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Braxton, Anthony

orchestras studied harmony included

Braxton, Anthony, avant-garde jazz alto saxophonist, contrabass clarinetist, composer, pianist; b. Chicago, June 4, 1945. He studied at Chicago School of Music (1959–63), and began playing alto saxophone at age 17, influenced by Roscoe Mitchell. His other early influences included Paul Desmond, Warne Marsh, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Omette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, and composer-theorists such as John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Braxton studied harmony, composition, and philosophy. In 1966, he joined AACM and taught harmony. His album For Alto was the first complete LP for unaccompanied saxophone. In 1967, he formed Creative Construction Company with Leroy Jenkins and Leo Smith; they joined Steve McCall in Paris (1969) for concerts and recordings. Braxton moved to N.Y. where he played in the improvisation ensemble Musica Elettronica Viva (1970). In 1970–71, he toured in Circle with Chick Corea, Dave Holland, and Barry Altschul. His output in the 1970s included compositions for his various groups as well as for large band and piano, for 100 tubas, and for four amplified shovels and a coal pile. For Four Orchestras, a two–hour piece that was recorded by four conductors and 160 musicians in 1978, is a prime example of Braxton’s more complex works, which revolve around theater, dance, opera, and multiple orchestras. Unfortunately, Braxton had to finance the Four Orchestras recording himself, and by the early 1980s the Braxton family was living in poverty in upstate N.Y., in a telephoneless house heated by burning logs in a fireplace. However in 1990, he was hired as a full–time professor at Wesleyan Univ., and in 1994 he received a five–year Mac Arthur Foundation fellowship. The prize came shortly after the second book about him was published. Braxton is one of the most discussed figures in the avant–garde. He is often lampooned for his cerebral way of discussing music and his drawings and diagrams that serve as titles for many of his pieces, and for his rather heavy tonguing, but in performance, he is thoroughly intense and emotionally committed.

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