Zasis was an improvisatory quartet that bridged the gap between traditional and avant-garde music through the use of homemade, traditional acoustic, and electronic instruments. The basic premise of the group was to enter each performance with nothing pre-planned. Concerts consisted of a series of improvisations ranging in length from 60 seconds to 12 minutes and were presented in two sections, each approximately 45 minutes long separated by a brief intermission.
As Chapin said of the group in a 1977 Hartford Advocate interview, "Our music tells stories, paints pictures. It creates new worlds. You become a leader and a follower...If anything has given me spiritual enlightenment, or direction in music or helped my musical awareness, Zasis has been my source."
Part of what made the group unique was that each person's career outside of ZASIS was in a different musical direction. Pursuing our own musical professions further enhanced the scope of our aural vocabulary as an ensemble. Because nothing was ever planned we were able to "aurally sketch" as an ensemble; Zasis was at the root of our mature musical careers. In a recent letter, Francesca Vanesco described the group this way:
It was as natural for us to make music together as it was to
play alone. We used to joke that Zasis was like a marriage between
four very different personalities. We were committed to the concept
and believed that as long as we were all alive we could always
meet in that place. Because of this strong bond I took time for
granted, we all did. Moving out to Arizona in 1984 I assumed that
we would continue to pursue our individual careers and come together
every decade or so to do some recording. My last conversation
with Thomas was when he had resigned himself to the fact that
his survival was out of his control and in God's hands. Even then
he kept saying that we have to do a CD. He emphatically yelled
into the phone, "ZASIS LIVES!"
I am still reeling in the wake of Tom's passing, pulling memories together of a musical coming of age-a magical relationship between four people-that continues to influence my aesthetic.
Since his passing I have been listening to several Zasis demo tapes-everything the group ever performed is on tape. The music is as spontaneous now as it was then. You can't get more spontaneous than going into a quartet concert with absolutely nothing preplanned, yet the music has a sense of structure and sounds composed. These recordings may be released on CD some time in the next few years.