Lazaro Vega

Tri-Axium Writings excerpt - Vol. 1: World Music

42 posts in this topic

Yep.

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For what it's worth, I think Jsngry, clem & MG are all better writers (words) than Braxton whose scribbling I think is atrocious...

Thanks, but I gotta disagree. Braxton's talking about stuff that cuts to the core of existence, and he's talking about it in such a way that necessitates looking at it "objectively". That's the point of all the jargon, I think, to remove reality/macroreality (as he sees it anyway, which is a way of seeing it that I find impossible to disagree with when all is said and done) from all the "contexts" that have been constructed to manipulate it to various benevolent/malevolent ends over centuries. In doing so, he creates his own context (and I'm sure he sees the irony, probably even the humor in that), but it's his context, and it forces you to either confront what he's dealing with free of all the presuppositions that inevitably come with traditional terminology (terminology which has sprung up around the very interpretations he's refuting), or else just dismiss it as the ramblings of a madman.

In other words, it's Reality Remixed! :g

Edited by JSngry

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For what it's worth, I think Jsngry, clem & MG are all better writers (words) than Braxton whose scribbling I think is atrocious...

Thanks, but I gotta disagree. Braxton's talking about stuff that cuts to the core of existence, and he's talking about it in such a way that necessitates looking at it "objectively". That's the point of all the jargon, I think, to remove reality/macroreality (as he sees it anyway, which is a way of seeing it that I find impossible to disagree with when all is said and done) from all the "contexts" that have been constructed to manipulate it to various benevolent/malevolent ends over centuries. In doing so, he creates his own context (and I'm sure he sees the irony, probably even the humor in that), but it's his context, and it forces you to either confront what he's dealing with free of all the presuppositions that inevitably come with traditional terminology (terminology which has sprung up around the very interpretations he's refuting), or else just dismiss it as the ramblings of a madman.

In other words, it's Reality Remixed! :g

Absolutely right Jim. I don't LIKE reading that stuff, but it IS necessary in order to take you out of your normal routine and try to make you see things in a different way. And what he's saying is not really revolutionary; it's a musical/cultural equivalent of Noam Chomsky's work of identifying from thousands of languages the basic elements of grammar which he reckons are hard wired into human beings - every one of us, irrespective of what culture we come from. But the thing is, what Chomsky did is easier than what Braxton is trying to do - or more probably, set up the framework for someone else to do. It's easier because you can actually tabulate these linguistic elements, look at them in families and statisticians have worked out methods of comparing them objectively and quantitatively.

Now anyone can say, "well, I knew we were all human; you didn't need to go to all that trouble to tell me what I already knew, Noam. It's just another example of academics making work for themselves." And you can say the same thing about Braxton's ideas. And OK, if you knew that already, you can say it. But there's lots of people who DON'T know it - not down in their guts - and these are by far the majority, I believe. And not just in the west, as you pointed out. But I think the west may have the prime responsibility for needling this issue out: first because it has proportionately a lot more resource available to devote to needling; second because it has, over the last several hundred years, systematically developed a mindset that downgrades every other cultural/racial/linguistic/geographical group ("World Music" in itself is a profound illustration of this, in defining something that "we" don't need to concern ourselves with other than as a product); and third because the west has systematically inflicted its views on the rest of the world - because it could.

Anyway, if my wife doesn't hog the computer tomorrow (she's trying to book herself and some friends a holiday in Africa, and it's hard work), I'll try to read the rest of Braxton's piece; and hope that in the latter part of it, he attempts to set out a possible framework for understanding - or even cataloguing - the underlying "grammar" of cultural aesthetic thrusts.

MG

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clementine's right: if it was written Tractatus-style maybe he could clean up the definitions and sound less confused by himself, because otherwise I'm going to think 'vibrational' more properly characterises my response to the average Penthouse pictorial (whence one description of his endeavour springs to mind). But I'm probably better off having you lot explain it for me. (By the way, not quite sure why you treat the 'illogical' excerpt as a chain of consequence and not a conjuction, The Magnificent Goldberg.)

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(By the way, not quite sure why you treat the 'illogical' excerpt as a chain of consequence and not a conjuction, The Magnificent Goldberg.)

Well, it read that way to me.

MG

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OK, I’ve read the whole of this now. I think Braxton and I part company starting from page 32 (the beginning of post #2). Perhaps these are matters of detail only, but they seem to me to underline the point I made the other day about his sample (and mine) both being biased.

