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Arcana: Musicians on Music

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Cultural Writing. Music. Through manifestos, scores, interviews, notes and critical papers, contributors to this in-depth anthology address composing, playing, improvising, teaching, and thinking in and through music. Rather than attempting to distill or define musician's work, ARCANA illuminates it with personal vision and experience. Cultural Writing. Music. Through manifestos, scores, interviews, notes and critical papers, contributors to this in-depth anthology address composing, playing, improvising, teaching, and thinking in and through music. Rather than attempting to distill or define musician's work, ARCANA illuminates it with personal vision and experience.


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Cultural Writing. Music. Through manifestos, scores, interviews, notes and critical papers, contributors to this in-depth anthology address composing, playing, improvising, teaching, and thinking in and through music. Rather than attempting to distill or define musician's work, ARCANA illuminates it with personal vision and experience. Cultural Writing. Music. Through manifestos, scores, interviews, notes and critical papers, contributors to this in-depth anthology address composing, playing, improvising, teaching, and thinking in and through music. Rather than attempting to distill or define musician's work, ARCANA illuminates it with personal vision and experience.

30 review for Arcana: Musicians on Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gåry!

    It's meticulous, it's dry, it brought a tear to my eye. These texts are for the seriously deranged opponent of conformity. It's meticulous, it's dry, it brought a tear to my eye. These texts are for the seriously deranged opponent of conformity.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tristan

    John Zorn is not that well known by your average music listener. The musicians he collaborates with and produces, or whom he offers to release under his label Tzadik, are more well known than the man himself. That said, he is a genius and a major influence on a diverse array of musicians from classical, through to metal. His compositions rank amongst the most profound musical experiences I have ever had. His ability to blur genre lines, and also his contribution to each genre is unparalleled in John Zorn is not that well known by your average music listener. The musicians he collaborates with and produces, or whom he offers to release under his label Tzadik, are more well known than the man himself. That said, he is a genius and a major influence on a diverse array of musicians from classical, through to metal. His compositions rank amongst the most profound musical experiences I have ever had. His ability to blur genre lines, and also his contribution to each genre is unparalleled in my opinion, and anyone truly passionate about music should take the long and winding road through the Tzadik catalogue. This collection of essays brings together some of Zorn's long time collaborators, including Mike Patton, Eyvind Kang, Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell, Fred Frith and Ikue Mori to name a few. Each musician is given the space to discuss and illuminate their thoughts on music. Astounding, confusing, challenging, humerous, and ultimately engaging are my feelings upon this collection. I would call the experience of reading these essays a re-education; by giving these eclectic individuals an opportunity to elucidate what music means to them, John Zorn has provided us with a link to the unknown, the juices that make musicians create. It has to be appreciated before entering this world that musicians are not necessarily great writers. Some of these essays are not technically well written nor do they try to be. Each essay is unique and propels you into the subconscious of the writer. Give it a go if you want a sneak peek into the madness that is the creation of music and be ready for a ride, be ready to throw out your preconceptions of what is to be a musician and what music is. This group of enigmatic folk have been and will continue to redefine music for years to come and they're worth listening to, and in this case reading.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Scott

    This book is to lite reading what nuclear war is to Ghandi. Some pages are actual hand-written scores from the musicians involved in the book, showing examples of their non-conformist approach to composing. Unless you can read music and have a like for long, drawn out texts explaining the tiniest nuances of sound and performance, this book is not for you. For avant-garde musicians, though, this is the Bible, the Holy Grail, the introduction to the secret society of the forward-thinking composers This book is to lite reading what nuclear war is to Ghandi. Some pages are actual hand-written scores from the musicians involved in the book, showing examples of their non-conformist approach to composing. Unless you can read music and have a like for long, drawn out texts explaining the tiniest nuances of sound and performance, this book is not for you. For avant-garde musicians, though, this is the Bible, the Holy Grail, the introduction to the secret society of the forward-thinking composers of our time. I'm reading them all over again, starting with this one and purchasing the ones that I don't have yet (I didn't realize how quickly John Zorn started publishing these texts after the third one came out). One of the most useful parts of the book is the Recommended Listening section at the end. It highlights some important recordings from the past few decades that have mostly been ignored due to their departure from typical composition designs. Not for students learning to play the violin to satisfy their parents. Definitely for musical prodigies stricken with chronic individualism.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Some of the essays are fascinating glimpses into how artists of News York's so-called "downtown" scene think about and create their work while others in the collection are piles of self-indulgent babble. This combination of insight, theoretical arguments, pretentiousness, and humor make Arcana a representative cross-section of the scene it sets out to define. Some of the essays are fascinating glimpses into how artists of News York's so-called "downtown" scene think about and create their work while others in the collection are piles of self-indulgent babble. This combination of insight, theoretical arguments, pretentiousness, and humor make Arcana a representative cross-section of the scene it sets out to define.

