J-S Bach
John Zorn
John Cage



[1] Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach. John Zorn pays tribute to someone whom he considers a great composer. He takes advantage of (exploits?) existing music. He parasitizes, he feeds on Bacharach's music. However, he also creates something new. Bacharach's compositions are the source of new ones; but at the same time they are disregarded and passed by.
At least two ways of reading are possible here. A double bind. Zorn enters the musical world of Bacharach, but Bacharach's music simultaneously enters into Zorn's musical and socio-cultural environment as well. (Is a citation an alien parasite within the body of its host, the main text, or is the new composition the parasite that surrounds and strangles its host, the citation?) Each reference to Bacharach's music can be regarded as an alien parasite within the body of its host, i.e., Zorn's music; at the same time, Zorn's music is the parasite that surrounds and strangles the host, i.e., Bacharach's greatest hits. Zorn's project is parasitical on Bacharach's music and, simultaneously, the sinister host that destroys it by inviting it into its home. Host. At once, warm supplier of hospitality and enemy. All of this exemplifies the undecidable oscillation of the relation between parasite and host. It cannot be decided which element (which music) is the parasite, which one the host (cf. Hillis Miller, p.223-5).
In both cases, however, the parasitical represents the uncanny, the alien who breaks into the closed economy of the home, although it is difficult to speak about anything being closed, especially with regard to Zorn's music. (In general, one could say that any composition parasitizes on earlier compositions; it contains earlier compositions as enclosed parasites within itself. This means that the opposition original vs. derived loses its pertinence from the moment we recognize that everything begins by following a vestige or trace, i.e. a certain repetition or textuality. So, whenever I use these traditional concepts, it should be understood that the duality between the original text and a derived version is swept away. It is not a matter of a simple hierarchical relation between two texts, but rather of a displacement of a constellation or a labyrinth. This interweaving of elements, this system of differences and traces of traces in which no single musical mark is original nor simply present or absent, could be called music about music. (Music about music: a form of intermusicality.) (Zorn's) intentional composing of music about music becomes an act of reflection. In his music, the separation between music and thinking about music is abolished. Zorn thinks about improvisation, composition and arrangement through and in his music. He does not use post-structuralist thinking. Post-structuralism is articulated in and through his music. Post-structuralism as music. Moreover, (his) intermusicality affects music history. It demonstrates that music history is not a linear process of a single thread but always a multiplicity of histories. Intermusicality is no arborescent system but rhizomatic; it has multiple entryways. Zorn uses or invents these histories; they become his stories.)
I presented two readings: Bacharach as Zorn's parasite and Zorn as a parasite of Bacharach. In the following, I will focus on the latter (keeping in mind that the other reading is also always there, following the first as a shadow, a specter). What does it mean to say that Zorn's project is parasitical on Bacharach's music?

[2] A few definitions to start with. A parasite is 'any organism that grows, feeds, and is sheltered on or in a different organism while contributing nothing to the survival of its host'. A parasite is 'a person who habitually takes advantage of the generosity of others without making any useful return' (cf. Hillis Miller, p.220). Aside from these biological and social descriptions, 'parasite' also means noise in French, the static in a system, or the interference in a channel (cf. Noise as Undesirable Sound) . Closely resembling the parasite is the virus. The genetic pattern of the virus is coded in such a way that it is able to enter a host cell and violently reprogram all the genetic material in that cell (cf. Hillis Miller, p.222).
This is strong language, in both cases. Is it appropriate to use such pejorative terms in describing Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach? Is Zorn not giving anything in return? Also, can this project be considered noise in the sense that it hampers communication (for instance, between Bacharach's original compositions and the listener)? Is Zorn's deconstruction of this music a ferocious reprogramming of the host texts in order to make it express its own message, the uncanny, the alien? I defer possible answers for now because there is more to be said about parasites. Something more positive, this time. There are many cases where the presence of a parasite is absolutely required for the well being of its host (cf. Hillis Miller, p.228). Many parasites maintain fully symbiotic relations with their hosts. They are called saprophytes and co-exist in a mutually beneficial relationship with their hosts. The symbiosis leads to new forms of life. Therefore, it is not always true that parasites destroy their hosts, nor does the host always enable its parasite to live by feeding it and losing his own life in the process. The noise on the original work can open ways to a new composition, a new interpretation, a new outlook.