For all of the different creative areas in world creativity must be

viewed in terms of the composite hierarchy (culture) that determines what

role a given individual can function in - with regards to the composite

actualness of a given manifestation (or ceremony). It is not a question of

musicians performing while the majority of people - after paying their

tickets - experience the performance.

It must be clear that Braxton’s view has been unduly affected by such examples as the Dogon of West Africa – his mention of the Dogon earlier does show some familiarity with them and almost anyone who has been a tourist in West Africa will have been taken to “do” the Dogon. Many other societies (including ones living cheek by jowl with the Dogon, whose traditions claim cultural descent from the land of Do; specifically to my knowledge the Sonninke, who are now called Serahule, Sosso, who are now the Susu, and Mandinke) are not structured in that way. The Sonninke’s Empire of Ghana was first mentioned by Arab writers in 800AD, so it’s clear that (if their traditions are correct) cultural separation occurred quite a long time ago. What seems to have happened is that, while these other tribes moved on and developed other forms of society, and specifically gave musicians a different place in society, the Dogon didn’t. That certainly makes the Dogon a very valuable “historical” resource (and the same could be said – and is said by some Senegalese – of the Jola, in the southern part of Senegambia). But Braxton is not – or certainly SHOULD not be - talking simply about some “preserved” societies from which we can learn something of the past, but about the whole continuum of world society and its wide variety of creative thrusts.

In the rest of the world, the musician is indeed in the position that people have to pay their tickets. Accepting that as a metaphor for society support for musical endeavour, it is difficult to see how else matters could generally be arranged. Few would dispute that building great musical expertise is a very labour intensive activity, during which musicians need some form of community support in order to survive. Thus music, including the training period, is an economic activity, as well as a cultural activity. Indeed, were it not culturally valuable, it would not be economically viable.

I don’t really think Braxton is wrong, despite this disagreement. He is forming his views from a necessarily limited sample, as am I. But we both have the same approach, which is to view music not simply as a collection of notes someone has put together (ie a product) but as a procedure that has social value within the society in which it occurs. He sees this as ritual. Well, he’s probably right. The procedures of the Dogon seem to me, at bottom, similar in intent to the procedures of a honking sax man walking the bar; both are affirming cultural and social unity, within a context of catharsis.

I also come apart with Braxton on the subject of improvisation.

The totalness of this relationship can be viewed as

individuals creating in 'actual time' from a composite essence alignment

that also affirms the meta-reality of the culture in the 'doing' (creating).

The realness of this condition thus affects the individual, communal and

spiritual well-being of the culture.

This is probably another sample error. But it may be more than that, given the type of music he plays; he may be predisposed to view it as of paramount importance. But I’ve talked to many African musicians, from a number of disciplines, and many have said that they do not improvise in real time. Many traditional Mandinke musicians make a point of saying they are playing exactly the same notes as were composed by, for example, Balla Fasseke in the Thirteenth Century. It is observable that there are very many different songs with the same music. When these musicians want to create something new, they work at it at home, learn what they want to play, then play it in public. And in so doing, they say, they are following long-standing tradition.

I’m not denying that improvisation, as Braxton has set it out, exists. Of course it does. But it is not a rule; not even in Africa. So that what Braxton is looking for isn’t to be found there, I think. Improvisation is simply a means to an end that some people adopt at some times and in certain cultural/functional circumstances.

The end, to which all forms of music are means, is what Braxton started out with – a focus on what music is FOR; what its social and cultural objectives are and how these develop into an aesthetic. He is clearly not looking for an analysis of what music sounds like, or what musicians do to make it come out that way. He’s looking to find, across the world, the common cultural building blocks of humanity’s aesthetic adventures; and not exclusively in music, though he does focus on it rather a lot, which I suppose is understandable in a musician.

I suspect these ultimate answers are not to be found in music. If they are ultimate answers, one would find them in today’s commercial music of the Wolof as readily as in the music of the Dogon in 300AD or that of the Chinese in 2000BC. But we can’t find that stuff. What we can find are two definite, observable types of things: present day cultures in all their individual variety and complexity; including whatever extent US and European influence has exerted on them; and the material leavings of past cultures.

What we can divine from present day cultures (and “present day” actually encompasses a fair time span in many cases, so that the impact of changes may also be observed) is that they are invariably integrated. They are like woven cloth, from which you can’t pull out a strand and say, “this is it, we’ll have that bit”. And we can use this information about now and apply it to cultures of the past and arrive at some general conclusions about how their cultural objectives were translated into aesthetic material form. In other words, we need anthropologists to look at the subject, not only in the past but in the present, and apply what they’ve learned to music.

