If one were to compare art and the rooms in which it finds a home to bridges, John Zorn’s The Stone would be more Third Avenue than George Washington. Perhaps the better comparison is the Williamsburg Bridge, because of its proximity to downtown (where Zorn’s eclectic jazz space lives and breathes) and its connectivity to true hipness and out-of-the-box grace. In any case, the legendary composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist’s experimental music den is not a typical listening room and the world is a better place because of it.
Amidst the spiraling ascension of New York City as the domain for the rich and famous, lies Alphabet City. It too has changed over the years, though it still provides an authentic sense of what old New York City looked, felt and smelled like. No coincidence then that John Zorn chose to convert an old Chinese food restaurant into the best-kept secret for avant-garde music in the city. There are instructions: Get to the Northwest corner of Avenue C and 2nd Street and wait for the grating to go up before grabbing tickets at the door, which has the only sign around for the place. The inside is just as spartan. Some chairs, stage area and a bunch of black and white photos of musicians on the walls. No bar. No disco ball. No dancing at all, actually (no license for it). This is pure listening at its best with zero distractions.
Mike Patton (from Faith No More and Mr. Bungle) performed there, as have Lou Reed, John Medeski, Thurston Moore and a host of other experimental musicians and strange music aficionados. This month, multi-discipline performance artist Laurie Anderson has a residency, which is the method of choice for programming.
Zorn picks a curator for a month or so and lets him or her line up performances and collaborations for everyone to enjoy—everyone in the know that is. Right in line with its aesthetic is the manner in which it goes about promotion. Nothing is sensationalized and overblown, which is why many people don’t know about The Stone. And because the overhead is covered through a combination of inventive and homegrown approaches—an online art gallery, limited edition cd printings —the fact that The Stone isn’t a household name is perfectly fine. This begs a very interesting question: Is it the tiny room that came first in the experimental and avant-garde music universe, or is it the strange nature of the art made that could only happen in the tiny room? Find out at thestonenyc.com