The Desert Hour

by Jonathan Zorn

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The Desert Hour is a collection of compositions that reimagines Deleuze and Guattari’s “Nomadology” as the basis for an idiosyncratic theory of music. The resulting pieces, for voice and electronics, represent one possible imagining of the music that might be generated from such a theory. In working with the text I attempt to reverse engineer a musical language, beginning with Deleuze and Guattari’s own gleanings from the music and writing of Boulez.

The Desert Hour is an attempt to produce speculative music whose fundamental organizing principles derive from the relationship between the smooth and the striated. Spoken language is used as the principle sonorous material, which is then fragmented and reorganized according to Deleuze and Guattari’s proposal for a linguistics informed by the operations of modular synthesizers. In creating the pieces, I use a combination of MAX/MSP and modular synthesizer patches.

The composition came about as a request by Orkney-based curators Ivanov and Chan for the 2016 Papay Gyro Nights festival on the theme of nomads. I may have taken their suggestion to work with the ‘Nomadology’ text too literally, and as a result spent a few weeks puzzled by how to respond. I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was too much baggage, too many cliches about A Thousand Plateaus built up by artists working in the late nineties. I eased my concerns by thinking of this project as an oblique response to the trend of nineties nostalgia has taken hold within current mainstream electronic music.

The pieces were finished in residence on Papa Westray at Papay Gyro Nights 2016. I worked in the early hours of the morning when the rest of the festival participants were asleep—except for Snædis, Ivanov and Chan’s daughter. I worked quietly so that she wouldn’t hear I was awake. Otherwise she would sneak into my room, climb up my chair, and take away my microphone, insisting on a dance party. In working on these pieces in Papay, I began to see the close link between the themes of ‘Nomadology’ and the llife/work of Ivanov and Chan. The anarchic nature of their festival, life on the edge of the UK in Papay. On their island you can see the dynamics of the smooth and striated play out on the local terrain. The island itself has been smoothed by the wind, not a tree in sight. Yet it is striated by different layers of enclosure: private property, stone walls, barbed wire fences.

In the time since I completed this recording, Ivanov’s nomadic wanderings have unfortunately lead him past the limits of human existence. This piece is dedicated to Ivanov, Chan and Snædis.

Special thanks to Sam Wolk for help with clandestine synthesizing.


released April 2, 2018

Jonathan Zorn - voice, electronics


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Jonathan Zorn Minneapolis, Minnesota

Jonathan Zorn is a composer of experimental, electronic, and improvised music. His electronic music pairs improvising musicians with interactive computer systems to create hybrid, human-machine ensembles. Zorn's interest in vocal utterance has resulted in a series of pieces in which spoken language is interrupted by electronic forces, drawing attention to the gap between speech and sound. ... more

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