Frequently Asked Questions
for the
John Zorn Mailing List

Draft 1.3
updated 9 September 1997

How can I get a copy of Masada 4?
You can't. Well, it's pretty unlikely at the least. It was never available for retail; it was given away by DIW in exchange of the proof of buying the first three Masada; the deadline for getting it was June 1995.
UPDATE - Masada 4 has now been released for purchase.

How do you pronounce "Tzadik"?
TZ as in "glitzy" A as in "bad" DIK as in "deek" (the accent is on the first syllable) It means "holy man" in Hebrew .

Is "Heretic" by Naked City really a soundtrack?
The Knitting Factory page says " 'Heretic' which also features a Naked City soundtrack, is an experimental narrative in the form of an extended trailer. A very funny take on psychotherapy starring Karen Finley."

Are Mike Patton and The Melvins on Naked City's "Leng T'che"?
No, they are not. Some folks would say that "Leng T'che" is Naked City's take on The Melvins sludge style. One can only assume that is why they were thanked in the credits.

Is Zorn in Mr. Bungle?
No, he is not. Zorn did however produce Mr. Bungle's self titled major label debut on Warner Brothers. He does play alto sax on one song, "Love is a Fist."

Towards the end of the Zorn/Bailey/Parker CD "Harras," the track "Evening Harras" has about 10 minutes of silence, followed by a section of what seems to be Bailey solo. Is this a mistake?
"According to Derek Bailey, the abrupt cutoff was planned. Derek wanted to end it "on a high". The Bailey solo material appended after the silence was apparently Zorn's idea." (thanks to Peter Stubley/Lynn Rardin)

How do I order from Tzadik?
Tzadik now has a website with CD descriptions and the ability to purchase them.

Are there other places I can buy Tzadik/Avant/Zorn's music
There is the officially sanctioned Downtown Music Gallery 1-800-622-1387 and Forced Exposure (box 9102, Waltham, MA 02254 - it's an excellent site/catalog) mailorder.

Wayside claims to be an "official mail order source" for Tzadik and appear to have a complete list with brief descriptions of each one.

Is there a Zorn discography?
Patrice Roussel has compiled and maintained an unbelievable and comprehensive Zorn discography, as well as discographies for some other great musicians. The Zorn discography was most recently updated November 1996. This is the tenth version.

You can get Patrice's Zorn discography via the web at

Where can I read interviews with, or writings about Zorn and his ilk?
There's a great interview with Zorn in "Talking Music" by William Duckworth (Schirmer, 1995).

A brief chapter about him in "Plunderphonics Pataphysics & Pop_Mechanics: And Introduction to Musique Actuelle" by Andrew Jones (SAF, 1995).

Derek Bailey talks with Zorn in his book "Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music" (Da Capo, 1992).

American Composers - Dialogues on Contemporary Music, by Edward Strickland
Contains an interview of John Zorn by Edward Strickland (pp. 124-140)
Indiana University Press, 1991 (ISBN 0-253-35498-6)

Soundpieces 2: Interviews With American Composers, by Cole Gagne
Interview by Cole Gagne followed by a discography (pp. 507-542)
The Scarecrow Press, 1993 (ISBN 0-8108-2710-7)

Oh and there's this zine based in Oakland...

What's Zorn's phone number? I really need to ask him something.
We don't know. Your best bet is to write him a letter via Tzadik.

What's the deal with this 100 CD boxset?
In an issue of The Wire, there was an advertisement for a 100 CD boxset of Zorn/Eye from their 1995 China tour. Supposedly, it is a limited edition of 1000 copies. Each CD will be variable length with the shortest at one second! Word is that the release date has been pushed back to Fall 1997, my guess is that is optimistic.

More recent info seems to indicate that the project has been cancelled.

