Archive for the ‘fz related interview’ Category

The Listening Lounge at Kittelson Manor (from The Broadcast Adventures of HowieZowie facebook page)

The Listening Lounge at Kittelson Manor (from The Broadcast Adventures of HowieZowie facebook page)

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From the facebook “About” page of “The Broadcast Adventures of HowieZowie”:

“Conceptual Continuity with HowieZowie” is a weekly two hour Zappa radio show broadcasting Thursday night at 10pm PST on Blue Mountain Radio KQBM-LP 103.7FM in West Point, California & KQBM 90.7FM in San Andreas, California – streaming live at http://www.kqbm.org. Saturday night at Midnight EST on WERU 89.9FM in Blue Hill, Maine/99.9FM in Bangor, Maine – streaming live/archiving at http://www.weru.org. Encore Saturday night at 11pm PST on Blue Mountain Radio KQBM-LP 103.7FM in West Point, California & KQBM 90.7FM in San Andreas, California – streaming live at http://www.kqbm.org.

Here is the WERU Community Radio direct link to the Conceptual Continuity with HowieZowie archive page (only the last two episodes are available): click here.

Howie Zowie, aka Howie Kittelson, is a London (Ontario) based radio personality with a taste for audio editing. He accurately selects music for the talk over sections of his shows, and with Zappa the result is remarkable! A two hours radio show like Conceptual Continuity with HowieZowie conveniently flows and you may get some CC clue.

On July 28, 2016 such an all Zappa show got 5 years old, Howie Zowie had Joe Travers as a guest and Spastic Droopers as secret word.

Joe talked about The Crux of Biscuit / Frank Zappa for President new FZ releases and gives some cool hints for the releases to come, such as a Waka/Wazoo box set!

What follows is a transcript of some parts of the conversation Howie and Joe had (thank you Howie for the accurate editing of my raw transcript!).

29:47 (part 1)Overture to Uncle Sam

Joe Travers: It was for and in an Opera, and definitely was one of the later synclavier pieces of Frank’s – very very late in fact. We found some footage of Todd Yvega and Spencer Chrislu being interviewed for the American Composer radio documentary that happened in 1995.

And they used that piece as a demonstration for the Synclavier at the time, so it was definitely one of the later pieces. And we founded it on a reel of Ensemble Modern rehearsals and performances that ended up becoming Everything is Healing Nicely.

But Frank put together a 40 minutes collage of that that audio, lot of stuff on the rehearsals and I think Spence based most of what he, what Frank put together for Everything is Healing Nicely, but also on it it was the Overture to Uncle Sam.

I always kept that thing in my back pocket for some kind of release. Gail and I have talked about various different releases including that piece and then when Frank Zappa for President was offered to me as a project I really thought like that it would be a good thing to put it on there. And so that’s how ended up happening!

46:43 (part 1) –  If I was a President

Howie Kittelson: I see that the musical track and the spoken words were done in different times, were they meant to go together from the beginning or is that something that you combined?

JT: No, that’s something I combined.

HK: In that aspect it is very reminiscent of Drooling Midrange Accountans in Easter Hay.

JT: That was something Dweezil put together, obviously the same concept was used for the If I was a President thing.

1:56 (part 2)Brown Shoes Don’t Make It

HK: I see that was a remix done in ’69 by Dick Kunk, correct?

JT: Yes

HK: Now, what was the purpose of that remix, what is that associated with?

JT: We’ll never know. It is not listed as such, although my opinion is that it was probably remixed for some kind of film project.

HZ: Gotcha.

JT: But we don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it was Uncle Meat – I don’t know what that film project would be. But there’s a couple of other classic songs on that reel that were remix as well, so Brown Shoes is not the only one. But considering the theme of that song, I thought that it would be a good thing to put it on that album, because it’s an older Mothers song in a remixed form that nobody has ever heard before. So I figured that it would tie in with that record.

