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Session 7 zappa presentation 1

Session 7 zappa presentation 1



This is an updated presentation of a lecture I give on Frank Zappa, as an example of how a musician can be used as a case study for musical research. After exploring some methodological themes, it ...

This is an updated presentation of a lecture I give on Frank Zappa, as an example of how a musician can be used as a case study for musical research. After exploring some methodological themes, it uses 'Frank Zappa and Gesture' as an indicative example.



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  • Mayer discusses “the importance of uncertainty in musical communication” (1994) – refer to John Fisk
  • Emerged in mid 1960’s – professional musician since leaving high school in late 50’s Gained experience as a jobbing musician, film composer, studio owner, and songwriter prior to mothers musician heavily influenced by the blues, doo-wop, orchestral arranging, and comedy theatre Almost developing an alter ego compulsion for twentieth-century classical music, especially the work of Edgard Varèse Freak Out in 1966 - Stylistic gestures such as sarcastic anti establishment lyrics, tape splicing, doo-wop influenced vocals, classical orchestration, rhythm and blues influence, and humorous complex material – all apparent. Artist who never compromised
  • Echard’s description of tradition as “a complex discursive category which correlates bundles of generic and stylistic features with specific social groups, places and histories”
  • For example “Invocation and Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin” ( Absolutely Free, 1967), and “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask” ( Weasels Ripped My Flesh, 1970). For example “Fountain of Love” ( Crusin’ with Ruben and the Jets, 1968) includes a quote from the opening theme of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. His first album Freak Out (1966) includes a substantive list of his major influences, which include Boulez, Kagel, Schoenberg, Varèse, and Stravinsky amongst many others. For example Absolutely Free (1967) was considered to be two oratorios, and included a “mini rock opera” – “Brown Shoes Don”t Make It”.
  • Between The Man from Utopia (1983) and Them or Us (1984).
  • P
  • For example The Perfect Stranger (1984), Franceseco Zappa, (1992) and Them or Us (1984) all featured Patricia the dog on their covers. This “canine conceptual continuation” can be also be found in musical form on “Dirty Love” (Overnite Sensationn,1973), “Stink foot” (Apostrophe, 1974) and "Cheepnis” (Roxy and Elsewhere, 1974).
  • This was exclusively a studio based technique that enabled him to horizontally fuse disparate recordings from unrelated time and places, consequently enabling him to superimpose “unrelated” guitar solos, usually from live recordings, into his studio projects aligning musical structures from completely incongruous composition The effect of this angular gesture often has a profound effect on the listener, in effect accentuating the disparate locations and spaces the tracks were originally recording in Research has indicated that if performers are sensitive to the gestural codes emanating from their audiences, it has a direct positive effect on their creative output
  • Like Zappa, he clearly regards aspects of his work not as finished products, but as part of an ongoing process which can be developed over many years. without an overarching gesture such as the Big Note , it would be easy to interpret Zappa’s “sampling” practices as at best self-plagiarism, but individuals taking this view are missing the profound conceptual continuity gesture which is so integral to his work
  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 Zappa – scientifically recontextualised his life's work. Has been a major influence regarding broadening the stylistic pre-requisites of the Rock genre he has increasingly been accepted as a composer of concert music The Yellow Shark (1993) with the Ensemble Modern, has resulted in numerous concert and radio performances Ensemble Modern Plays Frank Zappa: Greggery Peccary and other persuasions (2004) Not the only artist operating on the boarders of high and low art forms during the late 1960’s – early 1970’s Deep Purple ( Concerto for Group and Orchestra, 1969), ELP ( Pictures at am Exhibition, 1971), Yes , The Moody Blues ( Days of Future Passed , 1967 Zappa – music for entertainment, although some had greater commercial success Few however engaged with the long term consistency, unpretentious complexity, and detached irony/strategic anti essentialism Zappa’s

Session 7 zappa presentation 1 Session 7 zappa presentation 1 Presentation Transcript

