A Zappa underground melologue

Posted: December 6, 2015 in concert report, tribute, zappa
Sonata Islands, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

Sonata Islands, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

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As part of The Trentino Jazz Festival, on November 7, 2015 Sonata Islands and Giordano Montecchi performed their A Spasso Con Frank (“Walking With Frank”) at Casa Depero in Rovereto, Italy. Giorgio Casadei and Emilio Galante arranged a group of compositions by Frank Zappa for a chamber, electro-acoustic, percussion-less ensemble:

Sonata Islands
Alessio Alberghini: baritone sax
Giorgio Casadei: electric guitar
Emilio Galante: flute
Simone Pederzoli: trombone

Sonata Islands and Giordano Montecchi, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

Sonata Islands and Giordano Montecchi, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

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The program is interspersed with a text written by Giordano Montecchi who dramatizes it as Part Time Minister of the Church of Zap-o-logic Music-Is-The-Best Humanism. Wherefore the subheading: “melologo undergound intorno al grande Frank Zappa da Baltimora” (“underground melologue around the great Frank Zappa from Baltimore”).

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Giordano Montecchi as Part Time Minister of the Church of Zap-o-logic Music-Is-The-Best Humanism, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

Giordano Montecchi as Part Time Minister of the Church of Zap-o-logic Music-Is-The-Best Humanism, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

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Here is the musical program:
1 Peaches en Regalia
2 Chunga’s Revenge
3 Inca Roads
4 Holiday in Berlin
5 Little Umbrellas
6 The Idiot Bastard Son
7 Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance
8 Son Of Mr. Green Genes
9 Dog Breath
10 Uncle Meat
11 Mom & Dad
12 Blessed Outside Relief Now

An extract of the Casa Depero performance is available on video

The concert has been performed at the first floor of the museum in a gorgeous large room, with a bizarre bottom-up low lighting. Such an obscure choice resulted in a dark video shooting that gives a vague idea of the place. Fortunately the audio track is good enough to give back the overall sound of the ensemble, warm and earthy due to baritone sax and trombone (a would say a tone of brown), with a bright flute to keep it light and an electric guitar to sustain the rhythmic framework and the speech vamps. I do hope a work in progress aimed to tune a little bit the performance and to enrich the speech vamps, too smooth at the moment. The band is too much behind Giordano whose text would gain more strength from a clearly defined rhythmic background.

Montecchi’s text is of great interest because gives back an accurate portrait of the composer, shedding light on the essential traits of the Zappa approach to music and to THE REAL WORLD, with a taste for the religious bizarre: a Zappa discography litany sometimes suspends the biographic account.

Sonata Islands and Giordano Montecchi kindly provided this blog with the Italian libretto of the melologue: “A Spasso Con Frank“.

Here are some excerpts:

Rock tough guys claim him as their private property, as their anti-establishment prophet.

Academics tolerate him as a composer… an exception! for the world of rock.

Somebody considers him a jester, a symbol of the most anarchoid transgression.

Others think of him as a committed radicalism guru.

Jazzophiles as a failed jazz musician.

Petty politicians as a subversion leader.

Respectable women committees reckon him as the embodiment of the corruption that threatens their children.

Music industry executives as a Plague of Egypt.

However Frank Zappa is not here anymore. Controversies, insults and complaints belong to the past. Today sanctification prevails.

[…]

Tonight there are no songs. We have called it melologue, underground melologue actually, so it nearly seems a smart something.

It should work for a classical music audience: although they consider themselves high and mighty, few of them know what a melologue is. And furthermore they often enjoy listening to what they do not understand a shit.

And it should also work for a rock audience, because the “underground” moniker stuck to music is like the “organic” label attached to supermarket fruits.

Matter of the fact is that about lyrics, yes: Frank had a precise idea also on this, as about almost everything.

Broken Hearts are for Assholes.

Stupid lyrics? Of course, furthermore: demented! Since Zappa’s stupid lyrics have a really special purpose.

Not only as a ferocious caricature of hit songs, but also as a detector, as a Geiger counter adjusted to get the level of background idiocy.

Yes, this is true, but Zappa’s stupid lyrics serve further purpose also.

First to transform a piece of music into a SONG, and then, to let it EXIST in that musical world where, in fact, only songs exist. And maybe make it well edible for that 90% [majority of eating-songs people]. Sometimes it happened.

