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Creative Orchestra

Workshop with Anthony Braxton & Kobe Van Cauwenberghe

Four-day workshop

Tutors: Anthony Braxton, Kobe Van Cauwenberghe

When: 11–14 August (3 hours a day) with a public presentation on 15 August, times tba

Who: Open to all Summer Course instrumentalists and vocalists, with a maximum of 25-30 participants, please see the section Practical Details below.

How to sign up: Interested participants should send an e-mail to by the end of May 2023. Please indicate if you are a vocalist or which instrument you play. The instrumentation is flexible, but we need a good balance between woodwinds, brass, strings, guitar, vocals, keyboard instruments and percussion. We will let you know in early June if you can take part actively.

This workshop offers a deep dive into the Tri-Centric sound universe of Anthony Braxton’s Creative Orchestra Music. Drawing on a wide variety of musical and orchestral traditions ranging from, but not limited to, the Duke Ellington – Fletcher Henderson lineage or, what Braxton would call, post-Webern-Stockhausen-Cage structural prototypes, and with a touch of Sun Ra’s cosmological sound science, Braxton’s Creative Orchestra is a multi-logics experience. It offers a whole new perspective on what orchestral practice can be. Like all of his music Braxton’s Creative Orchestra is built around the 3 central parameters of his Tri-Centric Model which unites stable logics (notated material) with mutable logics (improvisation) and their resulting synthesis logics. Always leaving space for the unknown, Braxton’s Tri-Centric Model is therefore not a system of arriving, but a system of becoming, where everything is in motion and everything is connected.

In this four-day workshop we will explore Braxton’s Tri-Centric modeling with his Composition No. 151 as our primary territory. Scored for 25 musicians Braxton describes No. 151 as a city in which a car chase takes place. As Bill Schoemaker noted in his liner notes to the recording of No. 151: “Rather than set the musicians off into a hall of mirrors, the instrumentalists of ‘151’ navigate different paths, cued by procedural devices such as “repeating lights”, rhythmic components which guide the musicians much the way runway lights guide take offs and landings at airports and “signposts” which approximate traffic directions – U-turns, right turns only, etc…” Throughout the workshop we will pursue this metaphor of the Creative Orchestra as a vehicle to navigate through different musical territories. With No. 151 as our primary territory we will explore collective improvisation by means of Braxton’s Language Music system, as well as apply collage strategies as a way to navigate and connect No. 151 to other compositions or ‘territories’ within Braxton’s extensive body of work. The multi-hierarchical nature of Braxton’s Creative Orchestra Music will be put into practice by creating subgroups, exploring multiple-conductor strategies and encouraging both individual and collective agency as essential elements of orchestral performance practice.

Practical Details

Four sessions of 3 hours each will take place between 11 and 14 August with a public presentation on 15 August. The workshop will be conducted by Anthony Braxton and Kobe Van Cauwenberghe.


  • Primary: Composition No. 151
  • Secondary: Compositions No. 25, 55, 56, 58, 59, …
  • Language Music

The workshop is open to all instrumentalists and vocalists, with a maximum of 25-30 participants.

No prior knowledge or experience in orchestral performance practice is required. No prior knowledge or experience in improvisation is required, but we do recommend an attitude of openness and (collective) responsibility in line with Braxton’s own guidelines to performing his music as defined in his “Introduction to Catalog of works”:

  • Have fun with this material and don’t get hung up with any one area.
  • Don’t misuse this material to have only “correct” performances without spirit or risk. Don’t use my work to “kill” young aspiring students of music (in other words – don’t view this material as only a technical or emotional noose that can be used to suppress creativity). If the music is played too correctly it was probably played wrong.
  • Each performance must have something unique. I say take a chance and have some fun. If the instrumentalist doesn’t make a mistake with my materials, I say “Why!? NO mistake – NO work!” If a given structure concept has been understood (on whatever level) then connect it to something else. Try something different – be creative (that’s all I’m writing).
  • Finally, I recommend as few rehearsals as possible so that everyone will be slightly nervous – and of course put in “emergency cues” just in case anything goes wrong. Believe me there will be days when nothing works at all. Also try and keep the music “on the line” to maintain the “spark of invention”, and be sure to keep your sense of humor.