3:27 (part 2)Amnerika

JT: It was recorded during the Thing-Fish sessions – and all I can say is that piece, the vocal version of that song was intended for one of the volumes of The Lost Episodes project, because The Lost Episodes one time was kind of worked into a three volume project. Ans since Frank brought The Lost Episodes down to one disc, then there was a bunch of leftovers and that happened to be one of the leftovers. We do have the ability to do another Lost Episodes volume from those leftovers, but Gail was basically using a lot of stuff from that for other projects, or at least wanted me to. So, I figured – well this is the perfect time for this song for this project. I have to come up with content somehow, even if we kind of repeat things maybe once in a while in future releases, at least I was able to do what I was told and putting together that Frank Zappa for President record, so that’s where that song ended up!

19:23 (part 2)The Crux of the Biscuit

HK: I have always wondered to myself: was the use of apostrophe in so many blues song titles, could that have been an inspiration on Frank when he came to the apostrophe?

JT: Hmmmm, I don’t know – I’m not sure. I wish I could answer that (laughs).

HZ: Do you have your own theory about the apostrophe?

JT: I really don’t know (laughs), Dweezil kind of explains The Crux of the Biscuit on dweezilzappaworld.com – I think, as far as like the term, what that means, what the apostrophe stands for – so you can check that out.

29:20 (part 2)Apostrophe (‘) early side one – Cosmik Debris

HK: The version of Cosmik Debris that opens that – the new 2016 intro, is that your doing?

JT: No, that was found that way and the mix of the song is the exact same mix that’s on the Apostrophe(‘) album, Frank took up that intro, and so when I found that early sequence of side one, that intro was on the version of Cosmik Debris on that tape, so I left it. Anything different applies to those kind of releases, that was Frank – that was recorded that way!

34:38 (part 2) – work mixes

HZ: So, when we’re looking at the tracks that are labeled as mix outtakes. Those are just working mixes from the process of doing the record?

JT: Yeah, exactly. Like you have a mix session and during the mix session you run off various work mixes or mixes in progress, or mixes that might be used as a master – or might not be. Anything that was mixed and was going to be on master at one point would be an alternate mix, because that was alternate to what was used. But anything that was mixed that wasn’t going to be used for any kind of a master, but it was a work mix or an outtake for the mix session, I just labelled as such.

35:26 (part 2)Uncle Remus

JT: Yeah, that’s pretty great! Because you get to hear a piano solo and an extra bit of vocals and stuff like that, it was pretty cool!

HZ: And some cool organ – I don’t know if that was a B-3, but there was some really tasty, traditional organ going on there that I am not used to hearing in that song.

JT: Yeah – well, that song was recorded during demo sessions of George Duke during the Paramount Studio time period in April of ’72. The Grand Wazoo and Waka- Jawaka have just been recorded and Frank produced about four tunes for George Duke around that time and Uncle Remus was one of those songs – and then Frank obviously used Uncle Remus in Apostrophe(‘). Then George Duke went on to re-record the other songs that were recorded for that demo session on two other albums. Psychosomatic Dung is one of them, and For Love (I Come Your Friend) – that’s another one that’s one of those songs that was recorded during that demo session.

36:41 (part 2)Waka-Jawaka / Grand Wazoo box set

JT: I’m going to be working on a Hot Rats/Grand Wazoo box set, I guess you might want to call it – or a CD release of all the alternates and all the stuff that was recorded during that time period. And I am hoping to get those George Duke tunes on there as well, so that would be something cool. Yeah, it’s Waka Jawaka and Grand Wazoo, sorry – Hot Rats was not recorded during that same time. You know, obviously that was ’69. But Waka and Grand Wazoo that was all recorded at the same time, and along with those George Duke songs it kind of captures the same musicians, the same time period and the same sound. So, all that stuff would be a good companion release.

