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John Zorn - Sacred Visions CD (album) cover


John Zorn



1.95 | 3 ratings

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2 stars John Zorn followed one of his most accessible albums ("The Mockingbird") with one of his more difficult efforts, juxtaposing a pair of similar but contrary pieces of music too short for separate release. One is entirely vocal, the other is completely instrumental; both are challenging modern-classical studies forced to share the same esoteric package.

First up is "The Holy Visions" (2013), a 23-minute canticle described in the album notes as "a mystery play in eleven strophes concerning the life, work and philosophy of Hildegard von Bingen". A little homework might be needed here: von Bingen was a 12th century Benedictine sibyl, musically portrayed by Zorn through a gorgeous (female) a capella quintet, transported from some distant medieval cloister to a modern art gallery. Soaring harmonies alternate with abstract, more dissonant movements in a fascinating but sometimes too academic manner: a short written test will follow the performance.

Next is "The Remedy of Fortune" (2014), presenting a string quartet arrangement of (again, from the CD booklet) "six tableaux depicting the changing fortunes of romantic love: pain, devotion, hope, beauty, longing, ecstasy, intoxication, frustration, anger, despair" ...all familiar reactions to the music of John Zorn, even from established fans. The music here isn't exactly atonal, but the tuning is definitely irregular, in a suitably avant-garde sort of way.

When Zorn is in a scholarly mood his music can often sound cold and sterile, at least on disc: trigonometry functions played on strings, easy to admire from a distance but hard to wrap your ears around. Each of these two orphaned selections is short enough to not tax the well-developed patience of Progheads used to hour-long concept albums, but outside of a museum recital the album will likely find a home only in the most refined music collections.

Neu!mann | 2/5 |


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