March 1999

Anthony Braxton/Lauren Newton
Composition 192
Leo Records

According to Braxton, his is "an operational structure for two players and constructed environment in a continuous time domain." It's a part of his Ghost Trance Musics project. "The Ghost Trance Musics," he says, "are a continuous state of music...that is a trans-temporal music that can be played in any tempo, and transidiomatic in terms of structural postulates. They're an attempt to redefine line-forming strategies, so that each composition becomes like a melody that doesn't start and doesn't end.

"There is no development in this music and it has nothing to do with tonality. This is a fresh formal state that has come about because of my love for global musics and my attempt to bring together some of the qualities of global music in my trance music."
The performance is by Braxton on woodwinds and vocalist Lauren Newton. Both play "little instruments," such as whistles, bells, and Harpo Marx-type horns. During live performances Braxton augments the music with a videotape projection and a Wheel of Fortune and Test-Your-Strength machine. At times one of the performers spins the wheel to determine the direction of the piece.
OK. This composition contains a theme that is repeated, sometimes with variations, throughout the piece. Often Newton and Braxton state it (approximately) together, though they also depart to improvise. Newton sings both wordlessly and the letters of the alphabet.

Despite its deliberate repetitiveness, this work did not put me, for one, in a trance, partly because of its playful, humorous qualities, for which both Braxton and Newton deserve credit. That's OK. I'd rather have a laugh anytime than be mesmerized. Braxton's concept seems viable, though on this CD he and Newton perform too conservatively. His Ghost Trance ideas can be developed and have an influence on through-composing and multi-media performances, so let's see how they evolved.

Originally published in March 1999
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