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  • March 16, 2017

    Tyondai Braxton will lead a five-city tour of the United Kingdom starting next week on a double bill with Brooklyn-based trio Dawn of Midi. The tour begins with a special set before Daniel Lanois at Koko in London as part of the Convergence Festival on Wednesday, March 22. Braxton and Dawn of Midi then head to Leeds, Brighton, Reading, and Manchester for their own shows.

  • June 23, 2016

    Tyondai Braxton has released a new five-song EP, Oranged Out, via Bandcamp, proceeds from which will support the work of Everytown for Gun Safety. A video for the title track, by Grace Villamil, may be seen here. Braxton will mark the release with a performance at National Sawdust in Brooklyn on July 22. He also has a number of European dates, with more to be announced. Oranged Out EP is a collection of tracks from or near the time Braxton was working on his Nonesuch debut album, HIVE1.

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About Tyondai Braxton

  • It was either a fortuitous coincidence, or cosmic intervention, on March 21, 2013, when Tyondai Braxton’s HIVE, a new work for percussion and electronics, had its world premiere in the rotunda of Frank Lloyd Wright’s cylindrical Guggenheim Museum in New York. HIVE—which was later performed at the Sydney Opera House, the MONA FOMA festival in Tasmania, and London’s Barbican Centre—was created as a live multimedia piece that was part architectural installation and part ensemble performance. Five performers sat cross-legged atop their own space-age oval pods designed by Danish architect Uffe Surland Van Tams; each pod was programmed to complete the sonic mood of the piece with ever-changing LED light emitting through its perforated wooden walls. The piece derived its name, as Braxton told London’s Guardian, because "there’s a very social aspect to what’s happening in this project. Technologically speaking, the performers of the piece are very connected together."

    The same night as the Guggenheim premiere, 20 blocks south, Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Oktophonie, a 70-minute electronic work depicting an epic battle between the forces of the archangel Michael and Lucifer, had the first of nine performances at the Park Avenue Armory. It was after attending Stockhausen’s work later that week—part narrative ritual, part spatial and environmental experiment—that Braxton reconsidered the music he had just premiered, and now wanted to take further, and deeper. Two years later, only fragments of that original Guggenheim performance remain on HIVE1.

    Written and recorded throughout 2013 and 2014, HIVE1 marks a new direction for Tyondai Braxton: his first album in six years, since 2009’s Central Market, and his first recording for Nonesuch, where he joins formative influences such as Morton Subotnick and John Adams. Most significantly—after having several of his large-scale orchestral works performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta, and Wordless Music Orchestra—HIVE1 is the composer’s first fully realized work of purely electronic music since his earlier loop-based music in the early 2000s, and an unmistakable swerve away from Braxton’s signature materials and musical concerns to date.

    Praised by the Washington Post as "one of the most acclaimed experimental musicians of the last decade," Braxton has been writing and performing music under his own name and collaboratively, under various group titles, since the mid-1990s. He is the former front man of experimental rock band Battles, whose debut album Mirrored was both popular and influential. Since departing Battles in 2010, Braxton has focused on composing music for HIVE, as well as composing commissioned pieces for ensembles such as The Bang on a Can All Stars, Kronos Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, and Brooklyn Rider. In 2012, he collaborated with Philip Glass—performing as a duo for the festival series All Tomorrow’s Parties, as well as remixing Glass’ work for the REWORK remix album.

    HIVE1 is probably not the album that most people would have expected Tyondai Braxton to make after Central Market. Dense, jagged, angular, abrasive, mischievous, and complex, HIVE1’s eight compositions will require several listens for most of us to unpack. In this regard, the album represents the categorical opposite of what most people understand by the term "electronic music" today.

    Where the dominant influence on Central Market was the Stravinsky of Petrushka and The Rite of Spring, HIVE1 draws more from the mid-20th century avant-garde, a world inhabited by the likes of Varèse, Xenakis, and Stockhausen—along with the more contemporary examples of Florian Hecker, Carston Nicolai/Raster Noton, and Braxton’s frequent collaborator Ben Vida, who appears as a performer in HIVE1. Where Central Market was scored for a small army of strings, guitars, horns, kazoos, and singers, the music of HIVE1 derives from the abrasive textures and manipulation of organic and synthesized sounds.

    It was Varese’s 1931 work for 13 percussionists, Ionisation, that was a starting point in Braxton’s mind as he wrote HIVE1, along with the corresponding questions it raised: What, exactly, does the idea of a percussion ensemble mean today—where the instruments seesaw between a textural and rhythmic role?—and what does the conversation between that ensemble and modern electronic music sound like?

    Braxton says, "There is a sense of impossibility when you hear electronic music tapped to its full potential—especially when it’s an analog instrument. The sound is real, but it’s doing something that would be impossible for a person or a traditional acoustic instrument to do. Balancing that with a more traditional sense of making music, considering rhythm and harmony, you realize the massive world this way of working inhabits."

