John Zorn, American Composer

National Sawdust Presents John Zorn’s master works on June 27-30th. In celebration of National Sawdust’s inaugural Hildegard competition and June performance, John Zorn programs a trifecta of concerts celebrating the essential contributions of Women in the Arts.

John Zorn is well known for his prolific arts spectrum beyond any of music borders, as well as, his paradoxical sounds at the verge of bizarreness, but sweetness should be enough to attract a number of listeners who had never experienced of him if they encounter at a moment. Perhaps it would be gifted from a certain invisible power.

June 27th

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John Zorn Presents: Jon Irabagon

New Music. New Jazz. Curated by John Zorn.

The John Zorn Commissioning Series celebrates Zorn’s revolutionary venue, The Stone, a non-profit venue that was “dedicated to the experimental and avant-garde,” and served as a vital spot for new-music in Manhattan’s Alphabet City for over a decade. Held on the last Wednesday of every month, National Sawdust honors the spirit of the Stone, hosting the world premiere of new works.

Composer and revolutionary saxophonist Jon Irabagon premieres After Talk, a new song cycle for classical voice, piano and improvising saxophone. Irabagon’s intergenerational collaborations have garnered worldwide rave reviews, and he combines both worlds tonight in a brand new long-form work that depicts a relationship from start to finish and all the love, anger and anguish in between.

Flashes of jazz standards, 12 tone serialism, ragtime, showtunes, tango and Romantic-era waltzes appear and blend together to form a new, unique contribution to the canon.

Performers for the evening include some of new music’s most prominent players:

Jon Irabagon — mezzo soprano saxophone
Jennifer Beattie — mezzo soprano voice
Adam Marks — piano

Conrad Freiburg – narration and poetry
Zach Pulse – oboe
Jennifer Woodrum – clarinet


June 29th

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John Zorn Presents Essential Cinema

Live Scores to films by Maya Deren, Marie Menken, and Raha Raissnia

The work of three incredible 20th-century women filmmakers—Maya Deren, Marie Menken, and Raha Raissnia—will be accompanied by live music composed, performed and conducted by John Zorn. The performers are some of the greatest musicians in the downtown scene and include several musicians featured in his Stone Commissioning Series at National Sawdust. Electronics, strings, piano, drums, and percussion will create a one-of-a-kind listening experience that only John Zorn can deliver. Live the magic of watching a film with a John Zorn soundtrack performed live in the same room by a group of master musicians!


Maya Deren—Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
Ikue Mori, electronics
Erik Friedlander, cello
Kirsten Lamb, bass
Brian Marsella, keyboards
Kenny Wollesen, drums
Ches Smith, vibes, percussion,
John Zorn, conductor

Marie Menken—Go! Go! Go! (1964)
John Zorn, sax
Kirsten Lamb, bass
Kenny Wollesen, drums
Ches Smith, drums

Raha Raissnia—new work (2018)
Ikue Mori and John Zorn, electronics

June 30th

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John Zorn’s Cobra

The third and final concert of the series is a performance of John Zorn’s Cobra (1984). A frequently performed John Zorn masterwork hailed by the New York Times for its “tangible, underlying humor” it is Zorn’s most popular game piece and an essential snapshot of Zorn’s trademark style of unpredictability. Tonight’s performers include some of Zorn’s most notable collaborators and featured artists in his Stone Commissioning Series, held monthly at National Sawdust and will be prompted by Zorn himself.


Ava Mendoza, guitar
Wendy Eisenberg, guitar
Zeena Parkins; keyboards, electric harp
Sylvie Courvoisier, piano
Annie Gosfield, keyboards
Ikue Mori, electronics
Okkyung Lee, cello
Kirsten Lamb, bass
Sae Hashimoto; vibes, percussion
Ches Smith, percussion
Kate Gentile, drums
Mareike Wiening, drums
John Zorn, prompter


About the Musician

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John Zorn (born September 2, 1953) is an American composer, arranger, record producer, saxophonist, and multi-instrumentalist with hundreds of album credits as performer, composer, and producer across a variety of genres, including jazz, rock, hardcore, classical, surf, metal, soundtrack, ambient, and improvised music. He incorporates diverse styles in his compositions, which he identifies as avant-garde or experimental.

Zorn established himself within the New York City downtown music movement in the mid-1970s, performing with musicians across the sonic spectrum and developing experimental methods of composing new music. He spent almost a decade between Japan and the US, he made New York his permanent base and established his own record label, Tzadik, in the mid-1990s. 

Zorn has led the hardcore bands Naked City and Painkiller, the Jewish music-inspired jazz quartet Masada, composed 613 pieces as part of the three Masada songbooks that have been performed by an array of groups, composed concert music for classical ensembles and orchestras, and produced music for opera, sound installations, film and documentary. Zorn has undertaken many tours of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, often performing at festivals with many other musicians and ensembles that perform his diverse output.

In 2006, Zorn was named a MacArthur Fellow, the Genius Grant.


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