of the individual personality of the people who perform your pieces on the shape the pieces take, the way the pieces mutate over time, the way your ideas about musical structures mutate over time. AB: Good question. Thank you. Before responding to your question, I would like to thank the American master, Steve Ben-Israel for the work that he has heen doing, for helping me with "Composition 173." Mr. Ben-Israel has, from the very beginning, been a part of the Living Theater, which was one of the restructural movements in the '60s, restructural theater groups in the '60s. The work that they did would open up possibilities in narrative logics, in dynamic imagery, and give a fresh perspective of the possibilities for creative theater for the new millennia. I would just to recognize that, by coming and helping me with "Composition 173," in fact, he helped me on every level. It was a great honor to have an opportunity to work with a master.
I'd also like to talk about Miss Aisha Beck, and the fact that Miss Beck, who is a great master herself, comes from a lineage of masters, Julian Beck and Mrs. Beck, Judith Molina. The work that they did I feel will be part of the next time cycle. We will have to, as a culture, go back and re-examine some of the area that we might not have been as excited about as we should have.
By the way, I only heard during this program that the American master Novelist Arthur Taylor has passed. Of course, he was a master drummer, but I say "novelist" because the implications of his work extend into the tri-partial space. I had the good fortune to meet Mr. Taylor and have many experiences with him in Paris, and I have long felt that on many levels his work was not always appreciated and understood in the wake of the restructural work of Max Roach or the American restructural master Roy Haynes, and even the work of Philly Joe Jones in some ways would obscure the general particulars of Mr. Taylor's work. But I mean, he's one of our great stylistic masters. And his writings have a uniqueness and have a realness that come through actual experience as opposed to speculation. So I was and I am very surprised to hear of his passing. I hope his family is okay, and want to extend my feeling to his family and respect to the great man.
So I wanted to say that. Now, your question. What was your question? [Laughs]
TP: Improvisers interpreting your music, and the interactive effect, back and forth, between you and the improvisers and the improvisers on you, more or less. Shaping pieces over time. AB: Shaping pieces over time. For me, whenever I want to play music just by myself, I have the solo experience. I love the solo experience. I can do anything I want in the solo experience, including totally fail and have a pie thrown at me.
TP: Hopefully it's well baked. AB: Well, hopefully. Or at least the kind of fruit pie strategies that won't hurt so much.
But after the solo experience, as soon as the concept of duo comes into play, my position has always been, I am interested in playing with the person I am playing with, and the concept of structure for the duo context I have tried to think in terms of logics and strategies that will give a possibility to have a fresh experience. In my system, a quorum starts at the number three, and at the number three, it's an orchestra piece.
In other words, there are really only three fundamental contexts in my system: The solo experience, the chamber experience (that being the individual with someone else), and the trio experience -- and the trio experience, for all practical purposes, is the orchestra, in my system.
But maybe I should back up a bit. In my system, every piece is an orchestra piece, every piece is a chamber piece, every piece is a solo piece. But that's just on one plane. On the second plane, the bass part of "Composition 83" can itself be extracted and played by four hundred flutes with tambourines. Or it can be taken and played backwards, and hooked to something else. Finally, every composition of mine can be placed in a summation logic context, where it will aid the predominant voices of whatever identity it is aligned with. This is a context of structural connections that can be viewed in the same way that we talk of an erector set, that can be put together in different ways depending upon the needs of the moment.
Now, for your question, what does it mean to play music with someone and what does that mean over time? Well, for me, it means proof that the Creator has blessed me and given me incredible experiences. That I am still a virtuoso complainer is only because I have my sense of humor. But in fact, the opportunity to have a musical involvement is totally miraculous, and I try. . .
Whenever I play music with myself or with someone else, I try to do my best, and inherent in that, when I think of what is so-called "the best" in my understanding, it is: Make my mistakes, do the best I can do, have some fun, kick it about, and try to have a relationship with postulation that is as honest as it can be, and when it can't be honest, at least be creative, and construct an Other when need be.
And I try to approach the music with the kind of positive energy that my forefathers and foremothers taught me was important. When John Coltrane and Martin Luther King, Jr., talked of the seriousness and beauty of community and of trying to do your best, A Love Supreme. . . Mr. Coltrane was not talking about sex, although of course I love sex -- hurray for sex and hurray for bodies. But Mr. Coltrane was talking about love for the Creator, love for something more than just a brick.
So to answer your question, I try to, in my sonic experiences, approach it with the best attitude that I can bring to my work. My work represents the best part of me. Lord knows, there are other parts. But my music represents my hopes, that which I hope to be. And part of that is in playing with a person or having a musical experience, I try to do the best that I can do, and respect myself and the person that I'm playing with, and have the experience as honest/blank as possible, with the hope that the experience can somehow mirror something that reflects the real values that have allowed me to continue my work, and have helped me to navigate a life through this period in time and to keep a relationship with my work.