Great Jewish Music

[1] From the liner notes of Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach
'Burt Bacharach is one of the great geniuses of American popular music - and he's a Jew. This should come as no surprise since many of America's greatest songwriters have been Jewish - Irving Berlin, Kurt Weill, George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Leiber & Stoller, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Richard Hell, Beck. The Jews are a tribe who continue to believe that if they devote themselves to a place they love and contribute to the society selflessly that they will be embraced and accepted into it. In many cases this has proved to be a fatal error, yet there they go again, stubbornly believing in their own ability and vision. It is arguable that the history of the Jews in this century has produced one of the most richly rewarding periods of culture in Jewish history. Yet, this fact is somehow kept neatly hidden. WHAT? Compare Philip Roth to Sholem Aleichem? Kafka to Moses de Leon? Walter Benjamin to Rashi? Wittgenstein to Spinoza? Steve Reich to Felix Mendelssohn? Allen Ginsberg to Yehudah Halevi? Einstein to Nostrodamus? Lenny Bruce to Hillel? Burt Bacharach is such a name ... I hope this set can in some small way repay Burt for the inspiration he has provided for generations of musicians in their battle to be creative and keep producing in the face of what often seems like insurmountable odds. Thank you, Burt. Thank you for not changing your name. We will always love you'.

From the liner notes of Great Jewish Music: Serge Gainsbourg
'Born to Russian-Jewish parents, Lucien Ginzburg was to become a sex symbol as Serge Gainsbourg ... Gainsbourg's poetry slyly combines his Jewish sense of humor with the French romantic tradition and the perverse twists inherited from Gérard de Nerval, Baudelaire, Genet, Bataille and Sade ... Like many Jews who were raised in an atmosphere of mild-to-violent anti-semitism (Fritz Lang, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Nathanial West) Gainsbourg downplayed his Jewish roots. Jewishness was not an active part of his public persona. But Jewish identity is a complex thing. Accept it as a blessing or curse it as a disease, it is part of you whether you like it or not. And it is there in Gainsbourg's songs. At times certain inflections, lyrics or turns-of-phrase sound strangely Jewish, but I will leave the provocative discussion of just how Jewish his music is to another time and another place'.

[2] Great Jewish Music. Part of the Radical Jewish Culture series. Released by Tzadik. Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach and Great Jewish Music: Serge Gainsbourg. Liner notes from John Zorn. About Jews. About Jewishness. About Jewish music. This is what interests me here. But where do we begin? Too many matters need to be discussed. Too many questions can be asked. What does this radical Jewish culture reference mean? What is Jewish culture? What is Jewish music? Does it mean that the themes of this music are either Jewish in nature or that they have many influences from that culture? Or is it simply the fact that these men are both musicians and Jewish, and, therefore, must make Jewish music? Perhaps their music isn't characteristically Jewish. But then what exactly is 'real' Jewish music? How does it sound? Does it have any specific harmonic and melodic structures? And conversely, why is that music 'actually' Jewish, while other music made by Jewish musicians is not? Is Jewish music something entirely other than music written by Jews?
How can we relate these Great Jewish Music projects to some of Zorn's other works, for instance Kristallnacht, the Masada series, Bar Kokhba, and his chambermusic with Jewish titles? And to the works that have no apparent connection with Jewishness on first thought?
Maybe we should start to think from another position. Does the work become something other than 'merely music' by putting the word 'Jewish' in the title? Is it Zorn's aim to force people to rethink their notion of Jewish culture or identity? Is he asking us to examine this music in a different context? Is it a political or ethnic statement ('a bizarre example of ethnic proclamation', as Peter Niklas Wilson writes)? Is Zorn simplifying the problem of 'Jewish music' by invoking an atavistic form of identity politics, as New York Times columnist Adam Shatz contends (cf. Cuthbert, p.22)? Or is he expanding and reconsidering certain categories? This is what interests me here.