MG

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Thanks MG for your informed comments. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but if I am correct in believeing that the TAW were first published around 1985 or so, it might be assumed that he had been working on them since the 70s up to that point. I wonder if his ideas have evolved (or refined, or what you want to call it) since then, and maybe he might come to different conclusions based on scholarship of the last 30 years? I know I would disagree on some (okay, many) points with the "myself" of 20 tears ago.

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I've been trying to get a copy of the writings for a while...

Have you tried here?

Does anyone here have the full three volumes of the TAW? It seems like the thing I need to have, but it would probably sit on the shelf. I've done a similar thing collecting what has been translated of the Gramsci Prison Notebooks (3 Volumes, 8 Notebooks worth so far). They are definitely collecting dust, but I still want em.

How about Leo Smith's self-published 1973 Notes (8 pieces) source a new world music: creative music. Anybody here (Chuck?) have a copy of this? Is it available somehow?

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I've been trying to get a copy of the writings for a while...

Have you tried here?

Does anyone here have the full three volumes of the TAW? It seems like the thing I need to have, but it would probably sit on the shelf. I've done a similar thing collecting what has been translated of the Gramsci Prison Notebooks (3 Volumes, 8 Notebooks worth so far). They are definitely collecting dust, but I still want em.

FYI: There are tentative plans to make a full electronic edition of TAW available online (along with the 5 volumes of Composition Notes) -- though I can't give you a timeline of when it might be realized.

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Does anyone here have the full three volumes of the TAW? It seems like the thing I need to have, but it would probably sit on the shelf.

Ay sir! Those and the Composition Notes too are a wonderful reference for me. The size and sturdy binding are just right.

I would've used a different typeface and the occasional changes in dark and lightness in type can be a mixed blessing,

but the info/ideas are the real deal. I just wish that he would get some kind of grant and spend 5 years doing nothing but updating his writings.

There's such a glut of audio already.

One of my concerns is that he has a family history of bad health and early death and it seems that, so far, he has, thankfully, cheated the odds...

...but the idea that he would leave us someday with an incomplete text record of his compositional ideas would really be a shame.

It'd be nice if someone like Lock, or Heffley, or someone to get him to committing to, at least, audio recording (easy handheld device?)

an hour a day about each composition, in chronological order, after where Composition Notes leaves off. They can always be transcribed later.

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Does anyone here have the full three volumes of the TAW? It seems like the thing I need to have, but it would probably sit on the shelf.

I just wish that he would get some kind of grant and spend 5 years doing nothing but updating his writings.

Was the MacArthur grant all spent on music rather than writing?

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Is "spectical" a misspelling of "spectacle," or is it a word I don´t know, or one Braxton invented? Thanks, am using this for a paper and need to know whether to write (sic) or not...and also whether I`m missing some crucial piece of Braxtonian vocabulary.

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I would let the word stand.

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Is "spectical" a misspelling of "spectacle," or is it a word I don´t know, or one Braxton invented? Thanks, am using this for a paper and need to know whether to write (sic) or not...and also whether I`m missing some crucial piece of Braxtonian vocabulary.

does he use the word repeatedly w/ the same spelling? if so, knowing the context of its usage is an obvious necessity to figure out/guess at his reasoning. any chance of putting up a couple examples of his contexts msb59?

i suppose it's possible that it's a misspelling, but i'd highly doubt it could be one of those innane intentional misspellings (kool, phat, etc etc etc...) to show one's "originality." i can't imagine Braxton would do anything like that. but, to be honest, while i have nothing but respect for the man and his music, his verbal explanations of countless things (including his music) often rub me the wrong way. admittedly this is mostly based on my reading of Forces In Motion and very limited exposure to the TAW (i had a rather extensive clip saved onto my desktop a while back). for me, he is in the same category as ornette in this respect: undeniably brilliant musician, but frustratingly obfuscatory verbally - seemingly to the point of intent. i can dig a nice koan as much as the next frustrated american and i have nothing against coming up w/ an occasional new word if it helps to get your point across. but it seems to me that with these two master musicians, their use of language tends toward shrouding instead of illumination.

it can certainly be awesome to be original and it's perfectly cool to be eccentric, esoteric, to follow your own path, etc etc etc... but imo sometimes an artist's simple inability to express oneself verbally can be interpreted as "artistic" or "so deep we can't fathom its meaning" by those who wish to see them as nothing but a brilliant genius in all contexts.

i trust in their music 1st :)

Edited by thedwork

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well, anything Braxton says is ok with me - I've heard no other musician of his generation praise Paul Whiteman and Stan Kenton in the course of the same conversation.

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