Game Pieces
Game Pieces
Some of Zorn's earliest musical experiments were his game pieces. These aren't compositions in the typical sense, which are notations of sound, but are rather a set of very general improvisational rules for a set of improvisors who are working off of each other. What is being played isn't the idea, but rather how it is being played. The easiest analogy, which Zorn uses himself, is that of a sport or game. In football, there is no way to determine what the outcome of the game will be, however, there are certain rules and guidelines that everyone must follow. The same is true of Zorn's game pieces. The same piece could be played twice and sound completely different, depending on the performers, and the circumstances of the performance.

The exact rules of these pieces elude me, but I am most familiar with Cobra. In Cobra, Zorn doesn't participate as a player, but rather as a "promptor" using colored cards to indicate what the players must do. If players don headbands, they can form a "guerrilla system" with three members, which is exempt from the rules for 7 downbeats of the game. Cobra ends up being a controlled chaos of sets of individuals obeying the cards and their squad leader. Players can also exchange and share each other's musical textures.

Although it is easy to dismiss the game pieces as "just noise", in the hands of a talented series of improvisors they can go fantastic places. The conceptual ideas surrounding game pieces are also fun to think on.

Cobra: Live at the Knitting Factory   Cobra: Tokyo Operations '94
The Parachute Years

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