Composition No. 6C was composed in 1967 as a vehicle for my creative quartet music repertoire. The work is designed as a platform for traditional thematic improvisation—as practiced in the continuum of Trans African pedagogy. The only basic deviation in this work from the be-bop continuum of extended improvised music is that Composition. No. 6C has no harmonic foundation and as such the nature of its treatment is more related to the post-Coleman juncture of Trans African postulation. The structure of Composition. No. 6C can be broken into two most basic regions and both halves of these regions serve as platforms for extended improvisation. During the course of the last ten years I have utilized Composition. No. 6C in many different contexts—both as a vehicle for extended solo music and a platform for open improvisation (with no solos as such but instead dynamic interaction from the composite group). The attractiveness of this work no doubt springs from its thematic focus—because Composition. No. 6C was composed to be a circus march type of music. My decision to compose this material was based on the challenge of supplying diverse material for the quartet. The success of any small ensemble is not separate from the spectrum of its creative focus (and by success I am referring to creative as opposed to commercial success). The adaptability of Composition. No. 6C through the years has only underscored the validity of this viewpoint. I have played this work in many different contexts both in America as well as Europe. Composition. No. 6C is dedicated to my friend the composer and multi-instrumentalist, Leroy Jenkins.
The two regions of Composition. No. 6C that I previously mentioned breaks down into: (1) the bass vamp with percussion intersliced section, over which the first part of the theme is played and (2) the remaining phrase at the end (which is written in a nine four measure). Both of these sections can be used as a principle focus for solo extension or open improvisation. In the case of the former region, we have sometimes used the bass vamp as a center factor for open improvisation—coming in and out of its design (and there have also been times where that region has served as a rhythmic platform for a given extended solo). Throughout the years I have seen many different approaches on this work. Every group brings its own insight into this work. Since the middle seventies, Composition. No. 6C has provided an ideal vehicle for 'collage' improvisation and no doubt other approaches will open up in the future. Because of the simplicity of the work, Composition. No. 6C can be thematically improvised from many different contexts.
My decision to write Composition. No. 6C cannot be separated from the dynamic activity that solidified in Chicago during the late sixties. In particular Composition. No. 6C must be looked at as in accordance with the dynamic activity that was taking place in the AACM. It was in this time period that the organization began to profoundly investigate the reality of creative music—especially as this subject pertained to the post-Coleman/Sun Ra extension that was radically changing the music. In this period the musicians of the AACM would move to investigate every area of creative music—from ragtime music to African ritual music. The thrust of this activity would see musicians bringing all types of materials into their ensembles—whether that material was perceived as so called jazz or not. Composition. No. 6C can be viewed from this perspective because in writing this work I was looking to develop different material for myself as an improviser and for my various ensembles. The completion of this work would move to solidify my quartet music in its own separate space and with its own special challenges.