AMN Reviews: Anthony Braxton – Echo Echo Mirror House (NYC) 2011

NBH035-1024x1024Admittedly, I’m reviewing this new release on a single listen, but I can’t imagine that multiple listens would provide me with the vocabulary to describe the music herein with any degree of justice.

The lineup consists of Anthony Braxton, Andrew Raffo Dewar, James Fei, Steve Lehman, Chris Jonas, Sara Schoenbeck (reeds), Taylor Ho Bynum, Reut Regev, Jay Rozen (brass), Renee Baker, Erica Dicker, Jessica Pavone (strings), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Carl Testa (bass), and Aaron Siegel (percussion). The liner notes indicate that “all the musicians wield iPods in addition to their instruments, while navigating scores that combine cartography and evocative graphic notation, creating a musical tapestry combining live performance and sampled sounds from Braxton’s extensive recorded discography.” Or, in short, there is a lot going on.

The fifteen live performers and their iPods evoke the density and richness of a full orchestra, if not even more. It is difficult to tell where the playing stops and the recordings start, but that is part of the charm and dissonant beauty of this release. Due to this characteristic, at any point in the recording, there appears to be several distinct overlapping themes. The listening experience is that of hearing two or three distinct pieces of music at the same  time, but somehow it all fits together – the themes were meant to overlap.

Not unlike the hyper-dense compositions of Ives and Varese, Braxton pushes the envelope, but does so with both a score and an elite group of improvisers. The result is a massive, shifting, multi-layered, symphonic soundscape.

5 thoughts on “AMN Reviews: Anthony Braxton – Echo Echo Mirror House (NYC) 2011

  1. Mike, this sounds amazing! The iPod aspect of it is more than a little Cageian. Does he direct certain performers to play their iPods at certain times, or are they all going, all the time? And are they on random play?

  2. Unfortunately, I cannot answer any of those questions. Hopefully, his label will eventually publish more information about the score and the performance.

  3. I did chat with someone who was there…

    “I was there! Definitely agree with the reviewer that it takes the standard of density set by, say, Mahler, and ups it to the power of 100. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing it again and getting a tiny bit more of what I missed.”

    “so, were all ipods going all the time? Were they set to random?”

    “at the outset yes, 15 ipods and 15 players all going at once, set to shuffle in case the players didn’t want to engage with them. But some of the folks were trying to do, like, iPod duets, by starting a recorded tracks in sequence, or making “beats” by playing the first few seconds on a loop. Different players approached them differently. There was a lot of frantic signaling and gesturing and people cuing via whiteboards and dry-erase markers, too.”

    “wow, sounds like one of Zorn’s game pieces gone nuts”

    “The spectacle was certainly part of the initial impression, but I feel like it was a pretty polarizing experience musically. I got more “Ives-gone-Berserk” than Zorn but I also haven’t re-listened yet.”

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