However stupid lyrics also meet his understatement attitude, they serve to conceal the music he really care for, what he calls the “musically uncompromising” category, that is music … out and out, no compromises.

On the other hand, if lyrics are serious, important, in such a case … he explains: “I don’t build an elaborate accompaniment because it gets in the way of the words.”

All of the above ultimately means one only thing to Zappa: if you have in mind something complicated or difficult, and you want listeners to appreciate it, you have to combine it with something simple:

“Music is based on contrasts, contrasts between things that are very simple and things that are very complicated. If everything is complicated all the time, there is no contrast”.

Furthermore, there is not even contact with the listener, who is not able to understand anymore.

Since centuries, music worked just this way: put what is easy in the service of what is difficult.

[…]

In music, as in Zappa’s lyrics you never know where virulence of speech, make-believe and cynicism exhibited as a mask end, and where what he calls THE REAL WORD begins.

That is, stuff that are really important, the crucial question, the real disillusion.

It always seems that he hates and despises everything and everyone.

Or that he madly loves the universe most deranged stuff.

It is not like that, though.

That is his way to say that the emperor has no clothes, his way to stick his words straight into the stomach, into the belly.

It is his way to denounce all the filth in the world, or to bury it with a laugh.

These are his parables: who knows that you will eventually understand what is really happening.

That’s what the lyrics are for.

[…]

Zappa did know he could not win his war against the Leviathan.

A no appeal conviction of the outrageous flaws of American society and a bitter disillusion were concealed behind his cynicism mask.

As musician and citizen he was more and more pissed off about what he called fascist theocracy, his last Reaganian nightmare.

Much worse than the Dangerous Kitchen, where bananas turn black, where everything rot, where everything is disgusting.

But the worst was yet to come, and he was spared.

1966: Freak Out! … 1993: Civilization Phaze III, not even thirty years. Too little.

There are artists who have had a much longer career. Unfortunately, sometimes.

Not even thirty years: ten thousand days ceaselessly: music and passion against stupidity, stereotypes, hypocrisy, prejudice, corruption and aberration.

It was too much, even for someone like him.

[…]

It is no coincidence if the journey of Zappa comes to an end in Europe with the Ensemble Modern, in love, at last, with an astonishing orchestra.

And it is not even by chance that his last album, his last completed composition, is entitled Civilization Phaze III.

This opera-pantomime in two acts ends with an episode with a disturbing title: Waffenspiel, “weapon game” in German, but the translation does not give back the actual meaning.

It is not music, it is a soundscape.

Something that sounds, perhaps, as a farewell to life, or perhaps as the last riddle.

Reading from the album liner notes: “Life goes on outside the piano – more rain, excitable dogs, automatic weapon fire, traffic, building demolition, etc. THE REAPER, much to the dismay of the dancers in the previous piece, arrives (when the car door slams) to claim them. ACT TWO ends with a large model of a crop-dusting plane, spraying the audience with a toxic substance.”

Just in closing, however, as the plane departs, something else can be heard … but Zappa does not say it.

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Emilio Galante on flute, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

Emilio Galante on flute, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

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Giorgio Casadei on guitar, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

Giorgio Casadei on guitar, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

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Giorgio Casadei on guitar, Simone Pederzoli on trombone, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

Giorgio Casadei on guitar, Simone Pederzoli on trombone, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

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Emilio Galante on flute, Alessio Alberghini on sax, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

Emilio Galante on flute, Alessio Alberghini on sax, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

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Alessio Alberghini on sax, Giorgio Casadei on guitar, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

Alessio Alberghini on sax, Giorgio Casadei on guitar, Casa Depero, Rovereto, November 7, 2015

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Giordano Montecchi some more: Rock as compositional practice

Son of Giorgio Casadei: Orchestra Spaziale meets Zappafrank

The Return of the Son of Sonata Islands:

Amy Denio and Sonata Islands Kommandoh live @ La Scighera, Milan, November 14, 2015
Emilio Galante, Giovanni Venosta, William Nicastro, Roberto Zanisi

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Some alternate cover images for this post here: Underground Melologue.

More pictures taken the same day at the museum that hosted “A Spasso con Frank”: Casa Depero.

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