Archive for the ‘interview’ Category

Motels keys, 200 Motels vinyl (1971), 200 Motels scores

Motels keys, 200 Motels vinyl (1971), 200 Motels scores

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Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducts Los Angeles Philharmonic & Los Angeles Master Chorale, Frank Zappa: 200 Motels—The Suites (Universal/Zappa Records, 2CD, November 2015)

Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducts Los Angeles Philharmonic & Los Angeles Master Chorale, Frank Zappa: 200 Motels—The Suites (Universal/Zappa Records, 2CD, November 2015)

 

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The orchestral music used in 200 MOTELS was composed over a five-year period. Some of it originated with this performance in 1968.

The piece heard here in its premiere performance by members of the BBC Orchestra eventually became “THIS TOWN IS A SEALED TUNA SANDWICH”.

Most of the orchestral sketches were done in motel and hotel rooms around the world during early MOTHERS Tours, hence the movie title “200 MOTELS” (based on an estimate of the actual number).

The True Story of 200 Motels (honker home video, 1988)
overlay text for Like it or Not
(London, October 25, 1968, audio released in 1993 in Ahead Of Their Time)

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The True Story of 200 Motels, Barfko-Swill/MPI, 1989 (VHS PAL and NTSC)

The True Story of 200 Motels, Barfko-Swill/MPI, 1989 (VHS PAL and NTSC)

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Like it or Not later become part of Bogus Pomp, included both in the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra performance (available through Orchestral Favorites) and in the extended London Symphony Orchestra version (from LSO Vol.2).

Zappa: The fact of the matter is, 200 Motels is a stack of music about like this, (opposing palms 2 ft. apart). In order for it ever to be played again, anyplace other than on a record, it had to be boiled down to a concert piece that could be used for live performance. “Bogus Pomp” is a compilation of main themes from 200 Motels which was a concert piece, for a forty-piece orchestra. It was just played again in the 120-piece version at the University of Wisconsin, along with “Strictly Genteel”. It’s nice that some of the things are actually getting played. But unless somebody takes the time, mainly me, to sit down and put it together to one book that thick instead of a pile of scores for movie background music, nobody’ll ever hear it.
Robert Cassella, Z=AP2, Gold Coast Free Press, January 5, 1984
[This interview is from the end of December, 1983 and was first published in the Gold Coast Free Press, later in the same year in Mother People #22.]

The music named under the large 200 Motels “trademark”, slowly took shape in the late sixties, a little part was performed live by the original Mothers of Invention and in 1970 by the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta, most part was then played by the movie cast, later some portions were performed live by the Flo & Eddie band, and finally concentrated as Bogus Pomp, a “symphony in one movement”, a fitting definition by David Ocker who worked for Frank Zappa from 1977 to 1984 as clarinet player.

The composer told the whole story in 1988 in The True Story of 200 Motels: he cared for such “orchestral sketches” for more than 20 years!

Early in the nineties also there were signs of how much he cared for 200 Motels and particularly for Strictly Genteel: Make A Jazz Noise Here (1991) the last live recording of his last rock band closes with this piece as well as the You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore series (last track of Vol. 6, 1992).

Moreover, Steve Vai recalls:

I once asked him what was his favorite thing he ever wrote. I never expected such a choice could be made but he said, and I need to paraphrase a little bit here, “The majestic section towards the end of “Strictly Genteel””.
From the Frank Zappa: 200 Motels-The Suites booklet (more about this 2015 release later)

Mid eighties/early nineties were the years he was working with the Synclavier. Then he met The Ensemble Modern, two new crossed paths were developing, such circumstances eventually brought him far from those old seminal works.

The 200 Motels timeline then jumps to the year 2000 when Ali N. Askin adapted the old stack of scores in the form of The Suites for the Holland Festival.

Holland Festival Program, Amsterdam, June 23-24, 2000

Holland Festival Program, Amsterdam, June 23-24, 2000

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Here are the main credits:

Holland Festival
Amsterdam, June 23-24, 2000
Adaptation: Ali N. Askin
Company: Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest and Cappella Amsterdam
Conductor: Jurjen Hempel
Soloists:
Claron McFadden: vocals (Rock & Roll Interviewer, Girl, Jeff’s Good Conscience)
Lieuwe Visser: vocals (Rance Muhammitz, Jeff’s Bad Conscience)
Tommy Dunbar & Jon Rubin: vocals (Flo & Eddie)
Mats Öberg: keyboards, vocals (Jeff)
Morgan Ågren: drums
Stage-Manager: Johan Simons

An audience recording is available through zappateers.

