I was glad to read Fred's recent comment about "appreciation and understanding [not having] to share the same bed" before I listened to Five Compositions. Lack of understanding — feeling like there was something going on here, but I didn't know what it was — was part of the reason that this record has hardly been played in the twenty or so years since I got it (inevitably a Rare and Racy purchase — the only place you'd find Anthony Braxton records in Sheffield).
Via The Wire — the only publication you'd find Anthony Braxton mentioned — I was aware that a book about Braxton had been published. (There's another one now.) I could tell that reading the book wouldn't help much, because I wouldn't be able to understand that either.
Looking at Braxton's own self-consciously opaque sleeve notes and the cartoon drawings he passes off as graphic scores, I wonder whether there isn't some elaborate hoax at work here, whether he isn't just 'avin a larf. Well done, if he is. And if he isn't, well, it's close to being a private language that he's developing.
Anyway, thanks in part to Fred, I was able to put all that inadequacy and incomprehension to one side and just listen. The record sounds fantastic: beautifully recorded and in mint condition thanks to lack of plays. But never mind understanding it, there are some passages I can't even follow. That is, my mind and my ear can't keep up with the notes, or parse what's going on in the music. Do you get that? I don't think I used to, but I first noticed it when I started going to improv jazz gigs in the late eighties, and it's got steadily worse as I started listening to music alongside almost all activities, to the point where your brain gets so practiced at filtering out music to concentrate on something else that it becomes hard to remove the filter again.
I experienced that last week when I went to see Terry Riley. But I could relax about it then, because I knew there was a hell of a lot going on — and when it all clicked and resonated for a brief spell, it was fantastic. Same feeling without the resonance in the case of this record.
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