What is Masada, Kristallnacht?
Masada is the name of an almost impenetrable mountain-fortress which was where a group of Jews stood against the Roman army in a very prolonged seige. The Romans finally defeated the rebels by using Jewish slaves to construct a ramp up to the main gate. Unwilling to kill thier own people, the Jews inside Masada could only watch as the slaves were forced to build the ramp higher and higher. Finally, instead of giving the Romans the pleasure of conquest, the Jews inside Masada defiantly commited mass suicide.

Kristallnacht refers to the "Night of Broken Glass" when German troops smashed the windows of Jewish storefronts in Germany. I believe that this is generally considered the beginning of the Holocaust.

What are those funny song names on the Masada discs?
They're all Hebrew titles, i think. Some are names of people.

What happened to the "Radio Vol. 2" and the live box from the Zornfest?
Radio Vol. 2 (Avan 005, Avant-Japan) CD has never been recorded and thus never released. It was supposed to be NAKED CITY'S "COVER" RECORD. An album of JOHN ZORN's eclectic arrangements of some of the most important, and often overlooked compositions of the 20th century.


According to Wayne Horvitz: this record has never been recorded.

Is there a biography on Zorn?

I heard about some sort of controversy around the use of purported pornographic images on Zorn's CD covers. What's the deal?
The CAAAV (Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence) targeted Zorn because of the graphic design of two of his records: TORTURE GARDEN and LENG TCH'E. They believed that these images were giving a degrading image of Asian people.

To avoid problems, Zorn decided to remove these records from retail stores. They are now available again in new packaging called the "BLACK BOX".

I'm new to the world of Zorn, he's put out so much stuff, which record(s) should i listen to first?
I think of the 30 or so that i've heard, these are pretty representational:

Masada 1 (or 2 or 3) to hear actual jazz
Naked City (the self titled one) and
Torture Garden, to hear jump-cut craziness
Painkiller: Buried Secrets, to hear big bad heavy metal noise stuff
The Big Gundown, to hear crazy arrangements
Filmworks vol. 1 to hear more accesible, backgroundy music
Elegy/Kristallnacht, to hear his chamber music

Could you tell me something about the various photographers and artists used for CD covers and the sources of the pics.
Rumor is that art-books released during the time before CDs would come out were the source of the pictures and titles in some cases. The Naked City photograph was taken by WeeGee who documented crimes in NY. He would sleep in his car with a police radio so he could get to the scene of a crime quickly, and often he was there before the police. This is how he got his nickname. Get it? Ouija board? "Naked City" is one of several excellent books by WeeGee.

It appears the same sort of thing is true of "Absinthe," ie: an art-book by the same name came out with the very pictures which now grace the cover of the album.

There is also a book by Man Ray which probably came out around the time his photographs were used for the Radio album. He is a French photographer, whose work is very influential, especially on the use of shape/form in expression. I'm not sure when his work dates from, although I would guess the 1930s or 40s.

Is this super-heavy Zorn guy really as old as/older than my dad?
Born in 1953. How old's your dad?

What's a "game piece"?
A game piece, of which Cobra is the best known and most recorded (at least three different versions on Avant, Hat, and Knitting Factory), is a method of group improvisation where the structure of the piece (the rules of the game) is set by a prompter at performance time, and the players have complete freedom within the structure. It differs from free improvisation (jazz) because of the prompter. It differs from contemporary classical aleatory music (Cage, Stockhausen, Pousseur) and conduction (Butch Morris) in the complete absence of any notated musical notes of any kind. The playful and whimsical connotations of the word "game" are also relevant to Zorn's game pieces.

In the late 1970s an early 1980s, Zorn was often quoted as saying "My concern is not so much with how things sound, as with how things work." The game pieces were his most concerted early efforts at creating musical structures that didn't dictate "how things sound."

