CB: Could you speak a bit about your experience working between disciplines?
PZ: Trisha Brown called me after seeing Stephanie Woodard and Wendy Perron’s choreography for the series Art on the Beach, which I did the music for. She said the music was perfect for the place and the dance, and asked whether I’d write music for her. One thing led to another. I was invited to her loft on 541 Broadway, part of which was converted to a dance studio. We discussed the piece, whether it could have a beat: that led to the last two movements of Lateral Pass. I’d then record material with an ensemble and play it back to Trisha, one of the recordings is titled Frame Loop. There was quite a dialogue over a period of around a year, it then premiered at New York City Centre.
CB: At the time of working with Trisha Brown on Lateral Pass, you also worked with Donald Judd.
PZ: Right. Donald Judd had this concept for solid colour panels and that there would be a steady state droning music turning on and off, but he didn’t know how to do it. Donald had been working with Trisha, and somehow I got the call and remember him sending me sketches for the stage of Lateral Pass.
I studied up on him, we then spoke a lot. I had dinner at his place on Spring and Mercer Street, which is now The Judd Foundation. Then I went to Marfa, Donald’s place in Texas for about a week. I was practicing trombone in a little army fort, there were pillbox style ammunition structures. Artists who create an aesthetic environment to live in influenced me – Donald treated his surroundings as architecture or sculpture. He would talk about the importance of being absolutely pure, true to your vision and that the establishment could not bastardise your work by moving it.
Then I adopted Donald’s method of the sketches: dating them, which has to do with valuing your ideas. I’ve found the hardest thing to teach students is to believe in their own ideas. So, writing ideas and dating them, means that you recognise their potential value. It’s what the poet calls the gift, the line that comes out of the blue – that you write down and figure out how to construct a song or a poem, or a movie out of. That’s become my basic method of working.
CB: That’s interesting, are there any other concepts that have stayed with you?
PZ: In graduate school, I was reading philosophy in relation to understanding aesthetics and creativity. I learned the idea of objectification. You make the thing concrete by writing it down, recording it, painting it, drawing it, sculpting it, taking a picture. Then it’s an object which you can look at, turn upside down, photocopy, cut up, paste.
CB: Have you ever been approached to produce music for fashion?
PZ: Not personally, although there was one experience where Peter Gordon was working with streetwear pioneer, Willi Smith for costuming. Peter’s band was asked to perform for Williwear during fashion week and I was part of the band at the time. I remember setting up on both sides of the runway at about 10am. Fashion week was nothing like it is now, but that was still a moment.
CB: How important is it for you to get dressed for the stage?
PZ: It is important and something I think about. Whether it’s a t-shirt, or a suit. Look at jazz over the years, those wonderful suits. People go to concerts to have a good time, they want to look at something as well as listen to music. There’s also an aspect of professionalism, being prepared. Finally taking care of your appearance helps how you feel, particularly when walking up to the stage.