John Zorn
Deconstruction
John Cage
J-S Bach
Education
Outwork










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(D)(R)econtextualization

[1] Collage. Bricolage. Quotation. Parasitism. Use. Misuse. Decontextualization. Recontextualization. Deterritorialization. Reterritorialization. Parody. This network of terms - terms that overlap each other, but at the same time differ - is often made use of to grasp the extremely versatile oeuvre of John Zorn (cf. Strickland, 1991; Gagne, 1993; Jones, 1995; McNeilly, 1995; Lange, 1997). In general, it comes down to this: Zorn uses pieces of music that appeal to him - musical parts, musical styles, sometimes even a significant part of the complete works of a composer - takes them out of their 'original' context and puts them into a new one. Confronting them with a new one. Confronting them in a new one with other musics. Dismantling and reassembling. Following the diagonal trajectory between what is reified and liberated. Inserting the music into the stream of a musical history only to immediately dismantle a comfortable historical sense (cf. McNeilly, p.7). In his own words: 'You could call it stealing, you could call it quoting, you could call it a lot of different things. Basically, it's like I'd hear a sound element in a Bartók section and I'd say, 'That sounds neat', so I'd take that section out of the score and transcribe it into my own notation. Right? Then, I'd hear an Elliott Carter there that I thought was neat, so I'd take that out of the score and put it someplace else. And then I'd have my transitions and ... Do you know what I mean? I'd hear a sound; I'd copy it. That's still pretty much the way I work now. I write music with the TV on or with music playing, and I work things out. If I hear something on the TV, like in a commercial or something, I'll say,  'Hmm... that's neat', and I'll just stick it in. The same thing with records. In a lot of ways, it's got a collage element to it, but it's not so much what you're taking as it is how you transform it into your own world' (Duckworth, p.449).
Citations. Displacement. Fragmentation. Cut and paste. 'Sometimes in my string quartets I'll have one of my own lines in the first violin part; the second violin, I'll say, 'improvise using glissandos'; the viola part will be from Boulez, Le marteau; and the cello part will be a retrograde inversion of Stravinsky from some orchestra piece. All stacked in one bar. And the next bar goes on to something else. That's one technique I like to use. Another one is the use of genres: tango, blues, jazz, country. Also tributes to famous composers - in other words, writing in the style of the great masters. Or taking all the pitches from one bar of L'histoire du soldat and putting them in a different rhythmic matrix. I enjoy codes and games like that. It gives a piece a strange kind of resonance - a relation to the past' (Gagne, p.527). A relation to the past. But a disruptive one. Dislocated. Disquieted.
De- and recontextualization. These are the terms with which I would like to make some groping and exploring movements around Zorn's project on Burt Bacharach's music. Recontextualize it. But is this process not always already going on when we begin to talk and write about music? Isn't working on the edge of music, the philosophy of music, and musicology not already a way of decontextualizing (displacing and multiplying the identification) and - of course - (re)contextualizing ((re)placing the identification)?

[2] So, although we have already begun, although we are already in the middle of 'it', let's 'begin' with some general remarks.
Every sign, every mark - either written or oral, discursive or musical - has to be repeatable or iterable in order for it to be communicative. Such iterability structures the mark. A mark that is not structurally iterable cannot be a mark. This structural iterability implies that generally a mark must be able to function both in the absence of the sender (the context of production) and in the absence of a receiver. A mark continues to 'act' even when the producer (composer, author) no longer answers to what he has said or written. Any mark can be dissociated from the intentions of the sender. The intention does not mark out a field that can assure the meaning of a mark, since it must be iterable in order to be a mark, and, therefore, detachable from intention and context. What holds for the sender or producer also holds for the receiver for the same reasons. Every mark must be capable of functioning in the absence of every empirically determined receiver. The absence, or the possibility of the absence, of the receiver is inscribed in the structure of the mark. These two possible absences of the sender and the receiver construct the possibility of the message itself; 'they remark the mark in advance' (Limited Inc, p.50).
A mark carries with it the structural possibility of breaking away from its given context. In 'Signature Event Context', Derrida distinguishes between two types of context. In a real context, a mark possesses the characteristic of being audible or readable even if the moment of its production is irrevocably lost and even if we do not know what its alleged producer consciously intended to say when s/he produced it. In an internal semiotic context, a mark by virtue of its essential iterability 'can always be detached from the chain in which it is inserted or given without causing it to lose all possibility of functioning, if not all possibility of 'communicating', precisely. One can perhaps come to recognize other possibilities in it by inscribing it or grafting it onto other chains. No context can entirely enclose it' (Margins, p.9).

