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John Zorn - From Silence to Sorcery CD (album) cover


John Zorn



2.23 | 7 ratings

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2 stars John Zorn's 2007 album is another scholarly compilation of modern classical chamber music, close enough in style to his earlier "Mysterium" (2005) to be an undeclared sequel. But the results this time are less engaging, in part because the arrangements are even leaner, and probably by design. The newer album collects three more original works (written years apart, between 1997 and 2002), each one resembling a single backing track isolated from a much fuller recording session, as if to facilitate closer analysis of every instrument.

The opening "Goetia" is a challenging exercise for solo violin, played with detached, atonal virtuosity by Jennifer Choi. The piece was divided into eight discrete sections but is only 14-minutes long in aggregate, although it may seem longer to anyone unaccustomed to contemporary classical minimalism.

Next up is "Gris-Gris", supposedly "inspired by the music of Korean shamanism, Haitian voodoo, and (!) a scene from Howard Hawks' classic film To Have And Have Not" (quoting from the CD cover, with my own incredulous exclamation mark). Fair enough, but what you're hearing are thirteen multi-tracked tuned drums and nothing else, played for nine minutes and reminiscent of an early RESIDENTS experiment: "Six Things to a Cycle" without the subversive humor.

And lastly is the six-part "Shibboleth", a musical tribute to Jewish poet Paul Celan performed on clavichord, three muted strings, and percussion.

All three compositions are thoughtful, even intriguing. But some essential vitality was lost in translation to disc (a live performance of the same material, witnessed firsthand, would have been thrilling). And it's a short album too: hardly 36-minutes altogether, a nod to quality over quantity perhaps, but at first exposure lacking a complement of either. It might actually take more time to read the notes in the CD booklet than to play the CD itself, and be more educational as well. But since when is music meant to be homework?

Neu!mann | 2/5 |


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