  • Dr Paul Carr Research Skills Musicology
    • Zappa as methodological case study.
    • Can music communicate anything beyond notes, sounds and textures? How/Why/Why Not?
    • Is this ‘meaning’ universal or personal?
    • Can we/how do we or the artist, communicate this meaning to others?
    • How do we go about writing about this meaning?
    • A unique case study in intertextuality.
    • Represents a point of interest from both a formalist, rationalistic, empirical and ‘extra-musical’ perspective .
    • Zappa’s work not only represents an extraordinary confluence of styles , but a prolonged and considered interchange of musical t raditions – very rare!
    • Bridges the gap between low art and high art.
    • Work includes what Lenard Mayer describes as ‘embodied’ and ‘designated’ meaning.
    • Interesting mix of ‘intentional’ and ‘extensional’ meaning (musical meaning in recording/ performance process and/or the score?).
    • Interesting use of the recording studio to experiment with time, space and place.
    • Low ‘convention probability’. “Anything, anytime, for no reason at all” (Frank Zappa)
    • Carr, P and Hand, R.J. (2007) Frank Zappa and musical Theatre: ugly ugly orphan Annie and really deep intense, thought-provoking Broadway symbolism . Studies in Musical Theatre, Intellect. 1:1, pp.41-56, dol: 10.1386/smt.1.1.41/1
    • Carr, P and Hand, R.J. (2008) Twist n frugg in an arrogant gesture: Frank Zappa and the musical-theatrical gesture . Popular Musicology Online (March 2008). http://www.popular-musicology-online.com/issues/05/carr.html
    • Carr, P (2010) Make a Sex Noise Here: Frank Zappa, Sex and Popular Music. Book chapter in Thema Nr. 1: Sex und populäre Musik. Transcript. pp.135-149.
    • Carr, P (2011) An Autocratic Approach to Music Copyright?: The potential negative impacts of restrictive rights on a composers legacy: The case of the Zappa Family Trust . Contemporary Theatre Review. Forthcoming 2011
    • Carr, P. (2012) Frank Zappa and the And: A Contextual Analysis of his legacy . Forthcoming edited book for Ashgate Publishing
    • Carr, P. and Hand, R. (2006) An Experiment in Interdisciplinary Teaching: The Music Theatre of Frank Zappa . Palatine, http://www.lancs.ac.uk/palatine/dev-awards/carr-hand-report.pdf
    • Carr, P and Delville, M. (2009) King Kong: a conversational analysis . The Rondo Hatton Report, Issue 1. http://www.rhreport.net/archive.html
    • Carr, P (2009) The means through which Frank Zappa translated and adapted both his own and other composers music . Encontros de Investigao em Performance. Universidade de Aveiro. ISBN: 978-972-789-209-7 (Conference Proceedings)
    • Carr, P.(2010) Frank Zappa Tribute . The Rondo Hatton Report, Issue 4. http://www.rhreport.net/archive.html
    • Fair Use, Grand Rights and the Zappa Family Trust: A legal and ethical examination of the enforcement of restrictive rights by a copyright holder . The IASPM-Norden 2010 Conference on MUSIC, LAW AND BUSINESS. Helsinki, November 2010.
    • Dickies Such An Asshole: Frank Zappa, Popular Music and Politics . 20th Century Music and Politics Conference. Bristol University. Bristol. April 2010.
    • The Big Note: The Ultimate Gesture: The incorporation of time and space in performing, composing, arranging and producing Frank Zappas music . The Fifth Annual Art of Record Production Conference. University of Glamorgan, Cardiff. November 2009.
    • Make a Sex Noise Here: Frank Zappa, Sex and Popular Music . Sex und populre Musik. Halle an der Saale, Germany. September 2009.
    • An Autocratic Approach to Music Copyright?: The means through which Frank Zappa translated and adapted both his own and other composers music . Performa 09 Encontros de Investigao em Performance. University of Evora, Portugal. May 2009
    • Stuff That Is Not Normal: Frank Zappa, Halloween and Horror. Halloween : An International Conference. Glasgow Caledonian University. October-November 2006
    • Twist n frugg in an arrogant gesture: Frank Zappa and the musical-theatrical gesture . Second International Conference on Music and Gesture. Royal Northern College of Music and Drama, July 2006
    • Ugly Orphan Annie and Really Deep, Intense, Thought-Provoking Broadway Symbolism . Song, Stage & Screen Interdisciplinary approaches to the stage and Screen. University of Portsmouth, April 2006
    • Musical Gesture
    • Sexuality
    • Musical Theatre
    • Individual Pieces
    • Time and Space
    • Recording Studio Practice
