Monday, December 22, 2008

John Zorn: Cobra

Cobra is a musical game created by the jazz artist John Zorn.

Cobra's rules are complex, but basically, a director leads an ensemble of improvisational musicians with a series of hand signals and cue cards.The resulting music can be described as free jazz. The form is entirely conceived on the spot by the director and interpretations vary from musician to musician and from performance to performance so each game of Cobra is unique.

There are also rules to make the game more interesting. Each player wears a headband somewhere on their body. Players can usurp control of the ensemble by stealing other players headbands. The 'guerrilla' leader has complete control over the music until power is taken from him. These aspects to the game can make for an interesting stage show.

There are several recordings of this game available.
This is an album cover for a recording from 1992.

Here is a sample of John Zorn conducting a game of Cobra.

This is a great version from a performance in Israel in January of 2008.

This music would likely be catgorized as unlistenable by the average person, but to jazz fanatics and musicians this is the coolest thing around. It throws the traditional concept of form out the window. It takes improvisation in a new direction.

There have been a few incarnations of Cobra ensembles in Morgantown WV over the years. Many sessions have been directed by WVU jazzer Paul Scea. This is a recording of a performance on the Morgantown Sound show from 1999. Thanks to Orville Weale for making this available.

cobra_ensemble - Deborah Voigt and Placido Domingo

No comments: