Anthony Braxton: Composition No. 165


Composition No. 165 (for 18 instruments)


Anthony Braxton (conductor)


Composition No. 165 (for 18 instruments) (New Albion 050)

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Anthony Braxton (conductor),

The University of Illinois Creative Music Orchestra


Composed by Anthony Braxton


Recorded: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, February 4, 1992


Rating: 80/100 (learn more)

In the course of his remarkable career, Anthony Braxton has done groundbreaking work combining 20th-century classical techniques with jazz-inspired free improvisation. Yet at least one admirer is of the opinion that the further Braxton gets away from jazz, the less interesting his music becomes. The University of Illinois Creative Music Orchestra's instrumentation is essentially that of a conventional big band, although "Composition No. 165" makes even something so notoriously avant as Bob Graettinger's "City of Glass" (written for Stan Kenton's orchestra) seem like "Moten Swing" in comparison. Braxton relies on a post-Boulez/Stockhausen aesthetic, with a bit of Downtown New York thrown in. Blocks of dense, dissonant chords alternate with loose solo and collective improvisations. The harmony is non-tonal throughout, probably serialist, at least in part. The form seems open, though it's difficult to be sure, since there's so little to grasp in the way of themes, harmonies or recurring structural elements. The student orchestra is certainly more than competent. Some of the soloists are more compelling than others, though no one in particular stands out. And that's as it should be. Braxton's composition is rightfully the primary focus. Like most of Braxton's music, there's so much going on, a listener is bound to latch onto something he or she finds attractive. Ultimately, however, it comes off as a hodgepodge of post-tonal techniques that miss more than they hit. Not terrible, but not his best work, by any means.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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