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Dr Paul Carr   Zappa Talk
 

Dr Paul Carr Zappa Talk

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  • Xenochrony also embraces moving backwards and forwards in time.Velimir Khlebnikov's Triplex principle which uses the number 3 to interpret the past and future anticipates Geoffrey Farmer's Zappa-centred chronology; for example what is the role of '3' within the algorithm within Farmer's computer program that controls the music within the installation that reflects Zappa's idiosyncratic compositional forms?
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Dr Paul Carr   Zappa Talk Dr Paul Carr Zappa Talk Presentation Transcript

  • Frank Zappa – A Case Study In Musical Research Dr Paul Carr University of Glamorgan
  • Interdisciplinary activities Involving Zappa
    • An Experiment in Multidisciplinary Teaching – Palatine funded project (2006)
    • Frank Zappa and musical theatre: ugly ugly o’phan Annie and really deep, intense, thought-provoking Broadway symbolism. (Published in the inaugural edition of “Studies in Musical Theatre” Journal 2006)
    • Twist n’ frugg in an arrogant gesture: Frank Zappa and the musical-theatrical gesture. ( Published ‘Popular Musicology Online” March 2008)
  • Why Frank Zappa (1940 – 1993)?
    • A fascinating case study in intertextuality.
    • Represented a point of interest from both a musical and theatrical perspective
    • Zappa’s work not only represents an extraordinary confluence of styles , but a prolonged and considered interchange of musical t raditions
    • His constant, often simultaneous engagement with both high and low culture.
  • Principal Research Questions
    • How do musical, physical and other gestures influence the implementation and interpretation of his music?
    • How/Why was Zappa’s music described as rock despite its numerous incongruous influences?
    • How/Why were the more “serious” aspects of his music usually juxtaposed with humour and frivolity?
    • Overall intention was to begin to explain the processes that underlie his multifaceted performances and recordings
  • Who is Frank Zappa?
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  • The Effect Of Zappa’s Sustained But Uneasy Interface With High And Low Culture
    • ‘ Rock Star’ persona played a substantial part in informing his audience how to categorise his work
    • Utilised the archetypal clichés of the Rock tradition to compartmentalise his work into as lucrative a direction as possible. For Example:
  • Instrumentation of Live Band
  • Guitar Solos
  • Image, performance practices and stage presence
  • Stylistic Features of music (often)
  • Some Compositional Techniques (Band as compositional tool)
  • Album Packaging and publicity.
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  • Example of some of these processes in practice
  • Examples of continuous and progressive contradictions against the rock aesthetic
  • Musical/Stylistic Features
    • ‘ The The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet’ and
    • ‘ It Can’t Happen Here’. ( Freak Out, 1966)
    • Who Are The Brain Police. ( Freak Out , 1966)
  • Composed 2 Film Scores ( The Worlds Greatest Sinner and Run Home Slow)
  • 200 Motels (1971)
  • Numerous orchestral albums
  • Pioneering jazz/rock albums
  • Radio Plays – ‘The Adventures of Gregory Peccary’, ‘Billy the Mountain’
  • Computer based albums
  • Image, Performance Practices and Stage Presence ( Conducting)
    • Conducting band since mid 1950’s – entitled it ‘Conduction’
    • Gave instructions (specific and improvisatory) to band and sometimes audiences!
    • Alluded subliminal messages regarding his dominant hierarchical position and musical merit
  • Dichotomies instigated in the mindset of audiences
    • Is the music Rock, Jazz or Classical?
    • High or low art?
    • Controlled or open?
    • Improvisatory or notated?
    • Serious or frivolous?
    • Complex or simple?
    • Elitist or vernacular?
  • Complexity Of Style and Integration Of Tradition
    • Rock founded style/genre usually present, but his constant interface with other styles and genres make describing his music unusually problematic.
    • Can be described with Bakhtin’s notion of centripetal and centrifugal forces.
    • In Zappa’s case, Rock is the centripetal force, with other other sub styles/traditions (Doo- wop, Reggae, Blues, etc) acting as centrifugal “destabilising forces”.
    • However - Zappa’s use of music, and involvement with music outside of the tradition has a more profound effect on the stylistic balance and ultimate reception of his music.
    • Zappa’s long-term relationship with contemporary classical music represents not just a juxtaposition of style, but a confluence of traditions
  • Rock Blues Jazz CLASSICAL Reggae Doo Wop 'Low' Art 'High' Art
    • Zappa’s long term incorporation of classical music was intentionally progressive – he stated in 1968:
    • “ Stravinsky in rock n’ roll is like a get-acquainted offer… It’s a gradual progression to bring in my own ‘serious’ music”
    • Explicitly but subtly integrated classical gestures into his early portfolio, gradually increasing the propensity of the statements in individual compositions, and eventually albums
    • Early examples include:
    • Puns that allude to classical titles (EG – ‘Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask’)
    • Direct quotations from the canon (EG ‘Fountain of Love’)
    • Acknowledgement of relevant influences
    • Compositional Intent
    • In 1967 Zappa took this process a stage further, by interspersing an entire album Lumpy Gravy (1967) – which makes extensive use of an orchestra – between the more centripetal rock forces of Absolutely Free (1967) and We’re Only in it for the Money (1968)
    • A process he repeated with Orchestral Favourites (1979) ( Between Sheik Yerbouti (1979) and Joe’s Garage Act I (1979)).
    • And later - London Symphony Orchestra Volume 1 (1983) (Between The Man from Utopia (1983) and Them or Us (1984)).
