John Zorn (Was) on WNYC

Being not from NYC, I’m slow to catch up on things like the “Ear to Ear” show on WYNC. But the interviews they’ve got archived are fantastic.

Case in point: the John Zorn discussion from Feb. 1, which I’ve just now heard. It’s an engaging 75 minutes with lots and lots of insights into Zorn’s philosophies and work process. He’s basically always working in some form. He notes how the songwriting can’t be forced; as you’d expect, it happens when it happens, as in the 300-song burst that became Masada Book II.

They spend a good amount of time talking about his movie soundtracks. He avoids the normal give-and-take process with the director and instead just puts a package of music together, then walks away. He also doesn’t take payment for this — his compensation is from the CD that’s produced, I guess.

His reasoning is that music writing is something he’s done since he was a kid, and it seems to demean the act if he gets paid for it. I sympathize, and I might do the same in his shoes, but for different reasons. I’ve found that once a passion becomes work, it loses some of the “passion” quality. To be precise: I enjoyed writing show reviews for the Bay Guardian, and I’d be glad to do it again if I could find the time and energy — but no matter how much I enjoyed the music, it was work.

Zorn also expresses a love of Bert Kaempfert’s music, noting Kaempfert’s pioneering use of acoustic and electric bass in the ’60s. I’d never been aware of Kaempfert, but the bass thing gets mentioned elsewhere, too, so it’s something to look out for.

They play lots of Zorn’s music, too, including soundtrack work; a selection from The Dreamers, the project I got to see at Yoshi’s in March; and the opening of “Astronome,” the ear-blasting opera Zorn did with Richard Foreman. It’s a really good interview. Zorn is more than accommodating and shows a good sense of humor. Listen to the end, where he starts going “Spock…! Spock…!”