It is the MO of this listener/writer, or, as Anthony Braxton puts it, this "friendly experiencer, to attempt to bring the reader into individual moments of a performance. The present set does not allow such an approach, or, rather, it renders the approach superfluous. Here, we are presented with almost ten hours of music in which, Braxton explains, one measure can represent an entire composition. It is ironic, given the diversity of material and instrumentation employed over these four evenings, that the results are still so astonishingly unified.
The eight compositions in this ambitious collection close out the Ghost Trance Music (GTM) series. Anyone following developments in GTM's 11-year historywell documented here in the essay by Jonathan Piperwill hear the continuing and recurring lifeline pulse of first-species GTM alongside the rhythmic enhancements and displacements of latter-day compositions, but the net effect is one of constant layers of submergence and rejuvenation. Each set begins with an area, designated by Braxton but very quickly broadening into other compositional territories charted by subgroupsa flute and bassoon duet, guitar and drums, or a vocalizing trio.
The musicianship is of the highest caliber and it would be unfair to single anyone out; the set deserves essays and volumes, which are doubtless forthcoming, as it marks the end of a Braxton era, the 2006 4 Compositions ( Ulrichsberg ) 2005 Phonomanie Viii set on Leo a harbinger of things to come.
Meanwhile, for a concise if grittily fanciful but all-encompassing description of the Iridium stand, Margaret Davis' poem will not be bettered. In fact, the liners were especially helpful in coming to terms with musical complexitiesthe insider perspectives offered by ensemble members and Henry Grimes' singularly wise portrait of Braxton the revolutionary being especially noteworthy. The DVD supplements and rehashes the notes with clarity and simplicity, providing a fitting encapsulation of a singularly important event that staunchly defies mere qualifiers and descriptors.
Personnel: Mary Halvorson: electric guitar; Nicole Mitchell: flute, alto and bass flutes, piccolo, voice; Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon, suona; Reut Regev: trombone, flugelbone; Carl Testa: acoustic bass, bass clarinet; Anthony Braxton: alto, soprano, and sopranino saxophones, clarinet, Eb contralto clarinet; James Fei: alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet; Andrew Raffo Dewar: soprano and c-melody saxophones, clarinet; Jay Rozen: tuba, euphonium; Stephen H. Lehman: alto and sopranino saxophones; Jessica Pavone: viola, violin; Aaron Siegel: percussion, vibraphone; Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn, trumpbone, piccolo and bass trumpets, shell.