“Composition 429” is the first piece using a new writing method that Braxton calls “Lorraine.” The composer’s notes to the piece describe Lorraine as “a music system that governs the ‘sonic winds’ of breath.” Saxophonist and longtime collaborator James Fei contributes an essay detailing the Lorraine system, which uses a combination of traditional notation and color-coded symbols of the composer’s design to indicate “specific sound types or performance techniques,” drawing from Braxton’s long history as an artist but always looking to the future of music. This notation is uniquely not reliant on linear type or representation thereof. Also included in the Duet (Other Minds) 2021 package are extensive notes from noted jazz critic Nate Chinen contextualizing the performance.
It’s immediately apparent that the duo have been playing together for decades, Fei having appeared on numerous recordings of Braxton’s work throughout their years working together. Despite this, Duet (Other Minds) 2021 marks their first recording as a duo. Covering the spectrum of saxophones, the pair harmonizes strings of melodies that hover between the angular and the familiar. As Braxton himself puts it, “memories and shadows of ‘beingness’ adorn the ornamentation of old ruins and blessed relics.” The Lorraine system calls for performers to play the written material as composed followed by an extrapolative section where players improvise with the material following an additional layer of more abstract notation, but always in rhythmic unison. In this performance, Braxton and Fei are accompanied by “Diamond Curtain Wall Music,” an electronics system that continuously derives pitch information from their performance. This multitude of layers expands and contracts and interacts in an ever-changing kaleidoscope that even stretches to encompass the composer’s past work - in this case Braxton’s “Ghost Trance Music,” Compositions No. 272 and No. 343. The pair cover a dizzying swath of territory over the course of the piece’s 40 minutes.
Anthony Braxton’s restless creativity is on full display on Duet (Other Minds) 2021, the sound of a composer decades into his career continuing to not only expand the breadth of his oeuvre, but continuing to find the joy and excitement in doing it. This music capitalizes on not only the deep creative partnership between the players, but also the deep relationship between the players and the music - a unique experience even for a composer with the massive catalog of Anthony Braxton.