Circular Motion

Posted: December 12, 2014 in conceptual continuity, obsession, zappa, zappology


a Zappadan Conceptual Continuity Cruise


Escher's "Relativity" in LEGO(R) by Andrew Lipson

Escher’s “Relativity” in LEGO(R) by Andrew Lipson


dedicated to the surrealistic memory of Dominique Jeunot (1959-2004)

Dominique Jeunot with Ben Watson at the International Conference of Esemplastic Zappology, on  January 16, 2004

Dominique Jeunot with Ben Watson at the International Conference of Esemplastic Zappology, on January 16, 2004


A classic start, first song, first album.
Hungry Freaks Daddy (Freak Out!)

Lyrics deals with some typical US amnesias, fact that brings straight to:
Amnerika (Civilization Phaze III)

This melody appeared for the first time in the background of:
That Evil Prince (Thing Fish)

Harry and Rhonda talk about the Evil Prince with Thing-Fish who remarks:
Next item de boy be inventin’ come under de headin’ o’ industrial pollutium!

It’s easy now to go trudging across:
Nine Types of Industrial Pollution (Uncle Meat)

Zappa talked about this piece with Bob Marshall, on October 22, 1988:

Bob Marshall: What are the ‘Nine Types of Industrial Pollution’? Because it seems these old institutions are running amuck with these old techniques, and they’re out of control. They clash with different media, different institutions, and different professions.
Frank Zappa: The funny thing about that song title is that, at the time that it was put on Uncle Meat, there was no such thing as a concern over industrial pollution. It hadn’t even been brought up as a topic. I put that on that song just as a joke after driving through New Jersey.
Bob Marshall: So, there were not nine, you had not categorized…
Frank Zappa: Here I could see nine on that one trip. There may be more.
Bob Marshall: The term was not in the regular media…
Frank Zappa: No.

And also, on the musical side, what follows is an interesting view from feetlightup for the forum.

I was listening to this on headphones the other day and heard some stuff for the first time. It seems that the basic rhythm track is a fairly simple slow blues track (bass, drums, organ), but with all of those percussion instruments dubbed on top, it sounds like it’s more freeform than it actually is! It’s also pretty clear to me now that Frank’s guitar is actually a fairly bluesy lead, but when sped up and superimposed over this background, it too sounds fairly “out there”. And GET THIS: Way in the background of one of the channels, the whole time you can hear (I think) Frank’s ORIGINAL guitar lead, played at normal speed! Just shows what you can do in the studio with some pretty basic ingredients and a hell of a lot of creativity.

An early move towards Xenochrony?
Friendly Little Finger (Zoot Allures)

From The Guitar World According To Frank Zappa cassette liner notes to this song:

[…] recorded in a dressing room at Hofstra University and over- dubbed at the Record Plant, Los Angeles, California; […] This is one of the earliest examples of a technique I developed called Xenochrony (strange synchronizations).

More about this subject in “WE ARE The Mothers… AND THIS IS WHAT WE SOUND LIKE!” (Mix, January 2003, Chris Michie):

Zappa dubbed the technique “xenochrony,” from the Greek words xeno (strange or alien) and chrono (time). As he explained, “In this technique, various tracks from unrelated sources are randomly synchronized with each other to make a final composition with rhythmic relationships unachievable by other means.” For example, in the case of the Zoot Allures track “Friendly Little Finger,” the solo guitar and bass were recorded in a dressing room on a 2-track Nagra and then later combined with an unrelated drum track for a piece called “The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution,” with additional instrumentation scored to complement the newly produced time signatures. Xenochrony proved to be a powerful new compositional tool for Zappa, and he returned to it many times over later albums.

Let’s move then to such drum track in his first environment:
The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution (Sleep Dirt)

And talking about the ocean:
Outrage At Valdez (Yellow Shark)

 Frank Zappa’s interest in the tank vessel accident on March 24, 1989, causing environmental disaster and worldwide protest came as a mild but not irrational surprise. His commitment lead to the friendship with Jacques Cousteau and to composing the soundtrack for a documentary, Alaska: Outrage At Valdez about the accident and its consequences in the Prince William Sound, Alaska (from the wiki jawaka article).

