Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Composer John Adams on the music of Frank Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993).

From Adams' autobiography, Hallelujah Junction:

"""During the early 1980s, while I was doing concerts in San Francisco, a friend who had been copying music for Frank Zappa sent me several large orchestra scores by Zappa with the hint that perhaps I might lobby for performances of them with the San Francisco Symphony. They were part of a rapidly growing number of Zappa’s compositions for conventional classical orchestra. Although they still bore the familiar mocking, in-your-face Zappa titles like “Bogus Pomp,” “Mo’n’ Herb’s Vacation,” and “Penis Dimension,” they also included passages of dissonant, thickly orchestrated material, sometimes featuring perversely difficult rhythmic groupings that all but dared a big-time orchestra to take them on and wrestle with the knots and tangles of their polyrhythms. Nothing came of my perusal of those orchestral scores, but ten years later I began to program some of Zappa’s works for smaller orchestra, and over a period of time I did performances of his works in many cities throughout Europe and the United States, both on symphony orchestra programs and with special virtuoso ensembles like Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern and the London Sinfonietta.

Zappa’s admiration of Edgard Varese was deep, genuine and oft proclaimed. Even my own wife had said that Freak Out!, Zappa’s first best-selling album with the Mothers of Invention, had changed her life, introducing her to Varese and launching her on a long voyage of discovery in the world of experimental music. Varese himself was a lonely outsider, an émigré composer whose visionary futurism and stubborn individualism had kept him apart from the conventional classical music community, a community that Copland so expertly navigated. Varese’s outlaw persona coupled with the radical constructivism of his music provided the perfect model for Zappa, who himself played the role of outlaw, angry individualist, and musical radical within the context of American pop music. But unlike Varese, who seemed to care little for public notoriety, Zappa was an immensely clever self-promoter gifted with perfect pitch when it came to identifying the absurdities and vulgarities of American popular culture. The music he made with his bands was advanced by the standards of rock music, but in comparison to what was being accomplished at the same time by other contemporary composers, it was hardly more advanced than what had been around already for half a century. Zappa the snarky social critic, the taunting homunculus who ridiculed the vacuousness and stupidity of American culture, was very much in the lineage of our best social satirists—Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, H.L. Mencken, and Hunter S. Thompson. With his snarling, potty-mouthed titles and song lyrics he had a gift for appealing to the eternal six-year-old in all of us. “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow,” “Alien Orifice,” “G-Spot Tornado” were musically interesting enough to beg multiple listenings, more at least than most of what was being produced at that time.

"""Zappa’s engines were driven by his savagely critical animus against commercial pop and the market-oriented, image-conscious, media-driven world of rock. Shortly after the 1966 release of Freak Out! He broke with the money-driven corporate world of commercial music, took control of all aspects of his work, and from then on entirely self-produced his music. Everything, the composing, recording, editing, mixing, packaging, marketing, and licensing, was under his personal direction. This of course gave him enormous creative freedom, and with the knowledge that there was no corporate middleman to answer to, his individuality flourished. He stayed outrageously productive, almost maniacally so, right up to his early death at the age of fifty-two.


Thomas Pynchon's latest novel Inherent Vice also contains a few references to FZ (as does TP's playlist). Pynchon might be said to be the Zappa of books, like. HUngry freaks daddy: Zappaville a place, somewhat troubling at times, which the usual suburban pedazo de WASP mierda just doesn't quite fathom.


Perezoso said...

Speaking of WASP-mormon blowhards you linked to these fools a while ago did you not. The one joto "Byronius" pops up on many right-wing sites

J said...

You ruined the post, ese.
Yeah I know them, or of them.
Not really mormons. More like baptist-scientologists-- Appliantologists--or shall we say, klansmen on acid. They're white trash, illiterate shit who did a lot of drugs. "Max" is a frat boy from Penn State--knows Paterno. Probably Sandusky as well.

The Byro-queer has a rich daddy--he plays right or left, str8 or g*y as needed. Sometimes it posts as a female online (was "Daisy" on Digby for months until she gave "her" the boot). Should be in like Vacaville.
The one bum "Sky" also posts anonymously on sites--the fugly "Carol Herman" on Althouse.

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