The Ensemble musikFabrik plays the easy teenage Amsterdam version

Posted: March 1, 2014 in concert report, transcriptions, zappa
Ensemble musikFabrik

Ensemble musikFabrik

Thanks to zappateers, once again an audience recording of a FINE performance of the music of Frank Zappa is available also to the people in the world who could not be in Amsterdam on the 20th of February 2014. The venue in question was Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ, the FINE musicians are those of the Ensemble musikFabrik, the FINE drummer Dirk Rothbrust, and finally the FINE conductor Marco Blaauw. The quality of the recording is overall good, being an audience one. Beside the distorted beginning of The Black Page 1, the only real problem is with the strings, unfortunately quite distant.

The concert included the music of three American composers. Varèse was born in France actually, but he is considered to be part of the American musical culture. Here is the program:

Edgard Varèse – Ionisation
John Cage – Amores
John Cage – Credo in Us
Frank Zappa – The Black Page 1, 2
Frank Zappa – RDNZL
Frank Zappa – Echidna’s Arf (Of You)
Frank Zappa – Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing?
Frank Zappa – Peaches en Regalia (encore)

The full concert program in Dutch (with the list of the musicians) is digitally available through the Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ web site. (Anyone willing to translate into English the Zappa section?)

Also, @musikFabrik posted via twitter some Amsterdam pictures and a couple of tasty Vine videos.

Ensemble musikFabrik - American Mavericks Tour - Amsterdam - Muziekgebouw aan't IJ - Feb 20, 2014 - dress rehearsal

Ensemble musikFabrik – American Mavericks Tour – Amsterdam – Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ – Feb 20, 2014 – dress rehearsal


Varèse siren


Zappa string soundcheck


The concert opened with Ionisation, a FZ favorite, in his own words, see the famous Stereo Review 1971 article. The percussive strength of musikFabrik is already on display. Right after, two John Cage compositions showed an Ensemble at ease with unusual tones and prepared instruments. The percussive nature of the compositions once again come out, also during the frequent low dynamic sections.

Then the Zappa performances followed, and the really good news of this project is that the drums swing and have a central role in the orchestrations. This should be an obvious option for The Black Page, and should be evident too for the rest of the FZ program, but in spite of this, the musikFabrik renditions are among the few attempts to render the richness of the drums and percussion arrangements conceived by FZ in the 70’s. Particularly, during ’73-’74, and maybe at their best in the two drummers period: October ’73 – May ’74.

A convincing performance emerges from the audience tape, it seems that the energy of the originals reached the audience. The Ensemble musikFabrik delivered a fluid and rhythmically tight execution, just very few and tiny details needed to be smoothed. For sure the following concerts in Kiel (Feb 21) and Bristol (Feb 23) went even better. As perfectly known to the mankind, the more you play such music the better you are going to reach the Zappa standard.

Considering such a percussion appetite, a next step for the Ensemble musikFabrik would be to take into account FZ orchestrations for two drums set. In this direction it will be for sure appropriate, as well as auspicious, to listen to the forthcoming Roxy by Proxy, and to watch to his future video companion (both of them, the long awaited follow-up to Roxy & Elsewhere).

Roxy by Proxy cover as anticipated by Barfko-Swill

Roxy by Proxy cover as anticipated by Barfko-Swill

Also intriguing is to imagine a musikFabrik orchestration of the opening sequence of Road Tapes, Venue #2. As already said in this blog, this sequence sounds truly suitable for orchestras like this.

As far as what is recorded on their web site, the Ensemble musikFabrik performs Zappa since 2009 (they also have Big Swifty and T’Mershi Duween in repertoire), hopefully more will follow!

And it would be also great if some more recordings of this short three dates American Mavericks tour will emerge. The Harry Partch performances included in the other two concerts should have been also highly entertaining. The pictures shared via twitter on February 21 and 23 by @musikFabrik show a sumptuous Partch set.

A final note about the title of this post, which quotes the rap a distinguished member of the Ensemble delivered as the intro to Black Page part 2. Of course a paraphrase of the famous Zappa in New York “statistical density” discourse. The Amsterdam audience caught it!


Ali N. Askin, arranger (and sometime also copyst) for Yellow Shark and other Zappa projects, sent a short note concerning the musikFabrik project. This blog is glad to include it also here. Thank you Ali!

From: Ali N. Askin
To: Francesco G.
Date: Mon, 3 Mar 2014 22:55:48 +0100
Subject: MusikFabrik

Hi Francesco,

I just read your nice blog entry about the MusikFabrik in Amsterdam. I would like to add that these are my arrangements which I did for them back in 2006. The first show included Morgan Ågren and Mats Oberg …


  1. […] Concert Orchestra, Ensemble Ascolta, Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble, Ensemble Kontraste, Ensemble MusikFabrik, Norwegian Wind Ensemble, Absolute Ensemble, Ensemble Ambrosius), not to mention the Ensemble […]

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