[3] The fact that a mark can be repeated, taken out of its context, decontextualized and recontextualized is part of its identity. This is no defect; rather, it constitutes the mark as a mark. The possibility of iteration. Stem: iter, which means 'again'. But this possibility is also what divides the identity of the mark. Iterated in a different context can and will change its meaning. Derrida suggests that the word 'iter' comes from the Sanskrit word 'itara', which means 'other'.  Along this line, we enter a paradoxical logic that ties repetition to alterity. On one hand, iterability constitutes the identity of a mark: a certain self-identity is required to permit its recognition and repetition, a certain consistency must be maintained in order to be an identifiable mark. On the other hand and at the same time, iterability never permits the mark to be a unity identical to itself. Because its context is always different, it is never absolutely the same: 'repeated, the same line is no longer exactly the same' (Writing and Difference, p.296). Iterability presupposes a minimal remainder so that the identity of the selfsame is repeatable and identifiable in, through, and even in view of its alteration. However, iterability implies both identity and difference, repetition and alteration. It alters, it parasitically affects what it identifies and enables it to repeat 'itself'; iterability ruins the very identity it renders possible (cf. Limited Inc, p.76). The iterability of a mark divides its own identity a priori; it is a differential structure. Alteration is always already at work within the inner core of the mark when  the identical is repeated.

[4] We can only speak of a signifying sequence when it is iterable, that is, if it can be repeated in various contexts. Repetition is not an accident that befalls an original; rather, it is its condition of possibility. Repetition. In more than one way. A mark can be cited and parodied. It may occur in serious and non-serious contexts. It may. It's a possibility. That's the difference between iterability and iteration. A distinction can be made between possibility, the fact that marks can always be cited, and eventuality, the fact that such possible events do indeed happen (cf. Limited Inc., p.86-7). However, it is important to point out that constant possibility cannot be ruled out.
Iteration alters; something new takes place. For this reason, all conventional utterances are exposed to failure. This is not an exception, but the condition of a mark. Failure is an essential risk of the operations under consideration. The possibility of a negativity is a structural possibility. This opens the way for the 'mis' in misunderstandings, misinterpretations, the possibility to repeat something with another intention, to say something else or in a different way 'than what it says'. There is always the possibility of such 'mis-es'. With this in mind, Derrida, in 'Signature Event Context', wonders if the 'standard', 'normal', 'literal' is not at all times affected by the 'non-standard', the 'void', the 'abnormal', etc. Then what does that tell us about the former, the privileged first term? So-called 'standard cases' can be reproduced, mimed, simulated, parasitized. They are in themselves reproducible, already impure or open to parasitism. Indeed, the parasite is never simply external; it can never simply be excluded from or kept outside of the body 'proper'. Parasitism: a parasite living off a body in which it resides. But, reciprocally, the host incorporates the parasite to some extent, randomly offering it hospitality, providing it with a place. The parasite is always already part of so-called ordinary language (cf. Limited Inc., p.89-90). The risk of failure is an internal condition of every mark. It is an outside, which is always already on the inside. The anomaly, the exception, the 'non-serious', the citation is 'the determined modification of a general iterability without which there would not even be a 'successful' performative' (Margins, p.17). A mark is marked with a supposedly 'positive', 'serious' value. However, as it is iterable, it can be mimed, cited, transformed. It always carries within itself its other, its 'negative' double.