And from here, FNRAA, I would like to jump to the LSO, one of the most important, though controversial FZ orchestral projects, for a less known composition:
Sad Jane (London Symphony Orchestra Vols. I & II)

Is that a pun on Lou Reed’s Sweet Jane? Anyways, in the words of Frank Zappa (“Non-Foods: Not The Moody Blues“, Guitar Player, November 1983):

The last movement of “Sad Jane,” kind of a marching thing, is actually a transcription of a guitar solo from the Shrine Auditorium, 1968, that Ian Underwood wrote out back then, and I came across one day in a pile of papers. I played it on the piano and liked the tune, and proceeded to orchestrate it.

And for another example of this technique:
Big Swifty (Waka-Jawaka)

Again Zappa reports (from The Complete History Of The Few Last Weeks Of The Mothers Of Invention):

This piece (which comprises all of Side One of the HOT RATS Waka/Jawaka album) presents a theme in rapidly alternating time signatures, a few solos, and an out-chorus done up in a sort of Prom Night orchestration which suspends the opening rhythmic structure over a straight 4/4 accompaniment.
The restatement of the theme is actually derived from a guitar solo on the album which Sal Marquez took down on paper. After about an hour of wheeling the tape back and forth, Sal managed to transcribe this rhythmically deranged chorus (I don’t have the ability to do this kind of musical dictation, but, since Marquez had a full-bore education at North Texas University, he had it covered). After he’d written it out, we proceeded to over-dub three trumpets on it, and, presto! An organized conclusion for “Big Swifty.”

The title itself brings the cruiser straight into:
The Adventures of Greggery Peccary (Studio Tan)

Where “Big Swifty and Associates” is Greggery’s office. This adventurous piece includes the “Who is making those new brown clouds?” theme that occurs again in:
For Calvin and His Next Two Hitch-Hikers (The Grand Wazoo)

Zappa (from The Complete History Of The Few Last Weeks Of The Mothers Of Invention):

This is dedicated to Calvin Schenkel, a long-time friend who has been responsible to a large extent for anything graphic/visual associated with the M.O.I. (from album covers to billboards to the animated sequence in 200 Motels).
There are lyrics to this piece (which has already been recorded and is set for a fall release in the impending Grand Wazoo album), but we are performing an instrumental version for these concerts. The story depicted in the lyrics refers to a mysterious “Schenkel Mirage” which occurred while he was driving to work. The details are a bit deep, but perhaps you can use your imagination and extrapolate a situation from the text.

Also, Calvin steps in on Lumpy Gravy saying “That’s very distraughtening.”
Very Distraughtening (Lumpy Gravy)

Shortly thereafter, Spider says:
Everything in the universe is . . . is . . . is made of one element, which is a note, a single note. Atoms are really vibrations, you know, which are extensions of THE BIG NOTE, everything’s one note.

This is it, this is THE BIG NOTE, a central idea for the whole Zappa body of work. The composer was fascinated by unifying theories. Here is what he tells to the interviewer in The Frank Zappa Interview Picture Disk (pt.2, circa 1984):

Well … in physics they have this thing that they’ve been looking for – it’s the Unified Field Theory that explains the interrelationship between how gravity works and atomic energy and all this stuff – they’re looking for one equation that explains it all and makes it work because right now there’s contradictions. And … let’s just say that the book is like a Unified Field Theory that will hold together “Billy The Mountain”, “Greggery Peccary”, “Joe’s Garage” “Them Or Us”, “Thing-Fish” … all these different stories, it shows you how they work together to make one long, really complicated story. And the “Them Or Us” album is only one part of this major release that is coming out this year.