Kasper Sloots gives and effective summary of this 2000 project in his FRANK ZAPPA’S MUSICAL LANGUAGE study/web site.

200 Motels, The Suites, was reassembled by Zappa’s earlier assistant Ali N. Askin at the request of Gail Zappa. It could be made up from the archives with the pieces meant for a live performance by The London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1971. About 80% coincides with the 1971 album version of 200 Motels. The other 20% is unreleased. The set up of 200 Motels, the suites, is:

Overture
Went On The Road
Centerville
Tuna Sandwich Suite
The Restaurant Scene
Touring Can Make You Crazy
What’s The Name Of Your Group?
Can I Help You With This Dummy?
The Pleated Gazelle
I’m Stealing The Room
Shove It Right In
Penis Dimension
Strictly Genteel

The unreleased material deals with a groupie, addressing herself to the audience. She’s asking if she can take a polaroid picture and then continues confessing that she likes masturbating with the aid of a dummy. “Can I help you with this dummy?” is about the girl being sexually excited by the dummy, while a certain Rance first asks if he can help. Later on Rance gets disgraced as he understands what the girl was doing, while she’s trying to apologize. The score was first published in the The Frank Zappa Songbook from 1973. Zappa comments: “Can I help you…” was originally scheduled for use in 200 Motels but was excluded due to technical difficulties beyond…”. 200 Motels, the suites, was premiered on June 23 in the Carré theatre, with a second concert on June 24 (flyer above, there’s no information about the image designer on it). It was performed by the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra and the Amsterdam Capella choir with Jurjen Hempel conducting.

If you need to go in detail about the differences between the movie soundtrack and The Suites you should go for “Information Is Not Knowledge” web site as usual: at the end of the “Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels” page you’ll find the proper comparison table.

In 2000 a small part of the Holland Festival performance, an extract from I’m Stealing the Room named Dental Hygiene Dilemma, was already in the last Ensemble Modern Zappa program: Greggery Peccary and Other Persuasions, also presented at the 2000 Holland Festival.

This powerful vocal number, featuring David Moss and Homar Ebrahim, has been partially released as an hidden track in the third (the fourth, if you count CPIII in also) Ensemble Modern Zappa album that includes further arrangements by Ali N. Askin. (Greggery Peccary and Other Persuasions, RCA Red Seal, 2003). Here is the Dental Hygiene Dilemma animated (by Calvin Schenkel) sequence from Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels.

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After a 13 years hiatus, The Suites were back again for two big events:

Green Umbrella: Zappa’s 200 Motels
Los Angeles, October 23, 2013
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic & Los Angeles Master Chorale

Main performers:
Jeff Taylor: Larry the Dwarf
Michael Des Barres: Rance
Matt Marks: Mark
Zach Villa: Howard
Rich Fulcher: Cowboy Burt
Hila Plitmann: Soprano Solo
Morris Robinson: Bass Solo
Joel David Moore: Frank
Joe Fria: Jeff
Ann Cusack: Donovan/Good Conscience
Alan Ruck: Ginger/Bad Conscience
Diva Zappa: Janet
Sheila Vand: Lucy
Ian Underwood: keyboard 1/electric alto sax
Randy Kerber: keyboard 2/Hammond organ
Joe Travers: drum set
Scott Carter Thunes: electric bass
Jamie Kime: electric guitar

Jeff Taylor as Larry the Dwarf (Photograph: Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging), Green Umbrella: Zappa's 200 Motels, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, October 23, 2013

Jeff Taylor as Larry the Dwarf (Photograph: Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging), Green Umbrella: Zappa’s 200 Motels, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, October 23, 2013

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The Rest Is Noise
London, October 29, 2013
Royal Albert Hall
Jurjen Hempel conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra, Southbank Sinfonia & London Voices (Terry Edwards: chorus master)