[3] The question of Jewish music. Or, more broadly, the (definition) problem of Jewishness. I won't solve the problem here. The only thing I can do is offer some considerations, some thoughts to avoid rash and premature conclusions or opinions. So let's proceed carefully, meticulously, not too hastily. For instance, with some utterances by Zorn. 'I am not religious, but interested in everything that has to do with Jewish thinking. The question of what such a Jewish identity can mean to me, exploring and renewing it, plays a central part in my life. The answer to the question of whether 'Jewish music', as such, is recognizable, I find less interesting than the question itself; it is the presentation of the question that is directive to me'. This is a translation from a Dutch concert program from 1999. Three items are worthy of our attention here. First, following Zorn, these projects are rarely, if ever, based on Jewish religion, and more often on more general Jewish traditions. How general and how traditional we have to find out. Works presented as Radical Jewish Culture, both on CD or as part of the several festivals with this title that Zorn has curated, seem to have no relationship to Judaism as a religion, but rather to a broader range of lived experiences shared by Jews. I'll come back to the question of whether these experiences are exclusive to Jews. As yet, we have to content ourselves by noticing a certain displacement from a possible religious orientation to a more theoretical or even philosophical exploration of Jewish identity. This brings me to the second point of interest. How is (t)his Jewishness explored? By posing questions. So the answer to this question is itself a question. Are we already approaching a certain trace of Jewishness here? Is some characteristic of being Jewish cautiously unveiled here? I make this proposal: Suppose it is precisely an inexhaustable reference to an alterity, an openness to otherness that is connected to Jewishness here (by Zorn). Derrida puts forward this hypothesis in several passages in Writing and Difference and in Shibboleth. 'The Jew's identification with himself does not exist. Jew would perhaps be the other name for the impossibility to be himself' (Writing and Difference, p.75. The second sentence is only to be found in the French version, p.112). Could it be that the openness to any alterity precisely reveals itself in asking questions? Perhaps questioning is (also) a certain (temporary) deferring of one's identity. Or risking it. On the wrapper of Kristallnacht, one can find this quote from the French Jewish writer, Edmond Jabès: 'The Jew doesn't ask questions: he has himself become questions'. I'm going too fast. We are entering a new domain of thinking Jewishness. Let's leave it for a while and come to the third point. Above, I spoke of Zorn's orientation towards 'more general Jewish traditions'. I have to reconsider the word 'traditions' because Zorn speaks about exploring and renewing the question of Jewish culture and identity. All of his Masada CD's contain the following quotation from Gershom Scholem, founder of Kabbala studies and professor in Jerusalem. 'There is a life of tradition that does not merely consist of conservative preservation, the constant continuation of the spiritual and cultural possessions of a community. There is such a thing as a treasure hunt within tradition, which creates a living relationship to tradition and to which much of what is best in current Jewish consciousness is indebted, even where it was - and is - expressed outside the framework of orthodoxy'. With Scholem's voice, Zorn seems to want to ease our minds; the (re)discovery of his Jewishness does not lead to some reactionary retrospect. He not only wants to give shape to a Jewish identity anew, he is reshaping it at the same time. In a similar manner, he tries to rethink a definition of Jewish music and confronts it with a drastic metamorphosis. I have to be careful here because a metamorphosis suggests that something has changed. But what is that something when we are talking of Jewish music? Even when we assume for a while that Jewish music is equal to Klezmer music (a fault that is often made), it won't solve the problem. Klezmer doesn't imply unity of style. It is influenced by gypsy music, folk music from the Balkans and Slavonic countries and, especially in the USA, it mingled with jazz. (Gypsy music, folk, jazz: heterogeneous musics like Klezmer. An abyss. Is there any unity of style? Any stabilized, self-identical style? Is the concept 'Jewish music' blurred by Zorn precisely when he uses it?) And what about the identity of the Jew? Is this an easily determined site or position? We'll have to come back to this.