Applied to the realm of music, it follows from these general remarks that iterability is always inscribed, and therefore necessarily inscribed, as a possibility in the functional structure of the musical mark, be it a note or a fragment, a whole composition or a complete body of works. Iterability entails both the 'faithful' or conventional repetition of a piece of music, as well as its transgression or transformation. All music can, in principle, be repeated; thus, it automatically brings its own altering with it, dividing and displacing in accordance with the logical force of the 'iter'.
It is within this structural possibility of the musical mark that I would like to situate Zorn's works. 'In a lot of ways it's got a collage element to it, but it's not so much what you're taking as it is how you transform it into your own world'. This is how Zorn talks about much of his music, his method of working. (On The Signature of John Zorn, I elaborate on this reference to one's 'own world'. His music commutes between identity and non-identity. What exactly is Zorn's 'own world'?) Here, I would like to emphasize Zorn's remark that his collage technique is not a mere citation, but a transformation of the citations as well. At the same time. His musical 'commentary' let's listen 'for the first time' to what already could be heard in the 'original' and it simultaneously repeats what could never be heard before. Admittedly, something other than the 'original' musical piece is played, but only with the understanding that it is this 'original' piece that is heard, which is now completed in a different way.
There is more still to be said about this when related notions are invoked. Could we, for instance, talk of a 'rhizomatic' relation (cf. Deleuze and Guattari)? The signification of the cited element is neither univocal nor stable; it is precisely that which is destroyed in deconstruction. The iterability of each mark undermines any unequivocal meaning. Each cited element that Zorn uses breaks the continuity of the musical discourse and necessarily leads to a double reading. By cutting it free and grafting it elsewhere, each citation, each quotation creates a both/and situation with regard to the cited mark. It acquires a new meaning in the new context. However, it retains its 'original' meaning at the same time, even as its new context generates another meaning. The fragment can be perceived in relation to its musical text of 'origin' (I stress 'origin' because no matter how a musical text struggles to keep itself pure and different from other musical texts, it originates as a weaving of prior musics) while it is incorporated into a new whole, a different environment. It is not simply a matter of colonization; the alterity of these marks, united in Zorn's composition, can never entirely be suppressed.

[5] Zorn (Who? He? Without playing?) de- and re-contextualizes a number of Burt Bacharach's hit singles. In fact, I am doing the same with both of them. As well as with that other who keeps haunting me.
'You are from another part of the world'. A quotation. A quotation from a quotation. Fred Frith uses this phrase often in his version of 'Trains And Boats And Planes' (Play music) in the album, Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach (1997, Tzadik, TZ 7114-2). 'Trains And Boats And Planes' (Play music), a sad love song about someone who loses his or her lover who has returned to his or her homeland in 'another part of the world'. S/he promised to come back, but it seems an idle promise.
But what if Frith turned this song into a more musical reflection? What if 'you' refers to Burt Bacharach? What if Frith means to say that Bacharach is from another part of the musical world? Is this what Frith's version (I won't say interpretation, rather, encounter) lets us listen to? The text Frith uses continues: 'You had to go back awhile, and then you said you soon would return again'. Bacharach was a world renowned songwriter, film composer, arranger, and producer from the early 1960's through the early '70's. He then disappeared for the most part for some 25 years reemerging at the end of the 1990's. Younger generation musicians such as Elvis Costello, McCoy Tyner, Eric Matthews, the Cranberries, Oasis, Yo La Tengo, Stereolab, and the Pizzicato Five began to pay tribute through cover versions and reinterpretations and allusions to his music. During interviews, they talked of the influence Bacharach had on their work. This, along with the deconstruction of his music in Zorn's project, contributed to Bacharach's return. Could the cited lyrics (also) refer to Bacharach as a revenant? Could they refer to specters of Bacharach, coming back and coming for the first time? It is evident that there are more than one. It is evident that 'Bacharach' is a metonym for his music here, something with which he does not converge, like traces that he left behind in his passing. As soon as the musical text is there, the composer has already gone, has passed by, has perhaps died. The music stays on as an orphan. It is dissociated from its producer. However, because it is a mark it can be reproduced, repeated, iterated. And it can be altered in the same move. Iterability and/as first time. Repeated, but never the same. Like a specter. And since a specter is a revenant, it returns. But it is a coming back of something, which is simultaneously transformed, and not really there; it was never there in this form. 'I'm waiting here, but where are you?' Although the 'original' song does not end at this point, these are the final lyrics that Frith uses. 'But where are you?' There is some identification, but it is not very clear. Is it about Bacharach again? Where in this version are you? Bacharach, present and absent at the same time? Of course, Frith plays 'Trains And Boats And Planes' (Play music). You'll recognize it. But at the same time, his version is entirely different as it plays only part of the bridge and the first two bars of the main theme. Moreover, they are highly modified. The first two bars are continuously repeated, only in the instrumental, with underlying steady rhythmic patterns and mechanical, industrial beats that evoke old-fashioned trains, boats, or planes. The vocal is not sweet, not slightly mellow as in the original, but becomes more aggressive with each repetition, more desperate, shouting out the frustration over the lover's (or is it Bacharach?) not coming back. Frith's version of 'Trains And Boats And Planes' (Play music) is an interpretation of Bacharach's composition, but at the same time, it is not. It is certainly not a cover version in the traditional sense. He cites parts of the song, but these citations make up his entire version. They are not connected with compositions from other parts of the musical world. The encounter with another musical world lies in the way Frith plays these citations, vamps them, alters them. His variations are also deviations, restructurings. He cuts them out of their conventional whole without offering them a new safe haven. They are bared, stripped, like one who is lovelorn. And Bacharach cannot protect them (himself?). Why? Because he is not there. He had to leave. He only left some traces.