    • Translation
    • Copyright
    • Politics
    • Horror
  • Stimulus What the meaning refers to The person or people who understand the meaning Can Be ‘ Designative’ or Embodied’ (Outside or Inside Music)
  • Music (channel) Emitter Receiver Intended ‘message’ ‘ adequate’ response Philip Tagg: Communication Model
  • PMFA Paramusical Fields of Association (relevant to IOCM) PMFA Paramusical Fields of Association (relevant to AO) AO Analysis Object IOCM Interobjective Comparison Material
    • Dyadic model
    • 1) Signifier (a ‘sign’: For example a distorted guitar, or a type of fashion)
    • 2) Signified (what it stands for: For example Rock Music)
    • Icon : Where the gesture resembles in some shape or form what it is representing. For example a guitar sounding like a motorbike, or a type of clothing resembling another fashion.
    • Index : Where the gesture points toward its meaning. For example distorted guitar points toward certain types of rock music.
    • Symbol : Connected by convention. Good for language, not as useful for music in my view.
    • 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 is to explain the processes that underlie his performances and recordings
    • I propose:
    • His ‘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:
    • But how does this, relate to -
    • See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9Io_H2un9c
    • ‘ 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)
    • 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
    • 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?
    • 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.
  • Rock Blues Jazz CLASSICAL Reggae Doo Wop 'Low' Art 'High' Art
    • 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
    • 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)
    • Freak Out! (July 1966)
    • Absolutely Free (April 1967)
    • Lumpy Gravy (December 1967)
    • We're Only In It For The Money (February 1968)
    • Cruising With Ruben & The Jets (November 1968)
    • Uncle Meat (March 1969)
    • A process he repeated with Orchestral Favourites (1979) ( Between Sheik Yerbouti (1979) and Joe’s Garage Act I (1979)).
    • Sheik Yerbouti (March 3, 1979)
    • Orchestral Favorites (4 May 1979 )
    • Joe's Garage (19 November 1979)
    • And later - London Symphony Orchestra Volume 1 (1983) (Between The Man from Utopia (1983) and Them or Us (1984)).
    • The Man From Utopia (March 1983)
    • London Symphony Orchestra vol 1 (9 June 1983)
    • The Perfect Stranger (23 August 1984)
    • Them Or Us (18 October 1984)
    • Thing-Fish (21 November 1984)
    • Towards end of life he released three orchestral albums – a profound centrifugal gesture.
    • You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore vol 6 (July 1992)
    • Playground Psychotics (27 October 1992)
    • Ahead Of Their Time (April 1993)
    • The Yellow Shark (December 1993)
    • Civilization, Phaze III (December 1994)
    • Song For My Father (Horace Silver)
    • Ricky Don’t Lose That Number
    • “ 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’
    • 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.
    • Musical and non musical ‘Conceptual Continuity’ gestures were embedded into his entire creative output.
    • For example:
    • This ‘canine conceptual continuity’ was extended in his music with compositions such as:
    • “ Dirty Love” (1974)
    • “ Stinkfoot” (1974)
    • “ The Poodle Lecture” (1974)
    • “ Cheepnis” (1974)
    • Fragments of this track are found throughout his compositional portfolio.
    • For example:
    • Original Track The Kingsman
    • “ 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
    • “ 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.
    • “ 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 1979 )
  • 11/4 bass part extracted from a performance in Gothenburg in 1974, with a 4/4 drum part recorded in 1976 in studio conditions
  • Conceptual Continuity?
    • 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.
    • Meyer, Leonard B., Emotion and meaning in music (University of Chicago Press, 1961).  
    • Meyer, Leonard B., Music, the arts, and ideas (University of Chicago Press, 1994).
    • Hanslick, Eduard, and Geoffrey Payzant, On the musically beautiful (Hackett Publishing, 1986).
    • Farmer, Frank, Landmark Essays on Bakhtin, Rhetoric, and Writing (Routledge, 1998).  
    • Phil Tagg, http://www.tagg.org/