Composition No. 26E utilizes intervallic shifts as a means to establish its working language.  By intervallic shifts I am referring to the execution of a given figure in several registers of the instruments—or in several permeutations.  The secondary working language of this work are multiphonic sound block configurations with the added use of voice material.  in the principle language, dynamics are used in a somewhat extreme manner as a means to establish the rotation of events from interval to interval.  The continuum of events in this work should not be viewed as variation but instead expansion as a means to isolate given aspects of its idea base.  This composition is dedicated to the multi-instrumentalist composer Karl Berger.

Anthony Braxton, liner notes to Alto Saxophone Improvisation 1979 (Arista A2L 8602); also Composition Notes B (Frog Peak, 1988: 210)


Composition No. 26E is a language music material complex that was composed in circa 1976 for my solo music performance works.  The reality of this composition was conceived in response to the nine year involvement I have had in this medium—involving what I have learned though material composition and improvisation).  Composition No. 26E has been constructed to establish its own time and space environment through the use of extended techniques that involve 'new ways of looking at material'.  In this work there is a constant interaction between the treatment of higher and lower parts of the same phrase.  What this means is that in Composition No. 26E we are able to view the permutation of music material from a different standpoint.  The process that allows for this to happen is the use of what I have termed 'intervallic phrase shifting'—and the thrust of this analysis will attempt to clarify what this technique means.

In Composition No. 26E phrases are approached from at least two different criterions—that being the higher and lower part of the shape.  The instrumentalist in the context is asked to establish a music that makes use of this directive process as a basic criteria in his/her invention.  What this means is that a given phrase is perceived in terms of its different intervallic possibilities—and this perception attitude is the primary concept that holds the invention (music) together.  Intervallic phrase shifting in Composition No. 26E has to do with the establishment of arc like shapes in two basic portionss of the 'sound field'.  Visually the reality of this phenomenon should look like this (figure [  ]).  The instrumentalist is asked to create this effect in a medium to medium/fast pulse velocity with the use of several tools (colors)—to establish a particular vibrational identity.  It is the composite interaction of those tools that must be focused on, for the actual participation dynamics of Composition No. 26E depends on several interrelated factors (all of equal importance).

The first of those factors that must be commented on is the use of chromatic line material as a primary ingredient in the material nature of Composition No. 26E.  what this means is that the instrumentalist is asked to consider chromatic line construction as the 'chord changes' of the work.  Given musical 'arcs' are chromatically established—in the upper partials of the sound, and after in the lower partials.  All of this takes place in an environment that emphasizes chromatic construction dictates (that being—in the infra structural world of the music).  The use of this composite phenomenon moves to create a kind of 'call and response' sound field—and this is done by the constant readjusting of dynamics (as a dimensional device—as if the process 'in the music' involved more than one instrument.)  Visually the nature of this composite phenomenon looks like this.  (figure [blank])  This is a universe with pointed attack in its terrain—creating a kind of jerking movement (very soft phrases happen, then something else happens softly and expands to a fortissimo; short a crisp chromatic lines ascend and/or descend—in an expanded sense we are on an elevator that keeps changing direction).  Composition  No. 26E is an extended work that has its own 'space'.

The second construction factor in Composition No. 26E that must be looked at is the use of extended arpeggiated phrase material—as an alternative language criterion in the 'development' section of the music.  This material is used to open up the process of the invention—to make the music breathe (and to enhance the canvas of the music).  In all cases, however the instrumentalist is asked not simply to play the traditional arpeggio material (or established to called 'chords') but to use this principle as an invention platform.  There are many different possibilities for a principle of this type—from all overall structures that which with the music, to looping figures that effect us deeply.  In Composition No. 26E a universe with its own 'way of being' establishes a working platform for us to see ourselves anew in.  The nature of this work is especially revealed when the listener experience the transformation of its structural criterion from beginning to end.  In the final analysis we are referring to the movement of particles through space—this is what is really happening anyway.

The investigation implications of Composition No. 26E involves the use of shapes—as a criterion for which way 'to look'.  In actual terms the material dynamics of Composition No. 26E can be viewed with respect to the nature of its mix (see figure—and it is from this context that the conceptual scope of the work can be viewed.  The categories here are (1) Material integration (2) alternative material focus and (3) variable secondary options (as to how to approach a given idea).  Since I have already commented on the first two categories in the earlier part of this analysis, the thrust of this attempt will emphasize the third degree of this discipline.  To really understand the nature of this work it is important to have some insight into its affinity and procedure basis.  By the term variable secondary options, I am referring to both the material properties and vibrational nature of Composition No. 26E.  In a given interpretation of the work, the instrumentalist is expected to establish certain 'territories'—if the work is to be correctly performed.  It is important that the nature of those territories are clearly understood.

Any given interpretation of Composition No. 26E is expected to establish (1) the solidification of a low register section (that contains its own way of being), (2) the use of infra phrase focuses (pocketed into the nature of its construction dictates) and (3) a section that emphasizes the sound attack nature of materials (and what this phenomenon means for the application of dynamics.  It is important that each criterion is understood.  Visually the low register nature of Composition No. 26E can be viewed as such (see figure ).  The low register use of Composition No. 26E involves establishing the realness of shadowlike phrases—that are presented like a mask that never fully reveals its true identity.  In this world of music the listener is given entry to new worlds of vapor and mystery.  Wind instruments are expected to achieve this state through multiphonic sound clusters that tear away at the fabric of the music.  The realness of this section could visually be drawn as such:  (see figure ).  In the second criterion—involving the use of infra phrase focuses—I am referring to the extended use of musical material to create a multiple focus for phrase construction.  What this means is that the instrumentalist is expected to use one phrase to say at least two different things (or at least have the listener perceive of his invention as being 'at least two different things—I would actually prefer at least four different things).  This perception 'illiusion' is accomplished by setting a secondary motif (idea germ) in the center of a given phrase (maybe another way to explaining this technique is to use the word 'seating'—'seating' the motif into a composite phrase structure.  Visually this phenomenon should look like this (figure ).  The last criterion involves the use of attacks as a principle generating device that establishes its own options.  In this discipline the interpreter is expected to create a music that establishes focuses with 'traces' of information that trails away into 'nothingness' (or so called 'nothingness').  The use of accented attacks in the infra structure of the music can be effected either at the beginning of a sound (as in the traditional application of sound accented material, or as a device that affects the greater space of the music (that is; a device that causes something 'to happen' in the actual 'operating space of the music).  The use of this construction option moves to clarify the dynamics of Composition No. 26E (by providing the kind of 'space' (silence) that is necessary if one is to see the reality of the music.

Composition No. 26E is a medium fast pulse material complex for extended improvisation—to be used in accordance with the fifty and some compositions from this same context.  All of this material seeks to establish an alternative basis for viewing organization—and creative investigation.  The first performance of this work was in San Francisco. 

Anthony Braxton, Composition Notes B (Frog Peak, 1988: 210-217)