Kenneth Goldsmith & Jonathan Zorn

Kenny G Meets John Zorn (2007)

  1. Slobodan Milosevic and Kenny G

  2. The Special Story of Miracles by Kenny G

  3. Dream

  4. Boys Will Be Boys

  5. Major Mooning

  6. Why Kenny G Hasn't Been Killed

  7. Maggie's Funeral

  8. Turned On


In the summer of 2007, I gave a reading at a church in Amherst, Massachusetts. I began the reading, as I ordinarily do, with a bunch of letters I get at WFMU (where I am a DJ going by the name of Kenny G) intended for the other Kenny G. (You can read more about these letters and view several of them here at the Brooklyn Rail)

After the reading, a young man came up to me with his hand outstretched and said, "Kenny G. May I introduce myself. I'm John Zorn." Now, I know what John Zorn looks like and, friends, this was not that John Zorn. As it turned out, he was the other John Zorn, better known as the composer Jonathan Zorn. We immediately looked at each other and realized that we just had to do a collaboration, the fruits of which appear here. I simply read several of my Kenny G letters and sent the files to Mr. Zorn to work his magic on.

All of these are true. I haven't touched 'em. None of the names have been changed to protect the innocent. All resemblances to persons living or dead are entirely uncoincidental. Rock on!

Kenneth Goldsmith
New York City, November 2007

The Kenny G Letters (2007)
voice: Kenneth Goldsmith, electronics: Jonathan Zorn, saxophone samples: Kenny G Duotones and John Zorn The Classic Guide to Strategy

Since the beginning of my involvement in experimental and improvised music I've known that eventually I would have to creatively address the peculiarity of being the "other" Jo(h)n Zorn. So when Kenneth Goldsmith (the other Kenny G) asked me to set the Kenny G Letters to music it seemed like the perfect project for playing with my name. I said yes right away and then had to think for awhile as to what setting a text would mean in the context of my compositional activity. Much of my recent work had been in developing interactive computer music systems for small ensembles, and we agreed that I should in some way use samples that alluded to our various "other" names, so it seemed fitting to approach this project in a similar way to my interactive pieces and think of the overall sound as a trio of voice and two saxophones with live electronics. I set about the task of creating eight different systems that could listen to all three players and respond to coincidences and relations between them. Some of the letters, such as the one from the Brazilian fan seeking Miami Sound Machine lyrics, immediately suggested processes from previous pieces, in this case the repetitive nature of the spoken lyrics suggested adapting the program I created for Talking/Typing. Since I knew these would be first and foremost recorded pieces and not necessarily performance pieces, I felt that I should continue these processes in ways beyond what I could do in a live performance. In some cases I carried out the processes multiple times with different variations leading to dense multi-layered textures of electronic sound. In others I re-entered the processed tracks in the same system with different relations to create more complex correspondences between the voice and sampled sounds.

The challenge for me in working with the letters was to continue along the lines of my previous pieces with voice and electronics while keeping the voice as intelligible as possible. In many of my previous pieces I tend to obscure the voice and break up the syntax. In the Letters no matter how complex the processes became they were all done with the aim that the voice should remain for the most part intelligible, so that the listener might enjoy the sounds as well as the bizarreness of the letters.

Jonathan Zorn
Charlottesville, VA, November 2007

Jonathan Zorn is a composer/sound artist/performer from Middletown, CT. He likes to make sounds using his voice, double bass, accordion, modular synthesizer, and computer. His compositions involve systems of interaction that exceed the control of any single participant, creating surprises for performers, audience, and composer. He has studied with Alvin Lucier, Anthony Braxton, Ron Kuivila, and Jon Barlow. Jonathan maintains several ongoing collaborative projects with artists and performers around the country including Rachel Thompson, David Kendall, Andrew Lafkas, Bryan Eubanks, and Katherine Young. More info here

Jonathan Zorn in UbuWeb Sound
Kenneth Goldsmith in UbuWeb Contemporary
Kenneth Goldsmith in UbuWeb Film