In the spring, as part of a WQXR residency, The Knights will perform John Adams's 1973 string-ensemble piece Christian Zeal and Activity, which calls for the incorporation of "sonic found objects," along the lines of Gavin Bryars's classic 1971 work Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet. Most listeners are familiar with the version on the Nonesuch recording, which uses a sermon by a Southern evangelical preacher ("Now what's wrong with a withered hand?"). An earlier recording, issued on Brian Eno's Obscure Records label, employs a religious debate from a late-night radio show. (There, Christian Zeal appears as part of the three-movement piece American Standard — the earliest, and undoubtedly the strangest, item in the Adams discography.) For their rendition, The Knights are asking listeners to submit found objects for consideration — five to seven minutes in length, "using any equipment or techniques (analog or digital), edited and processed however you see fit." Entries are due on March 16, and will be reviewed by trumpter-composer Joshua Frank and a panel from The Knights and WQXR. I should note that circa 1988 my former WHRB colleague Michael Pahre, with whom I perpetrated an Ecstatic Radio Fantasia on Robert Ashley's "She Was a Visitor," prepared a version of Christian Zeal using the beloved voice of Milton Babbitt, talking about his studies with Roger Sessions. To this day, when those hymnal chords begin unfolding, I expect to hear, "But he had just returned from Europe when I went to study with him in 1935...."
From Ecstatic Radio Fantasia, June 2, 1989.