    Central to the ideas of HIVE1 is the idea of what Braxton calls "generative," versus "intuitive," composition: "When I say ‘generative’ I mean the content wasn’t created by me physically playing a guitar or keyboard, but by ‘setting up scenarios’ using electronic means: sequencers, LFOs, etc. When I say ‘intuitive’ I mean more actual playing an instrument as well as how I laid out these generative recordings and parts. All the pieces have been sculpted and reworked to find forms that I liked." Braxton points to Xenakis as the father of generative music: "To hear his sense of time and space, and pacing—how long to sit with an idea before it moves on…" He continues, "I’ve been excited about the idea of music that acts not only as virtual environment but as a narrative as well. Sound environments with a story.

    "My starting point was the idea of incorporating my love of Varèse’s and Xenakis’ orchestral and percussion music and seeing what that meant now in my own electronic music and way of working. After notating all the percussion parts I soon found myself trying to do the same with synthesizers and realized notation and MIDI sequencing wasn’t using the strange nature of these instruments. It took a long time to understand how to work using generative ideas and realizing that you could actually control them.

    "I didn’t understand prior to making this record that algorithmic composition is something you can control with real depth—to the point where you can generate music that sounds like you, as opposed to being at the mercy of a limited process that ends up sounding generic. This was a real awakening for me" he says. "As an electronic record, HIVE1 is ironically maybe the most natural record I’ve made, as far as the feel of it. The generative process of it mimics forms and functions that are found in nature and the pace of the music unfolds fluidly."

    Like Xenakis and Varèse, Braxton delights in smashing and manipulating blocks of musical material against one another, building up and knocking down with sly humor and irreverent exuberance. On HIVE1, the blocks are percussive and electronic, and rhythmic rather than melodic: a complementary dialogue between musicians and machines. Percussionists Yuri Yamashita, Chris Thompson, and Matthew Smallcomb use an assortment of percussion instruments such as bongos, woodblocks, cymbals, and snare drums that play against the continuously irregular electronics at speeds that stutter and fall in and out of sync. At times, the dialogue is terse, fractious, interrupted; at others, the conversation becomes spirited, accelerated, syncopated, more frenetic. To use a visual metaphor, its organizing structure is closest to collage, or cut-up: the result of a generative process rather than a conventionally descriptive or symbolic work of art.

    Throughout the album, the sounds of percussion and modular synth collide and vibrate in ways that sometimes resolve but more often do not. There are ominous, dissonant screeches, woozy bass lines, crackling bursts of static, and low sustained drones, all counterpointed with clashing irregular rhythms. The music is peppered with sounds that resemble crickets, alarms, typewriters, bird calls, force fields, distant helicopters, airplanes taking off and landing. In this way, HIVE1 curiously (even unconsciously) recalls the piece whose performance initiated Braxton’s reimagining of HIVE: Oktophonie, which itself evoked Stockhausen’s memories of bombers, fighter planes, and explosions as a teenage conscript in a German field hospital during World War II.

    —Ronen Givony

Tyondai Braxton

Tour

nonesuch's picture
on February 23, 2015 - 11:29am
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Biography (Excerpt): 

Tyondai Braxton makes his Nonesuch Records debut with the release of HIVE1: eight pieces originally conceived for a performance work called HIVE that debuted at New York’s Guggenheim Museum in 2013 and evolved into HIVE1. The Washington Post has called Braxton "one of the most acclaimed experimental musicians of the last decade." 

Biography: 

It was either a fortuitous coincidence, or cosmic intervention, on March 21, 2013, when Tyondai Braxton’s HIVE, a new work for percussion and electronics, had its world premiere in the rotunda of Frank Lloyd Wright’s cylindrical Guggenheim Museum in New York. HIVE—which was later performed at the Sydney Opera House, the MONA FOMA festival in Tasmania, and London’s Barbican Centre—was created as a live multimedia piece that was part architectural installation and part ensemble performance. Five performers sat cross-legged atop their own space-age oval pods designed by Danish architect Uffe Surland Van Tams; each pod was programmed to complete the sonic mood of the piece with ever-changing LED light emitting through its perforated wooden walls. The piece derived its name, as Braxton told London’s Guardian, because "there’s a very social aspect to what’s happening in this project. Technologically speaking, the performers of the piece are very connected together."

The same night as the Guggenheim premiere, 20 blocks south, Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Oktophonie, a 70-minute electronic work depicting an epic battle between the forces of the archangel Michael and Lucifer, had the first of nine performances at the Park Avenue Armory. It was after attending Stockhausen’s work later that week—part narrative ritual, part spatial and environmental experiment—that Braxton reconsidered the music he had just premiered, and now wanted to take further, and deeper. Two years later, only fragments of that original Guggenheim performance remain on HIVE1.

Written and recorded throughout 2013 and 2014, HIVE1 marks a new direction for Tyondai Braxton: his first album in six years, since 2009’s Central Market, and his first recording for Nonesuch, where he joins formative influences such as Morton Subotnick and John Adams. Most significantly—after having several of his large-scale orchestral works performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta, and Wordless Music Orchestra—HIVE1 is the composer’s first fully realized work of purely electronic music since his earlier loop-based music in the early 2000s, and an unmistakable swerve away from Braxton’s signature materials and musical concerns to date.

