John Zorn’s dedicatee-oriented and cinematic file card works
AuthorWindleburn, Maurice Anthony
AffiliationMelbourne Conservatorium of Music
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2023-01-26.
© 2020 Maurice Anthony Windleburn
This thesis examines the ‘file card’ works of contemporary American composer John Zorn (b. 1953). Zorn’s unique creative method for these works involves the transcribing of quotes, ideas, impressions, or instructions relevant to a chosen dedicatee (or multiple dedicatees) onto file cards (i.e. index cards). Zorn has produced 22 compositions using this process, though this thesis concentrates on a select group that includes the first two file card compositions, Godard (1986) and Spillane (1987), as well as three later, similarly executed and sounding works, Interzone (2010), Dictee (2010), and Liber Novus (2010). These five pieces I have dubbed Ur file card works, given that they include the original file card works plus those that maintain the majority of intrinsic compositional qualities that were established by the originals. In examining the Ur file card works, my thesis concentrates on two key questions. The first asks, ‘what are the relationships between Zorn’s file card works and the figures to whom they are dedicated?’. The second considers the ‘cinematic’ nature of file card compositions – as often declared by Zorn and previous scholars – asking, ‘how can Zorn’s file card works be apprehended in audio-visual, cinematic terms?’ Ur file card works are also exemplars of Zorn’s signature ‘sound block’ style. Consequently, significant consideration is given to an auxiliary question, ‘what aesthetic effects does the sound block style used in certain file card compositions have?’ The six chapters of this thesis each provide a different methodological viewpoint in order to answer these questions. The first chapter gives an overview of the file card compositional process and a history of its development, highlighting some of the distinct features of Ur file card works. This is followed by a hypertextual linking of these five compositions to the life and work of their dedicatees, as well as discourse around them. In the third and fourth chapters an idealised ‘implied’ listener is theorised who hears file card works in a hypertextual and ‘cinematic’ fashion. Zorn’s dedicatees are then used as hermeneutic windows to provide interpretations of Ur file card works. Finally, Zorn’s aesthetics, as discussed throughout the thesis, are compared to the similar aesthetic intentions of his dedicatees.
KeywordsJohn Zorn; file card; cinematicity; cinema; musical dedications; listening; imagination; Jean-Luc Godard; Theresa Hak-Kyung Cha; C. G. Jung; William S. Burroughs; Brion Gysin; Mickey Spillane; experimental music; avant garde music; hypertextuality; sound block; music and meaning; music semiotics; music and philosophy
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