  5. 5 out of 5

    John

    Very good so far. Each author contributes something completely different. For example, Scott Johnson has a long essay on aesthetics and Bill Frisell shows how he uses open strings on the guitar to create resonant melodies. Wide variety of stuff here.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    This is musicians writing about music. i found bill frisell's approach to guitar fingering interesting. i liked reading about the music scene in new haven. coltrane is in here. studying gagaku--japanese court music. it's broad. This is musicians writing about music. i found bill frisell's approach to guitar fingering interesting. i liked reading about the music scene in new haven. coltrane is in here. studying gagaku--japanese court music. it's broad.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Geoffrey Olsen

    Terrific collection of essays and other writings. Reading this (as a non-musician) attuned my ear and mind in new ways to music.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Roth

    There are ten of these books -- same title, volumes I - X -- published at irregular intervals between 2000 and last year. I don't own them all (about half are in my nearby library), and I don't expect to ever be "finished" with them. I expect to dip in and out, as you might with a reference book, an archive of idiosyncratic thoughts, theories and memoirs. They deflect all attempts to impose any received order, and yet converge on the making of new music now, pointing toward its infinite possibil There are ten of these books -- same title, volumes I - X -- published at irregular intervals between 2000 and last year. I don't own them all (about half are in my nearby library), and I don't expect to ever be "finished" with them. I expect to dip in and out, as you might with a reference book, an archive of idiosyncratic thoughts, theories and memoirs. They deflect all attempts to impose any received order, and yet converge on the making of new music now, pointing toward its infinite possibility and narrating accounts of how specific sound worlds came to be. Initiated and edited by the prolific, versatile and charismatic John Zorn, Arcana offers a history and theory contemporary composition, something that was not published in journals or taught in schools. As Zorn wrote in the first volume of the series, ...after more than twenty years of music-making on the New York scene, except for the occasional review in trade magazines/periodicals (which because of the context in which they appear and the speed with which they are written don't really count anyway) not one single writer has ever come forward to champion or even to intelligently analyse exactly what it is that we have been doing. Indeed, they hardly seem able to describe it...this book is at least a first step, filling a very real gap. Zorn's method was simple: he asked the musicians he knew, whose music he admired, to write about their work and send him the results. Musicians clearly vary a great deal in their relationships to writing: some refuse to do it; a few are awkward. But a very high proportion of authors featured in these volumes have produced graceful and engaging, as well as innovative texts. Perhaps we should not be surprised. There is, after all, quite a lot of common ground: there's a rhythm and pitch about language; transposing an idea about sound to a surface challenges the imagination; readers have more than a little in common with an audience of listeners in their hope of sensing something of their own realities in invented worlds. I came across this book soon after having begun a project of my own called Learning to Listen. Following a list compiled by an English music journalist, Tom Service (BBC3) a specialist in contemporary classical music, I set out to listen to and learn about the work of one composer each week for 50 weeks. Zorn was about fourth or fifth on the list. He changed the whole project. In some ways a turn from the intended path, it felt more like lift-off, from a surface route to free-form path in multiple dimensions. His work, along with my discovery of Arcana, undercut my image of "studying" music in an orderly or thorough or even unidirectional way; it was an introduction to something like creative listening, listening as time spent travelling into, through and across sound worlds, discovering one's own unique values, musical memory, allergies and attractions. Most of the essays published here are short memoirs -- personal experiences, tales of exploration, discovery, transformation; quite a few involve encounters with Zorn himself, as composer, mentor, performer, improvisor, critic or publisher or inspiration. One that particularly interested me, bound up in language as I am, was David Rosenbloom's "Propositional Music" [title shortened -- Volume I, pp 203-232], which seems to me to address exactly the problem Zorn points out initially, namely that critics seem unable to even describe what these musicians are doing. Rosenbloom does describe it. In doing so, he sheds light on the reason it's a really difficult thing to do. For it is no longer enough to plug new information into old historical models. This project requires a rethinking of inheritance, diversity, expansion, innovation, something like a genetic model for the evolution of music. The last two volumes in the series were published last year, and Zorn has declared the project finished. He is satisfied that the books have successfully called attention to the issues and made a strong start to addressing them. They are also surprising, informative, engaging and in many respects heartening. They deserve a wide readership, for they contain a wealth of insights into creativity, whether specifically musical or not.

