Your New Favorite Song.

Now Hear This

Okay, I lied. Once again, in a virtual tip of the hat to Copy, Right?, I present three tracks: the Ornette Coleman Quartet’s “Peace Warriors” (here, the classic Coleman / Cherry / Haden / Higgins lineup), a different version also by Ornette Coleman and Prime Time (his “double quartet” with two guitarists, bassists and drummers each, both from the 1987 In All Languages album), and a cover by John Zorn (with two saxophonists and drummers) from the 1989 Spy vs Spy: The Music of Ornette Coleman album.

Prime Time was conceived as embodying the principle of “harmolodics,” as Coleman’s website explains:

Breaking out of the prison bars of rigid meters and conventional harmonic or structural expectations, harmolodic musicians improvise equally together in what Coleman calls compositional improvisation, while always keeping deeply in tune with the flow, direction and needs of their fellow players. In this process, harmony becomes melody becomes harmony. Ornette describes it as “Removing the caste system from sound.” On a broader level, harmolodics equates with the freedom to be as you please, as long as you listen to others and work with them to develop your own individual harmony.

Which all makes, in an odd way, Zorn’s version somewhat redundant; the Prime Time version already sounds more chaotic and stuffed, but in a coiled, controlled way, and is already sonically far removed from the almost staid original.

I’ve always been a fan of John Zorn, though my interest in him has been flagging in recent years. Content, it seems, to release variation upon variation of the Masada songbook — great stuff, mind you, but repetitive enough to test his fans — Zorn, in my opinion, just hasn’t made music as exciting as he did back in the ’80s and early ’90s, back when he was the real bad boy of Downtown. Granted, The Gift (Zorn’s take on exotica / surf music) and Taboo and Exile (and probably IAO) were, by most standards, outstanding, but pales in comparison to Zorn’s groundbreaking work with Naked City, Painkiller, early Masada, and some of his game pieces.

The concept behind Spy vs Spy — one of those albums in Zorn’s early, more thrilling phase — seems to have been to play Ornette’s compositions LOUD and FAST and HARD; Zorn’s version of “Peace Warriors” is typically intense and brutal, more literally thrash-jazz than, say, the Peter Brotzmann Octet’s Machine Gun ever was. As Zorn writes in his liner notes (where he thanks Napalm Death and Blind Idiot God, after all): “Fucking hardcore rules.” Crank up your speakers.

Hear it: Quartet (3.8 mb), Prime Time (3.4 mb), Zorn (1.9 mb).


movies music

Ethics and Music.

MacDiva writes about “loving the artist, hating the song” — in particular, Billie Holiday singing “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do:”

…there I was, listening to a woman declare herself a willing candidate [of domestic violence] and almost singing along with the chorus.

I have no magical formula to offer in regard to this issue. Indeed, the answer may be that one learns to tolerate a degree of imperfection in artists one admires and each individual decides where to draw the line. I’ll delete “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do” from my iPod because I find the song too irritating to continue listening to it. Other decisions about lyrics that make me uncomfortable will be made on a case-by-case basis. In some of them, I will keep right on loving the artist and hating the song.

Songs like that one probably constitute a fourth of Lady Day’s recorded output, but that’s how it goes. My very first Billie Holiday purchase was the live Billie’s Blues, which contains the classic “My Man:”

Two or three girls
Has he
That he likes as well as me
But I love him

I don’t know why I should
He isn’t true
He beats me, too
What can I do?

Oh, my man, I love him so
He’ll never know
All my life is just a spare
But I don’t care
When he takes me in his arms
The world is bright
All right

Later on MacDiva writes about “Sweet Home Alabama” — a retort to Neil Young’s “Southern Man” — and how the song’s “hot guitar riff” still won’t earn it a place on her iPod.

Let me take the topic a little further, because it’s something which has (or hasn’t) bothered me as well. As a voracious (and fairly omnivorous) consumer of music, I listen to a whole bunch of artists and groups associated with dodgy themes or politics, whether as window-dressing or (unfortunately) in real life. Michael Moynihan has made clear in the very good Lords of Chaos the very real connection between the Norwegian black metal scene and various acts of homicide and arson, among others. (Yes, I listen to Darkthrone.) And a lot of the early Industrial/noise groups also used graphically violent imagery as part of their shock tactics. (Yes, I listen to Whitehouse too. And Boyd Rice. I confess it all: behind the mild-mannered, defender-of-minorities facade, the Wily Filipino is a rabid, Satan-worshipping thug in jackboots.)

It reminds me of how one of my Filipino friends from New York shook his head in disbelief when I told him I was a big John Zorn fan; this was because Zorn had gotten into trouble from the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence for the covers of the Naked City albums Torture Garden (naked Japanese women suspended and tied up in elaborate knots) and Leng T’che (Chinese man ripped apart in a public execution — you Bataille fans would have already seen that one). (Surely that hidden Araki photograph in Taboo and Exile would have gotten Zorn into hotter water, but it didn’t.)

