John Zorn, whose music does not fit classical or jazz categories or even the in-between third stream classification, has constantly explored new terrain over his four-decade compositional career. He has composed film music, drawn on Jewish heritage, experimented with collages and what would later be called sampling, and pursued various conceptual approaches to improvisation. But even Zorn fans may not be prepared for this exciting piece, a score (apparently the music is pretty much written out) for two percussionists, accompanied by sound effects that include sheep bleats (one thinks of Zorn's earlier series of works based on duck calls) and, in one passage, simulated female orgasm. Donna Summer meets the avant-garde, one imagines. The idea is to evoke the Greek figure of the satyr and the related phenomena of the Roman Saturnalia and Bacchanalia festivals with their attendant dissipation. These ideas are realized in various ways over the course of the work's eight movements ("odes"), but percussionists Cyro Baptista and Kenny Wollesen are given plenty of high-energy rhythmic material and employ a huge variety of percussion instruments and textures. This is exciting stuff from beginning to end, and next to it the concluding ten-minute Cerberus, a brass trio employing a fearsome range of extended techniques, sounds almost conventional. An intriguing Zorn project, highly recommended for Zorn lovers.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|The Satyr's Play|