Them or Us (Them or Us)

That is a Black Page #2 guitar solo performed in Bolzano on July 3, 1982. Though edited as usual, a full version from a few days earlier show (June 26, Munich) is included in You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 5. YCDTOSA is a series of 6 double cds consisting of live recordings spanning Frank Zappa’s entire career. He started working on this project in 1988 and concluded Volumes 5 and 6 in 1992 (I’m particularly fond of this series and in the 90’s I used to maintain a special purpose document: “Cruising with YCDTOSA“, almost all infos are now conveniently available through the Information Is Not Knowledge web site).
In the liner notes he reports the “theoretical questions” he asked himself to compile the series. One of them is:

[6] will it give “conceptual continuity clues” to the hard core maniacs with a complete recording collection?

And there’s plenty of them of course. One of my favorite is in the FZ monstre piece “par excellence”:
King Kong (You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 3)

At 14:34, during the ’82 section, Denny Walley says “oh you want a kinder garden!”. Yes Denny Walley, in 1982! What really happen is that at 11:09 in Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow (YCDTOSA 1) Denny says: “oh you want a kinder garden” and this little fragment was inserted in King Kong (YCDTOSA 3).
Oh, talking about yellow snow, is the convenient moment to introduce the dogs topic, and the main carrier is:
Stink Foot (Apostrophe (‘))


But he (the Poodle!) also asks:
What is your Conceptual Continuity?

For more on the “Canine Continuity” subject I would suggest “The Secret Meaning of ‘Arf’: Canine Continuity in the Output Macrostructure” by Dominique Jeunot. A paper addressed to ICE-Z (International Conference of Esemplastic Zappology) on January 16, 2004. A reading which may also be considered an homage to Dominique, who abruptly left the building on December 2004. He was the President of France’s surrealistic Zappa fan club Les Fils de l’Invention.

Dogs of Zappaland unite, for the arf salute!

Evelyn, a Modified Dog (One Size Fits all)
Arf, she said

As Patricia would too. Patricia is a dog painted by Donald Roller Wilson that embellishes the Boulez conducts Zappa album cover.
Naval Aviation in Art? (The Perfect Stranger)

This short but dramatic piece would have been part of Läther, an album that could not happen in 1977 when it was conceived. Here is a 1977-1978 concert season press information:


Follow this Information Is Not Knowledge link for more.

And my pick is the title track:
Läther (Läther)

“A sensitive instrumental ballad for late-nite easy listening”, as described by Zappa for the I promise not to Come in Your Mouth incarnation included in Zappa in New York, a live album which also includes the anthem of the Zappaverse:
Sofa (Zappa in New York)

The piece was part of a larger number that The Mothers used to perform in the “Flo & Eddie Era”. A good take of the whole thing can be heard in the Rhino legalized boot Fire!”. It consists of: Once Upon a Time, Sofa #1 (as included in YCDTOSA 1), Once Upon A Time II (a short reprise of OUAT), Stick It Out and
Divan (Playground Psychotics)

Such era is very well known also for:
The Mud Shark (Fillmore East, June 1971)

This song is about the infamous Mud Shark incident at the Edgewater Inn in Seattle, WA (see also The Mudshark Interview on Playground Psychotics). Towards the end Zappa quotes on guitar:
The Little House I Used to Live in (Burnt Weeny Sandwich)

Just another monstre-song, that spans 1968-1978 and included a lot of episodes, here is one:
The Sheik Yerbouti Tango (Sheik Yerbouti)

A tango? What about it when it may bring funny smells?
Be-Bop Tango (Of The Old Jazzmen’s Church) (Roxy & Elsewhere)

This piece was part of a larger 1972-1973 number too (Farther O’Blivion), which contains parts of Greggary Peccary and of:
Cucamonga (Bongo Fury)

Zappa recalls in “The Real Frank Zappa Book”:

At that time there was a place called the Pal Recording Studio in (don’t laugh) Cucamonga, California. It was established by an amazing gentleman named Paul Buff.
Cucamonga was a blotch on a map, represented by the intersection of Route 66 and Archibald Avenue. On those four corners we had an Italian restaurant, an Irish pub, a malt shop and a gas station.
FZ purchased the studio from Buff in 1964 and renamed as Studio Z, it was the place where he started recording, editing and also over-dubbing!

