Transcendance (2015)




reeds/5 tpts/4 tbns, b.tbn, tba/tap dancer, 2 perc, e.gtr, pno, b.gtr
[Perc: splash cymbal, ride cymbal, hi-hat with chain, snare drum, floor tom, 2 long metal chains]


David Kweksilber Big Band / 25 April 2015 / Bimhuis, Amsterdam, NL


commissioned by the David Kweksilber Big Band with financial support from the Performing Arts Fund NL

Ever since hearing stories about him as a child, Anthony Braxton has unknowingly played the role of improvisatory-guide in my artistic life.* With the opportunity to compose a piece for the David Kweksilber Big Band--made up of musicians who, like Braxton, are gifted performers of both improvised and notated music--I decided to finally venture deeply into his world.

I did a careful reading of Braxton's 700+ page Composition Notes, Volume C, a book analyzing his significant works composed when he was around my age, many of them for large ensembles. I studied his innovative techniques for combining notation and improvisation, and listened to as many recordings of these works as I could find. Finally, I combined his ideas with my own, and turned them into a full piece that felt suited to the personalities and strengths of the DKBB players.

Subconsciously I think this music reflects many shared beliefs with Braxton--the power of affirmation, the lack of any natural opposition between notation and improvisation, and the primary goal of music: transcendence. Transcendence of 'mere music-making' into a transformative experience for the musicians and audience, transcendence of Clyde Stubblefield's iconic drum beat on Cold Sweat into an ever-shifting chain of related grooves, and finally transcendence of 'just a solo' into a complex web of personal expressions from the composer, the conductor, and each musician in the ensemble.

*I first heard about Braxton from my uncle, Tor Faegre, who grew up in Chicago in the 1960s. Tor ran and lived in the anarchistic Solidarity Bookstore, where Braxton frequently visited. I recall two stories in particular. The first took place at a winter party at Tor's house where Braxton had disappeared; Tor went outside to get something and found Braxton engrossed in musical research with a metal garbage can in the snow, exploring new sounds. The second was a concert where Braxton asked Tor, who worked in construction, to come on stage with his electric saw and find a way to join the performance.


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[David Kweksilber Big Band]

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