“To Composer John Cage” (Anthony Braxton)

What did Braxton learn from Cage? Little, perhaps, but that’s not a problem. Cage’s legacy primarily is one of compositional indeterminacy (short-circuiting the composer, but not the composition), whereas Braxton seems interested instead in refiguring Cage as an improvisor’s avatar. That is: Braxton creates oblique scores, like Cardew’s Treatise (in this score, the letter “G.,” a line, a crossing, a shaded block, a dotted barrier, and the notation, “4%”), which thrive on deciding, each time, that which is in principle uninterpretable according to a verifiable rule. One way, then, to hear the myriad skronks, foghorn soundings, runs, and even screams into the alto: the unescapable decision, always with reference to an ultimate undecidability.


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