41:50 (part 2)Energy Frontier flute

JT: I tried to track down who would have been, but nobody knows! Maybe the fans somehow can get that information – because they’re so hard core. I was unable to determine it because there were no session sheets, and so it’s hard for me to know. And I had a conversation with Dave Parlato. Dave Parlato played bass in the Petite Wazoo time period, and The Grand Wazoo – and recorded some stuff with Frank. And he is the guy who is playing stand-up bass on those songs – or at least on one version of that song. And so Dave and I had a conversation, and he is the one that identified himself on there. And he talked about the Jack Bruce session, talked about how Jack Bruce had a rented…I think it was a cello, and it sounded horrible and he couldn’t make the thing work at all, so they kind of ditched that idea of having Jack Bruce play cello. But, Dave didn’t know who played flute either. And first thing I thought of was it had to have been maybe somebody who was touring with Frank at the time. But in the Petite Wazoo the only person that maybe could have done that was Earl Dumler, and we’re not really sure he was him or not. And I didn’t get a chance to get in touch with Earl before the release of the record. So – maybe he is him, maybe he is not. Who knows!

43:31 (part 2) – bass lines

HZ: I found it pretty interesting listening to Dave Parlato’s bass line on take four of Energy Frontier because I’ve gotten quite used to a lot of brass bands using the tuba to do bass lines and they kind of emulate the phrasing of a stand-up bass – but he sounded like he was playing tuba lines on the stand-up bass! So it was a very interesting part of the spectrum and part of the mix that he was in and that stood out to me. I read somewhere that Dave Parlato is the originator of the “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow” phrase – that he looked out the window of the tour bus and he saw a dog peeing in the snow and he yelled out, “Don’t eat the yellow snow!”

JT: Well I don’t know if that’s true – that could be very true. I don’t know. But, I do know that the bass line if you listen very close to the song called Trudging Across Tundra which is on One Shot Deal, that is an improvisation that happened during a concert in the Petite Wazoo time period… and if you listen to the bass line of that, and if you listen to the early version of Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow that was released on Crux, you’ll notice that it’s almost the same! So the root of the bass line to the opening of Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow come from an improvisational jam from the Petite Wazoo time period, which we released.

49:02 (part 2) – Vaultmaster since 1995

JT: I love my job, I’m very grateful for it. I spent so much time in my life just studying the music and being part of the music – so I’m happy that I can share the things that I find with people that appreciate it, you know? It’s really a special thing that I do and I realize that. I was a fan first before any of this stuff, so I come from a fan point of view and I think about the things that people would love to hear and would really want to hear.

51:28 (part 2)Uncle Meat Project/Object and vinyl reissues

JT: The Uncle Meat Project/Object is gonna be coming right around the corner pretty soon, so that’s very exciting. And also there’s going to be a lot of vinyl reissues this year, starting next month in August Hot Rats is going to be re-released on vinyl. But we’re going to be doing a lot more this year. We usually do about one to two releases – reissues on vinyl for the past few years, along with little exclusive stuff that we’ve done for the Record Store Days. But this year we’re gonna be doing a lot more – and that does include the Record Store Day stuff. So, we’ll be doing something really cool for Black Friday Record Store Day and we’re gonna be doing a number of other vinyl reissues this year before the year’s over with. So that’s something that’s gonna be exciting…for the audiophile world, you know, that loves the vinyl.

54:40 (part 2) – just one Zappa piece of choice for The Vaultmaster

JT: Rat Tomago

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The 1995 Radio documentary mentioned by Joe was available at the zappa.com and was described as: “a two hour Radio Documentary produced by Steve Rowland and Gail Zappa for “The Music Makers” Series on Public Radio International, originally aired on U.S. radio in the summer of 1996.”

What follows is a direct link for the first hour of the show, the first minute of Overture to Uncle Sam starts at 08:08.

