ANAM Head of Percussion, Peter Neville, goes on to tell us more about John Zorn and Winant’s experience with this influential composer’s music:
Saxophonist, composer, band leader, multi-instrumentalist, entrepreneur, record label producer… just some of the talents of American musical polymath John Zorn, who has often been cited as one of the most influential musical figures in the USA music scene.
Zorn’s influence has spread wider though and in 2014 he was the featured musical guest at the Adelaide Festival of Arts, which dedicated him headline billing, to celebrate his 60th year in style. Along for the journey were 20 plus of his esteemed musical colleagues from the USA, performing in sold out concerts at the Adelaide Festival Centre. I was lucky enough to work with him as we prepared a program of his avant-garde chamber works with the ELISION ensemble. His personality was every bit as dynamic as his works and we were able to drill down into the details of his compositions. A number of Australians have featured on CD releases on Zorn’s TZADIK label, including composers Chris Dench and Anthony Pateras, both of whose works have been performed at ANAM.
Another musical polymath is Zorn’s longtime collaborator and percussive go-to man, Californian based percussionist William Winant, who has worked with everyone from John Cage and Frank Zappa to Faith No More and the avant-rock band Mr. Bungle. He is also on the staff at Mills College, itself one of the most interesting institutions in the USA having counted amongst its past teachers including musical luminaries Darius Milhaud, John Cage and Lou Harrison as well as graduates such as Steve Reich. Interestingly, each of those figures have been pivotal in the development of percussion writing in the 20th century, with Milhaud innovatively using massive orchestral percussion sections in the 1910’s as well as being the composer with the distinction of having written both of the first concertos for multiple percussion and marimba. Cage wrote a number of his ground breaking percussion works whilst at Mills and both Lou Harrison and Reich are also canonic figures in percussion literature.
It is no surprise therefore that Winant is both an authority on the above composers and a groundbreaking figure in his own right – one of the percussionists at the centre of our developing practice and heritage. Over many years I had seen his name come up time and again on all manner of interesting recordings and projects and I had, for a long time, had him in mind as someone we must invite to ANAM.
It also seemed fitting that his residency and concert should focus on the works of Zorn. So, the Wild Percussion concert on October 9 will feature Zorn’s music for percussion alone, alongside his famous improvisation work Cobra, a piece which Winant has tutored around the world. Cobra is improvised according to a strict set of instructions cued by various numbered and coloured cards. The structure, however, is open and every performance is therefore different. Zorn has stated that he has deliberately chosen not to publish or even write down the rules of the ‘game’ preferring the piece to be passed on from person to person.
The chance to perform the work with Winant – someone so experienced with it – was irresistible. So… it’s hard-hats on for a week of wild percussion!
Originally published in Music Makers vol 16
Friday 9 October 7pm
ZORN Dark River for 4 bass drums
ZORN The Nymphs for solo bass marimba
ZORN Gri Gri for 13 tuned drums (1 player)
William Winant percussion/director
ANAM, South Melbourne Town Hall 210 Bank St SOUTH MELBOURNE
For more information or to book tickets visit anam.com.au