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Anthony Braxton on marginalized self expression

I used to be a huge fan of Anthony Braxton back in the day.  Braxton is an unapologetic free music practitioner, a brilliant composer and improviser and a disruptive influence in the world of American music, and jazz in particular.

Here is a a lovely piece from him talking about the difference in perception between white men and black men striving to express an individual voice in contemporary America.  Beyond race, this also speaks to the marginalization of creative work in a world dominated by a mercantile world view:

FJ: Why is it that a white man striving for individuality is perceived as being liberal, but a Black man is termed radical or revolutionary?

ANTHONY BRAXTON: You put your finger right on it, Fred. I turn on the television set sometimes and they are talking about Silicon Valley. The guys are saying that they have these sessions where they just kind of get together and push ideas around and we’re changing these models, we’re doing this and we’re doing that. Suddenly they switch to Bill Gates or any of the visionaries who’ve become very successful. They talk about whatever they’ve come up with. Yes, it is always received on the level that it is intended in the sense that this is something that can be considered, accepted or rejected, but it is something that can be considered. For instance, when Lee Konitz in Wire magazine went to put me down, he didn’t say, “I don’t like what Braxton’s doing.” No, the first thing he made sure to do was undermine my credentials. “Oh, he isn’t qualified.” “Oh, he made a technical mistake.” So the question then is not what Braxton is doing, but suddenly I am operating from this deficit. This has been the game that has been played against guys like me from every sector. The Lincoln Center sector says, “Oh, well, he doesn’t play the blues.” What they are really saying is the he doesn’t have the kind of idiomatic psychology that we can see as playing ball in a way where this guy doesn’t have to be challenged, not to mention, what we have here is a profound myth understanding in my opinion of the whole blues tradition. I trace these understandings to Mr. Albert Murray and Stanley Crouch.

via | Interviews.

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