John Zorn Paper

Submitted By bubbarider
Words: 2362
Pages: 10

Alli Phillips

John Zorn: An Investigation of Creative Inspiration

John Zorn is American avant-garde composer, record producer, arranger, saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist who established himself within the New York City downtown music movement in the early 1980s. Since, he has composed and performed with a wide range of musicians working in diverse musical areas. Zorn is an extremely energetic and innovative musician; by the end of the 1990s, he was putting out about six albums per year (Maykrantz). Zorn has led the punk jazz band Naked City, the klezmer-influenced quartet Masada and composed the associated 'Masada Songbooks', written concert music for classical ensembles, and produced music for film and documentary. Because he owns his own record company, Tzadik, he enjoys a large amount of musical and creative freedom. He's used this freedom to write and record dozens of strange and beautiful albums, stemming from broad and unique creative inspirations. Some of these influences include Orient eroticism, occult philosophy, demonic, and cartoons. John Zorn gleans musical and creative influence from obscure and wide-ranging sources, prompting his music to be not only eclectic and bizarre but also delicately intricate. By the early 1990s Zorn was working extensively in Japan, attracted by that culture's openness about borrowing and remixing ingredients from elsewhere. He performed and recorded under the name Dekoboko Hajime, before returning to New York as a permanent base in the mid 1990's. In 1990, Zorn released Torture Garden and Leng Tch'e in 1992 with his five-piece jazz/rock band Naked City (Maykrantz). Prominent influences for the music included on these albums were Orient culture and the relationship between violence and the sacred. Research into the relationship between violence and the sacred led Zorn to the writings of Georges Bataille. Bataille was a French writer and philosopher that wrote on numerous subjects including mysticism of economy and eroticism. It was in Bataille’s Tears of Eros that Zorn encountered images of Leng Tch'e (Bracket, 2008). An archival photograph depicting Leng Tch'e is the album Leng Tch'e’s cover. The historical photographs used in Leng Tch'e were taken circa 1905 in Beijing to document the last public execution utilizing Leng Tch'e, which dates from the Manchu dynasty. The term Leng Tch'e derives from a classical description of ascending a mountain slowly. Translated as the slow process, the lingering death, or death by a thousand cuts, Leng Tch'e was a form of execution used in China from roughly AD 900 until its abolition in 1905. In this form of execution, the condemned person was killed by using a knife to methodically remove portions of the body over an extended period of time. Leng Tch'e was reserved for crimes viewed as especially severe, such as treason and parricide. The process involved tying the person to be executed to a wooden frame, usually in a public place. The flesh was then cut from the body in multiple slices in a process that was not specified in detail in Chinese law and therefore most likely varied. Opium was sometimes administered as a way of preventing fainting (Scott). Given opium to extend the victim's life during the arduous process, the look of ecstasy on the man's face haunted Bataille: "This photograph had a decisive role in my life. I have never stopped being obsessed by this image of pain, at once ecstatic and intolerable. What I suddenly saw, and what imprisoned me in anguish — but which at the same time delivered me from it — was the identity of these perfect contraries, divine ecstasy and its opposite, extreme horror” (Bracket, 2008). Other images included in Torture Garden elicit a similar response. The inside of the gatefold contains manga (a form of Japanese cartoon) by Suehiro Mauro shown below depicts a man in uniform peeling the skin off the face of a young girl in a school uniform while licking her exposed eyeball