[6] I return to the first quotation of a quotation. 'You are from another part of the world.' Suppose this is a reference to Bacharach's coming from another area (another level? I'll return to this) of the musical world. Zorn introduces Bacharach to other contexts, other discourses, other musical worlds. Below are three of them, two of which are closely connected.

1. So-called avant-garde (rock) music. Let's not attempt to clearly define this world. It is too heterogeneous, too diverse, too pluralistic. Let's assume we all know what it means - for example, that the avant-garde artist is not interested in the reception of her or his work by the general public. Furthermore, that he does not produce art for the sake of the public; rather, that the public is there for the art. Finally, that art is autonomous. In this respect, Zorn seems to have 'classical' avant-garde views. He is not interested in pleasing everyone. He does not care much for the opinion of the general public with respect to his music (cf. Lesage, p.11. cf. Gagne, p.530). Rather, he seeks recognition among his fellow musicians who work in the same musical world (cf. Strickland, p.130). Although he clearly states that his music does not fit neatly into any one scene, Zorn aligns himself for the most part with the legacy or maverick tradition of the avant-garde. Or, at least Zorn recognizes that many critics regard his music as avant-garde.
But how classically avant-garde is Zorn? Let's add one more familiar characteristic of the avant-garde; again, one that will not be elaborated upon. I refer to the problematic, if not antagonist, relationship to so-called popular culture, in particular, their respective positions on the autonomy of art and recognition by the general public. Avant-garde. The word itself (the self-definition of the 'avant-garde') leaves no room for misunderstanding about its position: at the forefront, the vanguard, the cutting edge of art, and way ahead of popular culture at any rate. Doesn't popular culture at best follow the avant-garde? And isn't it true that popular culture will never be able to overtake the avant-garde?
It appears that a kind of reversal of these ideas takes place in Zorn's music. How could Zorn's Burt Bacharach project be used as an example of deconstructing the opposition between popular culture and avant-garde? (All sources concerning Bacharach's music consider it a part of popular culture. cf. for example Lohof, p.74-81.) In Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach popular culture is presupposed as a given. Avant-garde is no longer a form of artistic creativity that runs ahead of popular culture. Instead, here the avant-garde follows popular culture! It functions as an heir to popular culture. (And, as we should know, an inheritance is never neutral. It is not a given, but a task, as Derrida explains in Specters of Marx. There will always be some kind of transformation.) Given the fact that Zorn uses aspects from popular culture, that is, his project is a reflective processing of this cultural heritage, his avant-garde music cannot simply oppose popular culture (cf. Lesage, p.13-4). Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach is, in one way or another, part of this popular culture, but stands outside of it at the same time. (N)either inside (n)or outside. (In Zorn, Noise, Cage, Pop is pointed out that much of his music is rooted in popular culture, but that it disrupts this culture as well. Rethinking and reconsidering his position should elucidate the difficulty in classifying him.)
Zorn makes a slice of popular music accessible and acceptable to a public that is more comfortable with avant-garde music or with music that is situated in the margins of the musical world. Zorn writes in the liner notes of a similar project, Great Jewish Music: Serge Gainsbourg: 'It is my sincere hope that this compilation will introduce Gainsbourg's music to a whole new audience ... I urge you to search out the original versions. Devour them. Live with them. They will delight and surprise you time and time again'. It is not difficult to imagine that this will also apply to Bacharach's music.

