For your eyes only

I don’t think I’ve heard any of John Zorn’s music since coming to Portland. How can that be? Come on, Portland! In fact, I haven’t recently done any Zorn either, and I’d forgotten how fun it is to put his music together. I almost had to cancel our second rehearsal after about five minutes because, by the time Ian whipped out a donkey jaw with rattling teeth (which is required for one of the percussion parts), I wasn’t sure if we would be able to get anything done. I can’t remember any rehearsal where everyone was laughing so hysterically! Some of the things people are asked to do on their instruments are incredibly fun to listen to, especially the first time they try to do it. Unlike much of Zorn’s music (which is for jazz improvisers), For your eyes only is a piece that Zorn notated in order to be played by classically trained musicians. It requires virtually no improvisation, other than a few sound effects, and the music is full of technical challenges. On the other hand, there are several brief sections that are notated precisely in order to sound like intense, high-energy improvisation. The one thing that you can be sure about (since this music was written for an imaginary cartoon), is that you will be bombarded with completely new material every few bars. As soon as you start enjoying something, it ends abruptly and is replaced by something else that you wouldn’t expect. Somewhere in the middle of the piece, for example, you hear one of the best tangos ever, out of the blue. It lasts just three bars, and you never get it again. Every step of the way, the piece gets crazier and crazier. In our rehearsal, by the time we got to the last minute of music, where the tuba player has a pedal tone while singing into the instrument at the same time, everyone pretty much lost it. It will be interesting to see how people experience it in the concert, sandwiched between the music of two other crazy composers: Mussorgsky and Beethoven. Here’s a documentary on Zorn:


4 thoughts on “For your eyes only

  1. TheOboe says:

    I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how fun this piece has been to learn. It’s bloody hard for an oboe with no previous extended technique experience, but it’s definitely fun.

  2. stella says:

    i think that was possibly my favorite rehearsal in my entire time at psu! i was crying from laughter, and my sides were split. honestly, it was a great way to spend a thursday night. john zorn is so awesomely weird i love it!

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