[4] Some say it all started with Kristallnacht and speak about a turn towards Jewish culture, to give full breadth of it (Wilson; Cuthbert). This CD from 1993 is an exploration and a rethinking of Jewish identity in a musical way. It is not just about the Holocaust, so says Zorn in an interview. Some music is about what happened before the Holocaust: 'Shtetl' (Ghetto Life), which confronts Klezmer-like style with early propaganda speeches of Hitler, and 'Never Again', the harrowing and painful musical expression of the 'Kristallnacht', the night in November 1938 in which the Nazis destroyed and devastated Jewish stores, synagogues, and other properties in Germany. Other compositions are about what happened after the Holocaust: 'Gahelet' (Embers) is a soft plaintive mourn over the atrocities of the Holocaust. And according to Zorn, Kristallnacht is also about the foundation of the state of Israel - Zorn here probably refers to 'Gariin' (Nucleus - the New Settlement) -, about Jews today, and about the problems occurring when orthodoxy goes too far (cf. Blumenfeld). Perhaps the latter idea is expressed in various compositions where a combination of modern and traditional music can be heard. (For example, at the beginning of 'Tzifia' (Looking Ahead) hardcore industrial noises are contrasted with old recordings of a classically trained Jewish singer.) In Kristallnacht, Zorn relies on many of the same techniques he used in earlier compositions: game pieces, file card pieces, free improvisations, fully notated music. It is, however, his first project in which he employs more than one of these compositional methods at the same time (cf.Cuthbert, p.7). It is as if the Jewish identity is so diverse, so complex - am I already allowed to say non-existent? - that Zorn needs to take advantage of all his musical experience and qualities, all kinds of musical languages which perhaps are not his own.
For the second time, I anticipate an idea of an other Jewishness (another idea of Jewishness), take an advance on an other model of Jewishness, that is, 'the Jew-as-other' (Derrida). Jewishness as the other of identification, Jewishness as the other of a clear individuality, even the other of a Jewish religious and cultural tradition. A Jewish dimension of non-identity and non-individuality, as opposed to a certain Jewish tradition. I turn to Jabès, again on the cover of Kristallnacht: 'The Jew has always been at the origin of a double questioning: questioning himself, and questioning 'the other'. In truth, there is no way of avoiding the ability to cease being Jewish; he is forced to question his identity ... This may seem paradoxical, but it is precisely in that break - in that non-belonging in search of it's belonging - that I am without doubt most Jewish'. Can we say that Zorn is a composer and musician without a marked identity, without a certain individuality and that precisely in this elusiveness his Jewishness can be marked out? Let's postpone these ideas again. For just a little longer.

[5] If Kristallnacht is the first recorded musical expression of Zorn's (re)discovered Jewishness (and I emphasize 'if'), then the pamphlet, 'Was genau ist diese Radical New Jewish Culture?' [What exactly is this Radical New Jewish Culture?] from 1992, published in the Art Project Festival program in Munich, can be regarded the first written statement of it.
The manifesto opens with the thesis that the American Jews make a great contribution to the diversity of American music. However, this contribution has practically stayed out of sight up to now. According to Zorn and co-signatory, Marc Ribot, this is due to the fact that Jews who are and have been very important to the development of popular music (for instance, Bob Dylan and Michael Landon), often changed their names and identities. ('Thank you, Burt. Thank you for not changing your name'.) Conversely, the ones to whom Jewishness openly appealed had been excluded from the cultural mainstream and banished to the margins. Zorn and Ribot want to make this Jewish contribution more overt, more visible, more manifest. But it is not the Jewishness, as such, that they are trying to emancipate. Their main interest is in Radical New Jewish Culture, which describes the position with regard to the mainstream American culture, as well as the relation to the mainstream Jewish range of thought.
Clear assumptions and provocative statements, typical of and important to a pamphlet. Less usual and perhaps more profound are the many questions Zorn and Ribot pose. Not rhetorical ones, quasi-questions which already hold their answers, but open questions (Jewish questions?) that lead to more than one answer, which is never final. Here are some. Are there explicit Jewish musical values that are shared by all musicians, despite the fact that they are often not religious, do not have any contact with Judaism, and do not occupy themselves with Klezmer or Jewish liturgical music? Must Jewish music necessarily include Jewish scales or themes, or is Jewish music simply music played by Jews? Does this ideate an endpoint of Jewish music or a new beginning? Or both?