Main performers:
Claron McFadden: soprano
Tony Guilfoyle: Frank
Richard Strange: narrator, Rance
Ian Shaw: Mark
Brendan Reilly: Howard, Cowboy Burt
Sophia Brous: Groupie 1 (Janet), Larry the Dwarf
Diva Zappa: Groupie 2 (Lucy)
Jessica Hynes: Good Conscience, Donovan
Jay Rayner: Bad Conscience, Ginger
Scott Thunes: Jeff

Tony Guilfoyle as Frank Zappa (Photograph: Chris Christodoulou), 200 Motels-The Suites, The Rest Is Noise, Royal Albert Hall, London, October 29, 2013

Tony Guilfoyle as Frank Zappa (Photograph: Chris Christodoulou), 200 Motels-The Suites, The Rest Is Noise, Royal Albert Hall, London, October 29, 2013

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The London concert is available from the bigO audio archive as a BBC Radio 3 broadcast.

(BTW, also available through the bigO audio archive is Frank Zappa Live at the Civic Center, Santa Monica, August 21, 1970 that features some 200 Motels related material)

The Los Angeles concert has been released on November 2015 as a double Zappa Records CD: Frank Zappa: 200 Motels-The Suites. Here is the trailer:

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As reported in the press release linked above:

“I would say that the outrageous aspects of Zappa are perhaps less important for today’s audience,” Salonen told Variety in an interview before the 2013 performance. “We’re witnessing an historical moment where we can actually hear the other aspects of his music better because we are no longer stunned by the outrageousness. Reading this score now, there is a sheer richness of fantasy. He had such a vivid imagination in every way.”

And in fact the music sounds overwhelming, however the script does not give back that deviant climate the way it did in 1971. Salonen should be right, 43 years later the audience is different: maybe also thanks to Frank Zappa “the fringe of audience comprehension” has gone a little bit ahead. Furthermore these Orchestras seems happy to execute such a composer, while in 1971:

The jolly lads of the R.P.O. cavort with depraved abandon, shredding their rented tuxedos in an act of revenge.

Gary pretends to be dismayed.

The movie is over. Now they can go home.

R.P.O. stands for The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the text above is the overlay text around 50:00 into The True Story of 200 Motels, Zappa recalls how the musicians seemed to be offended to be part of the production of the movie.

Later, Zappa wrote this note for Strictly Genteel into the London Symphony Orchestra Vol. II booklet (the story dates 1983).

This was written for the finale of ‘200 MOTELS.’ It has lyrics and was sung by Theodore Bikel, Mark Volman, and Howard Kaylan on the original United Artists soundtrack album released in 1971.

The performance included here was recorded in the last hour of the last session of the last night . . . with no possibility of overtime (at any price) to correct mistakes. During the final ‘rest period’ just before the big push to get a good take, the entire trumpet section decided to visit a pub across the street. They returned 15 minutes late. No recording could be done without them. The orchestra refused to spend another 15 minutes at the end of the session to make up for their glowing brass section neighbors. I have done as much as possible to enhance this fine British ‘craftmanship’ (at least 50 edits in 6:53), but, to no avail . . . the ‘human element’ remains intact.

The Real Frank Zappa Book includes some more accounts of the his life-long difficulties with Orchestras and musical Institutions. One of the most infamous is the long lawsuit he had in London where he claimed over the cancellation of the 200 Motels Albert Hall concert. It was 1971 and the program could have had something in common with The Suites, as above speculated by Kasper Sloots.

Here are some old and recent articles about the controversy:
From the Guardian archives:
Frank Zappa’s lyrics outrage Royal Albert Hall management
Originally published on 9 February 1971

A Mother goes a-courting
NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, April 26, 1975

Sanchez Manning
Frank Zappa settles an old score after 42 years: Banned in 1971, ‘200 Motels’ will finally be played in the UK
The Independent, August 11, 2013

The composer gave a detailed account of such lawsuit in The Real Frank Zappa Book, Chapter 7 Drool, Britannia.

