The Music of John Zorn: A 35-Year Retrospective

Pre-concert Q&A with Zorn, who will receive honorary degree.

Curated by John Zorn and Anthony Coleman, "The Music of John Zorn: A 35-Year Retrospective," sponsored by NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation Department, will feature repertoire drawn from a wide variety of Zorn projects spanning 35 years and a wide variety of musical idioms including chamber music, rock, and game pieces all performed by NEC faculty, students, and ensembles.

Held on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, at NEC’s Jordan Hall, the event begins at 7 p.m. with a pre-concert Q & A with Zorn, followed by the 8 p.m. concert. During the concert, NEC president Tony Woodcock will present Zorn with an honorary Doctor of Music degree. Sponsored by NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation Department, the event is free and open to the public.

Anthony Coleman and Stephen Drury, among the NEC faculty who have coached the students performing on this concert, have deep relationships with Zorn's music on stage and in the recording studio. Among many other Zorn projects on which he has played, Coleman is an original member of the Cobra ensemble, and now teaches this game piece at NEC. Drury has recorded key works that established Zorn's still-emerging face as a writer of composed music that takes classical forms as a jumping-off point. And while Coleman and Drury have on a regular basis acted as "prompters" for Zorn's iconic game pieces, it is Zorn himself who will be prompting this performance of Cobra.

Find concert details.

Drawing on his experience in a variety of genres including jazz, rock, hardcore punk, classical, klezmer, film, cartoon, popular and improvised music, John Zorn has created an influential body of work that defies academic categories. A native of New York City, he has been a central figure in the downtown scene since 1975, incorporating a wide range of musicians in various compositional formats. He learned alchemical synthesis from Harry Smith, structural ontology with Richard Foreman, how to make art out of garbage with Jack Smith, cathartic expression at Sluggs and hermetic intuition from Joseph Cornell. His work is remarkably diverse and draws inspiration from Art, Literature, Film, Theatre, Philosophy, Alchemy and Mysticism as well as Music. He founded the Tzadik label in 1995, runs the East Village performance space The Stone and has edited/published seven volumes of musician's writings under the title Arcana. Honors include the Cultural Achievement Award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture and the William Schuman Prize for composition from Columbia University. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Ghent and SUNY Purchase, was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame by Lou Reed in 2010 and is a MacArthur Fellow.

Founded in 1972 by musical visionaries Gunther Schuller and Ran Blake, New England Conservatory's Contemporary Improvisation program is “one of the most versatile in all of music education” (JazzEd). Now in its 42nd year, the program trains composer/performer/ improvisers to broaden their musical palettes and develop unique voices. It is unparalleled in its structured approach to ear training and its emphasis on singing, memorization, harmonic sophistication, aesthetic integrity, and stylistic openness. Under Blake's inspired guidance for its first twenty-six years, the program grew considerably and has expanded its offerings under current chair Hankus Netsky and assistant chair Eden MacAdam-Somer. Alumni include Don Byron, John Medeski, Jacqueline Schwab, Aoife O'Donovan and Sarah Jarosz; faculty include Carla Kihlstedt, Blake, Dominique Eade, and Anthony Coleman. “A thriving hub of musical exploration,” (Jeremy Goodwin, Boston Globe), the program currently has 53 undergrad and graduate students from 16 countries.