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…!”

3 thoughts on “John Zorn (Was) on WNYC

  1. Thanks for this tip to David’s interview. I belong to WNYC; but,you know, there is so much, so much that I miss. I have a lot of John Zorn, I always find him confusing, so maybe the interview will be a help.

    I am also at,, “Whither Public Radio and serious music”.

  2. Thanks Richard. Yeah, the interview is quite revealing, and Zorn comes across as quite a nice guy (but firm about his principles). I really enjoyed it. “Spock…!”

    Checked out your blog … i’m really curious to hear that Natalie Sirota (viola) album you mention.

  3. Nadia: She is a wonderchild. I first heard her on WNYC’s John Cage project. In “New Music”, she really knows her stuff. Then she performed on the inaugural videocast from WNYC’s new Jerome L Greene Performance Space. I bought her album in mp3 the day it came out. The idiots at her label classified her work as “Alternative Rock”. She told me this was “ugh” not her doing. You can check her out at , a (not .com) weblog, complete with her CV.

    Jazz: I am, ” as we speak”, copying my whole 283 GIG music and video library from my 320 gig WD Passport external drive to a brandy new 1 TB My Book drive from WD. Seems I outgrew the Passport. I tried to add a 4 gig video and it would not go. I was out of space. The largest portion of the music is Jazz. I got into Jazz because of Steve Rowland ( and his two projects, “Miles Davis Radio Project” and “Tell Me How Long ‘Trane’s been gone”, which aired on WNYC-FM. I struck up a digital friendship with Steve and he was incredibly generous with his time, guiding my early purchases for my library. I am definitely going to check out you station and your show.

    Thanks again.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s