The Round of 64 for Sound of the City’s own version of March Madness—in which you, the Sound of the City voting public, help determine the quintessential New York musician—finishes this weekend, with the Round of 32 kicking off Monday. (The schedule and results so far are here; the full, updated bracket is here.) On our last day of first-round battles, we pit two titans of New York cool—John Zorn and Patti Smith—against one another. Check out the arguments in favor of each below, and vote at Facebook for the musician that you think should move on to the next round.
John Zorn’s career has been a kamikaze against stasis wherever he can find it, from horrifying classical music audiences with compositions that sound like Daffy Duck’s failed experiments in autoerotic asphyxiation to proving to jazz and Napalm Death fans that the saxophone is the most menacing instrument on earth. There’s seemingly no genre on earth—from hardcore punk to easy listening to traditional Hebrew worship music—that Zorn can’t bend to his vision. It’s impossible to imagine the contemporary noise scene without his fearless improv projects (Naked City and Painkiller being just two of the most prominent), and the work he’s done with downtown improv station The Stone and his label Tzadik is big reason why the indie world and the modern composition world are on such good terms these days. But perhaps the most perverse thing about Zorn is that though his public image is that of a mad man defiling any form of music he can get his hand on, he’s also, should the whim strike, capable of crafting beautifully serene songs as well.
The past two years or so of Patti Smith’s career have been stuffed with enough accomplishments to rival other artists’ bodies of work, and all of them have been rooted in the city she calls home. She won the National Book Award for her memoir about life in New York, Just Kids. She performed with her longtime pal Philip Glass at the Park Avenue Armory and paid tribute to both the late Alan Ginsberg and her longtime composer pal. She’s played a role in the Law & Order universe, a rite of passage for so many New York artists. And she’s also been involved with the Occupy movement, headlined the Met, and entangled herself in the battles over the future of the Chelsea Hotel. On its own, that roster of achievements would at least signal that whoever’s behind it is operating in the most nerve-ending-filled section of this city’s giant mass; add them to her previous artistic accomplishments, from her resounding Bruce Springsteen collab “Because The Night” to her fiery remakes of pop classics to her sparkplug fusion of punk rock and poetry, and you’ve got someone who epitomizes both this burg’s always-firing brain and big, messy, but well-meaning heart.