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KRISTALLNACHT

John Zorn

RIO/Avant-Prog


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John Zorn Kristallnacht album cover
2.92 | 13 ratings | 4 reviews | 15% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1993

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Shtetl (Ghetto Life) (5:51)
2. Never Again (11:41)
3. Gahelet (Embers) (3:25)
4. Tikkun (Rectification) (3:02)
5. Tzfia (Looking Ahead) (8:46)
6. Barzel (Iron Fist) (2:01)
7. Gariin (Nucleus-The New Settlement) (7:58)

Total Time: 43:03

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Mark Feldman / violin
- Marc Ribot / guitar
- Anthony Coleman / keyboards
- Mark Dresser / bass
- William Winant / percussion
- David Krakauer / clarinet, bass clarinet (1,5)
- Frank London / trumpet (1,5)

Releases information

CD Eva Records (WWCX 2050), 1993
CD Tzadik (TZ 7301), 1995
CD Evva (EVVA 33005), 1995

Thanks to Joren for the addition
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JOHN ZORN Kristallnacht ratings distribution


2.92
(13 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(15%)
15%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(31%)
31%
Good, but non-essential (31%)
31%
Collectors/fans only (15%)
15%
Poor. Only for completionists (8%)
8%

JOHN ZORN Kristallnacht reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
1 stars One way progressive bands act progressive is by depicting historical or literary scenes through music. Yes did a phenomenal job musically portraying a battle in "The Gates of Delirium," but they did so through appropriate timbres, tones, dynamics, and most importantly, genuine compositional ideas. Then some artists, like John Zorn, provide a more literal interpretation of their setting. Kristallnacht, or "The Night of Broken Glass" was an anti-Jewish pogrom in Germany and Austria, occurring on November 9th and 10th in 1938. Over two-hundred synagogues were destroyed, and almost a hundred Jews were murdered, but one of the most historically poignant aspects of those two horrible days involved the destruction of Jewish shops and storefronts, hence the name of the event. So, rather than craft movingly bitter pieces of actual music, Zorn decided to treat listeners to things like eleven minutes of the sound of glass breaking. Heavy-handed symbolism aside, there is one real amazing moment on this album, and I would be unfair if I ignored it: "Gahelet (Embers)" stands out as a gorgeous piece, and probably one of the most masterful works I've ever heard in the genre. On the one hand, the album at times does a fine job creating a genuine Yiddish feel or showing the loneliness, despair, bitterness, and hope that was part of being Jewish in the first half of the twentieth century. On the other hand, parts of this album could do its own glass-breaking- I'm sorry, but I have no use for noise or for ensembles full of members who play their instruments independently of one another and call it music. Perhaps the point is to make the listener feel the pain the Jewish victims felt, but frankly that strikes me as cruel. "Shtetl (Ghetto Life)" Lone brass wails in an inconsolable way. Adding context is the enraged and repeated rants of Nazi Germans. Squealing violin, a simple bass, and a not unpleasant trumpet dominates the rest of the piece.

"Never Again" I'm surprised anybody would listen to this. It is no exaggeration when I say that this is almost eleven minutes of what is practically white noise. Turn on a television with no reception and crank up the volume- there we are. Well, not quite- the TV lacks that constant, ear-piercing frequency. It's unfortunate when the occasional near-silence is the best part of the track. When will I next listen to this piece? I think the title gives a reliable hint.

"Gahelet (Embers)" This is by far the most interesting piece on the album, bathed in minimalism, as it were. It strikes me as sad and lonely, like the defeated Jews who surveyed the damage of their property and livelihood after two days of trials.

"Tikkun (Rectification)" This is a livelier violin piece that uses more rapid notes, giving it an upbeat Yiddish flavor, but it soon devolves into rambling.

"Tzfia (Looking Ahead)" This "work" (I'm struggling to find an appropriate word, so I use that term very loosely) involves occasional blasts of noise, in which a saxophone blares like an enraged elephant, or a noisy guitar goes all over the place. The quieter moments are not all that interesting, but at least are not unpleasant. The senseless guitar solo, laced with irate noise, is pure balderdash.

"Barzel (Iron Fist)" Here is another barrage of inane and painful noise.

"Gariin (Nucleus-The New Settlement)" This undirected track sounds like a band is practicing their instruments individually, perhaps tuning and warming up, before the real show is to begin. Sadly, it's the performance.

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#258873) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, January 01, 2010

Review by Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars John Zorn: Kristallnacht [1993]

Rating: 7/10

Kristallnacht is one of John Zorn's most acclaimed releases. It is also one of his most controversial. Zorn is a known for his Jewish heritage; he often incorporates elements of Jewish culture into his music in both compositional and emotional ways. This album is the most harrowing example of the latter. On Kristallnacht, Zorn attempts to musically encapsulate the events before, during, and after the infamous "Night of Broken Glass." Kristallnacht is generally considered to be the beginning of the holocaust; on November 9-10, 1938, Nazi stormtroopers brutally terrorized Jewish communities throughout Germany and Austria. Thousands of homes were ransacked and hundreds of synagogues were destroyed. Needless to say, a musical representation of such an event would be an intense and harrowing listen. Kristallnacht certainly does not disappoint on this front. These compositions employ jangling dissonance and harsh brutality in order to illustrate the unsavory subject matter. However, this discord is balanced with somber and eerie chamber music in order to create a fleshed-out and well-rounded musical illustration.