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"pagan absurdist" Gail Zappa, nee Adelaide Gail Sloatman, as portrayed in her tribute page into the "of consequence" section of zappa.com

“pagan absurdist” Gail Zappa, nee Adelaide Gail Sloatman, as portrayed in her tribute page into the “of consequence” section of zappa.com

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1966 was the year Gail Sloatman met Frank Zappa while working at the Whisky a Go Go nightclub on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. Earlier the same year she also met Kim Fowley and recorded with him as Bunny and Bear. In 2009 Gail Zappa recalled those days with Alan Clayson (Frank Talk, Record Collector, May, 2009):

My recording career! (laughs) My father played blues harmonica, and taught himself guitar, banjo and piano. Yet I didn’t play anything – although I’m wondering now about taking guitar lessons. However, when I left school – in Surrey – in 1962, 1 became caught up in what I can only describe as an evolutionary experience – that shift in consciousness in the early to mid-1960s.

As an example of the type of things what were happening around me, I remember being struck by a photograph of Lenny Bruce above a little newspaper article about how, after his appearance at the Establishment Club in London, he’d been refused re-entry into the country for obscenity ñ which was ironic given the freedom of speech you theoretically enjoy in Britain that we did not have in the United States.

I didn’t grasp it at the time, but this proved to be a clue, almost, to my immediate future. By the time my family moved to New York in 1965, I’d been on the periphery of the British music industry. In fact, I went to a party thrown for The Rolling Stones when they came back from their first US tour and I briefly dated Chris Stamp, the co-founder of Track Records.

After a friend of mine, who’d worked for Track, and I hitch-hiked to Los Angeles, I was pretty much ready for anything. Somebody told me that A&M wanted to start an R&B subsidiary, and were looking for songwriters. So, though I wasn’t actively seeking such a career, I went to their offices, and brandished a sheaf of paper containing some of the lyrics and poetry that I’d always written. Then I was installed in a room with an upright piano and a guy called Chester Pipkin, who’d been in various groups of that kind in the 1950s. Frank was familiar with his output.

Chester and I would grind out supposed R&B songs in this tiny room. We finished several, and maybe four got recorded, but I don’t have copies. I was actually present in some shack of a studio in the Valley when an outfit called Wooden Nickel did one of our compositions. I even worked at the Brill Building in New York for a while, but I was so naive then. I had no idea about the business side at all, and didn’t give much thought about making serious money as a songwriter. I was busier getting jobs as a secretary, stuff like that, to pay the rent.

Then I was walking along Sunset Boulevard one day when Kim Fowley approached me and asked if I wanted to make a record … He was always wanting to be the power behind an all-girl rock group – which he was much later on with The Runaways.

 

On January 22, 2015 Billy Miller and Miriam Linna from Norton Records joined forces with Dave the Spazz (Dave Abramson) on WFMU with stacks of rare, seldom heard Kim Fowley 45s, for “a surprising and illuminating peek into the early years of this legendary rock ‘n roll icon”, during a Kim Fowley Tribute week.

Kim Fowley

Kim Fowley

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The playlist for that “Music To Spazz By” show included: Bunny and Bear, America’s Sweethearts, 7″, living legend, 1966.

Bunny and Bear, America's Sweethearts, 7", living legend, 1966

Bunny and Bear, America’s Sweethearts, 7″, living legend, 1966

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This single has been aired between 1:19:16 and 1:22:10 into the show, and it is avalilable through the pop-up player into the January 22 show page.

Hear a candid Gail as Bear perform with Kim Fowley as a bizarre Bunny!

There should be 50 printed copies of this single, said Billy Miller, a really rare item!

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To complete the picture is also worth to recall that Kim Fowley appeared on Freak Out! on ” hypophone”. And this is what FZ told Sandy Robertson in 1978 about his encounter with Fowley (Zappa Digs Sabs Shock!, Sounds, January 28, 1978):

He was just one of those people who was wandering around the street in Los Angeles in those days. The hypophone is his mouth, ’cause all that ever comes out of it is hype. I don’t listen to much of what he does now. I happen to like ‘Popsicles & Icicles’ by the Murmaids on the Chattahoochee label, I dunno about his recent stuff.