    • Towards end of life recorded three orchestral albums – a profound centrifugal gesture.
  • The impact of musical ‘tradition’ on the interpretation of the work.
    • Song For My Father (Horace Silver)
  • Steely Dan
    • Ricky Don’t Lose That Number
  • Art Music related philosophical concepts - ‘The ‘Big Note’
    • “ All the material in the albums is organically related and if I had all the master tapes and I could take a razor blade and cut them apart and put it together again in a different order, it still would make one piece of music you can listen too”.
    • Constantly rearranged earlier compositions as outlined above
    • Constantly included recorded samples of earlier recordings in ‘new’ works.
    • Aligned the old with the new.
    • Self Plagiarism?? – He commented:
    • “ When a novelist invents a character. If the character is a good one, he takes on a life of his own. Why should he get to go to only one party?”
    • Implemented this philosophy principally via three techniques that were diachronic and synchronic in nature.
    • ‘ Project/Object’
    • ‘ Conceptual Continuity’
    • ‘ Xenochrony’
  • Project/Object
    • Perceived a difference between the completed work of art in a recording (Object), and the ongoing process of redefining it (Project)
    • Many Zappa compositions are recomposed and defined over many years.
  • Examples of Project/Object
    • Strictly Genteel
    • The Torture Never Stops
  • Conceptual Continuity
    • Musical and non musical ‘Conceptual Continuity’ gestures were embedded into his entire creative output.
    • For example:
  • Examples Francesco Zappa (1984)
  • Them or Us (1984)
  • The Perfect Stranger (1984)
    • This ‘canine conceptual continuity’ was extended in his music with compositions such as:
    • “ Dirty Love” (1974)
    • “ Stinkfoot” (1974)
    • “ The Poodle Lecture” (1974)
    • “ Cheepnis” (1974)
  • Louie Louie
    • Fragments of this track are found throughout his compositional portfolio.
    • For example:
  • Examples of incorporation of “Louis Louis”
    • “ Plastic People” ( Absolutely Free )
    • Son of Suzy Cream cheese ( Absolutely Free ) 1967
    • “ Florentine Pogen” ( One Size Fits All ) 1974
    • “ Jesus Thinks You’re A Jerk” ( Broadway The Hard Way ) 1984
  • Xenochrony
    • “ This collection is not chronological”, - any band from any year can be (and often is) edited to the performance of any other band from any other year – sometimes in the middle of a song” (Taken from YCDTOSA Volume 4, 1988)
    • Procedure that fuses music, performances and musicians from different time, spaces and places.
  • Examples
    • “ Friendly Little Finger” ( Zoot Allures 1974) Bass and guitar recorded together, and combined with drums from another track (“The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution” from Sleep Dirt )
  • Rubber Shirt ( Sheik Yerbouti 1979)
  • Examples of painters who have employed similar techniques
  • René Magritte The Man With The Bowler Hat (1964)
  • The Son of Man (1964)
  • Golconda (1953)
  • Mysteries of the Horizon (1955)
  • Salvador Dali -Anthromomorphic bread (1932)
  • The Persistence of Memory (1931)
  • Disintegration of the Persistence of memory (1954)
  • Soft watch at the moment of explosion (1954)
  • The ghost of Vermeer Van Delft which can be used as a table (1934)
  • The weaning of furniture nutrition (1934)
  • Autumn Cannibalism (1936)
  • Sleep (1937)
  • The Burning Giraffe (1937)
  • Warrior (1982) Conceptual Continuity?
  • Examples of musicians who have incorporated similar processes
    • Monteverdi - incorporating material from L’Orfeo in the 1610 Vespers
    • Prokoviev’s 3 rd Symphony - instrumental version of his opera Fiery An gel
    • Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Save The Life Of My Child’ ( Bookends 1968) - ‘samples’ part of ‘The Sound of Silence’
    • Buffalo Springfield’s live version of ‘Broken Arrow’ incorporates a direct recording of their ‘Mr Soul’
    • Pervasive throughout Hip Hop and some dance music.
  • Ontological Interest
  • Questions
  • Palatine Project
    • Investigate viabilities of interdisciplinary teaching between Drama and Music
    • Proposed an ‘experiment’ – and documented a report demonstrating its effectiveness.
  • Project Aims
    • Enable Staff from Drama and Music to work together
    • Assist the assimilation and awareness of sister disciplines
    • Assist a challenge for teaching staff who have little experience in other discipline
    • Consider other interdisciplinary units, and ultimately degree programmes.
  • The Process
    • Students from both disciplines worked on – Zappa Fish – An Anti Off Off Off Broadway Musical .
    • Music and text of piece influenced by “Thing Fish”, and the Zappa portfolio in general.
    • Students worked in drama/music groups, prior to coming together toward the end (similar methodology to what Zappa himself employed)
    • Music/Drama staff – Transcribed the music in lead sheet form, documented the script, led rehearsals, and researched everything related to Zappa!
    • Once working together – students explored:
    • Musicological and dramatic challenges
    • Bilateral potential for integration into each others contexts
    • How can one art form substantiate the meaning of the other?
    • How Zappa’s philosophical approaches to art can be incorporated.
  • Potential Future Pedagogical Projects
    • Interdisciplinary work exploring one or more of Zappa’s characters (Billy the Mountain, Gregory Peccary, ETC)
    • Interdisciplinary work exploring techniques such as Big Note, Conceptual Continuity, Archetypal American Music Icons, etc.
    • Academic text discussing his personal characteristics, political views, manipulation of the media, etc)
    • Compositional work incorporating his concepts.
    • Could begin with either a musical or dramatic starting point
    • Critical discussion of the process.
    • Use of space between music and narrative
    • Potential for improvisation
    • Acting is good for popular music performers – taking on a character seems to be liberating.