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posted on 06.13.09

John Zorn’s work Cobra is the most famous of his “game pieces,” which are frameworks for improvisation employing intricate sets of rules. The conductor, called a prompter here, watches for hand signals from ensemble members, and relays these to the ensemble via cue cards. These cue cards direct the ensemble to perform certain actions. Some possible actions would be brief duets, short jabs passed down the ensemble, previous motifs suddenly returning, and one side fading out while the other fades in. Cobra is exciting for both the players, exercising their creative muscles and their ability to think on their feet, and the audience, enjoying zany improvisation, genre references, and the challenge of deciphering the system. One of the most democratic of compositions, Cobra comes out of the indeterminate tradition of Earle Brown, Christian Wolff, et al, whose works focus not on the composer’s sonic intent, but on the musical interactions of the players involved. As Zorn said of his game pieces, "My concern is not so much with how things sound, as with how things work."


 

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“I love instructions that generate systems that bring forth indeterminate and self organizing events. I am always interested in rules and frameworks across the various art forms, theater, visual arts, dance, literature, all of them, and how they have been employed by artists as stratagems of authorship. Georges Perec's, 'A Void', a lipogrammatic novel, entirely without the letter, 'e', Matthew Barney's, Drawing Restraint, Marc Lafia's, Permutations, On Kawara's project, there are so many. ”
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