While most of the game pieces are named after a sport or game (Pool, Hockey, Archery, Lacrosse, Cobra, Tennis, Golf, Curling, Cricket, Jai Alai, Go, Sebastopol are among those recorded or other wise referred to), the term "game pieces" refers as much to the structures of the works. Just as people playing games or sports must follow certain rules which determine how they interact, but not exactly what they do (in baseball, for instance, the infield fly rule says what to do when one occurs, but there is no rule governing when a player must hit an infield fly), in his game pieces, Zorn creates structures and situations for improvisors to perform in, while providing little, if any, actual notated music.

In early game pieces, like Pool & Archery, the structures may be as simple as providing an order for the possible solos, duos, trios, and quartets available for a particular size ensemble and then providing specific ways in which participating musicians can interrupt this order. In several of these early game pieces, Zorn provides very brief notated material, to be used by players when or if certain options occur. In later game pieces, like Cobra (the most recorded and performed of Zorn's game pieces), the rules are more open (there is, for example, no attempt at having all possible combinations of players perform together, and there is no notated material) and the ways in which performers can interupt the proceedings are more elaborate.

In all of the game pieces a prompter, who does not play an instrument during the piece, keeps track of where players are within the structure, making sure that everyone knows what's going on. The prompter acts as a referee or conductor, making choices when more than one player desires to interupt the proceedings and otherwise shaping the music as it progresses.

While these pieces, in part, grow out of the modern tradition of aleatoric and/or intuitive music created by avant garde composers like John Cage, Earl Brown, Christian Wolff, Pauline Oliveros, Jerry Hunt, Mauricio Kagel, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, Zorn's game pieces differ primarily in the nature of the structured interactions and performer choices allowed, and in Zorn's use of musicians who are (often) more comfortable with improvising in several styles of music.

Are there other cool saxophone players?
Tons. John Butcher, Tim Berne, Peter van Bergen, Mats Gustafsson are some great younger players. John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Peter Brotzmann, Steve Lacy, Evan Parker, Ornette Coleman, Frank Lowe, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Oliver Lake, and Albert Ayler are among the legends of the previous generation.

Did the singer of the Boredoms change his name?
Yes. In 1996, Yamatsuka Eye changed his name to Yamantaka Eye.

Is there a Mr Bungle mailing list?
There's one official one (where Trey Spruance sends out any infos on his current projects) write to to get on that one.

And there's that Caca Volante mailing list, which also features Faith No More, John Zorn or basically any related. the address for that one is (as usual with Majordomo, send "subscribe cv-list" to that address to get on the list.)

Can someone give me the scoop on Keiji Haino? Y'know the guy who has recordings on both Avant and Tzadik.
He is a first rate skronker! He has been around for over 20 years apparently, recording with a variety of bands and solo. I haven't heard a great deal of his work but he does play truly terrifying, cataclysmic free-rock guitar improvisations. If you can imagine a heavy rock Derek Bailey then you are just about in the same galaxy as Haino. He is prone to 45 minute improvisations involving massive feedback and metallic noise, also shrieking and shouting when he gets really emotional. His band Fushitsusha have released a variety of albums but I can heartily reccomend The Caution Appears. This has a selection of "approachable" shortish tracks which are heavy on the devastating, white noise rock-out! There are a few Haino/Fushitsusha web pages about, you can find them through Lycos and The Wire magazine has been covering this kind of mayhem for the last 18 months in a fair amount of detail.

Who was Bar Kokhba?
The leader of the rebelion against Rome in 140AD.

Please send corrections/additions/suggestions/hatemail to

THANKS to the following people who helped (actively and inadvertently)
answer the common questions that crop up on the zorn-list.                       (Herb Levy)                  (Torsten "Jonas" Nielsen)             (Patrice L. Roussel)          (Brian Carlson)                     (Dan Kletter)                      (Matsumoto Craig)                      (Marc Kate)                  (Patrick Carey)                   (David Sebba)                          (David Newgarden)                   (Caleb Deupree)                      (Christopher Hamilton)       (Stefan Negele)          (Aaron Hertzmann)                       (Nathan M Earixson)                     (Alan M Gordon)