International Conference 3 - 5 June 2022 - De Singel International Arts Campus, Antwerp

(From Composition 358 (c) Anthony Braxton, courtesy of Tri-Centric Foundation)

For more than half a century Anthony Braxton has played a key role in contemporary and avant-garde- music as a composer, multi-instrumentalist, music theorist, teacher, mentor and visionary. Inspired by Jazz, European art music, and music of other cultures, Braxton labels his output ‘Creative Music’. This international conference will be the first one dealing with his multifaceted work, discussing different research projects concerned with Braxton’s compositional techniques as well as his music-philosophical thinking. In addition to this we will also look at his legacy, taking this vast body of work as a unique example among many to offer a different perspective on the eurocentric canon of post-war Western art music. The conference will take place from June 3rd. to 5th 2022 at De Singel International Arts Campus in Antwerp, Belgium.

1. Anthony Braxton: Composer & theorist 

The first part of the conference will focus on Anthony Braxton’s work as a composer and theorist. Although Braxton’s earlier work, from 1967 to the early 1990s, was pretty well documented, his compositional concepts as well as his ideas concerning music and philosophy as described in his Tri-Axium Writings as well as the Composition Notes remain to be thoroughly analyzed by the musicological community. Even less attention has been paid to the development of his work since the mid- 1990s. During this period Braxton started developing the twelve components of a holistic system called ‘Tri-centric Music’, ‘Tri-centric Thought Unit’ or ‘Tri- centric Modeling’. He developed the so-called Ghost Trance Music in order to creatively fuse elements of composition and improvisation. As of today he continues to work on his twelve-part opera, Trillium, and keeps developing other projects such as, Pine Top Aerial Music (a choreography of sound and physical motion), Diamond Curtain Wall Music (a study of interactive electronical sound), Falling River Music, Echo Echo Mirror House or ZIM Music, one of his latest prototypes.

2. Anthony Braxton’s musical legacy

The 2nd part of the conference will zoom out and take a broader look at Braxton’s legacy today. In doing so we aim to offer different perspectives to the prevalent historical narrative of post-war Western art music. Braxton’s unique way of combining compositional structure with free and open forms is both embedded in a long tradition of African American music, as well as in the eurological modernism of composers such as Cage and Stockhausen. However, his work has often been misrepresented or misunderstood and invariably falls outside the dominant paradigms of post-war Western art music. Braxton’s massive body of work is not an isolated case, but one of many metaphorical elephants in the room. Composer and scholar George E. Lewis, recently pleaded for “conceptual migration … [to create] a new, usable and creolized past for new music.”[1] Departing from Braxton’s legacy, this part of the conference would like to explore what such a new past would sound like.

[1]Lewis, George, E. “A Small Act of Curation.” On Curating, Issue 44, 2020. on-curating.org/issue-44-reader/a-small-act-of-curation.html#.XkpBfC3MzOR

We encourage paper proposal dealing with:

  1. Braxton’s output as a composer, comprising over 500 compositions of incredible variety. Furthermore, his œuvre contains performance directions for solo-instrumentalists (language music), piano pieces, works for 100 tubas, for flute- or vocal ensembles, for orchestra and a puppet theater as well as for four orchestras, duos for one instrumentalist and a stand-up comedian and many more. Every composition or compositional fragment may be combined with others. Right from the start, Braxton has been looking for possibilities to combine forms of composition and improvisation. During the last 20 years in particular, he has developed fascinating solutions and a smart notation system which contains both, conventional and unconventional signs, graphics and narrative-poetic elements. We especially welcome presentations that deal with his scores analytically, as well as projects that investigate similarities and differences to other composers or musical styles.
  2. Braxton’s theoretical and philosophical writings. There is no doubt that Braxton’s theoretical output ‒ covering over 1000 pages ‒ is outstanding in Jazz history. However, neither his unique diction, his neologisms ‒ both can be studied in interviews and liner notes too ‒ nor his attitude towards creativity, Black Exotica, music journalism, Jazz Rock, Western art music, World music, white music improvisors, nor his very unconventional (from an academic point of view) work analyses have been given much attention by the scientific community. The conference aims at filling this void.
  3. Braxton’s legacy and the canon of post-war Western art music. Connecting Lewis’ plea with Braxton’s legacy we’d like to “conceptually migrate” from the historical canon of post-war Western art music and invite presentations that explore musical practices that go beyond the traditional binary of composition vs improvisation (or classical vs jazz), or that give a different historical perspective on the canon’s narrative, and/or speculate on what a new, usable and creolized past would sound like.

Please send your proposals to one of the organizers. Proposals should contain an abstract (max 300 words) and a biography of the author(s) (max 300 words). The deadline is October 31, 2021.

Conference organizers: