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Posted at 5:50 PM ET, 03/11/2011

In concert: Tyondai Braxton and Wordless Music Orchestra at Library of Congress

By Aaron Leitko

tyondai braxtonTyondai Braxton was joined by Wordless Music Orchestra Thursday at Library of Congress. (All photos by Josh Sisk/FTWP)

Tyondai Braxton is a bit of an anomaly -- a musician whose work sounds as good at the Barbican as it does at a punk-rock basement show. Thursday night at the Library of Congress the New York City-based composer, joined by the Wordless Music Orchestra, performed a series of works drawn from his 2009 album, "Central Market."

The conductor, Caleb Burhans, wore black fingernail polish. There were adventurous hairdos and giant amplifiers. Kazoos buzzed and a laptop belched sine-waves. But for all of the wild gestures, it was the tiny, unintentionally audible, click-clack of guitar pedals that spoke most directly to Braxton's far-out vision of orchestral music.

Before he had a 30-piece backing band, Braxton relied heavily on guitar pedals -- loop-boxes, mainly -- to generate an orchestra's worth of sound on his own. But rather than stacking static melodies, Braxton used the technology to generate off-kilter rhythms and topsy-turvy harmonies.

tyondai braxton

On "Central Market" the loop pedals, at least, are gone. But the herky-jerky style he stumbled onto is still present in compositions like "Uffe's Woodshop" and "The Duck and the Butcher."

It's a singular style, one that Braxton has worked hard to cultivate. He studied music at the University of Hartford's Hartt School and, until last year, performed in the post-rock supergroup Battles. Part of it might just be in his DNA, though. He's also the son of composer/improviser Anthony Braxton.

But Braxton's music has little in common with his father's. For all the weirdness, he's a pop guy at heart. And his real talent is for synthesis--he's highly adept at melding disparate genres. The evening's centerpiece, the ten-minute "Platinum Rows," took nods from Debussy, but also contemporary underground noise-nicks like Black Dice.

The program -- which also included a performance of John Adam's "Road Movies," Burhan's "In a Distant Place,", and Workers Union, by Louis Andriessen -- was meant to convey the scope of Braxton's influences. The first two were relatively delicate. The latter, bludgeoning and dissonant. Somewhere in between, you get "Central Market."

tyondai braxton

tyondai braxton

tyondai braxton

tyondai braxton

By Aaron Leitko  | March 11, 2011; 5:50 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags:  Tyondai Braxton  
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