John Zorn, GOETIA (2002)

    Duration: 9 minutes (extract: movements 1, 3, 4, 5, 8)
    Instrumentation: solo violin
    Premiered by Jennifer Choi on March 2, 2003, at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City
    Copyright/publisher: John Zorn/Musical Optics

    The composer writes:
    “From Paganini thru Stravinsky and beyond, composers and audiences alike have felt a mysterious alliance between the violin and the devil. This unholy alliance is explored and expounded upon in this set of eight incantations/variations for solo violin. Goetia is a tradition of black magic that incorporates spells, incantations and ceremonies for the calling forth, conjuration and summoning of demonic spirits to visible appearance with the intent of compelling them to perform acts under the magician’s will. Highly ceremonial in nature, Goetic magick demands the strictest observance of a multitude of details, outlined in a series of mediaeval grimoires such as the Lemegeton of Solomon the King or the Steganographia of Trithemius.

    “In keeping with the meticulous and ascetic nature of these processes, Goetia was composed under an equally rigorous formal model, taking the form of eight short movements (incantations), each employing the same sequence of 277 pitches. The idea of variations are realized through rhythmic, dynamic and coloristic changes that transform this set of notes into eight distinctly different sonic études — one movement using quadruple stops, one sempre pizzicato, one perpetuum mobile, one con sordino, etc. The piece was completed befittingly at midnight, on Halloween 2002.”

    About the composer:
    Born and raised in New York City, composer-performer John Zorn has been a central figure in the New York City downtown scene since 1975, incorporating a wide variety of creative musicians into various compositional formats. His work is remarkably diverse and draws inspiration from art, literature, film, theater, philosophy, alchemy and mysticism as well as music. He founded the Tzadik label in 1995, runs the East Village performance space The Stone and has edited and published seven volumes of musician’s writings under the title ARCANA.