The fantastic opener "Shtetl (Ghetto Life)" is a combination of Jewish jazz and dark chamber music. It begins with gorgeous trumpet, and deep cellos and clarinet add to the atmosphere. The eleven-minute "Never Again" is the most controversial piece on the album; in fact, it's one of the most controversial pieces Zorn has ever done. I can understand why; this is not an easy track to listen to. A large amount of it consists of brutally harsh broken-glass noises layered on top of each other to create an intensely piercing wall of sound. Normally, I would find something like this to be detestable. However, I think this track works. There is a musical sense behind the noise, hard as it is to identify. The atmosphere, while unpleasant, actually manages to be effective, and the somber string interlude serves as an excellent foil to the harsh noise. I can understand why somebody would hate this piece, but I think it works well within the context of what Zorn is trying to do here. "Gahelet (Embers)" serves as an excellent foil to the previous sonic assault. This is a quiet, minimalistic piece that wonderfully illustrates the quiet aftermath of brutality. "Tikkun (Rectification)" focuses entirely on discordant strings; this piece has a disturbingly intimate feel. "Tzafia (Looking Ahead)" alternates between dissonant heaviness and eerie chamber music. The clarinet work is superb, and the violin is suitably creepy. This is another strong piece. "Barzel (Iron Fist)" is a brief burst of heaviness that reminds me of marching boots. The bolero-like "Gariin (Nucleus-The New Settlement)" ends the album in a menacing manner. A driving bass/drum line permeates this piece, with increasing dissonant instrumentation building upon it.

Although Kristallnact is a flawed piece of work, it's such an emotionally honest and well-developed release that most of these flaws can be cast aside. This album seeks to be a musical illustration, and it succeeds enormously with this goal. Every piece here paints a vivid picture: the squalor of Jewish ghettos, the shattering glass of kristallnacht, and the quiet tragedy of the aftermath - just to name a few. This was an emotionally important album for Zorn to make; he saw it as a means of accepting and embracing his cultural heritage. This emotion is reflected in these compositions. This album is undoubtedly an achievement. However, my own subjective taste prevents me from giving it anything higher than a 7/10 rating. I still do very much enjoy the music that Zorn presents here, and I recognize it for the excellence that it is. Kristallnacht is one of John Zorn's most important releases; I would heartily recommend it to anybody interested in his work, as well as to any fan of avant-garde and/or chamber music. This music truly does paint a vivid picture.

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Send comments to Anthony H. (BETA) | Report this review (#544584) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, October 06, 2011

Review by Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 'Kristallnacht' - John Zorn (5/10)

John Zorn is a man whose work is no stranger to controversy and explicit content. My first experience with him was with Naked City's 'Leng T'che', a plodding interpretation of a particularly inhuman form of Chinese execution. With that precedent, it does not come as a big surprise to me that Zorn would take on one of the greatest human tragedies of all time and attempt to express it musically, that of course being the Holocaust. Plenty could be said about the implications of making an album of such a horrific event, although I think that the powerful subject matter would have great potential to make for some very dark music. Zorn's avant-classical explorations here certainly negate any feeling of cheer a listener may have going into it, 'Kristallnacht' passes me as being aimless and only partially effective in conveying the deep tragedy that Zorn has chosen to exploit here.

'Kristallnacht' comes down to a few experiments with noise, and a collection of minimalistic chamber music compositions, rooted in Jewish traditional music. 'Shtetl (Ghetto Life)' brings the listener into this sad story with a very recognizable Klezmer theme. This is infused with jazz, and later some dark chamber music, led on by violins, which are a central part of this album. From this track alone, a listener gets arguably the best sample of around half of the album's material; being the more conventional string-led music. These pieces have the timbre of classical music and the intimate nuances of jazz, although they usually feel aimless and lacking much of a memorable angle to them. All the same, the way Zorn orchestrates the violins is intelligent and admirable, and makes for some thoughtfully dark listening.

Now, I enjoyed 'Leng T'che', and would not consider myself to be an inherent opponent of noise, or any challenging 'fringe' music that is thrown at me. However, like all avant-garde music for me, the test of quality generally relies on how it ages with further listening, and how much depth and subtlety there is to appreciate. 'Never Again' is the cornerstone track on the album, and most likely to be the piece that John Zorn afficionados will remember this album for. Barring the fact that it is a comparatively long eleven minute stretch that dwarfs most else on the album, the central idea of 'Never Again' is to sample and loop the shattering of broken glass, and loop it to the point of being noise. It's this sort of superficial interpretation of 'Kristallnacht' that wounds my appreciation for what Zorn is doing here. Instead of taking his genius and getting the feeling across musically, he resorts to a very literal approach of the content, and not one that is at all pleasing to listen to. There are some somewhat 'subtle' sounds of piano and strings in the background amidst the constant glass-breaking, and even an interlude where the listener is granted some much- wanted silence. All the same, the track utterly lacks the power that it should have, and the monotonous noisy clink reminds me more of a fly buzzing in my ear than a moving tribute to the lives lost during the Holocaust.

'Kristallnacht' is split between these contrasts of noisiness and minimalism, and to be honest, neither are particularly inviting. The chamber music is pleasant and interesting at points, but as a whole, this work feels like something of a let down to its core material. It is experimental, but inconsistent in its visible thoughtfulness, and while not a complete failure, I may have hoped for a little more from Zorn.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#544630) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, October 07, 2011

Latest members reviews

4 stars As I sit down to write this review, I really find myself at a total loss for words. I'm really not sure exactly how I feel about this album. It's dark, stirring, and poignant, and yet it's also incredibly difficult. John Zorn is one of the most important American avant-garde composers (though ... (read more)

Report this review (#114023) | Posted by Pnoom! | Friday, March 02, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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