Echo Echo, ‘C’est Trop’

I was wondering about this latest music from Anthony Braxton. He calls it Echo Echo Mirror House, and it builds on his Ghost Trance Music by giving the players iPods (or similar playback devices) loaded with Braxton compositions. They can add these recordings into the mix, like another element of improvisation, another flavor in the spice cabinet.

The insertion of compositional modules was already part of Ghost Trance Music, or at least part of the hour-long pieces Braxton would assemble under that banner. I’d mentioned it recently here.

The iPod element of Echo Echo sounds riskier, though. Players would have to know those recordings awfully well in order to select precisely the best one for the moment, wouldn’t they? Or, is it left to chance: Start a playback, see what happens?

And is there tempo control enforced here? Ghost Trance Music doesn’t exactly work in march-time rhythms, but it’s got a march feel, and it seems like it would be disruptive to add another march in a different step.

Echo Echo Mirror House has gotten some live performances recently, including one at the Victoriaville FIMAV festival, so I cast about for any reviews. And I found a short remark on François Couture’s Monsieur Délire blog that would suggest he shares my concerns about the format. He describes the seven players’ iPods as an added layer of music. “C’est trop,” he writes: It’s too much.

I’ll be interested to hear for myself someday. The idea of modular composition and performance appeals to me, and I like that Braxton is still toying with the concept.

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