Archive for May, 2014

Zappa as a visual artist

Posted: May 26, 2014 in visual arts, zappa
Frank Zappa, Untitled, 1967, etching for an album artwork (from the exhibition "The Art of Hard Rock", Rome, September 2011)

Frank Zappa, Untitled, 1967, etching for an album artwork (from the exhibition “The Art of Hard Rock”, Rome, September 2011)

In 2011/2012 the exhibition “The Art of Hard Rock” toured Europe “to celebrate 40 years of Hard Rock Cafe“. “40 pieces of art by artists such as: Michael Jackson, Pete Townshend, Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper, Billy Idol, Lou Reed and more.”

The exhibition included a painting (supposedly?) by Frank Zappa, with the tag “Untitled, etching for an album artwork” (see above).

Here is a relevant pinterest page from the Cologne Hard Rock Cafe.

On September 2011 “The Art of Hard Rock” was on display in Rome, at Chiostro del Bramante. Here are two more pictures of “Untitled” I took at the Chiostro, unfortunately the glass reflected a little bit.

Frank Zappa, Untitled, 1967, etching for an album artwork (from the exhibition "The Art of Hard Rock", Rome, September 2011)

Frank Zappa, Untitled, 1967, etching for an album artwork (from the exhibition “The Art of Hard Rock”, Rome, September 2011)

Frank Zappa, Untitled, 1967, etching for an album artwork (detail, from the exhibition "The Art of Hard Rock", Rome, September 2011)

Frank Zappa, Untitled, 1967, etching for an album artwork (detail, from the exhibition “The Art of Hard Rock”, Rome, September 2011)

The second one is a detail where “December 1967, Mothers Segment” can be read near the FZ sign. I’m not sure about the word “segment” actually, any other clue?

For other information about FZ as a visual artist, go to the “Frank Zappa Paintings & Drawings” page, at the Information Is Not Knowledge web site.

Concerning the “Drum Shop” collage (already mentioned in this blog), a History Detectives video (from season 10 of the PBS TV show) is really worth watching. The Zappa segment starts at 37:54.

Frank Zappa, Drum Shop, late 1950s/early 1960s, ink,  watercolors and collage

Frank Zappa, Drum Shop, late 1950s/early 1960s, ink, watercolors and collage

Towards the end of video, the detective meets Gail Zappa at the Professional Drum Shop in Hollywood, a Zappa favorite since the 60s. At 49:53 Gail shows a picture of Bob Yeager, one of the founders of the shop in 1959, with a sport jacket really similar to the one wore by the main character on the right side of the collage! Gail also says “for Frank music was visual. And that’s how he saw music. Like, mobiles, you know, floating, things crossing each other.” Once Again the Calder mobile analogy from the The Real Frank Zappa Book, already mentioned in this blog (in the RAMME’s ZAPPA post). The script to the Zappa episode is available as a pdf file through the PBS web site.

.

“The most important thing in art is the frame. For painting: literally; for other arts: figuratively – because, without this humble appliance, you can’t know where The Art stops and The Real World begins. You have to put a “box” around it because otherwise, what is that shit on the wall?”

Frank Zappa, The Real Frank Zappa Book, page 140, Frank Zappa and Peter Occhiogrosso, 1989 —

From the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln – Freunde facebook page

From the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln – Freunde facebook page

On May 4, 2014 WDR Sinfonieorchester conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer performed music by John Adams, Bernhard Gander, Hans Abrahamsen, Steve Reich, Frank Zappa and György Ligeti. The concert belongs to the “Acht Brücken Festivals” and has been titled “Musik der Zeit: Stop Nonstop”. The program has been defined upon a fascination for technique and pace (“Das Programm lebt von der Faszination für Technik und Tempo”, from the WDR Sinfonieorchester web pages). Here it is in detail:

Soloists:
Tamara Stefanovich: piano
Dirk Rothbrust: drums
Thorsten Johanns: clarinet
Nicola Jürgensen: clarinet