Then the questions change. To another plateau I might say. They turn towards the subject I came across twice, but didn't finish, didn't really start, in fact. I continue. Is the contribution of the Jews to the American music motivated by the wish to insert themselves into the American culture or is it a sign of alienation of their own origin? Or both? To what extent has the specific Jewish quality to defend and to embrace suppressed elements from other cultures contributed to the 'patchwork-music' that was produced in New York in the 1980's? Can music that is controversial, critical of the social structure, and that is operating in the margins be connected with the archetypical Jewish history of exile and oppression, with an indictment of iniquity?

[6] One last stop before we reach ... reach what? This place is Peter Niklas Wilson's critical essay on Radical New Jewish Culture. According to Wilson, Zorn's turn to Jewish music and identity (What is Jewish music? What is Jewish identity? Is it really a turn?) is 'a catalogue of symbolic operations' that accomplishes something that his music did without before, that is, cultural identity. Wilson refers mainly to the Masada series and Bar Kokhba, which he describes as adaptations of well-known more recent jazz-patterns, interlarded with supposed melodic phrases from the Near East. Wilson shows more sympathy for Zorn's earlier works. Precisely in these 'quick change collages' Wilson descries a play with identities, an unrestricted decontextualization and a recombining of musical data. Uninhibited and bold, 'reserved only to someone without roots' (a Jew perhaps?). Some interesting sentences follow: 'The conversion of such a deconstruction to the essence of Judaism - patchwork-aesthetics as principle of the Jewish Gestalt - was a first step ... on the way to this Radical New Jewish Culture. The second stage is the creation of a new, integral, homogeneous 'Jewish' music as an expression of a cultural self-assurance. As brilliant as Zorn deconstructed a (music)cultural identity, he pitiful failed in his reconstruction of a unbroken Jewish music' (Wilson, p.24, my italics, my translation).

[7] First station: and what if we do not or cannot restrict 'Jewishness' to Jewishness? What if we give up a racial definition of Jewishness, even when this makes every attempt to define it almost impossible? What if we deny that 'Jewishness' has something to do with the original characteristics of the race or the particular structure of the Jewish religion? In his interview with Richard Kearney, Derrida seems to differentiate between Jewish and 'Jewish'. 'I consider my own thought, paradoxically, as neither Greek nor Jewish. I often feel that the questions I attempt to formulate on the outskirts of the Greek philosophical tradition have as their 'other' the model of the Jew, that is, the Jew-as-other. And yet, the paradox is that I have never actually invoked the Jewish tradition in any 'rooted' or direct manner. Though I was born a Jew, I do not work or think within a living Jewish tradition. So that if there is a Judaic dimension to my thinking which may from time to time have spoken in or through me, this has never assumed the form of an explicit fidelity or debt to that culture. In short, the ultimate site (lieu) of my questioning discourse would be neither Hellenic nor Hebraic if such were possible. It would be a non-site' (Kearney, p.107).
Leave the autobiographical insights aside for awhile and let's concentrate on the two sides (sites) of Jewishness. On one hand, the 'living Jewish tradition', the Jewish roots, religion, and culture: Jewishness. On the other hand, the 'Judaic dimension', the 'model of the Jew', 'the Jew-as-other', the 'non-site': 'Jewishness'.