Metal Man Has Won His Wings (Mystery Disc)
was recorded at Studio Z and features Don Van Vliet, later to be known as Captain Beefheart, lead vocalist for:
Willie the Pimp (Hot Rats)

Hot Rats is duly considered one of the most important FZ album and we are lucky enough to have access to two significantly different version of it, the first one released on cd in 2012 (the vinyl mix), while the second have been heavily remixed, edited and issued by Zappa in 1987. It also includes a revised version of an Uncle Meat piece, here in its 1988 rendition:
Mr. Green Genes (The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life)
Eat your greens
Don’t forget your beans & celery
Don’t forget to bring
Your fake I.D.

And talking about Uncle Meat, fake I.D.s and the Best Band:
Cruisin’ For Burgers (Make a Jazz Noise Here)
I must be free
My fake I.D.
Freeeeeees me

You can make such kind of noise, but consider its devilish side!
While You Were Art II (Jazz from Hell)

The synclavier orchestration for While You Were Out from an album that I believe includes a lot of jazz from hell, such as:
Canard du Jour (Shut up ‘n Play Yer Guitar)

that have been also another title for:
Let’s Move to Cleveland (Does Humor Belong In Music?)

Yet another monstre dated 1976 (as Canard), performed in 1982 (sometimes as Young & Monde) and later in 1984 and 1988 as Cleveland. Here are couple of 1984 solos from two different guitar albums:
Light Is all that Matters (Trance-Fusion)
In-a-Gadda-Stravinsky (Guitar)

And here we are, at Igor’s place. Zappa quoted Le sacre du printemps (Rite of Spring) by Igor Stravinsky also in:
Fountain of Love (Cruising with Ruben & the Jets)

The quote is concealed in the fantastic vocal closing.
Le Sacre appears also in:
Drowning Witch (Ship Arriving too Late to Save a Drowning Witch)
Amnesia Vivace (Absolutely Free)

This last piece is included in a three part suite (The Duke of Prunes, Amnesia Vivace and The Duke Regains His Chops) devoted to the:
Duke of Prunes (Orchestral Favorites)

And somewhere else (Plastic People) we have been told:
A prune is a vegetable . . . no, a prune is not a vegetable. Cabbage is a vegetable . . . makes it O.K.

So this is the time for:
Call any Vegetables (Just Another Band from L.A.)

Where a poodle question re-emerges!
Where can I go to get my poodle clipped in Burbank?

A matter of
Dirty Love (Over-Nite Sensation)
(Come on, Frenchie)

And Frenchie hits again in
Dinah-Moe Humm (Have I Offended Someone?)

however in its reconstructed & remixed version only! Patrick Neve (from the HIOS page at The Zappa Patio)):

Original version was 06:01. Extra 01:13. The extra lyrics are the following, starting right after the line “MMM … sounds like y’might be chokin’ on somethin'”:

Y’know, I’m gonna find me a horse,
Just about this big,
An’ ride him all along the borderline.
(Yess-s-s …)
(Do it, Frenchie!)
Hm, y’like horses?
(It’s coming … oh …)
(Oh, oh, oh, oh!)

Have I Offended Someone? Includes a lot of unique material (dig into it) and closes with a remixed version of:
Yo Cats (Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention)

that quotes:
Catholic Girl (Joe’s Garage)

Religion, yet another hot topic!
Dumb all Over (You Are What You Is)
Religious fanatics
On the air every night

When the Lie’s So Big (Broadway the Hard Way)
Religious fanatics
Around and about
The Court House, The State House,
The Congress, The White House

Meanwhile, on one of most famous lawns of the western phaze of civilazation:
I’d like to make her do a nasty
On the White House lawn
Brown Shoes Don’t Make It (Tinsel Town Rebellion)
Smile at every ugly
Shine on your shoes and cut your hair
Be a jerk—go to work

And talking about civilized jerks:
Let’s Make the Water Turn Black (We’re Only in it for the Money)
Early in the morning Daddy Dinky went to work
Selling lamps & chairs to San Ber’dino squares