 

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in memory of Gail Zappa (January 1, 1945 – October 7, 2015)

she kept on providing “stimulating digital audio entertainment for those of you who have outgrown the ordinary”

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Gail Zappa with a handful of motel keys at her Laurel Canyon home in 2013 (via Los Angeles Times)

Gail Zappa with a handful of motel keys at her Laurel Canyon home in 2013 (via Los Angeles Times)

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The Casher effects

Posted: January 18, 2015 in fz related interview, zappa, zappology
Ecco-Fonic flyer front

Ecco-Fonic flyer front

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Del Casher is a gifted guitarist and a proficient sound engineer who gave a unique and influential contribution to electronic guitar effects innovation between the end of the 50s and the end of the 60s. As a musician, but also as an engineer, now and in those years he is been working in Hollywood both for the music (Phil Spector, Frank Sinatra, The Three Suns) and for the movies and TV industries (Vic Mizzy soundtracks, Elvis Presley, Gene Autry’s ‘Melody Ranch’ TV show).

Between September and October 1966 Casher (or Kacher, as he was known until the early sixties) played guitar for The Mothers of Invention too and, thanks the Zappa Vault archivists, a tasty nugget from that era recently emerged: Freak Chouflée, probably from an October 1966 live performance.

This blog contacted Del right away and he was so kind and willing to recall stories from the sixties and to share some historical audio documents that vividly show the sound innovations that he brought to music and his skills as a guitarist.

To proceed in a chronological order, a right beginning would be the Ecco-Fonic, the Electronic Echo Chamber engineered by Del Casher for Fender in 1959. He recalls:

I was an expert with recording techniques since I was 16 living in Indiana. I had my own radio show and was overdubbing guitars and speeding up tapes like Les Paul to get the upper range of the guitars. That was when I came up with the Ecco-Fonic echo idea.

Ecoo-Fonic flyer reverse

Ecoo-Fonic flyer reverse

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It was a portable variable-delay control that enabled the guitar player to operate live on the echo effect. Del shared two demonstration tracks produced for Fender (Caravan and Limehouse Blues):

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The Fender Electronic Echo Chamber record

The Fender Electronic Echo Chamber record

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Del remarks that:

The Fender echo was really the Ecco-Fonic, only in solid state than tubes, as a license deal. It was short lived because guitar players did not understand the record heads needed cleaning after many hours of use. But the Fender echo was my design with the rotating flywheel drum and the tape wrapped around to give stability for tape travel. Echo plex and others had flutter problems but the Ecco-Fonic was stable.

Frank Zappa would have been (and probably was) amazed!

Meanwhile, his career and collaborations was growing, consequently his schedule became busier every year (go to bio and articles sections at delcasher.com for more details). Later in 1966 Del Casher and Frank Zappa first met at Casher garage studio to record Space Boy.

Here it is, via YouTube:

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Del recalls that in 1966 Van Dyke Parks was playing keyboards for the Mothers of Invention and suggested Frank Zappa to contact him for a studio audio production with actress Florence Marly. At that time Zappa discussed with Parks about some technical issue to solve in his own studio, and the latter recommended his friend Del Casher for this session Zappa had to produce for Marly while she was involved in the film Queen of Blood (directed by Curtis Harrington). Whether it was intended for the soundtrack of such a movie is questionable (see the Space Boy IINK article for more details).

To complete the picture, it is worth to mention that a short promo film/music video was released in 1973 for Space Boy and can be seen annually at the Ohio Sci-Fi Marathon.

Del tells how they first produce the vocal and guitar tracks with a large use of his Ecco-Fonic that gave the needed spacey sound. Later Zappa asked to play and record a drums track to be overdubbed, Del arranged for it and remarks how the Zappa first take was already rhythmically precise and fit to the piece. Frank as a drummer was a surprise for Del!

Here started a two month collaboration that brought Del to play guitar with the Mothers at the Shrine, the Whiskey-a-go-go and at the University of Santa Barbara in 1966.

Freak Chouflée briefly documents such a collaboration and here is what Del reports about his contacts with Joe’s Garage concerning this and other recordings.