  9. 5 out of 5

    TomBurgess

    Nice collection of a couple dozen composers/musicians' thoughts on the current state of 21st-century genre-defying music, either discussing it on the whole or what is specifically means to the writer. At least worth skimming, but pretty hit-and-miss depending what you're interested in. Includes interviews, tips for extended techniques, Coltrane analyses, voyeuristic notebook entries, ethnographic accounts, and a page-long Mike Patton rant - something for everyone tbh Nice collection of a couple dozen composers/musicians' thoughts on the current state of 21st-century genre-defying music, either discussing it on the whole or what is specifically means to the writer. At least worth skimming, but pretty hit-and-miss depending what you're interested in. Includes interviews, tips for extended techniques, Coltrane analyses, voyeuristic notebook entries, ethnographic accounts, and a page-long Mike Patton rant - something for everyone tbh

  10. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    I had very different expectations for this book, and I had for years. I was expecting an essay(or two) by John Zorn, rather than a brief (extremely) introduction and a list of images. There were some essays that were enjoyable, some that were informative, but, as a whole, I really don't understand the purpose of the book. The essays work at different purposes. I don't know what I was expecting, really. Some essays I'd read over and over again, get inspired by, take something from. Others were fr I had very different expectations for this book, and I had for years. I was expecting an essay(or two) by John Zorn, rather than a brief (extremely) introduction and a list of images. There were some essays that were enjoyable, some that were informative, but, as a whole, I really don't understand the purpose of the book. The essays work at different purposes. I don't know what I was expecting, really. Some essays I'd read over and over again, get inspired by, take something from. Others were frustratingly un-written.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

    Some musicians write really well and some really don't. I am usually all for diversity, but you get the impression that some of these people would have never even of picked up a pen if Zorn hadn't persuaded them to do it, which is a shame because some of the bits in here are really interesting. I already own a copy of volume 2, so I shall give that a chance, I shouldn't think I will be reading volumes 3 & 4. Some musicians write really well and some really don't. I am usually all for diversity, but you get the impression that some of these people would have never even of picked up a pen if Zorn hadn't persuaded them to do it, which is a shame because some of the bits in here are really interesting. I already own a copy of volume 2, so I shall give that a chance, I shouldn't think I will be reading volumes 3 & 4.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    This book should have been a perfect fit for me, but in actuality reading it was a mixed pleasure. The writings vary wildly in style and quality. Some are genuinely interesting, some dry and technical, some painfully pedantic, and some just kind of dumb. Definitely contains some worthwhile gems, but Zorn's seemingly hands-off editing approach has resulted in a pretty scattershot collection. This book should have been a perfect fit for me, but in actuality reading it was a mixed pleasure. The writings vary wildly in style and quality. Some are genuinely interesting, some dry and technical, some painfully pedantic, and some just kind of dumb. Definitely contains some worthwhile gems, but Zorn's seemingly hands-off editing approach has resulted in a pretty scattershot collection.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence

    excellent, if dense, collection of interviews and essays with many important non-mainstream musicians

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sam Gill

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alan Clark

  16. 4 out of 5

    Valerie Resser

  17. 4 out of 5

    Wrojslav

  18. 5 out of 5

    Masta Lee

  19. 5 out of 5

    Grand

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Dolphin

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alexander

  22. 4 out of 5

    Seth

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anverlyb

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Delamater

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bob

  26. 5 out of 5

    David Ferreira

  27. 5 out of 5

    Josh

  28. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  29. 4 out of 5

    George

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gregoire

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