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Anthony Braxton's For Alto Liner Notes

These are the original liner notes to Anthony Braxton's For Alto, written by Braxton himself but never used. Braxton made a revision in 1970 to the original text, editing out bits which have been restored to give a more complete idea of Braxton's original thoughts. Text edited by Braxton appears in blocks [ ]. Pictures of the original notes are also available, click for pages: one, two, three, four. (Note that these are jpeg files of around 400 K each).


I was going to say that I was deeply indebted to Stockhausen but I changed my mind. I changed my mind because I am sitting on this desk trying to think of valid ideas to write on the back of a record [but the whole scene is a drag]&emdash; right now my leg is itching [but I am not afraid] &emdash; anyway I had planned to write about the different approaches to the music on this record but I feel so ridiculous because it's so stupid to try and explain anything [especially since you don't know where it is anyway that even as Lynn types this I become more and more frustrated and yet I do want the money for writing liner notes so I must continue, especially since I've already been paid]. I would like to also use my liner notes as a chance to voice my dissatisfaction with the rising rate of the CTA.

I have wanted to do a solo saxophone record for the last two years and as such have been preparing material so I was very happy to have the opportunity to record this music, some points because I recorded them myself the sound quality is not quite as clear as I would like for it to be. In fact, there are several sections where the quality is bad [horrible] [I apologize for this (now why did I say that because I really don't feel bad about it). I think I was just saying that but I don't know why people should constantly have to say things they don't mean, especially when it's not benefiting me. ( I'm really embarrassed. I just received a Dear John letter. I really don't understand it but onward, we must always go onward, but I don't mean to be cruel. I don't understand that last remark of mine because I'm the one who got the Dear John letter] &emdash; but because I was happy with the music I decided to include them anyway &emdash; also I wrote the extra noises in on the score &emdash; so its all right.

For Alto cover This is a very nice room that I'm in right now but since I've decided not to mention Lynn's name I'll merely confine my remarks to the scenery as such (whatever that means), If this record doesn't sell a million copies I will be very disappointed. Already I am making room on my mantle for a gold record and I am going to have parties and I am preparing an acceptance speech.

[About my saxophone, I've had Lucy for six years and while she has been repaired several times I love her very much (until I can get some money to get her traded in) I am really surprised about that Dear John letter &emdash; I mean there must be other ways]

I went to an electronic music concert the other day and was very pleasantly surprised with the realization of Frank Gordon and Donald Stark, This has been a good week for me &emdash; Leo Smith gave a concert at the University of Chicago which I was fortunate to catch also and then Richard Abrams, who was in a good mood at the time, even wrote up my astrology chart to which I'm very grateful. My sun sign is Gemini with Virgo risings, I thought I had Libra risings and so I was surprised Richard has always helped me. [I am getting very tired trying to write these liner notes]

[How do I feel right now? Well, I'm not consciously in pain] I haven't had the chance to play music in some time. I would like to play but the conditions are so strange that I find myself staying home more often than not, This is a very strange period for contemporary music and there seems to be no end in sight unless of course this is my ego and maybe I have no right to feel that way. Of course, I might not feel that way. I am happy that Lynn says she will miss me when I go to New York. I wonder if she really means it. I hope she does though. She has been with me in a very different period of my life and for that I am very grateful. I only heard Ornette Coleman live for the first time last year and I was very impressed both with his music, with the horn and without the horn. I tried to meet Stockhausen, but was unsuccessful. I am really surprised how little the musicians know about each other &emdash; or what each other is doing &emdash; but maybe someday that might be corrected. I am going for my driver's license, hopefully tomorrow and if I don't pass the test I will be very unhappy &emdash; I lost my license in the Army when it fell out on the ground in training. This is the first chance I've had to get it again. I wish Warne Marsh would record something soon.

