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In April 2016, I traveled to Cambridge to hear him give a solo concert, also titled “Avenging Angel,” at Harvard, where his friend Vijay Iyer had organized a festival. Taborn had been preparing for the concert for weeks. He practiced compositions by Bach, Shostakovich and Thelonious Monk, and wrote passages that he could invoke in a moment’s notice in performance. He read poetry, watched old avant-garde films by Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger and kept a record of his ideas on a chalkboard that he couldn’t avoid looking at. For several hours a day, he conducted a grueling set of exercises designed to cultivate finger independence and dexterity. In one of those exercises, he held down one finger while playing a series of notes with another, a move that can be very damaging if executed too quickly. The purpose was to improve his command of dynamics, attacks and releases, something he admires in Cecil Taylor, a pianist with “complete control.”

His final form of preparation was listening to his iPod in the rental car he drove to Cambridge. It contains about 45,000 tracks, and Taborn prefers to listen to it on shuffle. “Moving from Xenakis to some metal thing creates a space where you don’t know what you’re listening to anymore,” he told me in his dressing room. “You’re making inferences and connections, and that’s really what composition is. So I don’t worry what I’m listening to. I just like the experience, the change in moods, the feeling of going from a 20-minute composed track to a 30-second blast of metal. Even the discontinuity creates its own logic.”

Added by Chad Mazzola
Updated 6 months ago

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