Praised by the Washington Post as "one of the most acclaimed experimental musicians of the last decade," Braxton has been writing and performing music under his own name and collaboratively, under various group titles, since the mid-1990s. He is the former front man of experimental rock band Battles, whose debut album Mirrored was both popular and influential. Since departing Battles in 2010, Braxton has focused on composing music for HIVE, as well as composing commissioned pieces for ensembles such as The Bang on a Can All Stars, Kronos Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, and Brooklyn Rider. In 2012, he collaborated with Philip Glass—performing as a duo for the festival series All Tomorrow’s Parties, as well as remixing Glass’ work for the REWORK remix album.

HIVE1 is probably not the album that most people would have expected Tyondai Braxton to make after Central Market. Dense, jagged, angular, abrasive, mischievous, and complex, HIVE1’s eight compositions will require several listens for most of us to unpack. In this regard, the album represents the categorical opposite of what most people understand by the term "electronic music" today.

Where the dominant influence on Central Market was the Stravinsky of Petrushka and The Rite of Spring, HIVE1 draws more from the mid-20th century avant-garde, a world inhabited by the likes of Varèse, Xenakis, and Stockhausen—along with the more contemporary examples of Florian Hecker, Carston Nicolai/Raster Noton, and Braxton’s frequent collaborator Ben Vida, who appears as a performer in HIVE1. Where Central Market was scored for a small army of strings, guitars, horns, kazoos, and singers, the music of HIVE1 derives from the abrasive textures and manipulation of organic and synthesized sounds.

It was Varese’s 1931 work for 13 percussionists, Ionisation, that was a starting point in Braxton’s mind as he wrote HIVE1, along with the corresponding questions it raised: What, exactly, does the idea of a percussion ensemble mean today—where the instruments seesaw between a textural and rhythmic role?—and what does the conversation between that ensemble and modern electronic music sound like?

Braxton says, "There is a sense of impossibility when you hear electronic music tapped to its full potential—especially when it’s an analog instrument. The sound is real, but it’s doing something that would be impossible for a person or a traditional acoustic instrument to do. Balancing that with a more traditional sense of making music, considering rhythm and harmony, you realize the massive world this way of working inhabits."

Central to the ideas of HIVE1 is the idea of what Braxton calls "generative," versus "intuitive," composition: "When I say ‘generative’ I mean the content wasn’t created by me physically playing a guitar or keyboard, but by ‘setting up scenarios’ using electronic means: sequencers, LFOs, etc. When I say ‘intuitive’ I mean more actual playing an instrument as well as how I laid out these generative recordings and parts. All the pieces have been sculpted and reworked to find forms that I liked." Braxton points to Xenakis as the father of generative music: "To hear his sense of time and space, and pacing—how long to sit with an idea before it moves on…" He continues, "I’ve been excited about the idea of music that acts not only as virtual environment but as a narrative as well. Sound environments with a story.

"My starting point was the idea of incorporating my love of Varèse’s and Xenakis’ orchestral and percussion music and seeing what that meant now in my own electronic music and way of working. After notating all the percussion parts I soon found myself trying to do the same with synthesizers and realized notation and MIDI sequencing wasn’t using the strange nature of these instruments. It took a long time to understand how to work using generative ideas and realizing that you could actually control them.

"I didn’t understand prior to making this record that algorithmic composition is something you can control with real depth—to the point where you can generate music that sounds like you, as opposed to being at the mercy of a limited process that ends up sounding generic. This was a real awakening for me" he says. "As an electronic record, HIVE1 is ironically maybe the most natural record I’ve made, as far as the feel of it. The generative process of it mimics forms and functions that are found in nature and the pace of the music unfolds fluidly."

Like Xenakis and Varèse, Braxton delights in smashing and manipulating blocks of musical material against one another, building up and knocking down with sly humor and irreverent exuberance. On HIVE1, the blocks are percussive and electronic, and rhythmic rather than melodic: a complementary dialogue between musicians and machines. Percussionists Yuri Yamashita, Chris Thompson, and Matthew Smallcomb use an assortment of percussion instruments such as bongos, woodblocks, cymbals, and snare drums that play against the continuously irregular electronics at speeds that stutter and fall in and out of sync. At times, the dialogue is terse, fractious, interrupted; at others, the conversation becomes spirited, accelerated, syncopated, more frenetic. To use a visual metaphor, its organizing structure is closest to collage, or cut-up: the result of a generative process rather than a conventionally descriptive or symbolic work of art.

Throughout the album, the sounds of percussion and modular synth collide and vibrate in ways that sometimes resolve but more often do not. There are ominous, dissonant screeches, woozy bass lines, crackling bursts of static, and low sustained drones, all counterpointed with clashing irregular rhythms. The music is peppered with sounds that resemble crickets, alarms, typewriters, bird calls, force fields, distant helicopters, airplanes taking off and landing. In this way, HIVE1 curiously (even unconsciously) recalls the piece whose performance initiated Braxton’s reimagining of HIVE: Oktophonie, which itself evoked Stockhausen’s memories of bombers, fighter planes, and explosions as a teenage conscript in a German field hospital during World War II.

—Ronen Givony

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Tour

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