Sunday, December 12, 2010



Boulez conducts Zappa's Dupree's Paradise (with cheesy claymation for the schtoopid Amercanische) Enough to have the usual yokel reaching for his Book of Mormon  (ah swear that sounds like a soundtrack for the  LAMANITEs themselves, pilgrim--which is to say the preterite rabble...). Rather superior to the usual Aaron Copland philaharmonic sounds (Copland never wrote those obbligati) --who, I suspect FZ was parodying at times, though that wicked jazzy-atonal piano section--Mingus-ish-- no parody tho perhaps slightly programmatic as in....urban-capitalist Entropy with a capital E.-- Copland or Lennie Bernstein hits the 'hood. (those who don't recognize Copland probably aren't ready to listen to FZ's serious music).

Zappa's success consists in his ability to combine serious, "high-brow" sounds with the jazz and rock elements (commonly thought as "low brow")--in effect, deconstructing both musical-languages: the Coplandish-pastoral sounds exploded (FZ's marimba and percussion itself a type of correctio of the conservatory sound), and the jazz/rock elements are skewed as well: a type of musical irony, but the irony's compounded by the occasional grave sections--. Barthelme and Pynchon, other writers produced a similar effect in ...literature. The Consumer's reading (or listening to)--or did, when people still read books--a fairly ordinary if complex beatnik cartoon which suddenly morphs into some weird fragmented beauty--like Oedipa Maas lost in some North Beach maze, looking for evidence of the mysterious Tristero.  Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man another possible liter-rare-ee reference (tho doubt Zappa had read it): Ellison's scenes of urban chaos in Harlem not so dissimilar to...Ellay in the 60s, with various factions battling the cops in the streets. The Invisible Man himself (no, has nothing to do with the British BS, rube) does not exactly approve of the arrival of the muslim Ras the Destroyer; and in Zappa's musick one hears a certain  tone of alarm at times, though perhaps it's not only Ras--but the arrival of LAPD goons as well.


"""""Finally, [Zappa] sent some scores to Mr. Boulez, who took them and him seriously. Mr. Boulez commissioned a piece through his new-music center in Paris, and agreed to record a disk of Mr. Zappa's chamber music with his Ensemble InterContemporain - which is the new Angel disk.

But before that, Kent Nagano, a young conductor from Berkeley, Calif., was attracted to Mr. Zappa's music through Mr. Boulez's interest, and the result was an album of large- orchestra compositions underwritten by Mr. Zappa with the London Symphony that appeared last year on the composer's Barking Pumpkin label (FW 38820).

The Nagano album is lusher in texture; the Boulez, more pristinely performed. But both disks reveal similar traits. Mr. Zappa is a compulsive musical comedian, at least in his titles and scenarios. For Mr. Boulez, Mr. Zappa offers ''The Perfect Stranger'' (the commissioned work), ''Naval Aviation in Art?,'' ''The Girl in the Magnesium Dress,'' ''Outside Now, Again,'' ''Love Story,'' ''Dupree's Paradise'' and ''Jonestown.'' The Ensemble InterContemporain is joined by the ''Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort.''

In the scenario for ''The Perfect Stranger,'' ''a door-to-door salesman, accompanied by his faithful gypsy- mutant industrial vacuum cleaner, cavorts licentiously with a slovenly housewife.'' ''Love Story,'' which is one minute long, is about ''an elderly Republican couple attempting sex while break-dancing.'' And so forth.

Mr. Zappa has always created musical theater of one kind or another - he has been struggling of late to get a massive mixed-media project produced on Broadway - and perhaps the scores on the Boulez record really are ''tone poems'' with precise programs, on the Lisztian model. If so, their sometimes disjointed musical logic might be explained on dramatic grounds. Maybe again, however, Mr. Zappa merely appends his scenarios ex post facto to his music, either to amuse his rock fans or to protect his serious work from a too sober scrutiny - the defensive mask of irony, once again.""""""

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