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Four pillars for five years: the Sound Barrier pays tribute to the musicians who inspired it. Part One: John Zorn!

The Sound Barrier for Sunday 26 March 2017

As The Sound Barrier nears its fifth birthday, I thought it might be nice to spend a little time over the next few weeks paying tribute to some of the artists who were foundational in inspiring me to design a show such as this.

There were four of them – and although some have featured a lot on shows in the subsequent years, and some have featured much less, between them they encapsulated the diversity of ideas and approaches to new music that I have been seeking to highlight since the show first kicked off in the tiny hours of Easter Monday morning in 2012.

Those artists were: John Zorn, because of his boundless energy and defiance of pigeon holes; Merzbow, because of the sheer anarchism of what he has conceptualised music to be alongside his consummate skill in crafting the most aberrant noise; Anthony Pateras, because of his astonishing creativity and diversity as an Australian composer, improviser and performer; and, of course, Karlheinz Stockhausen for all the reasons I talk about almost every week when I find some reason to include his music, so boundless as it is in finding a place for both structure and spontaneity, for both mathematics and magic.

So what I plan to do over the next four weeks is to present one of these artists in turn, and to structure the show so that, in its second half, I will bring you a major long-form piece by each one and, in the first half, shorter pieces that between them give at least a small glimpse of the diversity and expanse of their prodigious outputs.

I'll be kicking things off this Sunday night with John Zorn. He is probably the most challenging of all these musicians to capture in a single show, so diverse has his work been through his many collaborations and musical interests. From free jazz to klezmer, from avant-classical to movie music, from crazed noise to soft and haunted whispers, John Zorn has left indelible and remarkable footprints, and so there will only be a few toe-tips of these that I am going to be able to squeeze into the first half of this weekend's show: including some of his wild solo work, his collaborations such as through Naked City, the Masada String Trio and with Fred Frith, as well as excerpts from Kristallnacht, his sombre tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and from his crazy reworking of the film music of Ennio Morricone in The Big Gundown, and more.

In the second half of the show I'll be playing the complete Rimbaud from 2012 – an album that spreads itself madly over a mass of styles in its tribute to the 19th century French poet as John Zorn works alongside a seven-part ensemble, including such luminaries as French actor Mathieu Amalric, bassist Trevor Dunn, and the stunning Japanese no wave composer, drummer and sampler, Ikue Mori and, between them and the others, incorporating acoustic instruments, voice and electronics in a work mind-altering virtuosity.

I hope you can join me this coming Sunday night at 10.00 PM (AEDT), for the first of four tributes to the pillars of The Sound Barier on Melbourne's 106.7 PBS FM or PBS digital radio, or that you can log in via the website or the PBS app to listen live from anywhere in the world. The show will also be available here on the website to listen back to as an audio archive, shortly after it has gone live to air.