Could we call Zorn's work a musical expression of a non-religious or cultural rooted 'Jewish' sitelessness as Derrida describes it? Wilson calls Zorn a man without roots. Zorn confirms this idea in several places. 'J'ai l'impression d'etre plusieurs' ['I have the impression of being several'], he says in the very heterogeneous collage composition, 'Godard' in the CD, Godard ça vous chante. In the liner notes of Spillane, he writes: 'There's a lot of jazz in me, but there's also a lot of rock, a lot of classical, a lot of ethnic music, a lot of blues, a lot of movie soundtracks. I'm a mixture of all those things'. And in an interview: 'I like to say that I'm really rootless. I think that the music that my generation ... is doing is really rootless in a lot of ways, because we listened to a lot of different kinds of music from an early age ... We listened to all different kinds of shit, and as a result we don't really have a single home' (Gagne, p.516). But in fact we need only listen to his sizeable oeuvre in order to establish that he uses many kinds of musical languages at once without belonging to one musical world. He is like the emigrant who adapts himself to a culture that will never be his own, in between this foreign culture and his own. The occupier of a non-site. Zorn's music can be regarded as an exponent of a Jewish culture inevitably containing material derived from cultures that have interacted with Jewish culture. Is Wilson, however, correct when he writes that Zorn has shifted to a clearly recognizable musical identity, to a rumination of his Jewish roots with Masada and Bar Kokhba? In other words, has Zorn switched from 'Jewishness' to Jewishness? This is what Zorn says about his Masada project. 'The one thing that really surprises me, and is a symbol of how limited critics' ears are, is the way critics describe it: klezmer meets Ornette [Coleman]. Of course, there's klezmer. Of course, there's Ornette. But there are as many influences in that music as went into the composition of Naked City music or any other music I've done - like surf music, movie soundtracks, Sephardic and Arabic music, modern classical, modal jazz. I play them with Joey [Baron] and Dave [Douglas], and they say, 'Ornette meets klezmer'. When I do it for the Masada String Trio, everyone says, 'Wow! It's so deeply rooted in the Jewish tradition of string music'. Then I do it with a sextet, and people say, 'Yeah, it's a real loungey, easy-listening Les Baxter type of thing'. I mean, I could do it with a hardcore band. It was a revelation to take those pieces outside of the context of a steady quartet that was playing them and give it to smaller groups to play in different ways' (Blumenfeld). The rootlessness is still there. Maybe one could decide it is 'Jewish' music and Jewish music at the same time.
Can we find the same 'doubleness' in Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach? Of course, Bacharach is a Jew and so are Zorn and his fellow-musicians. So we could call it Jewish music. But more important is the 'Jewishness' of this tribute, this musical non-site, in between a low popular culture in which Bacharach's hits can be situated and a high avant-garde culture to which the versions of Zorn, et al, are referring (cf. (D)(R)econtextualization.)
We should not accept without question the proposition of a certain breach in Zorn's musical activities, non-Jewish music on one hand and Jewish music on the other. We have to rethink what being Jewish means. I present and defend the idea that the Masada series is no more 'Jewish' music than Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach, Spillane, or Naked City.

[8] Second station: disidentification. What is Jewishness? Is 'the Jew' (Derrida) something? Or is his essence to not have an identity? Does the Jewish identity consist of renouncing any identity? These are questions that arise in Derrida's texts on Edmond Jabès, Emmanuel Levinas, and Paul Celan. In Writing and Difference, Derrida writes: 'The Jew's identification with himself does not exist. The Jew is split, and split first of all between the two dimensions of the letter: allegory and literality' (Writing and Difference, p.75). Between allegory and literality, between 'Jewishness' and Jewishness. What is essential to the Jew is perhaps the vacancy, the split, in French, brisure. The Jew is the brisure, non-localizable, beyond every permanent setting. The Jew is without foundation and therefore a threat to each foundation. Before (re)turning to Zorn, I would like to quote Anthony Coleman from his CD, Selfhaters (keyboardist Coleman belongs to the inner circle of Downtown musicians who often work with Zorn): 'Do they [Jews?] show the rest of the world the picture that they believe anyway, or do they strip away an element of false consciousness implicit in a sense of 'belonging' to a 'culture'. And which culture? Jerusalem, Belz, the Lower East Side, or Rockland County? Or the culture of wandering, the culture of acquisitiveness, of having-no-voice-of-one's-own, of mauscheling in any and all languages. Well, this disc doesn't purport to answer. Some say that's Jewish, too...'. This non-identity again, this non-belonging to one site. The culture of wandering between many cultures. It is this that characterizes Zorn's music as well. It can be a threat to the existing musical world because it is subversive, crossing conventional musical borders. It is not clearly classifiable because it lacks an identity. 'I'm inherently rootless. I don't fit into the jazz tradition. I don't fit into the rock tradition ... There's a certain set of rules which you have to obey. And with most scenes, the most important rules are the least important to me: attitude; stance; posture; the clothes you wear; where you play. All the trappings of the music. I'm not a skinhead with tattoos on my arm, who goes and slamdances at CB's. I'm interested in the music those people are making. The same thing with the jazz scene: Their trappings are not my trappings. The classical scene too: I don't obey those rules. I'm interested in music, and not the bullshit trappings that surround so many of the scenes, and which people are convinced are the tradition of the scene ... You can't put what I'm doing or what Elliott [Sharp] does or what any of these guys do into any kind of a box like that. Inherently, it's music that resists categorization because of all the influences we've had' (Gagne, p.524).
