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.