November 3, 2018

A 52 Week Autobiography Through Music – Week 44 – Masada

Masada, in the case of this week's post and video, refers to the Quartet of John Zorn (Saxophone), Dave Douglas (Trumpet), Greg Cohen (Bass) and Joey Baron (Drums) but in the broader sense refers to the now 613 compositions of Masada Book's One, Two and Three composed by John Zorn since 1993.

I think I basically say all that needs to be said in the video but I'll re-emphasize that for at least a few years this Quartet's 10 studio records and a few of their live albums was nearly the only music I listened to. Since I was obsessed with the Masada Music and concept in general I also own and listened quite a bit to other recordings of the music by the Masada String Trio, Masada Sextet, Electric Masada and the Myriad of other artists who have recorded the music over the years.

This whole Masada universe is incredibly rich, diverse, complex and continually evolving with new ensembles performing and recording the music. And for those who don't know the work of John Zorn I should point out that despite the enormous numbers of compositions and albums released by various John Zorn led groups, the Masada Music is just one part of his compositional and recorded output. I could do a whole series of videos about him alone but I'll just leave that alone and stop with this one.


2 Responses to A 52 Week Autobiography Through Music – Week 44 – Masada

  1. patricia says:

    ok, so following up from the week 42 discussion, how does the masada style “fit in”? Is it improvised, or entirely composed? and in either case, does it follow the “traditional structure, [and/or] melodic standards, [and/or] chord changes and harmonic and rhythmic expectations” you mentioned in that earlier discussion?

    • ' says:

      I really was too much in a hurry when I made this video and then again when I wrote the post so I really failed to make clear what this music is about. It is all find-out-able in the links but I’ll answer your questions and clarify.

      The 613 compositions that make up the 3 Masada “books” are all written according to a few simple rules. As I understand them they are
      1) each tune can only take up a few lines of staff paper when written out. Meaning they are relatively short and are intended to be somewhat in the tradition of tunes like those from Miles’ “Kind of Blue” in the sense that they are simple tunes without a lot of chord changes and are stepping stones for improvisation.
      2) all the melodies are based essentially on 2 scales – one Major and one Minor that are common to much Jewish music.
      3) the music is written not for any specific instrument or groups of instruments and as such should be playable by any kind of soloist or ensemble.

      I really don’t know why I was so obsessed with this groups interpretations of the Masada music but I was. I think the aggressive and intense nature of some of the improvisations really spoke to me during that period. Still does really.

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