I would say that Zorn's music consists of 'Sons brisés', broken or fractured sounds (Cf. Sons brisés - J. Allende-Blin), not only because it changes very abruptly from one style to another, but also because it gives the music this unpredictability, this non-identity.

[9] Third station: 'the Jew-as-other' (Derrida). Zorn's music-as-other. This other, however, that contrasts with conventional (musical) traditions has to pass through these same musical traditions, through these musical languages, in order to avoid complete inaccessibility (cf. also Music, Deconstruction and Ethics). The other has to follow in the footsteps of the same despite the risk of self-loss and of being veiled in something it is not. But this doesn't mean that it disappears. It leaves traces, references to an alterity within the conventional domain (cf. Sneller, p.224). These traces, these references, Derrida calls 'Jewish'. The Jew is not opposed to the Greek, but is right at the heart of him (cf. Writing and Difference, p.153). Being 'Jewish' means being dominated and drowned out by a culture that is never able to fully absorb it. Could this be 'Jewishness': an inexhaustable reference to an alterity within culture itself, an openness towards the always already present (and at the same time absent) other? Could 'Jewishness' mean between the other and the self, between alterity and identity, between difference and connection, between familiar and unfamiliar? Is the 'Judaic' experience an experience of différance?
I return to Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach to make this proposition. The Jew that Zorn is plays the 'Jew' in the music world. All the versions in this CD play the part of 'Jewishness' within a well-known musical language. Zorn brings in elements of alterity. He wants to confront this language (of Bacharach, of popular music) with the other, with what is not composed or played, but with which it is still permeated. A heteroglossia, or even a cacophony of incongruous strands of musical discourses, is the result. Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach sets scores with the idea that an interpretation should account for every detail of the work within the same framework; it sets scores with the idea that details that don't fit are ignored or set aside as unimportant. Rather, Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach is working the opposite way. Details that don't fit in the conventional framework of interpretations, details that don't fit in the conventional language of popular music, are exaggerated and are made very important.
Sometimes a version is 'Jewish' and Jewish at the same time, assuming for the sake of convenience that the latter has something to do with certain scales (for instance, C-Db-E-F-G-Ab-B-C). Listen to Eric Friedlander's version of 'Promises, Promises' (Play music). The arrangement of cello, clarinet, bass-clarinet, and double bass give it a flavor of Klezmer music. However, what initially attracts attention is the improvised part. On a steady rhythmic and melodic pattern of bass and bass-clarinet, the cello (and later, together with clarinet) improvises on the basis of some scales that are often connected with Jewish or Klezmer music. Jewishness entering 'Jewish' music, this music that moves between conventions and deviation from these conventions, an in-between that does not designate a localized relation going from the one to the other and back again, but a transversal movement that sweeps one and the other away (cf. Burt Bacharach and John Zorn).
A circumcision of music. Through Zorn, Bacharach and his music accede to a treaty, both a Jewish and a 'Jewish' community. But especially in 'Promises, Promises' (Play music), Friedlander is circumcising the music, bringing it into a Jewish context by making it Klezmer-like. Circumcision: the infliction of a wound. So being Jewish here is the experience of being wounded. (There is more than one resemblance between certain Jews and certain Muslims.) However, it is at the same time a matter of 'circumcision': the music is being cut, something is excised. In Zorn's project, the wounds remain present. Mutilations of the 'original' text. One can hear the violence. Being Jewish, as well as being 'Jewish', means to suffer. (By advocating (and warning against) an excruciatingly loud level of 'Never Again', Zorn wants some small part of the pain that was endured by the Jews to be felt by the listener; not emotionally, or through artistic and musical resonance, but actually physically.)