Joe’s Garage call me several times in the past, they were trying to identify whether it was me playing guitar with Frank on some recordings they played for me on the telephone. The reason I can identify my playing was that I used my Stratocaster for a few of these performances, than I took my Gretsch duo jet solid body guitar (it looks like a Les Paul guitar except it is all black) and converted to an electric twelve string. In fact I asked the technician who worked here in Hollywood for Barney Kessel to convert my duo jet that way. In that picture where you see me with Frank with my golf cap and my glasses, I’m playing my Gretsch duo jet twelve string at the Whiskey-a-go-go. The reason why I did that was I needed it for studio twelve string recordings with groups such as The Birds, but also by working with Frank I was inspired to try to find a new voice for the guitar. Because my twelve string sounded different than Frank’s guitar, so people could spot what I sounded like. I sounded terribly different because it was a twelve string, and I could play real fast on it. Moreover, I was considering all the guitar players on stage at that time, all sounded the same! So I was thinking how could I make the guitar have a voice of my own that would be different? That was when I started thinking about the wah-wah pedal, something that could change the frequency of the guitar, so that it made it special from all the guitar players.

In early 1967 Del Casher re-designed for VOX their Mid-Range Boost Switch as a foot pedal unit “that enabled a player to re-shape his guitar tone into wild, undreamed of new capabilities” (see Johnny Whiteside, “He put the ‘wah’ in rock ‘n’ roll“, Glendale News-Press, December 2, 2011)

And here is the Wah-Wah Pedal Demo Del produced for Vox. In his words:

My original record of the 1967 Vox wah wah pedal and the first to record with it at Universal Pictures for Vic Mizzy of Addams family music fame.

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Going back to his 1966 collaboration with Zappa, Casher also recalls:

A few months before Frank died I met him in an agent’s office. We talked about how much fun we had and he suggested to call him. He wanted to give me the video of the David Susskind Freak out show for ABC TV we did at TTG studios in Hollywood.
I thanked him but was working on a film and the next thing I knew he was gone!
It really was a shock.
I never got to see our performance. David Susskind was a very conservative man, he had this talk show where he would interview famous political figures and discuss the politics of the day. He was very eclectic, he covered a variety of topics in his tv shows, but it was all done in a very conservative way. When I heard that Frank Zappa was invited to show what freaking out looks like I WAS freaked out! So Frank arranged to us to go to TTG studios in Hollywood. Frank brought his rhythm section, probably his original rhythm section. Frank and I brought guitars and I think there was a percussion player with us. We went into a recording studio and started jamming, playing all kind of wild things, Frank had this smoke machine come up, so the studio was fill full of smoke and we were jamming and kept playing an playing, that was crazy and certainly different than what I would normally ever do. And it was a segment into the David Susskind TV show, the jam was broadcasted on ABC television.

 

Del is now working as usual in Hollywood and he is available to travel US and Europe to perform with his guitar, also to show how he conceived his effects to make the voice of his instrument sound better and unique, being his guitar sound research one of the most distinctive elements in his career.

Again thank you Del Casher for sharing your memories and historic audio documentation!

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garlic-lalia by Ale Sordi (muddyfatty)

garlic-lalia by Ale Sordi (muddyfatty)

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Frank Zappa is no “guitar hero”, a fact that more than 30 years after the release of Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar should be clear and self- evident. What kind of guitar improvisation do we face then?

The following three quotes can be of great help in understanding such phenomenon. In the first one the improviser in question speaks, and gives a hint in the shape of a garlic clove. In the following, musical hero Mike Keneally states how in-control and fearless those events were. Finally, in his Doctor of Philosophy Dissertation, Brett Clement shows how to listen to FZ guitar solos: moment to moment.