2. High and low culture. Zorn questions the consolidation of the alleged opposition between avant-garde art and popular culture. Closely related to this is the oppositional dichotomy of high and low culture. Zorn adopts a double position that seems to reflect his attitude towards the opposition of avant-garde versus popular culture. It looks quite simple at first sight. The liner notes of his 1987 CD, Spillane, read: 'We should take advantage of all the great music and musicians in this world without fear of musical barriers, which sometimes are even stronger than racial or religious ones'. This could allude to a license Zorn takes to let the 'great' music of the low culture enter the realm of the high culture. Zorn's projects introduce low cultural utterances to a 'higher' part of the musical world. At the same time, however, Zorn neutralizes the strict opposition in his struggle for the abolition of music-political hierarchies. Jazz, rock, pop, klezmer, classical, electronic, concrete, and improvised music need not be viewed as stagnant compartments, but as potential for interaction. The deconstruction at work within Zorn's Burt Bacharach project is not a simple deconstruction of the borderline between high and low culture that would permit the latter to enter the former. This would leave the opposition intact. If Zorn's project questions the concepts of high and low culture, it takes place in an area between, or outside of high and low culture. Zorn juxtaposes them in such a way that they question each other. The concepts themselves become the topics for investigation: 'This is something I really react strongly against, the idea of high art and low art. I mean, that distinction's a bunch of fucking bullshit ... There's good music and great music and phoney music in every genre, and all the genres are the fucking same! ... People who grew up in the 60's listening to blues, rock, classical, avant-garde, ethnic music - I think we all share one common belief, that all this music is on equal grounds and there's no high art and low art' (Strickland, p.128-9). If the concepts themselves and the use to which they are put are discussed, the boundary between arts and economics or politics is transgressed. Whose interests are served by the institutionalization of the existing distinction? In reference to his border crossing music in general, Zorn is quoted as saying: 'It's a pity writers can't deal with this music on its own terms. But not being tied to any one existing musical tradition has made it difficult for journalists to pigeonhole what we are doing - to place it historically - and for businesspeople to market it' (Blumenfeld). According to Zorn, an erroneous categorization creates an entirely new layer of misunderstandings. The possibility of a musical categorization seems to influence economic successes. Without a clear label, marketing becomes very difficult and large record companies simply will not deal with it. Zorn, however, insists that his music, and that of many others, does have commercial potential. He pleads for the addition of an avant-garde or experimental music section in record stores (cf. Blumenfeld). Is he falling into the trap against which he argues: a categorization of that which cannot be categorized? (After all, what is experimental? What is avant-garde?) Or can we regard his plea as a necessary questioning of certain institutions, institutions that classified high and low culture as absolute categories of identities? (We cannot not categorize or classify and every de- and re-categorization gets something done.)

Something strange happens with these two points. The re-territoralization turns out to be a de-territoralization at the same time. Where do the territories of avant-garde art, popular music, high and low culture begin and end? How rigid are the frames? How clear the boundaries? Although Zorn argues for more categories (Would there be an end?), his music does not favor one category over another. His music is located - or better, dislocated - precisely on the frame, on the border of innumerable already existing categories and (eventually) new ones. This is what Misko Suvakovic calls exoteric modernism. On one hand, there are artworks that include the criticism, correction, application and mass consumption of their high culture effects, inscriptions, tracks. These are artworks that use the communication channels, modes of expression, effects, clichés, genres, codes, and modes of mass culture representation in the domain of high artistic experiment and production. At the same time, however, these same artworks transform, transgress, and transfigure the values, representations, expressions, and goals of high art into the domains of mass media and mass consumption (cf. Suvakovic, p.34). John Zorn. Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach. (N)either high art (n)or low art. In between high art and low art.