One day I would like to do an album &emdash; no on second though I'd rather not talk about it. It'd be very silly to write about things I should be doing rather than what I do. Ann says that she has plenty of ideas for my liner notes, one of which is to put my favorite cookie recipe down and if we need some room on the notes I'll do just that. I met Jimmy Lyons the other day in Maywood, Illinois. I was very glad to meet and talk to him and his wife Barbara. We talked about a black critique, I disagreed with his ideas but had a very stimulating evening and Barbara's mother served us delicious chili. I had a very difficult time when I was at Roosevelt University, especially in the music school. I could get no one to play my music and very few of the composers sympathized with my ideas on art and I didn't like the food in the lunchroom. In Paris I met a very interesting Yugoslavian chess player who I studied with. He was the strongest chess player I've ever seen in my life and if we could have communicated, he spoke hardly any English, I would have studied with him indefinitely. I would very much like to go back to school and complete my studies. There are so many things happening in this period to learn about and plus I am so tired of my situation as it stands now. Right now I am somewhat worried that when I return to New York, my music, which I have been writing for the last four years, might not be there. I seem to be constantly making stupid moves but if I lose my music what a drag. I should be leaving Thursday. [If I had my instrument right now I would like to play] "Ruby, My Dear" by Thelonious Monk [. That] is such a beautiful piece of music. Thelonious Monk has always been one of my favorite composer musicians and if could find the name of the Albert King tune that I like I would purchase it immediately. The last three years in the A.A.C.M. has seen radical changes in the techniques employed on all instruments, especially the saxophone with accomplished players like Jarman, Mitchell, Threadgill, Stubblefield, McIntyre as well as musicians like Wallace Macmillan &emdash; there is always a stimulating atmosphere. Chicago is very fortunate to have these people. The A.A.C.M. in my opinion, the last-first hope of the music. Hopefully we will not be crushed. John Cage hardly ever comes to Chicago. I can hardly concentrate with you in the room. Lynn is very mysterious. I have been searching for Gemini composers and was happy to find that Stravinsky is a Gemini but there seems to be more Sagittarius composers. I wonder what that means. I disagree with Henry Pleasant's book, The Agony of Modern Music. I wish Bunky Green could record more. He has always been one of my favorite alto saxophone players. I first heard him when I had just gotten out of the Army. He is one of the most exciting alto saxophones I have ever heard. I seem to constantly miss the Kontarsky Brothers when they come to Chicago. I have been told that they perform a piece of Earl Brown's. I would really like to hear that. Earl Brown is one of the strongest composers in the past seven years. Now why did I say seven years? Why couldn't I just say I really like Earl Brown, which is true. I sometimes think about the future of jazz magazines. I don't really understand what's happening with the jazz critics: unless that avenue can be corrected, creative music will always be surpressed, which is to say we will surpress ourselves. Last week, Dan Morganston accepted one of my articles for his magazine. I was very happy to write but I fear my article will be misunderstood, but what can one do? Musicians are going to have to write about their music&emdash;making attempts to narrow the gap between the audience and the music. Donald Stark asked me to explain my mathematical approaches last Saturday and I talked for a half hour but was unsuccessful I fear. It has become increasingly difficult for me to explain anything. If I go to the West Coast I would really like to see Donald Garrett. I am very much impressed by Stockhausen's piano music. I seem to be in a piano music period and lately I find myself listening to early piano pieces exclusively. I would like to go back and study piano as soon as possible. I have always wanted to play Berg's Sonata. In St. Louis Julius Hemphill and Oliver Lake are two of the most original players of the music that I have heard in that area. It would be very good to hear them again as I have not heard them for more than a year and I wonder what Phillip Wilson is doing. I think he is playing with Paul Butterfield right now. I disagree with McLuhan's essays on media but I refuse to tell why. In this period I find Dostoyevsky very attractive. I have decided to accept for my philosophy an excerpt from his Notes on the Underground &emdash; "My liver is diseased. Well, let it get worse." I don't really know how I feel about Frank Zappa but maybe I should listen to him more. I am still trying to learn the words to "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands." [I have always been against Aristotle's systems of logic that most of us have unconsciously accepted in the way that we live. His concepts are frightening to say the least.] The philosophy department at Roosevelt is full of shit.

Why doesn't someone write about Bobby Blue Bland. It seems to me that he is without peers. I have never heard him play live and on the next occasion I will definitely catch him. Yesterday, I heard him play on record his version of "Please Save Your Love for Me" which is incredible. I would like to make a blues record one day, Koester has called the blues on this record high society blues &emdash; told me I don't know anything about blues even. I was very unhappy with the reception of my first record but I have now gotten used to it. I read in Coda Magazine that our music was a poor example of Webern. The jazz musicians say it is not jazz and the classical musicians say it is not classical. I like the jacket though...

There must be something else to say. Oh, the music on this album is almost a year old. Today is Feb., 23rd. Hopefully, this record will be out soon. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Lester Lashley was awarded "New Trombone Player of the Year" or something like that in Down Beat. There are very few trombonists of his caliber. If there were recording opportunities in Chicago I feel that American Contemporary music would be benefited. Chicago is the center of the new music without a doubt. Steve McCall told me recently that he is going back to Europe. Needless to say I was surprised. He only recently came back to Chicago after being away two years. I believe LeRoy Jenkins is the most advanced violin player performing. That he hasn't gotten the recognition and exposure he should have is appalling. Lynn's back is tired. I hope I can finish my liner notes before she gives up. I would like to hear Maurice McIntyre play before I leave Chicago. I think his soul is incredible and I have always loved his music. I think it's obvious that notions of Mathematical music will have to be completely altered if it is to continue to be creative. I think constantly about the gap between where the music is at and where the music is at. I've found on the whole that the people in Europe were more receptive to our music than here in Chicago. Maybe that might account for some of the advance players I met. One day I would like to get my orchestra music performed. It is very difficult to have any music performed. Hopefully this album is the first of a series of solo albums for myself. Most of the music on this record has been performed at different recitals that I have given in Chicago. At Lincoln Center on the South Side of Chicago and at the Parkway Community Center in '68. I was thinking about growing a beard but have changed my mind because it hurts so much after one week. I don't think I would like to live in Chicago any more. Several of the pieces on this record were inspired extensions of different principles in contemporary classical music, notably Klavestuck 6 and 4 of Stockhausen and Morton Fillman's Durations. With different forms of music being so readily available it has become very difficult to distinguish between forms or approaches. Maybe we are at the junction where we will not need this anymore. I had given up sweet rolls because they aren't healthy but find I myself going back to them. The sweet rolls in France were horrible.

Braxton 2/23/69 [revised in 1970]