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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 151

“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 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, traveling 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 151 is not a monophonic structure that only addresses the need for extended improvisation as defined by the post-Ayler, Cage or AACM (for that manner) 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 reacting. Pull over or else!”


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