Improvised Music is what i do. I’ve been doing it a long time. During the
course of my journey, i’ve encountered many different methods of approaching the art of improvisation. Different architectonics. The results of these revelations are often labeled by the media as “Free Jazz“. Jazz rarely – if ever – has anything to do with the resulting Music. I’d like to share some of these manners of blueprinting and executing improvisations here in this blog. So, over the course of the next few posts, i hope to share some meaningful information about some of the methods i have used to solve the enigmatic questions that confront the improviser.
Anthony Braxton taught me a lot about strategy. His “Creative Orchestra
Music” (1976) was an important turning-point in my understanding of how group improvisations could be structured and directed. Prior to this, i had heard his “In The Tradition” recordings and “Five Pieces” (1975) as well as Albert Ayler’s work. Still, it was Braxton’s structuring and use of the orchestra on “Creative Orchestra Music” that opened my ears to the idea that there are more ways to realize group improvisations than just leaving a group of performers to forge ahead on their own. When i heard his “For Trio” (1978), the sky opened. This led me to have a closer look at his process. I discovered that Anthony had started the development of his approach by defining his “Twelve Language Types“. If you aren’t familiar with the “Twelve Language Types”, it’s a handy way that Anthony came up with to codify the twelve main language types that make up music. Once reduced to its constituent elements in this way, music could be plotted and executed. The point and advantage in this method is to obviate the contingency of running out of ideas or breaking the flow of an improvisation. While Braxton developed this technique for his solo performances, i found it very suited to group improvisations as well.
There are many different ways this method can be applied. As with most
everything, the best way to get a handle on it is to just experiment. Try
interpreting the symbols in different ways (backwards, inverted, etc). Assign different symbols to different registers, instruments, tempi, dynamics, etc. Believe me, these twelve – seemingly simple – symbols can go an incredibly long way.
If you’ve had any experience with Braxton’s Twelve Language Types or would like to discuss them, i’d love to hear from you here.