3. Jewishness. Undoubtedly the most controversial recontextualization. Since it is also the most complicated, I have reserved a special page for this topic: Great Jewish Music. This text is confined to a few preliminary observations. In the liner notes of his CD, Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach, Zorn writes: 'Burt Bacharach is one of the great geniuses of American popular music - and he's a Jew. This should come as no surprise since many of America's greatest songwriters have been Jewish - Irving Berlin, Kurt Weill, George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Leiber & Stoller, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Richard Hell, Beck ... It is arguable that the history of the Jews in this century has produced one of the most richly rewarding periods of culture in American history. Yet, this fact is somehow kept neatly hidden. WHAT? Compare Philip Roth to Sholem Aleichem? Kafka to Moses de Leon? Walter Benjamin to Rashi? Wittgenstein to Spinoza? Steve Reich to Felix Mendelssohn? Allen Ginsberg to Yehudah Halevi? Einstein to Nostrodamus? Lenny Bruce to Hillel? Burt Bacharach is such a name. A trailblazer. A questioner. An unbridled genius. More than a great tunesmith he's a conductor, a pianist and a singer, a bold arranger with an original vision and sharp ear for detail, a brilliant producer and a sensitive collaborator. ... Thank you, Burt. Thank you for not changing your name'.
The switching, going quickly from inside to outside, is abundantly clear: Zorn now speaks of the music (the inside?), then of something quite different (the outside?).

[7] We are entering a complex web of recontextualizations. Bacharach (both the music and the man) enters into a plurality of contexts. He is introduced to contexts that are not always clearly distinguishable. And there are always more contexts at work. Furthermore, no context can be saturated. With respect to music as a mark, music, as such, can attach itself to other (musical) texts. There is always the possibility of dissemination, of going to places, carrying meanings and revealing connections that were not only unintented on the composer's part, but that he could not even have imagined. With respect to the composer, he composes in a musical language, the proper systematics and laws of which he cannot fully dominate. A critical reading must always aim at a certain relationship, unperceived by the composer, between his ability and inability to command the patterns of the language that he uses (cf. Of Grammatology, p.158). With respect to the institutional context, each relationship we have with an artwork includes the history of its reception, which has been determined by the aesthetic ideologies of each consecutive present, these, in turn, being conditioned by the ideologies of contemporary social groups (cf. Hadjinicolaou). Zorn's recontextualization could include such questions as: How 'neutral' can any 'ordinary' reading, interpretation, or performance of Bacharach be? Can we gain more insight into the conventions and conceptual operations that shape the listener? Can we gain more insight into capitalist overtones, which are at the service of a political ideology? Are we able to examine the social factors that frame every mark? By placing Bacharach in a different context, a controversial context perhaps, we may be forced to reconsider how marks are constituted or framed by various discursive practices, institutional arrangements, and value systems. More concretely: by including the word 'Jewish' in the title, the work exceeds the 'purely musical' realm. It may raise questions about the unwritten (and unexplored) role that religion, or a culture (history and politics) based on common religious foundations, has in the creation of contemporary music.

[8] Returning to the Jewish context, I will distinguish - roughly, arbitrarily, provisionally, rudimentarily - four possibilities to examine a difficult matter:

1. A Jewish political context. By explicitly and polemically referring to his Jewish descent, Zorn draws Bacharach into an ethno-political context, a specific cultural identity. An important issue for Zorn because he experienced some latent anti-Semitism in a number of countries where he performed and in some musical scenes in which he had an interest. Zorn: 'I think it's important for Jews to have positive role models, so that they want to identify themselves as Jews' (Blumenfeld). Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach can be described as the 'coming out' of Jews. 'Thank you, Burt. Thank you for not changing your name'. Zorn seems to turn Bacharach into a hero. Unlike many others, Bacharach did not change his Jewish sounding name in order to safeguard his career. According to Zorn, this was a risk: many Jewish artists, in coming out, had to content themselves with a marginalized position in America's mainstream culture (cf. Wilson, p.23).
Here, music proves to be an important medium of ideological and political expression. It is stepping over its own threshold. It insists on a listening or reading of something that resides beyond music as an (acoustic) frame. (Or is it always already a part of it?) Zorn's project and his accompanying commentary go beyond music as 'mere' music. It overflows the musical boundary. An outbidding in surplus value. Debordering. Overbordering. One might ask, or perhaps one should ask: is this overflowing an intended result of Zorn's discursive operation or does the music have reasons of its own? Or, to be more concrete: is there Jewishness in the musical structure? These are questions about limits, of being-in and being-out. Zorn's music avows what often is disavowed, i.e. that there is no 'mere' music or 'purely musical' realm.