[10] Fourth station. A delicate question. Are these Great Jewish Music projects, despite everything, a matter of 're-Judaicizing' Jewish composers and musicians (Bacharach, Gainsbourg) by a Jewish artist (Zorn)? There seems to be a tension between this apparent classification and the above commitment to openness. Does the discovery of his Jewishness lead Zorn to a kind of Zionist imperialism or exclusivism? How should we interpret his rather strong preference for Jewish musicians, shirts bearing Magen Davids, Jewish song titles, Jewish interviewers, etc.? It seems to be a Shibboleth, a 'friends word', a word of alliance or covenant on one side, a sign of exclusion on the other. But a Shibboleth for whom? The title, Great Jewish Music, tells us more about Zorn than it does about Bacharach who never made an issue of his religion or ethnicity. And Gainsbourg, although he didn't particularly hide it, never put his Jewishness in front (maybe only as a provocation). Their inclusion is, at the same time, an exclusion.
A paradox. Zorn's early claims to openness, to the use of multiple musical languages, to otherness, appear in a closed, excluding discourse. (It always and necessarily appears in an excluding discourse. The otherness of the other means a certain exclusivity. That is the paradox.) 'Jewishness' repeats itself in Jewishness. The general articulates itself in the particular. Maybe we can understand the general idea of openness only against a background of a particular Jewishness. Maybe the mixing of multiple compositional methods within one piece arises with or as a result of his latent Jewishness. And as a result, the difference between 'Jewishness' and Jewishness may not be that clear. Because the opposite is true as well: Zorn's Jewish music and themes repeat his 'Jewishness'. Let's take Kristallnacht as an example. Can we decide what repeats what? Is the background, the history and future of the Jews given musical expression in the use of Klezmer-like themes, Jewish scales, quotes from a Jewish singer and the sound of breaking glass within an alien context of free jazz, hard core, and modern classical composition techniques? Or is the background constituted by a very heterogeneous musical language in which Jewish music has just a place for its own? Maybe Kristallnacht is Zorn's first musical exploration of his Jewish heritage as Cuthbert and Wilson suggest. But it is not only a break with the past; it is also a continuation, a continuation of his 'Jewish' heritage, the 'Jewish' music he previously made. And how open, how 'Jewish' is Jewish music? The concept of Jewish tone scales is somewhat odd. Jewish music always already contained material derived from cultures with which Jews have interacted: Greek, American, Spanish, Eastern European, Ethiopian, Western European, etc. Jewish music has a structure that resists every inclination to a final formation of identity, to seclusion and determination. Sometimes it refers to the Eastern European modalities, sometimes to gypsy music, sometimes it has similarities with some Arabic music, the hijaz. These are only small corners of Jewish music though. Jewish music that originates from different parts of the world shares no common characteristics; it is not consistent. 'Jewishness' is a part of Jewishness and Jewishness is a part of 'Jewishness'. Both Jewishness and 'Jewishness' refer to expropriation, having no fixed identity. (Or do we have to say that this is their identity?)

[11] How explicitly Zorn is referring to the Jewish cause? To what extent does this Radical Jewish Culture restrict itself to well defined archives? How Zionistic is the appropriation of the myth-laden names such as 'Masada' and 'Bar Kokhba'? It is undecidable. Ambivalent. On one hand, Zorn explicitly addresses himself to Jews. With the Masada book, a collection of over a hundred tunes, he wants to give Jews something positive for the future: 'I think it's important for Jews to have positive role models so that they want to identify themselves as Jews ... After [Kristallnacht], I wanted to do something that was not about the history of pain and suffering, but about the future and how bright and beautiful it can be ... This is my answer to what new Jewish music is. This is my personal answer. That's why I wrote the Masada music' (Blumenfeld). These remarks seem to make clear that his intended audience for Masada would be American, European and Israeli Jews. The titles of the Masada series - Alef, Bet, Gimel, etc., the initial letters of the Hebrew alphabet - confirm this. On the other hand, however, Zorn is defying these (his own) ideas: he originally released these Masada albums with liner notes in Japanese only. Through the use of this language he is only making the discs less accessible to most western Jews (cf. Cuthbert, p.18-9).
