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John Zorn’s avant-garde Jewish music is finally on Spotify. His fans remain locked in debate.

(JTA) — While the entire music industry went online, John Zorn made sure the albums released by his Tzadik Records label remained stubbornly unavailable on streaming platforms.

For fans of the pioneering Jewish musician, the recalcitrance was unsurprising. Long one has been one of the country’s most respected experimental musicians and composers, with much of his work inspired by Jewish themes, Zorn operates the influential label Tzadik Records, which has released dozens of innovative takes on Jewish music and melodies through its Radical Jewish Culture series.

The label, whose name is the Hebrew word for a righteous person, focuses on helping musicians who “find it difficult or impossible to release their music through more conventional channels.” Streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora and YouTube Music have dramatically undercut artists’ ability to be paid through album sales, and the understanding was that Zorn was keeping the albums Tzadik released — everything from  solo sound-art pieces made fully on a computer to contemporary classical compositions to chaotic albums by boundary-pushing rock bands — offline.

That all changed in September. Rumors began spreading about the move to streaming on Facebook groups and Zorn fan pages a week before Tzadik’s catalog started showing up on streaming platforms at the end of the month. Now, most of the catalog is on Spotify.

“This felt like a very seismic shift,” said Yoshie Fruchter, a guitarist and familiar face in the New York Jewish music scene who has released music on Tzadik.

Some fans respected Zorn’s decision and the thoughtfulness they say he showed in the process. Zorn rarely gives interviews — he did not respond to Jewish Telegraphic Agency requests for comment — but his artist page on Spotify urges fans to continue to buy physical versions of his label’s releases: “If you enjoy the music on Tzadik we strongly urge you to further support the artist by purchasing our CDS [sic]. All packaging, artwork, notes, credits, and imagery are essential details to the artist’s vision on Tzadik. The CD medium will sound better, look better, and will give you a more complete artistic experience.”

Those issues have caused some Tzadik fans and contributors to react critically to the steaming move.

Tzadik releases “are all beautifully packaged and some of them have these really elaborate packages and books and things like that,” said Jon Madof, a Tzadik contributor and owner of his own avant-garde label. “You’re really not getting all of that if you hear it on Spotify.”

More pressing, the critics say, are the drawbacks of the contemporary streaming ecosystem, which are unchanged. For over a decade, musicians have complained about how Spotify and similar platforms have eroded artist income by paying well under a penny per listen.

Guitarist, composer and musicians’ rights activist Marc Ribot, himself a Tzadik contributor, trusts Zorn’s decision is what’s best for the label but remains critical of streaming platforms. In 2018, Tzadik’s music was mistakenly placed on streaming platforms against Zorn’s wishes for six months. In a blog post, Ribot wrote that over that time, Tzadik’s hundreds of albums netted a total of $300 in artist payments.

“You don’t need a supercomputer to see what the $300 dollars in 6 months ‘Age Of Streaming’ will do to Tzadik. That’s what ‘not viable’ means,” he wrote.

(Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

But vinyl records and CDs can also be expensive. Self-professed Zorn-obsessive Mark Allender, who runs a Zorn fan site called Masada World, said that while many fellow fans are “on the ‘streaming is evil’ end of the political spectrum,” there are also “lots of fans who just don’t have a lot of money.” (Spotify’s unlimited premium service costs $10.99 per month, well under the price of a single vinyl record.)

And while some fans will be eager to dig into the catalog via streaming, others will remain happy buying the physical CDs and vinyl still on offer. Sarah Grosser, a recent convert to Zorn’s music who wrote and distributed a fanzine, “Days of Zorn,” based on her first impressions of 40 of Zorn’s albums, noted that Zorn’s fanbase is full of obsessive collectors. That’s why she thinks the streaming decision may have a minimal impact on Tzadik’s sales.

“Zorn is always attracting people as obsessive and perfectionist and detail-oriented as he is,” Grosser explained. “With social media, the word gets out on what the album is going to sound like. It’s not like people have to roll the dice anymore [with what a CD purchase might sound like] because there’s just so much communication.”

Zorn — who did not respond to requests for comment — has long been a central figure in New York’s “Downtown” music scene, a community of avant-garde musicians and artistic experimentalists centralized in Manhattan. His work is constantly evolving, from the free improv “game pieces” he helped pioneer in the 70s to his genre-bending style of “file-card composing” in the 80s and 90s. He has written or recorded rock, jazz, classical, world music and even metal.

No matter how idiosyncratic Tzadik has been, for some in the industry, the writing was long on the wall. Avant-garde pianist and Zorn collaborator Anthony Coleman mentioned the label ECM Records, which produces a similar range of eclectic music and finally put its catalog on streaming services in 2017. “It was very public and visible how much ECM held out. Once they gave in, I felt the days were numbered for Tzadik,” Coleman said.

One thing is for sure — online debate among Zorn fans will continue. Some claim that the fidelity of the songs on streaming platforms is inferior, others disagree. Some say Tzadik should start its own streaming platform or, if it must go online, to sell its music on sites that offer a bigger piece of the pie to artists, such as Bandcamp.