(And probably my favorite film of all time is Apocalypse Now, which is deeply racist, but in an interesting way. Which may have been Coppola’s point, but I’m not sure that it is. But as Frank Chin writes: “We have to be able to accept Conrad and Coppola’s works as the white racist works they are and still recognize them as great white lit and film. And I think most writers from non-white peoples can and have been reading racist white lit and recognizing it as great lit.”)

MacDiva also brings up Miles Davis, which is funny because he’s always my primary example of how I conveniently ignore the musician’s personal background for the music. He was, by all the accounts I’ve read, extremely abusive towards women. (But his indefensible behavior is somehow “excusable” because the man is a genius. Is that the logic in operation here? Because I’ll be damned if I never listen to Miles again out of principle.)

In any case, it is an interesting quandary…


John Zorn Is Your Daddy

Some fractured poetry for you on John Zorn (again), from Googlism:

john zorn is a composer and saxaphone player who lives and performs primarily in new
john zorn is uncredited for playing the solo on love is a fist
john zorn is probably not a zionist
john zorn is a true music maverick
john zorn is a sort of enigma to most people
john zorn is performing fast paced
john zorn is the undisputed king of the downtown new york art
john zorn is involved in many different projects and each has it’s own unique way of threatening your ears
john zorn is a jazz composer and sax player of extremes
john zorn is going to run out of obscure
john zorn is not above writing hooks
john zorn is certainly one of our favorite modern composers
john zorn is making such a statement at all
john zorn is surely one of the most singular
john zorn is quite a character
john zorn is a genius
john zorn is often considered one of the more vital and influential figures in 20th century music
john zorn is one of those guys who saps a lot of energy from you
john zorn is the curator of tonic
john zorn is heading with weird little boy
john zorn is a brilliant and varied composer/arranger
john zorn is iao waarop oa bill laswell en mike patton
john zorn is many things
john zorn is one of my favourite musicians
john zorn is known for
john zorn is a composer
john zorn is op zijn beurt een inspiratiebron voor een jongere generatie musici zoals zeena parkins
john zorn is the man
john zorn is an american composer and saxophone player with innumerable releases of solo work
john zorn is probably too busy touring and recording to actually perform all of the nasty stuff on his record covers himself
john zorn is still present
john zorn is likely the most prominent figure of the alternative scene in the world
john zorn is a jazz man avant jazz label
john zorn is the only musician i’ve ever considered suing
john zorn is not that he depends too much on the mundane
john zorn is a incredible musician and composer
john zorn is a very dedicated musician
john zorn is a whole world
john zorn is
john zorn is featured on the plr> upcoming new arto lindsay record
john zorn is deconstructing the music of burt bacharach ‘it’ is totally different from luciano berio deconstructing schubert or gerd zacher deconstructing
john zorn is a jazz saxophonist who does a lot of avant garde stuff
john zorn is bound to be entrenched in some variety of avant
john zorn is featured in that album as well as drummer jojo mayer
john zorn is home to some truly inspired new music
john zorn is right
john zorn is dan weer een fantastisch free jazzmuzikant
john zorn is your daddy
john zorn is at tonic? when run dmc reunites?
john zorn is a `avant garde’ musician/composer and cobra is a war game
john zorn is bringing in his new
john zorn is the reason i started playing the saxophone
john zorn is the eclectic composer and alto saxophonist who founded the radical jewish music movement
john zorn is heard in the right channel
john zorn is available on cd as filmworks vi 1996
john zorn is amazing
john zorn is an extremely outspoken
john zorn is a hero the guy gets ripped apart by reviewers and keeps going
john zorn is the most exciting sax player / producer
john zorn is weird
john zorn is a very serious musician
john zorn is een politieke achtergrond evenmin afwezig
john zorn is a mogwai fan
john zorn is god
john zorn is undeniable
john zorn is a new york jazz saxophonist and naked city and pain killer are bands he has formed with hardcore noise blokes
john zorn is one of my heroes


Zorn Quote of the Week

My John Zorn quote of the week, as seen in The Georgia Straight:

I’m influenced by everything that I look at. It could be a turd on the street. You never know.

And my other (paraphrased) John Zorn quote of the week, allegedly said to someone talking in the audience of an Electric Masada concert in Seattle over the weekend (as reported to the Zorn List):

Well, keep your big fat fucking mouth shut asshole, we are up here trying to concentrate on some music here, fuck! Goddamn what an idiot…

This, of course, from the man who told Madeleine Albright and Vaclav Havel (and I think Lou Reed was in the audience too) to “shut the fuck up.”