And what are we to think of the dedication of the Masada book to Asher Ginzberg, founding father of Cultural Zionism who, in the late 1880's, called out for a New Jewish Cultural Renaissance, 'one in which all Jews everywhere could find pride and meaning'? Is this an openly avowed form of Zionism or should we pay more attention to the word 'everywhere'? 'Everywhere', it could be meant as a contrast to constructions of Jewish identity that bind it closely to the modern state of Israel. 'Everywhere', which means having no fixed place, a non-site. Jewish becoming 'Jewish' again. The 'Jewish' site is an empty site. 'This Site is not a site, an enclosure, a place of exclusion, a province or a ghetto. When a Jew or poet proclaims the Site, he is not declaring war. For this site, this land, calling to us from beyond memory, is always elsewhere. The site is not the empirical national Here of a territory' (Writing and Difference, p.66).
Last meditation: Tzadik, Zorn's record label. Many Jewish musicians find a home here. And Radical Jewish Culture: one of the largest series formats under this label. Jewishness seems very important. But on the other hand, if Zorn feels that a musician is getting too much press for being a Jewish performer and not enough for his compositional activities he may find his next disc issued in the Composers Series (cf. Cuthbert, p.23). Tzadik. A tzadik is a Jewish spiritual leader. Zorn? Is Zorn not only a poet, but also a rabbi (cf. Burt Bacharach and John Zorn)? He is an important person in New York's music scene. Almost all musicians who determine the sound of the Jewish Alternative Movement, a Knitting Factory CD label, have at some time worked with Zorn. So he is a kind of leader. And a Jew. But in Hebrew tzadik also means righteous, just. A strange name for a record company. Or maybe not? 'Founded in 1995, Tzadik is dedicated to releasing the best in avant-garde and experimental music, presenting a worldwide community of contemporary musician-composers who find it difficult or impossible to release their music through more conventional channels', says an advertising brochure. Who does Tzadik serve? Those who have no permanent address at their disposal. Homeless in double respect: musically (these experimental and avant-garde musicians usually mix several musical languages in one work), and institutionally (no major record company is interested because their music is not commercial enough). They are a kind of outcast. 'Jews'. Like Jabès's quote on Kristallnacht: 'It is precisely in that break - in that non-belonging in search of it's belonging - that I am without a doubt most Jewish' [in fact most 'Jewish']. Tzadik is doing justice to music that cannot be specifically classified, giving the homeless a home, the voiceless a voice. Tzadik is a Shibboleth, a place where a decision is made about the right to enter a legal community, a sign of belonging. However, as the mark of a certain pact, it also intervenes: it prohibits, sentences, excludes. Somewhere between sharing and dividing (cf. Shibboleth, p.109-111).

[12] Zorn's dedication to the Jewish cause seems to be in opposition to more narrow versions of Zionism, both in his insistence on going beyond 'conservative preservation' (Gershom Scholem) and his constant playing with identities and contexts. His Jewishness is also a 'Jewishness', dominated by a loss of identity, security, safety. Zorn is the thorn in the side of conventions and apparently uncomplicated assumptions and not only on a musical level. He asks questions. He questions (his) identity, and questions 'the other'. Hence, from the start he is confronted with the discourse of the other. And he disorders it. He disorders it by revealing that every endeavor toward determination and conclusion, every attempt toward a final formation of an identity, is doomed to fail. This means that not only Zorn is a 'Jew'. It is not the privilege of a few. The 'Jew-as-other' is inside of non-Jews as well, inside of music. It reflects a more 'original alienation', a structure of every music as a music of the other, the impossibility to possess music, the impossibility to return it to the same.