[3] The English prefix 'para', Hillis Miller writes, indicates 'alongside, near or beside, beyond, incorrectly, resembling or similar to, subsidiary to'. In Greek, 'para' furthermore means wrongfully, harmfully, and unfavorably (cf. Hillis Miller, p.219). Hillis Miller continues, ''Para' is a double antithetical prefix signifying at once proximity and distance, similarity and difference, interiority and exteriority, something inside a domestic economy and at the same time outside it, something simultaneously this side of a boundary line, threshold, or margin, and also beyond it, equivalent in status and also secondary or subsidiary, submissive, as of guest to host, slave to master' (Hillis Miller, p.219). There is some resemblance here to the way Derrida writes about the par-ergon in The Truth In Painting (para ergon, beside or outside the work). Derrida elaborates on Kant's examples in his discussion of Kant's use of the word parergon in the Third Critique (paragraph 14). According to Kant, the colonnades of a palace are parerga, whereas the building land is not. But why would a column be a parergon while a natural site chosen to build the palace, or the artificial site with its crossroads and other buildings would not be, Derrida wonders. His answer: 'It is not because [the columns] are detached, but on the contrary because they are more difficult to detach ... What constitutes them as parerga is not simply their exteriority as a surplus, it is the internal structural link which rivets them to the lack in the interior of the ergon' (The Truth In Painting, p.59). What fascinates Derrida is that the colonnades' status is at once proximate and distant. Kant places them in the exterior, banishes them to the margin, while they certainly belong to the interior as well.

[4] There is a remarkable similarity between the parergon and the parasite. Like a parergon, a parasite is neither simply outside nor inside. In 'The Critic As Host', Hillis Miller argues that the parasite is always already present within the host, the enemy within the house, heterogeneity within homogeneity. So, the parasite is inside, but it is not an insider. It is an outsider inside. Hillis Miller speaks of a relation of intimate kinship and of enmity at the same time. The same goes for  Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach. All the songs on this album are closely connected to Bacharach's originals. (Sometimes the parasitical music, that uncanny alien, is so close that one does not think anything strange about it - cf., for example, the opening tune 'Close To You' (Play music) by Wayne Horvitz. Opening tune. In a certain way we could call it an ouverture, the French word for both beginning and opening, an unlocking. 'Close To You' (Play music) is the beginning of a guided tour, an invitation by a host - who is simultaneously a guest - to enter his house, an open door to something strange, but familiar at the same time, to something we have heard before and simultaneously have never heard before.) Bacharach's music is the food, the raw material with which something new is created. However, in this new construction, some of the old text is destroyed as well. (De)(con)struction. The process of destruction and construction is only possible when the invader can come infinitely close (or already is) and remains infinitely alien at the same time. Maybe this distance is the difference between Zorn's project and most of the conventional cover versions of Bacharach's tunes. (Could we say that these cover versions keep Bacharach's music alive only as a monument, as a dead relic?) Although the instrumentation and arrangements may be altered, although chords and melody may be different, the conventional cover versions still represent the originals. However, without changing chords, melody or structure, Horvitz' 'Close To You' (Play music) does not represent, rather, it presents something. It stays very close to the original (the inside) and yet it sounds entirely different (the outside). Parasitism here is the driving force for change and invention.
Moreover, there is always room for parasitism because of an openness in the interior of the music, a possibility available in the materiality of the music itself. No (musical) text is closed upon itself. The possibility of parasitism - parasitism regarded as (mis)use, quotation, or imitation, i.e. repeating and presenting the music in a different context - is always present. The parasite can feed on (parts of) the host, and the (musical) mark cannot prevent this (cf. (D)(R)econtextualization) ; it is, in fact, constituted on this ever-present possibility of parasitism. And, as mentioned before, every host is a parasite in turn; there is no beginning, no origin.
From one perspective, one could say that Bacharach is asymmetrically involved. The host (Bacharach) becomes a kind of a hostage when Zorn forces him into his musical world. (The reception or insertion of another always involves a certain amount of violent subjection or subjugation.) The inviting host becomes a hostage. The parasite, on his part, invites the one that invited him; he becomes the master of the host. In other words, the parasite becomes the host of the host.

