Composition 30

by Anthony Braxton

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Anthony Braxton's Composition No.30 for solo piano performed by Cory Smythe.

My first encounter with the score to Anthony Braxton’s Composition No. 30 was overwhelming. One hundred pages — most of them dense with pointillistic phrases in complex additive rhythms, contrasting dynamics from one brief note to the next, never repeating. No reference to an underlying meter, there are arguably no ‘measures’ at all, but rather blocks of material of varying lengths, separated from one another by inch-long double-sided arrows — a notational innovation that imbues each page (page after page) with a strangely beautiful visual geometry even while contributing to the overall sense of indecipherability. When I asked Braxton about these arrows a few days later, he explained that they indicated a free approach to structure: you could choose to play the blocks of material in any order you wished, and you were free to play the music within the blocks either forward or backward. For my performance, I mostly moved forward, learning the daunting number of notes as printed seeming challenging enough without also learning to play them in reverse. I reordered the pages such that the piece’s five main sections were broken up and redistributed throughout the performance, unfolding and returning in an almost palindromic fashion. But nothing I did seemed capable of altering my initial impression of the piece. Even after performing it — especially after performing it — Composition 30 remains for me an overwhelming encounter with something just beyond the edge of comprehension, a kind of musical intelligence at once beautiful, strange, and enormous. ~ 2011/12/18 Cory Smythe

credits

released December 20, 2011

Cory Smythe - piano

Recorded October 5th, 2011

Sound Engineer: Stephen Cooper, Woramon Jamjod
Engineer Assistant: Charles Hagaman
Mixing: Matthew Mehlan
Special thanks to Jim Staley and Roulette

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