John Zorn


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John Zorn is an American composer and saxophonist. Making music in many different genres he is also notable for being the pioneer of very open, improvisation-based brand of music games.

John Zorn doesn't describe rules of his games in writing and it's his purposeful decision which we are going to respect. We will follow that as long as the games are still restricted to oral tradition, but there is much to be said from the perspective of game design about approaches displayed in these famous game pieces.

Constellation — A line-up for a single performance of improvised music.

Skill floor — Minimum skill required to play the game. See: Learning curve


For now, let's just have an overview of John Zorn's games in one place. (Links don't have to feature John Zorn involved in the performance). First games were often simple ones, based mostly on constellations. According to interviews [citation needed] in some later games there is an intentional high skill floor.

Klarina (1974)
Baseball (1976)
Lacrosse (1976) —
Dominoes (1977)
Curling (1977)
Golf (1977)
Hockey (1978) —
Cricket (1978)
Fencing (1978)
Pool (1979)
Archery (1979) —
Tennis (1979)
Track and Field (1980)
Jai Alai (1980)
Goi (1981)
Croquet (1981)
Locus Salus (1982) — (?)
Sebastopol (1983) —
Rugby (1983)
Cobra (1984) — the most famous game piece ever? here with some added explanation:
Xu Feng (1985)
Hu Die (1986) —
Ruan Lingyu (1987)
Hwang Chin-ee (1988) —
Bezique (1989) —
Que Tran (1990) —

Most of the list is from a footnote in Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music edited by C. Cox and D. Warren, where you can find also an interesting interview with John Zorn himself.

Photos used:
"with Acoustic Masada, 2006" by Bruno Bollaert. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
"John Zorn Cobra, North Sea Jazz, Rotterdam / NL, 2009" by William Verbeek, CC BY-NC 2.0

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