There is little in the extensive catalog of Anthony Braxton that falls into a customary compositional milieu. His more recently formed conceptual structure, Echo Echo Mirror House (circa 2011), succeeds Ghost Trance Music and Diamond Curtain Wall Music as a platform for his unique system of coded composing and improvising. On 3 Compositions (EEMHM) 2011, each member of the septet has dual functions as they are armed with iPods, in addition to their more familiar instruments. What reads as being somewhat gimmicky on paper, works quite effectively in performance.
The three compositions, on individual discs in the box set, each run just under one hour. Disc 1 is "Composition No. 372"; a dense layer of instrumentation giving way to a sing-song brass and reeds section. The electronics play a part that moves from the background to the fore interweaving with the traditional instruments. Disc 2's "Composition No. 373" opens darkly, descending into chaos and coming out on the other side with something approaching delicacy. Spoken voice overlays enter and a pianopresumably via iPodadds a percussive influence that sets off the almost impenetrable layers of background effects. The final work is "Composition No. 377" and it has more passages that feel structured but they exist within a larger, more erratically organized universe. As iPod-generated audience applause drifts in and out of the frame, it begins to take on musical properties that work with and against other elements of the music.
3 Compositions (EEMHM) 2011 was recorded in 2011 at the state-of-the-art Firehouse 12 studios in New Haven, CT. The quality of the sound, given its intricacy, is astounding. Neither Braxton's music, nor his complex explanations of same, are easily digestible. His scores are as intriguingly searching as they are difficult and detached. Like so much of his work, this album may be beyond what many of us can comprehend, even if we enjoy the listening experience.
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