John Zorn

FilmWorks X: In the Mirror of Maya Deren

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This project, a soundtrack for the documentary film In the Mirror of Maya Deren by Martina Kudlácek, after the legendary avant-garde director, is perhaps Zorn's most accessible work for film. According to Zorn's liner notes, most of the film's music was comprised of pieces by Deren's companion, Teiji Ito, which were scored for her film and interspersed by field recordings of voodoo rituals. Zorn was persuaded to create an entire score for this picture. How much of it made the final cut is unclear, though it hardly matters since listeners have this aural document. As conductor and keyboardist, Zorn employs a score built on repetitious patterns, spare, softly accented figures, and lilting, skeletal melodies that take into consideration the revolutionary compositions of Teiji Ito, Deren's love of the percussion that accompanied voodoo ritual, and the ancestral music of her native Kiev. Zorn's collaborating musicians -- Jamie Saft, Cyro Baptista, and Erik Friedlander -- have taken into account the particular dynamics of making music for a documentary about a director whose films were all soundtrack-less until after she died. Zorn covers material with the same attention to detail he gave the Masada chamber group's. Here, organs and cellos intertwine in hypnotic figures on "Dancing" and Zorn's solo piano evokes a Russian folk melody on "Kiev," while "Filming" has the same sense of time/space displacement as a silent reel of film on a screen. Piano and a plucked cello alter a small-chord progression continually, shifting the harmonics just enough to detect great movement while remaining still. The anticipation is quiet but pronounced. "Mirror Worlds" offers a glimpse of Ito's compositional notions, with Baptista's percussion instruments claiming the entire center of the piece while not playing in any kind of time. Everything is space, as strings, bells, and a cello punctuate the soundscape with their lone repeating figures. Ultimately, In the Mirror of Maya Deren is Zorn's most compelling work for film yet. As a conceptualist, Zorn is not to be outdone -- he sees things in total, and this score is one piece, full of segue, room, drift, and dream. Deren would have been at the very least pleased, and that is as high a compliment as can be paid to this wonderful work by one of the most prolific, poetic, and profound composers.

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