Today, Ribot recognizes that streaming is the reality artists live in and said that lawmakers should step up to regulate the system.

“The chief problem with Spotify isn’t Spotify itself, but Congress’ failure to regulate Google, YouTube and other ad and data mining based online mega corporations,” he said. “The National Labor Relations Board doesn’t recognize [musicians] as workers, or Spotify as our employer.”

Jon Madof, a Tzadik contributor and owner of his own avant-garde label, also pointed to Tzadik’s attention to physical details. (Madof worked until TK at 70 Faces Media, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s parent company.)

Tzadik releases “are all beautifully packaged and some of them have these really elaborate packages and books and things like that,” he said. “You’re really not getting all of that if you hear it on Spotify.”

Madof, who previously worked at 70 Faces Media, JTA’s parent company, and also helps musicians with marketing their work, said that streaming and physical purchases can have a potential symbiosis: Spotify can be “the introduction that kind of brings you into the world” of Zorn’s music, making one want to then buy physical versions of the music as a devoted fan.

And ultimately, Madof has confidence that Zorn thought through what the best decision could be for the community that has coalesced around him.

“Everything that [Zorn] does is thoughtful, and everything he does always has a community of musicians in mind,” Madof said.


The post John Zorn’s avant-garde Jewish music is finally on Spotify. His fans remain locked in debate. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Why now may be the time to consider senior living

When Samara began exploring retirement residences in the Thornhill area for her mother, she felt immediately drawn to Chartwell Constantia Retirement Community and its exceptional customer service. “I have been going there to visit my mother for the last six years. They have fabulous staff. The food quality and presentation are lovely. The management team […]

The post Why now may be the time to consider senior living appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Gallant: Seizing Internal Hamas Documents Brings Hostage Deal Closer

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meeting with IDF commanders, including members of the elite Shayetet 13 marine commando unit, in Atlit, Israel, Jan. 17, 2023. Photo: Ariel Hermoni (Israel’s Ministry of Defense)

i24 NewsIsraeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant provided a review to fellow ministers of weapons and documents belonging to Hamas, which were collected by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Document and Technical Means Collection Unit (Amshat) operating in the Gaza Strip.

“This morning we are hosting the government meeting at the IDF, in the defense establishment, to show the ministers exactly how we are achieving and deepening our achievements and what is coming out of the Gaza Strip,” Gallant explained.

“You can see a small part of the things here – missiles, explosive charges, mines, a great many maps, means of communication, documents, computers, drives, all these things which the IDF uses now on as intelligence, and not only that,” the defense minister continued.

“These demonstrate that we penetrated into the heart of the most sensitive places of Hamas and use their intelligence against them,” Gallant described the process of attaining the documents and weapons, hinting at some of the locations from where it was found.

“We are using their weapons against them, detonating them in the field, all this leads to the consequence of deepening and penetrating the heart of Hamas’ capabilities,” the defense minister said.

“The more we deepen our operations, the closer we get to a realistic deal in order to return the hostages,” Gallant concluded.

The post Gallant: Seizing Internal Hamas Documents Brings Hostage Deal Closer first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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UNRWA Chief Urged to Resign After ‘Absurd’ Pledge of Ignorance

View of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

i24 NewsIsraeli diplomatic leaders called for the resignation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, following denial of knowing about a Hamas data center under the agency’s headquarters in Gaza.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) revealed on Saturday night that Hamas built a vast network of tunnels under the UNRWA headquarters, with a base directly underneath that was even hooked up to its grid.

“The exposure of UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters’ deep involvement with Hamas, including its use for terror activities and as an access point to terror tunnels, requires immediate action,” the Israeli foreign minister, Israel Katz, posted on X.

“Philippe Lazzarini’s claim of unawareness is not only absurd but also an affront to common sense. His prompt resignation is imperative,” Katz concluded.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, also called for the UNRWA Commissioner-General to resign, responding “it’s not that you didn’t know, it’s that you didn’t WANT to know.”

“We exposed terror tunnels under UNRWA schools and supplied evidence that Hamas’ exploits UNRWA. We implored you to carry out a comprehensive search of all UNRWA facilities in Gaza. But not only did you refuse, you chose to stick your head in the sand,” Erdan added in a detailed post on X.

.@UNLazzarini it’s not that you didn’t know, it’s that you didn’t WANT to know. We exposed terror tunnels under UNRWA schools and supplied evidence that Hamas’ exploits UNRWA. We implored you to carry out a comprehensive search of all UNRWA facilities in Gaza. But not only did… https://t.co/bJsD66OwoO

— Ambassador Gilad Erdan גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) February 10, 2024

“Take responsibility and resign today!” the Israeli ambassador said, “Every day we find more proof that in Gaza the UN=Hamas and vice versa. Anything the UN says or claims about Gaza cannot be trusted.”

The post UNRWA Chief Urged to Resign After ‘Absurd’ Pledge of Ignorance first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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