Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sabbath in Paradise, a Documentary on Radical Jewish Music Culture

Sabbath In ParadiseAs I've mentioned a number of times, my favorite Jewish music publisher is John Zorn's Radical Jewish Culture label. I find some of their discs hard to connect with, but in general am amazed by the adventurous spirit and the high-quality musicianship with which they explore the outer limits of Jewish music. Over the years, I've run across some nice discussions of the genesis of the RJC project including Zorn's description, JF Graves "Unofficial John Zorn Homepage," and a great unpublished essay sent to me by a Teruah reader. Recently I said to myself, I'll bet someone has put together a good documentary film on Zorn and the Radical Jewish Culture scene, let's go find it...

And, of course, someone has.

The film is called Sabbath in Paradise. It was filmed in 1997 by Claudia Heuermann and includes interviews and musical performances by Zorn, Michael Alpert, Anthony Coleman, David Krakauer, Frank London, Roy Nathanson, Marc Ribot, and Andy Statman. According to one entertaining review by Peter Hollo, "...The film is structured around a tale about a Rebbe who is on his way somewhere and is taken in by some strangers who turn out to be Moses, King David, King Solomon etc... and he hears wonderful music and so on. .There are interviews (or spoken bits) with various relevant people: Anthony Coleman talks a lot, and there are some fascinating bits where he describes how his Selfhaters music comes out of more familiar Jewish contexts. Can't really describe it in words, but it was both amusing and informative... Marc Ribot talks in his slightly drug-fucked way about a lot of things...."

Sounds great. Got to get me one. You can nab a copy directly from Zorn's Tzadik Records website, Amazon, or your favorite local shop or library.

To tantalize you a bit further, here's a frustratingly brief clip from the documentary.

John Zorn composing for Masada

And if this isn't enough, and for Claudia Heuermann it sure wasn't, you can also track down a copy of of Heuermann's 2002 documentary "A Bookshelf on Top of the Sky: 12 Stories About John Zorn." According to the Tzadik catalog, 12 Stories "gives us a rare peek into the working methods of one of the most notorious and reclusive composers on the scene today. Filmed over a ten year period, this documentary includes live footage of Masada, Naked City, Cobra, as well as improvisations, his classical work and rare interviews. You can catch some clips from 12 Stories on YouTube, but definitely buy a copy from Tzadik if your interested in it.

Hat tip to YouTube user doublemain for posting the video.

Update: I just got the following email about Sabbath in Paradise... "Haven't seen it yet, but Bookshelf on top of the sky was really, really bad. I mean, really bad."

Grin. Tell us how you really feel. Take that under advisement folks.

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