Review of John Zorn The Book of Heads by Christoph Funabashi, 2012 Schraum
This CD is the second complete edition of the Book of Heads, a clear example of how, over the years, interest has been increasing from devotees guitarists to contemporary music to these 35 studies. Studies as much particular as much opened to the possibilities and the inventiveness of each one of their interpreters. German guitarist Christoph Funabashi plays them, fumbling with four guitars, rubber balloons, Styrofoam pieces, several violin’s bows and a lot of saliva and sweat: the result are concomitantly varied quick suggestions, shards, sound bone fragments, contortions and convulsive paste-up relationship with silence. Something very liminal and functional at the same time, the guitar, the guitars stripped down to their extreme possibilities, their wooden body beaten and called up to the their maximum voltage limit.
This disc is a sort of schizophrenic music box, a lullaby performed by oscillating Fuzzed pedals, analog effects, wah, followed by sounds and ramshackle riffs that seem to come from the back of a guitar shop. The Book of Heads is a classic example of John Zorn’s musical virtuosity and sense of humor, it’s a rewarding sonic exploration, expertly performed here by guitarist Christoph Funabashi. The Book of Heads requires a series of acrobatic skills and coordinations in the use of effects, pedals, various items such as polystyrene, violin bows, balloons, pliers and tongs, aimed at distorting and changing the sound of the instrument itself.
It seems there is not a single squared centimeter of guitar that has not been used to generate this particular musical vibrations, a mix of blues, metal and experimental classic, almost a trademark by Zorn himself. With his quick, almost sharp interpretation Funabashi makes a clear idea of what was called music in the late ’70s in downtown New York.
A fun aspect of listening to these recordings are, in my opinion, trying to imagine how the performer is able to produce these sounds, playing them live. Congratulations to the record company Schraum to have published and produced this real artistic leap that most labels would consider too much esoteric or difficult.
Amazing both from composition and interpretation points of view, Funabashi version shows how Book of Heads’ studies, after so many years, are still able to grow old with admirable dignity and how Zorn’s first experiments would become one of his sound cornerstones. Recommended.