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John Zorn: At the Crossroads of Musical Genres

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This workshop is organized by Research Axis 4 [Expanded Musical Practice].

  • Research Workshop
When Jan 22, 2016
from 10:00 AM to 07:00 PM
Where Tanna Schulich Hall , Elizabeth Wirth Music Building, 527 Sherbrooke St. West.
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CIRMMT Research Workshop organized by François-Xavier Féron and Robert Hasegawa (Research Axis 4—Expanded Musical Practice). All events (talks, roundtables, performances) will be held in Tanna Schulich Hall at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University. Lunch will be provided for workshop attendees. Free and open to all.  


No registration is required for this event


John Zorn is among the most influential of contemporary American composers and improvisers. This research workshop examines Zorn’s musical output from a variety of perspectives, considering his approaches to composition and improvisation, building of musical communities, hybridization of musical genres, and sources of inspiration both within and outside music. Scholarly talks and roundtables are will be complemented by musical interludes offering diverse viewpoints on Zorn’s work.


  Special guest: Brian Marsella (Pianist, collaborator with John Zorn)

  Guillaume Boutard (Assistant Professor of Library and Information Studies, University at Buffalo / CIRMMT)

  François-Xavier Féron (Research Associate CNRS–LaBRI/SCRIME / CIRMMT)

  Jonathan Goldman (Associate Professor of Musicology, Université de Montréal)

  Robert Hasegawa (Assistant Professor of Music Theory, Schulich School of Music of McGill University / CIRMMT)

  Eric Lewis (Associate Professor of Philosophy, McGill University / CIRMMT)

  Nomad (Improvising ensemble based in Montreal)

  Ofer Pelz (Composer and doctoral candidate, Faculté de musique, Université de Montréal / CIRMMT)

  Guillaume Pilote (Drummer and master's candidate, Schulich School of Music of McGill University)

  Bruno Poirier (Blogger, Le Zornographe [])

  Elizabeth Skinner (Violinist and doctoral candidate, Schulich School of Music of McGill University)



  • 10:00-10:25: An introduction to John Zorn’s musical universe
    • Robert Hasegawa & François-Xavier Féron, Opening address
    • François-Xavier Féron, “A short overview of John Zorn's music”
  • 10:25-11:15: Game pieces
    • Ofer Pelz, “Large-group improvisation games—a demonstration of Zorn’s Cobra.” With the participation of Brice Gatinet (electric guitar), Eric Lewis (trumpet), Pierre Michaud (bass clarinet), Camille Fauvet (clarinet), Hans Andia (violin), Vahram Sargsyan (voice), Ida Toninato (saxophone), and Brian Marsella (piano)
    • Ofer Pelz & Brian Marsella, Discussion on performing the game pieces (especially Cobra)
  • 11:15-11:45: The impact of magic on Zorn’s (chamber) music
    • François-Xavier Féron, “L’ésoterisme et l’occultisme comme sources d’inspiration dans l’oeuvre de John Zorn” (Esotericism and the occult as sources of inspiration in John Zorn’s music)
    • MUSICAL INTERLUDE: John Zorn, Ceremonial Magic (2011) for solo violin, third movement. Elizabeth Skinner, violin
  • 11:45-1:30: LUNCH (A832/833, 8th floor)
  • 1:30-2:15: The “Downtown” musical community
    • Guillaume Boutard, “Tzadik, Arcana, and The Stone: John Zorn and the building of a community”
    • Guillaume Boutard & Brian Marsella, Discussion about Zorn and his circle of musicians
  • 2:15-3:00: The Masada songbooks
    • Bruno Poirier, “Masada songbooks: un répertoire de plus de 600 morceaux” (Masada songbooks : a repertoire of more than 600 tunes)
    • François-Xavier Féron, Brian Marsella & Nomad, Discussion on the Masada songbooks
    • MUSICAL INTERLUDE : Nomad plays selections from John Zorn’s Masada songbooks
  • 3:00-3:15: BREAK
  • 3:15-4:00: Studio pieces
    • François-Xavier Féron, “File card composition and the use of the punch-in method in studio”
    • François-Xavier Féron & Brian Marsella, Discussion on Mount Analogue (2012)
    • MUSICAL INTERLUDE: John Zorn, Dictée (2010)
  • 4:00-4:45: Hybridizing musical genres and practices
    • Roundtable chaired by Robert Hasegawa with Eric Lewis, Brian Marsella & Bruno Poirier
    • MUSICAL INTERLUDE: John Zorn, Ceremonial Magic (2011) for solo violin and improvising drummer, third movement. Elizabeth Skinner, violin, Guillaume Pilote, drums
    • Jonathan Goldman, Launch of the latest issue of the journal Circuit: musiques contemporaines [], titled “Tzadik : l'esthétique discographique selon John Zorn.” Workshop participants and attendees can purchse the issue at a discounted price / Lancement du dernier numéro de la revue Circuit, musiques contemporaines [], intitulé “Tzadik : l'esthétique discographique selon John Zorn”. À cette occasion, les participants pourront profiter de tarifs avantageux offerts par la revue
  • 4:45-5:00: BREAK
  • 5:00-5:50: John Zorn’s Bagatelles
    • Brian Marsella, “Introduction to John Zorn’s Bagatelles”
    • CONCERT: John Zorn, Bagatelles (2015), Brian Marsella (piano)
  • 5:50-7:00: RECEPTION (A832/833, 8th floor)

Satellite event

The third night of the Improv@CIRMMT special event series will take place on January 28th at Café Résonance. 


Financial support

This event is made possible by financial and in-kind support from CIRMMT, the Schulich School of Music of McGill University, CNRS, SSHRC, and John Zorn.
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