Anthony Braxton (born June 4, 1945) is an American experimental composer, educator, music theorist, improviser and multi-instrumentalist who is best known for playing saxophones, particularly the alto. Braxton grew up on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, and was a key early member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. He received great acclaim for his 1969 double-LP record For Alto, the first full-length album of solo saxophone music.
A prolific composer with a vast body of cross-genre work, the MacArthur Fellow and NEA Jazz Master has released hundreds of recordings and compositions. During six years signed to Arista Records, the diversity of his output encompassed work with many members of the AACM, including duets with co-founder and first president Muhal Richard Abrams; collaborations with electronic musician Richard Teitelbaum; a saxophone quartet with Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake and Hamiet Bluiett; compositions for four orchestras; and the ensemble arrangements of Creative Orchestra Music 1976, which was named the 1977 DownBeat Critics' Poll Album of the Year. Many of his projects are ongoing, such as the Diamond Curtain Wall works, in which Braxton implements audio programming language SuperCollider; the Ghost Trance Music series, inspired by his studies of the Native American Ghost Dance; and Echo Echo Mirror House Music, in which musicians "play" iPods containing the bulk of Braxton's oeuvre. He has released the first six operas in a series called the Trillium Opera Complex.
Braxton identifies as a "trans-idiomatic" composer and has repeatedly opposed the idea of a rigid dichotomy between improvisation and composition. He has written extensively about the "language music" system that forms the basis for his work and developed a philosophy of "world creativity" in his Tri-Axium Writings.
Braxton taught at Mills College from 1985 to 1990 and was Professor of Music at Wesleyan University from 1990 until his retirement at the end of 2013. He is the artistic director of the Tri-Centric Foundation, a nonprofit he founded in 1994 to support the preservation and production of works by Braxton and other artists "in pursuit of 'trans-idiomatic' creativity".
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