2. Jewish music. First, some dates. From the early 1990's on, many people in the (white) avant-garde scene in New York (re)discovered their Jewish identity. In 1993, the Knitting Factory (longsince the place for the New York avant garde to perform) started organizing eight yearly concert evenings under the header Radical Jewish Culture. Also in 1993, Zorn released his CD, Kristallnacht, that consisted of klezmer traces, Jewish wedding and party music, the extreme noise of breaking glass (no explanation required!), and speeches of Hitler. A Star of David decorates the cover. Two years later, Zorn produced his first Masada CD. (Masada refers to the last Jewish bulwark against the Roman conquerors.) Important influence: klezmer music. Also in 1995, Zorn founded Tzadik, a label for experimental and avant-garde music. One of the most important series released on this label: Radical Jewish Culture, a mixture of new Jewish music and disruptive interpretations of klezmer or Sephardic classics, Hebrew texts, stories on and by Jews, etc. Part of this series is called 'Great Jewish Culture', a series of discs by composers not usually recognized as Jewish. The battle of words can begin (and, of course, it is about more than words alone): what exactly is Jewish music? Does it have any distinguishable intrinsic characteristics? Or, is it simply music made by Jewish people? These questions are addressed on the page Great Jewish Music.

3. Jewish musicians. A new chain of connections presents itself. In his liner notes, Zorn prompts us to draw a 'line of flight' (cf. Deleuze and Guattari) between Bacharach and other such Jewish musicians as Lou Reed, Steve Reich and Kurt Weill. These are conjunctions that would (perhaps) be less obvious in a conventional musical context. In the Radical Jewish Culture series, we find Bacharach linked to such avant-garde musicians as Zeena Parkins, Richard Teitelbaum, and David Krakauer. All the musicians performing on Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach are Jewish. Being Jewish is what relates Burt Bacharach to Serge Gainsbourg and Marc Bolan, two other composers Zorn honors in the series 'Great Jewish Culture'. Is this all too obvious? All right then, how about linking Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach to Redbird, a CD which is not usually associated with Jewishness at all. The chamber music on this CD seems to be a tribute to another Jewish composer, Morton Feldman, a tribute without naming it a tribute. The slow, tranquil sequences of chords in Redbird strongly resemble Feldman's Piano and String Quartet.

4. Jewish identity. What exactly is Zorn doing with Bacharach? His liner notes and the title (how important, how essential are these parerga?) - indicate that he is rendering Bacharach his Jewishness. By paying tribute to Bacharach in and through an explicit Jewish context, Zorn disputes possession of Bacharach's music with an American music industry and with a cultural mainstream, which, in his opinion, exclude Jews or restrict their influence when they profess their religion or acknowledge their culture. So Zorn is (re)reading ((re)presenting) Bacharach within a Jewish context. A process of deterritorialization and reterritorialization; bringing him back to the territory that he never actually left ('Thank you, Burt. Thank you for not changing your name'). Zorn assigns something to him that he had already possessed. He was always on the inside. And yet, Zorn has to give it back to him. Zorn - as the guest, the visitor, while Bacharach is the host - gives the man of the house the opportunity to enter into his own house. The host enters the inside from the inside, as though he is coming from the outside. And it is the guest who offers hospitality. (This idea of host and guest is elaborated upon in Saprophyte.)
However, Zorn is not only redelivering a Jewish identity to Bacharach. In fact, he is also redelivering a Jewish identity to himself. Through Bacharach. He professes Judaism by paying attention, by paying tribute to a Jewish composer. He testifies in and through his music. It is a chain of restitutions. As if he were a stranger, he knocks on the door of the host and asks to be let in. Or, perhaps, he forces an entry. But this stranger (and how strange he really is, we will have to determine) is the prodigal son at the same time, returning to the house of his father. Zorn and Bacharach. They both lived in the same house, under the same roof of Judaism. With the help of the other, they may enter the inside of the house again.