This tiny episode deserves a deep insight, perk it up here:
Ronnie Sings? / Kenny’s Booger Story / Ronnie’s Booger Story (The Lost Episodes)

Let’s Make the Water Turn Black was a must in the 60’s and mid 70’s, then re-emerged in 1988. It was part of a larger number known also as The Orange County Lumber Truck Medley (Let’s Make the Water Turn Black + Harry, You’re A Beast + Oh No + The Orange County Lumber Truck). Parts are scattered all around the output macrostructure. Here are two takes:
Oh No (Weasels Ripped my Flesh)
The Orange County Lumber Truck (Part II) (Ahead of Their Time)

Ahead Of Their Time includes material later to be used for 200 Motels, such as The Rejected Mexican Pope Leaves The Stage and Undaunted and The Band Plays on that later become:
Dance of the Just Plain Folks (Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels)

Stories connected to 200 Motels belongs to Chunga’s Revenge too, such as:
Road Ladies (Chunga’s Revenge)

And talking about great movies, just another classic story:
Titties and Beer (Baby Snakes)

vaguely inspired to L’Histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale) by Igor Stravinsky, a piece revisited here:
This Is a Test (Everything Is Healing Nicely)

Ali N. Askin in the album liner notes recalls:

On the night before the first day of rehearsals, he asked me to reorchestrate his Synclavier composition entitled Igor and arrange it for the Ensemble Modern.

Also, Christopher Ekman (via pointed out:

This is a theme from L’Histoire du Soldat which Zappa repeats, overlaps, transposes, twists, changes the backing for, and generally fiddles with any way he can think of. It’s nice and jaunty, and at a minute and a half, it can’t wear out its welcome.

EIHN is a hell of an album, full of less known gems, Román García Albertos has a very useful page to go deep into it (includes the original liner notes and the in-depth post by Christopher Ekman).

Back to the cruise, to complete the circle I still need to pass through The Man from Utopia and Francesco Zappa.
As far as the first one I would pick:
The Radio is Broken (The Man from Utopia)

I will not hook it to the previous EIHN piece, the criterion now is FNRAA, that is a free turn in drawing the Conceptual Continuity circle, to approach a bogus finale. The references to science fiction b-movies and his working title (Willing Suspension of Disbelief) have to be briefly mentioned. The first one as a typical recurring theme (like poodles or religion) that helps to keep the “output macrostructure” logically connected. The second as the classic state of mind necessary to enjoy fictitious stories or (in a broader sense) essential not to notice most of the disturbing effects of western society. If you understand such a mechanism you will have more chances to reach the truth that, as we already know, is not beauty! In dealing with the real world Zappa always want to SHOW us – the audience – what we have in front of our eyes but sometime have difficulties to recognize.

Closing titles with:
OPUS I, No. 1 1st Movement ANDANTE (Francesco Zappa)

This Circular Motion Cruise involves all Zappa albums, from Freak Out! to Everything Is Healing Nicely, and excludes most compilations, namely Mothermania and the three Old Masters Boxes, because they do not include significant unique material (the two Old Masters Mystery Discs have been later issued as a single cd). With the exception of Frank Zappa Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa, a memorial tribute (also excluded), all these albums (those issued between 1966 and 1999) have been edited, sequenced and produced by FZ. Finally there is one more inclusion: Trance-Fusion, a guitar album issued in 2006, but still a full Zappa album to me. Almost full actually, being liner notes and cover out of his direct control (likewise some other late releases herein considered).

For every single album, I have chosen one song or composition, or “phonogram” (maybe better), using a (sometime straight, sometime loose) conceptual continuity criterion: the next song is always connected with the preceding for a musical theme, a topic or a tiny detail in the title or in the lyrics. Every album is represented by one single “phonogram” (with one exception), even if is a double or multiple disc set.

Of course lot more cruises such as this are to be conceived, try yours!

FNRAA: For No Reason At All

The first choice for a Conceptual Continuity reading:
Hey Hey Hey, Mister Snazzy Exec!
By Frank Zappa
Circular, September 20, 1971


  1. You covered a lot of ground here. Merry Zappadan!

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