Guitar Player, October 1995, cover and the page with the quote below (available through afka.net)

Guitar Player, October 1995, cover and the page with the quote below (available through afka.net)

ABSOLUTELY FRANK
Putting Some Garlic In Your Playing
by Frank Zappa
Guitar Player, December 1982

If I miss a note, I’m not going to commit suicide over it. I’m sure that there are perfect guitar players out there someplace, but I’ll guarantee you they ain’t gonna play like me. I’ll go out on a musical limb; I’ll go out and try it. Why not? What have I got to lose? I’m not famous; I’m an unknown guitar player. Nobody’s going to punch my scorecard the wrong way or give me brown stars if I screw up. Big deal, I’ll take the chances. The rest of the guys that have the big reputations have to always play exactly in their style and do it right, and make sure it comes out perfect! What I do sort of sounds like the record, but usually what you get in other performances of guitar stuff is lacking in something. Vinnie Colaiuta has an expression; he says, “It has no garlic in it.” You know, there’s plenty of garlic on the Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar albums. They take chances and go out there and try things that polite society would rather people ignore.


Guitar Player, December 1982, cover and the page with the quote below (available through afka.net)

Guitar Player, December 1982, cover and the page with the quote below (available through afka.net)

My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama: Frank Zappa’s Lethal Axe
by James Rotondi
Guitar Player, October 1995

A common criticism of Frank’s technique is that he tended to be sloppy, at least in comparison to the hyper-precision of the G.I.T. generation. Keneally deflates the argument: “That’s an irrelevant topic. Total uniformity attack, making sure every note is fretted and picked at the same time—that sound had no interest to him. If you listen to any section of a solo where it sounds somewhat chaotic, there’s still never any sense that he was out of control. Frank was one of the most awesomely in-control guitar players that ever walked the earth. He isn’t playing learned licks, but attempting to invent something, playing within the outer realms of his knowledge of the guitar, and doing that in front of thousands of people. That fearlessness is one of the more noble and ballsy things about him as a guitar player. If that encompassed slop every once in a while, that just meant he was trying something that he hadn’t tried before. That’s honorable.”


Brett Clement
A Study of the Instrumental Music of Frank Zappa
A dissertation submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Cincinnati in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Division of Composition, Musicology, and Theory of the College-Conservatory of Music
(July 2009): 22

A. Non-repeating forms
We will begin with those works involving no melodic repetition. In this category belong, almost exclusively, the guitar solos and the titles derived from the solos. Formally, these works are essentially through- composed and non-sectional, with a “non-progressive,” changeless profile. Harmonically, this lack of forward motion is the result of stasis, as discussed previously.[44] However, the lack of melodic repetition is also an important factor in the experienced absence of progression. In the solos, priority is given to melodic invention: a constant process of renewal. Non-repetition further insures that motivic development—beyond a single phrase (or at most two consecutive phrases)—is effectively ruled out. Therefore, it is rare for any particular melodic phrase in a solo to carry more rhetorical weight than the other phrases. With few exceptions, these phrases could be reordered without changing the overall effect of the music. Without an internal hierarchy among phrases, the traditionally important formal roles reserved for “beginnings” and “endings” are no longer held. Zappa’s solos seem often to begin “in the middle,” and, even more importantly, their endings are often heard as arbitrary. In sum, they demand a listening strategy that is firmly situated in the present.

[…]

Two remarks from Bernard are indicative of the challenges posed to listeners by these works:

… [I]t also seems consistent to a fault: the piece ends up so monochromatic, in terms of texture, dynamics, tempo, and overall pacing, that paradoxically it is very difficult to follow except from moment to moment.[45]

The absence of any clues as to how to organize the listening experience is quite bewildering …. The thematic-episodic materials, while definitely non-repeating, are not all that qualitatively distinct from one another. Many of Zappa’s lines in these pieces, in the general type of contour they exhibit and in their rhythmic design, are very much alike.[46]

As has been suggested by the preceding discussion, the experience described by Bernard is a natural product of the basis of the hybrids in the guitar solos. Therefore, to experience such music effectively, the listener is encouraged to be content listening “moment to moment.”