Good Luck, Anthony Braxton

Mills College 1988

P.S. (and please don’t make the music too “cutesy”)

The story of Composition No. 151

By Anthony Braxton

“Hey! …Watch it Harvey! (Pointing to the speedometer) we’re going over 90 and this area is patrolled ah oh, (turning to the rear window of the car) now you’ve done it!” “I knew something like this would happen,” moaned Jason. “Be careful, man, or we’re in trouble.” Their car has now pulled over to the side of the highway and a patrolman on motorcycle pulls behind them. He gets off the bike and comes to the side of the car. Jason rolls the window down. “You boys on the way to a fire or something? We clocked you at 90 miles an hour. You’ll have to let me see your license while we do a check on you. (He signals to his partner in the back car to start a check on the drivers.) “Yeah, people, you’ve really done it this time. I hope your explanation will be broad and expansive because there is the possibility of ‘complexity’ – I’ll put it that way, people!” Harvey looks at Jason (somewhat perplexed): “Look officer, this is all a mistake, believe me. We have been on ‘path 8’ for about four hours, on the way to the ‘South East territories’ in this system. Where are we now, officers? At this point in time we could even use a position check as we enter into the new terrain. I feel as if we’ve arrived at the border of an architectural space of some magnitude, and our aim in this context must be to complete those objectives relevant to our ‘menu specifics’ (as those specifics relate to the emergence of ‘compass-logic strategies’ that open both structural and correspondence directives for postulation dynamics). Before we can gather that information, we must first have some bearing on the logistics of this ‘sound space’ and its related tendencies (if any).”

The officer takes off his mirror sun glasses and points to the city just ahead. (There are about twenty tall buildings that gleam with a kind of shining silver chrome). “You are now entering into an existence/time/space/phenomenon that is personified by the fusion/identity/state of Composition No. 151. This is a land of repeated ‘hopes’ and ‘tendencies’ that moves to paint a soundscape of ‘repeating lights’ and ‘circles’ – “I knew this space would be valuable to incoming traffic!” (Since everything is always expanding)…it kind of reminds me of the Dallas/Fort Worth airport strategies. All of these developments are part of how a system evolves, or communities grow. Composition No. 151 is a tri-metric structure that will serve as a ‘primary identity territory’ in the geo-sonic designs of post-nuclear/architectural/modeling. This composition will be something like Denver or Orlando, Florida major spaces, but not on, say, the level (or size) of places like New York, Philadelphia or Los Angeles. But it will be a nice place to visit, after all it was conceived as an ‘all purpose adapter structure’ that can connect/channel twelve different pathways through its greater metropolitan areas. Still (Pointing to Harvey) we do need your cooperation, Sir!”

Harvey smiles and looks somewhat guilty. “OK, it’s true that we were speeding, officer. But the No. 151 connection could save us at least five hours. As I understand it, Composition No. 151 is a tri-metric structure from the E-class prototypes and, if that’s the case, imprint territories of this character could serve as ‘new balance materials’ in a genetic system state. In this sound space are ‘repeating lights’ that guide the instrumentalist in the same way an airfield runway uses guiding lights (on both sides of a runway path). You are riding along a sound road that comes equipped with the new signpost devices – ‘U-turns only’ at the ZZZ signs, or ‘right turns only’ at intersections. “What about moveable signpost strategies?” asks Harvey, “like in the big airports.” “Not yet, Sir,” replied officer Zuphthon, “but one day, who knows? With a music system like this, anything is possible. Already we can foresee sending a single instrumentalist, group instrumentalist and/or target sub-identity group logic into a path of defined and undefined territories in a way that extends the nature of the original assumptions – but this is only the beginning.” The two men have now gathered out- side of the car and are putting their hands alongside the vehicle as the patrolman prepares to search them.