Studierende der Musikhochschulen NRW
WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln

Jonathan Stockhammer: conductor

John Adams
Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986)
Fanfare for Orchestra

Bernhard Gander
Orchannibal Corpse (2013)
for Orchestra
commissioned by WDR
world premiere

Steve Reich
New York Counterpoint (1985)
for clarinet and tape or 11 clarinets
(11 clarinets version)

Hans Abrahamsen
Concerto for piano and orchestra (1999/2000)

Frank Zappa
Four pieces for drums solo and Orchestra
arranged by Andrew Digby and Hubert Steiner (2014)
world premiere

György Ligeti
San Francisco Polyphony (1973-74)
for orchestra

An mp3 recording of the concert has been available for streaming for 30 days starting May 4 through a WDR3 web site (the link was here).

Of course I’m going to concentrate on the Zappa performance, but the whole concert deserves attention, the program has its own coherence, and presents some classics and less known pieces. The Gander premiere, for instance, effectively combines powerful orchestra blasts with low dynamics passages. There is a careful use of dissonance in a context where rhythmic references are always clear. Gander is known to possess a great pop background, heavy metal being one of his favorites, hence probably the “hard-dark” nature of the piece.

It would be interesting to ask Frank Zappa about such a program, since it is well known that he was not very fond of most 80s minimalism. As he said to Florindo Volpacchio (“The Mother of All Interviews: Zappa on Music and Society”, Telos, Spring, 1991):

“Minimalism, I think, is a perfect form of music to express the spiritual condition of the 80s.”

And here is what’s behind 4 Stücke fur Solodrummer und Orchester (4 pieces for drums solo and Orchestra, timings refer to the mp3 WDR3 recording):

1:25:57 – 1:29:45 (3:48) – Aerobics in Bondage
1:30:12 – 1:32:59 (1:47) – Navanax
1:33:27 – 1:36:08 (2:41) – Naval Aviation in Art?
1:36:32 – 1:42:21 (5:49) – Put a Motor in Yourself

And these are the timings for the respective reference versions (album title in parentheses):

Aerobics in Bondage
3:23 (Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers Of Prevention)
Navanax
1:40 (Civilization Phaze III)
Naval Aviation in Art?
1:22 (Orchestral Favorites)
2:45 (The Perfect Stranger)
2:28 (Greggery Peccary & Other Persuasions)
Put a Motor in Yourself
5:13 (Civilization Phaze III)
5:20 (Greggery Peccary & Other Persuasions)

As far as I know, Aerobics in Bondage and Navanax have been executed by a human ensemble here for the first time, and thanks to the arrangers and the Orchestra, they reveal a great acoustic impact. In both pieces the “quasi-solo” (as defined by the speaker) drums parts are in evidence and give them a peculiar sound. The Naval Aviation in Art? arrangement is directly related to those presented by the Ensemble Intercontemporain (Boulez) in 1984 and by the Ensemble Modern (Stockhammer) in 2002, these three version have similar durations but slightly different orchestrations. For instance, it is interesting to note that this arrangement goes back to the Orchestral Favorites 1975 recording for the beginning, with the very first notes played by winds instead of the full strings start of both 1984 and 2002 versions. On a first listen, the arrangement of Put a Motor in Yourself sounds close to the Ensemble Modern one, i.e. it is quite loyal to the original. However Andrew Digby and Hubert Steiner introduced a lot of variations in the orchestration. To mention an evident one, there are neither synthesizer nor electric bass. A more defined recording would reveal much more details. The drums arrangement of this version is also distinctive, as far as the approach and general sound are concerned, Dirk Rothbrust often plays as for a progressive band, taking all related risks. During the first minute of the performance not everything went well, but later on the piece goes as fluid as the original, and with powerful drumming.

