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Without a doubt, New York is a melting pot of the most diverse cultures and remains to this day one of the world’s most innovative music cities.
Stefan Wolpe didn’t exactly arrive in this fertile metropolis easily. As an active communist and Jewish by birth, he was forced out of Germany and fled via a host of European ports ending up in Palestine. Here, being a more radical composer led to him not being able to find his feet and ending up in the USA in 1938. Ten years later he founded the Contemporary Music School in New York. Here and in many other music colleges, composers such as David Tudor and Morton Feldman were among his students. Alongside Feldman, Wolff and Cage, Earle Brown was also a member of the New York School, a movement in which mostly painters and poets were active in the early 40s. Brown, a trained engineer and mathematician, was invited by John Cage in 1950 to take part in a project about music for magnetic tape.
Brown’s experiments on and examination of “open form” techniques in composition and “time notation” were taken up into the repertoire of the avant-garde community. Thanks to him, as well as completing a good number of quality works, composers such as Stockhausen and Zorn received important musical impulses. John Zorn is a born and bred New Yorker. A musician who moves between the worlds from A for avant-garde to B for Braxton or Brown, J for Jazz and S for Stockhausen.
Very much influenced by his roots, he considers his music to be radically Jewish and wrote in a manifest: “The Jewish person has always been the source of a kind of double questioning: a questioning of the self and of the ‘other’. As he is never given the possibility to stop being Jewish, he is forced to formulate the question of his identity…”