As officer Zuphthon approaches to examine Harvey and Jason, the second policeman (sitting in the car) calls out, “I think we have suspects here, let’s take them in!” Harvey turns to Jason (as officer Zuphthon turns his head towards the car in the rear, in preparation to apply handcuffs). “It’s now or never!” shouts Jason as he pushes the officer into the sand. “Get in the car and drive, man!” he yells. The first car then pulls out into the highway. “They’ll never catch us now, Harvey! I know Composition No. 151 forward and backwards. I could drive these lanes with one hand,” he chuckles. “The race is on!” And with that remark, he pushes the gas pedal down to the floor. Now both cars are on the highway, travelling at 70 miles an hour. From the police car a megaphone appears as the unnamed second policeman yells from the window. “You’ll never get away with this one, guys! Composition No. 151 is not a monophonic structure that only addresses the needs of extended improvisation, as defined by post-Ayler, Cage or AACM (for that matter) structural prototypes, but rather, this is a tri-metric architectural reality that points to a breakthrough in form building and structural categories. This is a transparent terrain of sound beam constructions that define a way of thinking and re- acting. Pull over or else!”

“In this soundstate, the individual looks for the ‘transparent corridor/layer’ as a means to view a ‘freshly unified, theatre of form/relationships/alliances,” says officer Zuphthon (pronounced Zu- frum -kín). “I see this phenomenon as tri-metric!” (He laughs).

“Oh yeah,” says Bugsy (the now-named, second policeman). “We’ve got to stop these guys! Composition No. 151 reminds me of Chicago in the meat house period! Every railroad company connected to the City in those days. I even remember the old rock island railroad!” Harvey interrupts, “keep your eye on the speedometer, Bugsy-system changes in these lanes are serious business!”

“Maybe we better tell him, Zuphthon,” says Bugsy (as he stares his fellow patrolman right in the eye). Maybe we better tell him!”

Officer Zuphthon straightens his tie and picks up the megaphone. This would be the last opportunity to reach out to the renegade drivers. He wanted to clarify the nature of the inquired.

“Gentlemen,” he began, “let me make myself perfectly clear about this soundspace; these lanes have not been approached lightly. Know at least this much!” he cried out. “Composition No. 151 is a tri-metric structural model that is scored for 25 instrumental parts as a prototype of the new ‘E’ system scaffolds (if I can say it that way). This is a structural universe conceived in the stable, mutable and synthesis sound space that will serve as an all-purpose genetic network as part of the evolving material base of the new tri-metric musics of tomorrow. “Hey, slow up!” Harvey says, “the lanes thin out here and we become a solo act” (he laughs). Jason continues, “This is a structural/concept space that contains the traditional references without traditional definitions! Not to mention, that like all ‘E’ class models, Composition No. 151 has three apparent states of disassemblement that expands the role of notated target logics – right on down to the individual soloist. Even the ‘M’ class structures didn’t do that much!” (Now both groups are happy as they gaze out of the car windows.) “Hey!” says Jason, pointing his finger at the reappearing sound shapes. “I recognize that shape. That’s the third time that one’s come around. At the next one make a left and prepare to join a convoy in the transfer sign zones (I say try for the C trains/signs. It’s like catching the express trains in the New York subway – as long as you’re not stopping at 83rd Street it’s great!)” They both laugh.

Officer Zuphthon cries out, “they’re getting away! Stopppp! Stoppppppp! Stoooppppp! Stop stop stop stop stop stop stop –Stop! You can’t get away with this, people. We are from the same target routes. I’ll meet you at the horseshoe structures, or maybe on route 506 (or what about the double M prototype junctions?). Just because Composition No. 151 has flexibility doesn’t mean there are no trajectory check points.” Now the two cars have pulled side by side and both drivers have lowered their windows. “Sorry, officer,” says Jason, “we have just left the city limits of Composition No. 151 and have arrived at national/international territories. I believe your jurisdiction in these matters has been fulfilled, sir.” “There will be a clean sweep for us now,” adds Harvey. “I’ll be ‘doubling and tripling’ next year and I want union scale, baby.” (He laughs) “Hold on, boys!” officer Zuphthon intones. “This is a systems arrest, fellows! We are authorized to deal with the composite territories of the model. Pull over into the ‘rest area’ spaces-into the first one that comes up. There will be much to talk about now that the first of the ‘diamond structure prototypes’ are complete. Pull on over into sector target point M.5 and we’ll wait for a correspondence structure to reconnect into path 4 (in the Southwest). I hear Composition No. 107 has a model that can connect us into identity states 7 and 9 (respectively). From there we can cut back into Jersey by twelve and head on out to ‘Roy’s’ (or defined states 4 and 27).”


  1. 2 compositions (ensemble) 1989/1991, HatArt

© ️Anthony Braxton