Andrew Digby and Hubert Steiner work with the music of Frank Zappa since 2007 at least, being members of Ensemble Ascolta who has a well known Zappa project in repertoire (will it ever become an album?). Jonathan Stockhammer is a renowned conductor and was in charge with the Ensemble Modern for the Greggery Peccary & Other Persuasions album. Conceiving an effective approach for the drums, an instrument that has a lead role in the whole production of the man from Baltimore, and delivering a solid performance, the arrangers, the director and the Orchestra designed a short but relevant Zappa episode worth to be known and continued.

This is particularly good news, if compared to a 2011 Rome concert, a project far below any expectation that involved both Stockhammer and Steiner, and that cause me to shout this blog.

Considering the release of Roxy by Proxy, the percussion oriented performances of Ensemble musicFabrik and this “Technik und Tempo” WDR Sinfonieorchester execution, 2014 seems a good year for Zappa and the drums.

.

Frank Zappa, Drum Shop, late 1950s/early 1960s, ink,  watercolors and collage

Frank Zappa, Drum Shop, late 1950s/early 1960s, ink, watercolors and collage

.

LANCASTER, CA - CIRCA 1957: Frank Zappa plays drums with his first band 'The Blackouts'; (clockwise from the bottom right) Wayne Lyles (on bongos), Dwight Bennett, Ernie Thomas, Terry Wimberley (on piano), John Franklin, Frank Zappa (on drums) [gettyimages.com]

LANCASTER, CA – CIRCA 1957: Frank Zappa plays drums with his first band ‘The Blackouts’; (clockwise from the bottom right) Wayne Lyles (on bongos), Dwight Bennett, Ernie Thomas, Terry Wimberley (on piano), John Franklin, Frank Zappa (on drums) [gettyimages.com]

.

MOTHERS DAY 2014

Posted: May 10, 2014 in album review, visual arts, zappa

.

Two new download only tracks are available at Barfko-Swill ($1,99 mp3 or $2,99 FLAC, each).

Zoot Allures (6:12)
Cosmik Debris (8:12)

More info at zappa.com.

Zoot Allures 1982
Frank Zappa: lead guitar
Ray White: guitar
Steve Vai: guitar
Scott Thunes: bass
Chad Wackerman: drums (overdubbed at UMRK)
Bobby Martin: keys
Tommy Mars: keys
Ed Mann: percussion

Zappateer pbuzby noted that “Zappa’s solo in Zoot Allures is from 1982 06 18 London”. Great sound! The solo grows upon a relaxed rhythmic support. The fade out is the cruelest part of the song, as it is in the original!

Post Scriptum (May 13, 2014): a further note from Zappateer boguspomp
Good ears Flam,
ZA goes as follows:
0 – 59.03 19th early,
59.03 – 1.04.05 Frankfurt late,
1.04.05 – 2.04.62 19th early,
2.04.62 – 2.52.45 Frankfurt late again,
Rest 18th.
All times are approximate!

.

Cosmik Debris 1973
Finlandia Hall, Helsinki
Frank Zappa: lead vocal, guitar
George Duke: keys
Ruth Underwood: percussion
Bruce Fowler: trombone
Jen Luc Ponty: violin
Ian Underwood: woodwinds, synth
Tom Fowler: bass

From the same concerts released as Road Tapes, Venue #2, “a song about a guru who maybe visiting you!”. Unfortunately the vocal track is a little bit distorted and winds seem too low in the mix, but the rest is great and relaxed too.

Two excerpts from the guitar solos to the two songs are available through the Barfko-Swill shop. Here are the direct links:
Zoot Allures (1982) excerpt
Cosmik Debris (1973) excerpt

.

Lastly, a memorabilia from the 90s, it is a Mother’s Day card by Cal Schenkel. Unfortunately only low quality images are available on the net.

Mother's Day by Cal Schenkel, a 1995 RYKO card

Mother’s Day by Cal Schenkel, a 1995 RYKO card

Mother's Day by Cal Schenkel, a 1995 RYKO card

Mother’s Day by Cal Schenkel, a 1995 RYKO card

Mother's Day by Cal Schenkel, a 1995 RYKO card

Mother’s Day by Cal Schenkel, a 1995 RYKO card

.