Drool, Britannia has been dramatized during the pre-concert talk (right before the 2013 Los Angeles, October 23 performance) hosted by Chad Smith. He introduces performers RICH FULCHER (Frank Zappa), MICHAEL DES BARRES (Mr. Ogden), JOE FRIA (Mr. Campbell), and SCOTT THUNES (Justice Mocatta) reading Drool, Britannia. The pre-talk closes with Chad Smith chatting with GAIL ZAPPA. The audio is available at the end of the show credits page at laphil.com.

Here it is too:

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The Los Angeles Walt Disney Concert Hall show visuals and comedy has been produced by James Darrah, who has a 200 Motels page on his web site.

Darrah contributes to the Frank Zappa: 200 Motels-The Suites liner notes as well as Frank Filippetti, Gail Zappa, Scott Thunes, Steve Vai, Joe Travers, Michael Des Barres, Diva Zappa, Peter Asher, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Kurt Morgan.

The latter being credited on the album as “Scrutinization & Remediation by Kurt Morgan, Scoremeister”. From his contribution to the album liner notes:

“Every idiosyncrasy of FZ’s way of notating music would be reproduced, right down to the beaming of notes and the layouts of the pages themselves. The job took almost two years for me to complete”

One might wonder what is the difference between the Askin Holland Festival version and the 2013 L.A./London Morgan scores.

It could be a matter of orchestration, the program should be almost the same, also according to the above mentioned comparison table.

As a final remark concerning the 2015 album, I would recommend the in-depth review of the Los Angeles concert by David Ocker, available through his Mixed Meters.

But let’s go back again to the late sixties to start a 200 Motels timeline (mainly a London/Los Angeles affair). There a few more facts that is worth to point out to fully appreciate and frame these new brilliant recordings.

1966-1970 The Orchestral Sketchbook
1968 October 25
London, Royal Festival Hall
The Mothers of Invention
assisted by members of The BBC Symphony Orchestra
Prologue, Like It Or Not (Redneck Eats), The Rejected Mexican Pope Leaves The Stage / Undaunted, The Band Plays On (Dance Of The Just Plain Folks); included in Ahead of Their Time (1993); parts on The True Story of 200 Motels (1988)
c. 1968-69 The Mothers of Invention
opening for Holiday In Berlin, Full-Blown (Ouverture)
included in Burnt Weeny Sandwich (1970)
1969 date unknown
KPFK Radio Panel
: current state of popular and classical music in the U.S.
with Frank Zappa, Zubin Mehta (L.A. Philharmonic Music director), Ernest Fleischmann (L.A. Music Center and L.A. Phil. Manager), David Raksin (film-music composer); hosted by station Classical Music Director William Strother
1970 May 15
Los Angeles, UCLA, Pauley Pavilion
CONTEMPO 70
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Zubin Mehta (conductor)
Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention
Excerpts from 200 Motels for Mothers & Orchestra
Bootleg recording available through the bigO audio archive
Chunga’s Revenge (October 1970)
Zappa liner notes: “All the vocals in this album are a preview of the story from 200 Motels. Coming. Soon. Near you.” However these songs didn’t make it to the final shoot.
1971 January 28-February 5
Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels shooting/recording
Produced at Pinewood Studios, Iverheath, England
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Elgar Howarth (Conductor)
February 8
London, Royal Albert Hall cancelled
Frank Zappa’s lyrics outrage Royal Albert Hall management
Originally published on The Guardian on February 9, 1971
October 4
Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels (2LP, Bizarre/United Artists UAS 9956)
October 10
Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels movie premiere
1975 April 14
At 10.30 in the morning Bizarre Productions began to sue the Royal Albert Hall in front of Mr. Justice Mocatta. Bizzare lost.
A Mother goes a-courting
NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, April 26, 1975
September 17-19
Los Angeles, Royce Hall, UCLA
Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra
Michael Zearott (conductor)
Strictly Genteel
Bogus Pomp
included in Orchestral Favorites (1979)
September 17 zappateers audience recording available
September 18 zappateers audience recording available
1983 January 12-14
London, Twickenham Film Studio
London Symphony Orchestra
Kent Nagano (Conductor)
Strictly Genteel
Bogus Pomp
included in London Symphony Orchestra Vol. II (1987)
1988 The True Story of 200 Motels (Honker Home Video, May 15, 1988)
2000 June 6 – November 29
The Ensemble Modern Greggery Peccary & