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Giant of Avant-Garde Music Says: ‘If We Lose America, Shame on Us’

My latest in PJ Media:

Anthony Braxton is a composer and multi-instrumentalist who, over the past fifty years, has written hundreds of jazz, classical, and unclassifiable avant-garde musical works, along with operas and innovative combinations of improvised, pre-composed, and recorded music. The fact that he is not a household name in America today is one of the signs that our culture does not recognize its true heroes. However, despite being a towering figure in a musical and cultural context that is dominated by the far-Left, Braxton, a black American who is now 76, in an interview Friday expressed his unabashed love for America and his deep consternation over the forces that are now endeavoring to destroy it. It took courage and a willingness to swim against the tide – but for half a century, Braxton has shown with his fiercely uncompromising music that he is willing and able to do that.

In the interview at the Grammy Awards website, Braxton says: “ For me, I’m just a country boy. [At this point, the Grammy interviewer adds the notation that Braxton’s “voice cracks with emotion.”] I’m a lucky guy to be born an American citizen. When I think about all the great music that’s happening—especially the music that’s come from Americans—again, I can only just bow to the Creator.”

Speaking about his forthcoming release, the massive 13-disc Quartet (Standards) 2020, which features Braxton on various saxophones playing 67 classic jazz songs, Braxton says: “What I’ve tried to do every decade is a project from the American Songbook. From the repertoire of the great American people, we take everything for granted. But, actually, in America, we have so much. We have options on so many different levels. There are so many different kinds of musics. We are so lucky, but of course, not everyone is able to recognize how fortunate we are, because it’s all around us all the time.”

This leads the master musician into an extraordinary paean to this country, and a criticism of current trends: “There is a separation between real America and what is being reported about our great country. More and more, there is an effort to teach our young people that America has not been an agent of something positive, but rather, America has been an agent of something that is negative.” He adds: “I respect everyone’s viewpoint, but I would say this. In my opinion, the United States of America is one of the greatest countries that has ever happened to humanity. I think the men and women of America are some of the best people on this planet. But every day, I look at the internet—I gave up television and the radio years ago—and I’m reading about a perspective that is outrageous.”

 After naming some of the composers, musicians, and others who have influenced him and get too little attention, Braxton says: “So, we watch the ascension of the great nation of China while, at the same time, our country is sinking because many of our young people are not being taught about what and who we really are as Americans….Unless change happens, we will have no way to avoid a cataclysmic experience.”

In fact, he says, “It’s already starting to happen. People beating up strangers walking down the street. What the hell is that? People jumping on someone they’ve never met and beating them up or bullying them. What the hell is that? If you think it happens to ‘them,’ maybe you need to go back and study history. Because you are the ‘them.’”

Braxton brushes aside the idea that there is something intrinsically wrong with this country: “There’s always room for improvement, but I’m not interested in utopia. No heaven, no paradise. Give me America! There are good people, so-called bad people, people on the left, people on the right.” He even rejects the Left’s current revision of American history: “There are complex forces in the air that are very separate from what one would have thought. The majority of the American people have been moving forward on the issue of slavery from the beginning. The whole concept of free states and slave states demonstrated immediately that there was opposition to slavery….In America, there’s always been a movement to challenge those ideas. But you would not know that today!”

There is much more. Read the rest here.

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