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[44] Of prior theoretical concepts, the guitar solos are consistent with Jonathan Kramer’s discussion of “vertical time,” a sub-category of non- linear time in which “nonlinearity predominates over linearity.” Jonathan Kramer, The Time of Music: New Meanings, New Temporalities, New Listening Strategies (New York, London: Schirmer, 1988): 57.

[45] Bernard, “Listening to Zappa,” In Contemporary Music Review 18/4: American Rock and the Classical Music Tradition (2000):87.

[46] Ibid., 91.

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"Frank e il resto del mondo" by Alessandra Izzo, Armando Curcio Editore

“Frank e il resto del mondo” by Alessandra Izzo, Armando Curcio Editore

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On December 4, 2013 a peculiar book of stories and feelings related to Frank Zappa has been published in Italy: “Frank e il resto del mondo” by Alessandra Izzo. The author, who came to know the musician in 1982, interviewed an assorted group of persons who have met Zappa for different reasons and in diverse circumstances. The book starts with Alessandra’s personal account, then all the interviews follow, with a short profile of the interviewees.

As expected, a complex picture emerges, some of the persons involved had a chance for a bright relationship with the musician, others didn’t manage to go much beyond the surface, but there is at least one common trait: when the life paths of all these persons joined the Zappa roads, something truly special happened, and marked a significant influence to their life.

The book has not been translated into other languages yet, so this blog asked Alessandra Izzo to reproduce a quote from her own account and from every interview. She has kindly accepted!

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Alessandra Izzo (the author)
I have never forget that first evening and that light conversation, so unique. All in all, our souls were at the same time close and far, however we didn’t meet by chance. Yes, it is true, I was the one who tried to get in touch, but I knew the encounter was going to be special. That night FZ thought me how to forgive, but it needed a lot of years to learn and follow his suggestions. To this day, I thank him with all my heart.

Alessandra Izzo, photo by Andrea Sabatello

Alessandra Izzo, photo by Andrea Sabatello

Patrice “Candy” Zappa (Frank’s sister, musician and author)
My brother was the funniest person on the planet and he had the most witty, beautiful and contagious laugh I have ever known so far.

Bunk Gardner (musician)
Frank was a very talented composer, he had such a great sense of humor and a huge creative streak that could get into everything he did.

Essra Mohawk (musician)
The Mothers had that talent, that strange chemistry, and this was however, largely due to their band leader, Frank Zappa.

Fabio Treves (musician)
His voice, the pauses in his expression, his distinctive way of speaking that definitely reach the heart of a person, and also his slang, his neologisms, all these traits still strike me.

Ferdinando Boero (biologist)
An extremely serious person who always wanted to laugh.

Claudio Trotta (book agent)
It was like dealing with a flooding river, he was overwhelming but in a positive, vital, stimulating sense, he was always a source of inspiration, without a doubt a person to emulate.

Massimo Bassoli (editor)
Among all the people I know, I believe Frank was the one who was better able to enjoy the company of his own imagination.

Ed Mann (musician)
I love Frank, I always miss him. He had an extraordinary electric quality about him that caused me to excel in ways that I had never dreamed of. Playing with him on stage was more fun than any other band I have worked with.

Pamela Des Barres (former rock and roll groupie, author and magazine writer)
What I loved most about Frank was the skill to bring out of every person the BEST, kind of demanding you confess your dreams, your goals, your things, even the more private and intimate.

Rutger Hauer (actor)
I loved him. All parts of him. His mustache. His heavy smoke. His smile.

Ike Willis (musician)
I had LOTS of fun. We laughed a great deal of the time. Frank was the funniest person in the world.

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Rutger Hauer and Alessandra Izzo in June 2009

Rutger Hauer and Alessandra Izzo in June 2009

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As a further tribute to the man from Baltimore, Alessandra sent two little seen pictures shot by Fausto Franceschini at the August 31, 1973 concert in Rome. Thank you Alessandra!

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Frank Zappa, Rome, August 31, 1973, photo by Fausto Franceschini

Frank Zappa, Rome, August 31, 1973, photo by Fausto Franceschini

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