Arcana II: Musicians On Music

Eyal Hareuveni By

Sign in to view read count
Arcana II: Musicians On Music
Edited by John Zorn
Paperback, 294 pages
ISBN: 0978833767
Hips Road/Tzadik

This is the second volume in an ongoing series in which avant-garde musicians write about their lives, their creative processes and what music means to them. The first volume was published ten years ago.

In his preface to the second volume, John Zorn—publisher, editor, composer, saxophonist and head of the Tzadik label—quotes Leonard Bernstein: "this will be our response to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, and more devotedly than ever before." Zorn continues: "in times of oppression we must all work together, harder than ever, to preserve the beliefs and values we hold dear. Beliefs that unite us. Values that make the world a better place."

Zorn did not dictate a common editorial thread to the thirty musicians given a voice in the book, he simply asked each of them for a candid view of their art. Ground breaking composers like John Cage and left-of-center thinkers like Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin are often referenced as defining inspirations, but most of the chapters are distinguished by original and thought-provoking ideas.

Pianist Uri Caine explains, in his "Theme And Variation," how Bach and Beethoven, like saxophonists Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, "grappled with the same challenges and opportunities of using a repeating harmonic grid as a springboard for inspired composition and improvisation." Bassist Trevor Dunn considers the demands on the 21st-century eclectic musician in "For And Against Technique." Charming Hostess' Jewlia Eisenberg amuses on "More Fun Than Capitalism," an essay about her and "Benjamin In Nerdy-Sexy-Commie-Girlieland." Violin player Carla Kihlstedt traces back phases of inspiration on "Confessions Of A Sensualist."

Saxophone hero Evan Parker turns out to be a great storyteller in an excerpt from a work in progress titled 211 Maxims And Other Thoughts From A Life In Improvised Music, which is full of hilarious anecdotes about German drummer Paul Lovens' limited driving skills or trombone player George Lewis and his mighty snoring. Norwegian composer Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje delivers a useful and thoughtful "Nine Prequisitions For Inspiration." Reed player Ned Rothenberg explains in "The Challenges Of 'World' Music For The Creative Musician," how studying the Japanese shakuhachi flute and the different traditions of this challenging instrument helped create his own distinctive voice on other instruments. Composer J.G. Thirlwell tells us about one of the hazards facing a musician who goes for the extreme sonic regions—tinnitus—and how a composer can live with it.

A few of the essays are aimed at professional musicians; like pianist Sylvie Courvoisier's essay on "The Extended Piano" or Dave Douglas' analysis of saxophonist Booker Ervin's use of intervals in his compositions and its influence on his own composition. Other essays are surreal going-on bewildering; like saxophonist Steve Coleman's "The Lunar Cycle As A Point Of Departure For Musical Ideas," or drummer Milford Graves' "Book Of Tono-Rhythmology."

Zorn's frequent collaborator, Japanese Boredoms vocalist Yamataka Eye, brilliantly concludes the book with her observation, "I don't know what music is. Is there anything that is not music?" Cage could not have defined it better.


More Articles

Read The Blues: Why It Still Hurts So Good Book Reviews The Blues: Why It Still Hurts So Good
by Doug Collette
Published: February 20, 2017
Read The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1: 1920-1965 Book Reviews The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1: 1920-1965
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 11, 2017
Read Slim Harpo: Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge Book Reviews Slim Harpo: Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 21, 2017
Read Paul Morley: The Age of Bowie Book Reviews Paul Morley: The Age of Bowie
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: December 25, 2016
Read "What Happened, Miss Simone?: A Biography" Book Reviews What Happened, Miss Simone?: A Biography
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: March 15, 2016
Read "Stan Levey: Jazz Heavyweight" Book Reviews Stan Levey: Jazz Heavyweight
by Chuck Koton
Published: December 4, 2016
Read "Why Jazz? A Concise Guide" Book Reviews Why Jazz? A Concise Guide
by Douglas Groothuis
Published: June 3, 2016
Read "The Real Dixieland Book / Tunes Of The Twenties" Book Reviews The Real Dixieland Book / Tunes Of The Twenties
by Budd Kopman
Published: April 3, 2016
Read "Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth" Book Reviews Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 25, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!