Friday, October 2, 2009

The 10th Anniversary Edition of Zorn's Music for Children

John Zorn's Music for Children is one of his masterpieces. The 10th Anniversary Edition (Tzadik) is now available, and it is a must for any serious student of contemporary music.

There is controversy surrounding the work. Some people seem to have felt that it was not suited for children. Perhaps it is not, not for ALL children. The ones who have learned to open their ears at an early age will undoubtedly find it interesting. Others may be frightened by its sometimes startling eruptions of chaos, though some of that resembles cartoon music of a classic era.

This in many ways is music about childhood. What is breathtaking in experiencing the piece is Zorn's cut and run segments of contrasting stylistic episodes. One minute something in a modern classical mode, over-the-top avant jazz the next, a longish soundscape, surf music, music-box-like minimalism in several guises. . . . Nothing is boring. Everything becomes possible. Yet Zorn chooses well what specific items he has crafted for the whole and the sequence that unfolds before us.

It's a work to me that's important for what Zorn has consolidated out of his earlier game pieces. That is, that a cohesive and musically satisfying whole can be constructed out of patches of sometimes vastly different musical events, like a traditional American quilt. And perhaps most importantly, each segment is a fascinating world in itself, so that you get moment after moment of inspired music making. It's an indispensable work for anyone who wants to understand what makes Mr. Zorn such an important figure in the music of today. Or at least one of the aspects.

The new 10th Anniversary edition adds several new parts here and there, making it the definitive version to have.