New Musical Figurations
Anthony Braxton's Cultural Critique
Born in 1945, Braxton is not only a virtuoso jazz saxophonist but an innovative theoretician and composer of experimental art music. His refusal to conform to the conventions of official musical culture has helped unhinge the very ideologies on which definitions of "jazz," "black music," "popular music," and "art music" are founded.
New Musical Figurations gives the richest view available of this many-sided artist. Radano examines Braxton's early years on the South Side of Chicago, whose vibrant black musical legacy inspired him to explore new avenues of expression. Here is the first detailed history of Braxton's central role in the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, the principal musician-run institution of free jazz in the United States. After leaving Chicago, Braxton was active in Paris and New York, collaborating with Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Frederic Rzewski, and other composers affiliated with the experimental-music movement. From 1974 to 1981, he gained renown as a popular jazz performer and recording artist. Since then he has taught at Mills College and Wesleyan University, given lectures on his theoretical musical system, and written works for chamber groups as well as large, opera-scale pieces.
The neglect of radical, challenging figures like Braxton in standard histories of jazz, Radano argues, mutes the innovative voice of the African-American musical tradition. Refreshingly free of technical jargon, New Musical Figurations is more than just another variation on the same jazz theme. Rather, it is an exploratory work as rich in theoretical vision as it is in historical detail.
A Note on Sources and Methods
1. Introduction: A New Musical Balance
2. Chicago as Aesthetic Center
3. Musical Assertions of Black Identity
4. New Musical Convergences: Paris and New York
5. Defining a Black Vanguard Aesthetic
6. Black Experimentalism as Spectacle
Epilogue: Jazz Recast
Picture Titles of Compositions Cited
Recordings Cited/Anthony Braxton on Record
Society for American Music: Irving Lowens Book Award