This article examines Anthony Braxton’s Composition 76, a landmark work for three multi-instrumentalists. The score for Composition 76 employs graphic techniques (colors, shapes, and codes) as well as traditional notation on five-line staves. Original transcriptions of two studio recordings illustrate the strategies that the performers use to realize Braxton’s complex score, uncovering the structure of a composition previously thought to be resistant to analysis. The article also sheds light on the diverse influences that can be seen in the graphic score—and heard in the performances—from John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen to the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.
Improvisation and Collaboration in Anthony Braxton’s Composition 76
Paul Steinbeck is associate professor of music theory at Washington University in St. Louis. His book Message to Our Folks (2017) examines the history and performances of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. His next book, tentatively titled Sound Experiments, is forthcoming.