[5] Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach. Feeding on almost-forgotten hit records from the past. Certainly a kind of parasitism. Certainly? Why a parasite and not a guest, assuming that the difference lies in the right of hospitality? Without this right, the stranger can only break into the home of the host as an illegal, surreptitious guest (host, here: parasite). How can Zorn obtain this right? First, by asking Bacharach. Asking for hospitality. However, there is a question of whether any stipulating conditions would, by definition, ignore the principle of hospitality, so that asking would render the hospitality incongruous. And secondly, by being granted this right, for example, because he offers something in return. A reversed welcoming gift. Does Bacharach get something in return as well? Of course. His music not only serves as a host in the sense of being a victim, a sacrifice. He is eaten and he eats himself. For example, he benefits from a renewed attention for his music in the media. Perhaps, the host (Bacharach) was expecting the stranger. (And for more than one reason I could add, 'on the threshold of his house'. Musically, he needs to open the door to let others in and play (with) his music on the border of the inside and outside, since his name is on the edge of obscurity.) Perhaps, he sees Zorn coming as a liberator, offering him his hospitality. He might take advantage of a new audience that comes to know his music through Zorn's project. At least, Zorn promotes him in his liner notes. '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'. He has been a source of inspiration for generations of musicians, Zorn writes. His pop songs are 'deep explorations of the materials of music and should be studied and treasured with as much care and diligence we accord any great works of art'. Although this is important, I would like to focus on the symbiotic relationship between Bacharach's tunes and Zorn's project. In Dissemination, Derrida writes that each quoted text continues to 'radiate back toward the site of its removal, transforming that, too, as it affects the new territory. Each is defined (thought) by the operation and is at the same time defining (thinking) as far as the rules and effects of the operation are concerned' (Dissemination, p.355). Although it is difficult to assert that Zorn's project consists of quotations (the recorded songs are (n)either quotations (n)or interpretations), it should be noted that there is not a one-way relationship between the original (the host) and the derivative (the parasite). By returning Bacharach's hit records in a deformed way, by sending them back to their owner (Are they send back?), Zorn transforms (the perception of) them as well. In and by using the host texts, they appear in a different way: certain features may come to the forefront that we did not hear before. Other aspects that were previously believed to be important characteristics become less so. The small accompaniment in Horvitz' 'Close To You' (Play music) provides the listener with a better understanding of how the harmonic and rhythmic structure is already present in the melody than conventional cover versions. Both Bacharach's music and Zorn's project (re-, de-, trans-) form each other, contaminate each others content. Zorn is not a parasite; rather, I would call him a saprophyte. The noise (literally and figuratively) produced on Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach is a pharmakon, poison and cure at the same time. On one hand, it hampers communication between Bacharach's originals and the unsuspecting listener; on the other hand it makes this communication possible again, as it is presented, for example, in a new form to a younger audience from another musical and cultural field (rock, and/or avant garde).

[6] Parasite. There is a connection to deconstruction. A deconstructive strategy is accomplished by borrowing the very terms utilized by the host work itself. Derrida often works this way, for example, when he uses 'pharmakon' from Plato, 'supplement' from Rousseau, and so on. Borrowing. Here, it is another word for parasitizing. (Derrida describes grammatology as a parasitical economy.) Staying very close to the host text while saying something very different. Derrida makes clear that 'the near' is not opposed to an 'elsewhere' but to another form of 'the near', something that would theoretically illustrate the relationship between Zorn's project and more conventional cover versions of Bacharach's songs. With the greatest attention and accuracy, Derrida rewrites philosophical and literary texts, but in a different context or framework, so that the emphasis changes. He enacts or performs the compositional structuring of the host which results in another text of the 'same kind'. This parasitical relationship brings about something new. He remotivates certain key words, he removes them from one contextual field and reassigns them to another, but always with the utmost systematic attention to the potentials available in the word itself (cf. Ulmer, 1983, p.93-4). However, host and parasite supplement each other, enable each other to live on, to survive.
This deconstructive strategy, this participation without belonging, this taking part in without being part of, is characteristic of Zorn's homages in general and of Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach, in particular. 'Close To You' could be taken very literally on a musically analytical level. It refers to nearness and also to distance ('you' as opposed to me, 'close' but not identical, the preposition 'to' that always invokes a difference, a distance). Especially in the bridge of this song, which was reworked by Horvitz, the mellow voices of The Carpenters resonate. At the same time, however, no one can mistake this version for the original. Enough alien elements reside, although it is quite difficult to indicate exactly where the differences begin.

[7] Zorn is famous for his homages. And there are many (cf. Hymen) . But each project, each tribute, evolves differently and with a different musical language as a result, because the host demands these different approaches. Even if the host transforms into a hostage, even if Zorn's tributes have a violent side, it is the host who sets the rules. However, the host cannot sovereignly absorb this specific parasite; it is kicked off balance by it because the parasite has reprogrammed all the genetic material.