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Zorn: Avant/Après/Passé

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Author(s): John Lowell Brackett

Journal: Avant : Journal of Philosophical-Interdisciplinary Vanguard
ISSN 2082-7598

Volume: 3;
Issue: T/2012;
Start page: 315;
Date: 2012;
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Keywords: aesthetic | avant-garde | John Zorn | music | romantic

ABSTRACT
Witold Wachowski’s brief exchange with John Zorn provides us with many valuable insights relating to the composer’s aesthetic. Zorn’s professed antipathy towards audiences, his faith in the creative instinct of the “artist,” and his belief in the transcendental nature of musical works (as a gateway into a world of “truth” and “beauty”) are all refrains commonly encountered in many interviews with the composer. Given the fact that Zorn emphasizes these themes in his very short interview with Wachowski, we can assume that these ideas form the core of Zorn’s musical and artistic aesthetic. For any person with even a basic knowledge of Western aesthetic traditions, however, these same aesthetic features and positions characterize musical institutions common to the Western art tradition, particularly the “romantic” ideal of music and composers that developed in the nineteenth century. Philosophers (most notably Hegel and Kant) along with music critics and composers (such as Friedrich Schiller, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Friedrich Schlegel, Robert Schumann, and Eduard Hanslick) all contributed to the development of a romantic musical aesthetic in the nineteenth century that emphasized the role of the artist (as a “genius” or “god-like”) who created “works” that – through purely musical relations that exist irregardless of the listener’s abilities – reveal hidden worlds of truth and beauty, worlds far-removed from the humdrum concerns of daily existence. Given the close (nearly one-to-one) correspondences between Zorn and aestheticians/philosophers of the nineteenth century, one could make the argument that Zorn holds a “romantic” view of music and art.
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