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April 04, 2010


Oran Kelley

Maybe it's just me but Braxton's blatherings usually seem to fall into a few categories: 1) the utterly incomprehensible; 2) obvious observations, arcanely stated; 3) naiveté/ignorance. When written, they're written in what is best described as an unintentional parody of highest-of-high-academic bullshit.

The question isn't why Mosaic didn't include them, but why anyone would have indulged their inclusion in the first place. He's not a "nutty professor," he's Chance.


My junior high school general music teacher taught our class about Anthony Braxton. Apparently he'd seen him perform and described the contra-bass saxophone to us. We also went over the chapter at the end of the textbook which included material on Harry Partch and I think also John Cage and listened to recordings of all 3. Years later, when I realized the things I liked most about the rock station were the "Real men of genius" beer commercials I decided to finally check out some of that stuff. Thanks for putting up an excellent post.

Doug Schulkind

Commenter Oran Kelley is entitled to his opinion, though I can't help but lament for the legion of Braxton slaggers who get all tripped up over his hyper-intellectualism and forget to actually listen to the music. Doing so, for me, has been a 30-year passion. Thanks for this lovely piece.

Scott McDowell (host of The Long Rally on WFMU) had a terrific Braxton post in this space in '08.


I would be tempted to slag off Braxton as an incomprehensible fake-intellectual, except that my first exposure to him was learning that he made a living hustling chess games when jazz wasn't paying; you can't fake chess. I don't understand his diagramatic song titles, but whether that's because I'm slow or he's being needlessly-difficult is hard to tell-- I'll give him credit for being unique in that respect.

Some of his albums enthrall me, some bore me to tears, some are an awful lot of work for the payoff.


A missed opportunity to issue the Quad only 4 Orchestras piece on a multichannel DVD!

Oran Kelley

"You can't fake chess" Meaning we ought to have been listening to & taking seriously Fischer's antisemitic diatribes? Or maybe, though you can't fake chess, it's a distinct form of intellectual activity implying little or nothing about one's ability to perform cultural analysis?

Jason Guthartz

"Unlike the majority of AB’s original Arista releases, the Mosaic box doesn’t give us that essential side to the man: his thorny, loopy composition notes."


With the various writers' permission, I've posted all the original liner notes from the Arista LPs -- along with relevant portions from Braxton's Composition Notes -- here:

You can either go to each Arista album's discography entry and click the blue circle icon, or click the "Essays & Review Index" in the upper-left frame and then see the relevant links in the lower-left frame.

I've also posted the liner notes here:


Jay Davis

Thanks for a good review of this boxed set, an indulgence I also allowed myself this year. And bless Jason Guthartz for posting the original liner notes (now I know what else I'm going to do on the web this weekend). I "lost track" of this genius, AB, sometime in the very early 80's because of LP's and their limitations. Finding the Mosaic Box was wonderful. And for the person who said "some are an awful lot of work for the payoff," I have to say I agree with you, but it's worth the effort. Music that sounded challenging and disorganized when I first listened at 25 now sounds perfect to me at 55-- and the music hasn't changed.

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