A Guest Post by Josh Sinton

“So what you see above is a movie from the third day of recording (Saturday, March 20th to be precise).  The very beginning of the speech unfortunately wasn’t captured, but in brief, Anthony was telling us (the instrumentalists) that despite our protests, he was in fact very happy with the take we just did (a particularly tough bit of work – Scene 3, rehearsal letter AD.5 (if you buy me a drink, I’ll explain to you what’s occurring in the music at this point)) and no, we weren’t going to do any more takes.  We weren’t going to do any more takes because, in his words, this was not “Some kind of Technocrat Jamboree” (I swear to god, I DID NOT MAKE THIS UP).  He then proceeded to make the speech you see in the accompanying movie.   Over and over again, everyone (including myself) wanted to deliver a clean, clear, flawless rendition of what Mr. Braxton wrote down.  We had to DEMONSTRATE what we were capable of.  Braxton said, in essence, that’s fine, but IT DOESN’T MATTER for this section of the piece.  He decided he knew what we were capable of and he was done evaluating.  He wanted to get on with creating this thing.  A thing that (at moments) had nothing to do with demonstrating instrumental proficiency or musical skill.    I can’t stress how shocking this was.  Not just in this instance, but in the multiple times this occurred during the recording.  I’ve lived in New York for close to six years now (not very long for a New Yorker) and it’s now a hard fact that when I play a composer’s music, I’m expected to GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME DAMMIT.  To encounter someone who at times wanted this, but other times rejected that approach out of hand was, well, confusing.  Sometimes Anthony wanted things executed very precisely and it’s rare (but not unheard of) to find a performer who can consistently polish a performance to a high gloss.  But it’s even rarer (and today unheard of) to find someone who rejects the polished performance because it doesn’t suit their needs.   I don’t give a lot of credence to some baby-boomer’s claims that the current generation is ‘lacking’ (guts, intensity, intelligence, interest), but this embrace and creative use of unpredictability does strike me as a very 1960’s concept.  And it’s a concept that’s not so fashionable right now.  Today, if music’s going to sound accidental or chaotic, it will be because the musician WILLS THAT, i.e. has control.  Not because the musician made a mistake, i.e. lost control.  Anthony Braxton at this moment shoved us all into a place where we couldn’t help but make some mistakes (lose control) and he then proceeded to give us a kiss on the collective cheek for having done so.    He wanted the sound of highly trained people trying to execute demanding work but with a momentum that can only come from unfamiliarity.  Not a performance with the placid intensity of complete familiarity.  This is not an affected musical object, but a dynamic and mobile web of intentions.   Thanks Mr. Braxton.”

-Josh Sinton

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2 responses to “A Guest Post by Josh Sinton

  1. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what Anthony means when he says (some!) things don’t need to be perfect, and I think Josh does that well here. It’s not that it “doesn’t matter” or “however it comes out is OK” (common copouts from the slacker school of free improv)…it’s that the sound of unintentional imperfection is appealing to him.

  2. play some of AB’s accelerated ghost trance music and you will be cured of that “get it right the first time” mentality.

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