June 12, 2015

Five-Tone Kit: Barbara Stauffacher Solomon & Anthony Braxton

This five-part series — named after a section of composer Lou Harrison‘s (1917-2003) Rhymes With Silver — pairs an image of San Francisco from the SFMOMA Collection with a piece of music also created in or indebted to the Bay Area at large. Subjectively construed, open to intimacy and conflict, these selections are fleeting studies in aural-geographic-temporal synonymy and disjunction. They’re also intended for the weekend, toward whatever end/opening.


Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, From the Marina Green to Pacific Heights, 1987

Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, From the Marina Green to Pacific Heights, 1987

This week’s edition of “Five-Tone Kit” finds relation in segmentation — a paradoxical endeavor, no doubt. Barbara Stauffacher Solomon’s From the Marina Green to Pacific Heights uses the “hard lines” of her graphic design background toward a kind of cartographical abstraction, ambiguously representing two proximal regions of San Francisco.

Anthony Braxton, meanwhile, is no stranger to the possibilities afforded by distribution via graphical segmentation. The multi-instrumentalist and composer, who taught Composition at Mills College in the ’80s, is known in part for the precise and apparently systematized obscurantism of his scores, which are characterized by eccentric numbering and mapping devices (e.g. some suggest physical arrangements for performers standing onstage). For Trio represents not only this tendency via its cover, but also aesthetically conveys it quite effectively: this is a music of starts and stops, of blocks of sounds and textures, of bracketing silences. To borrow the title of Cecil Taylor’s well-known album, what one finds here are unit structures, protean collaborations bent on fleeting constructions.

Or, in Braxton’s words: “If I hear a sound, I hear spectra…

Addendum: RIP Ornette.


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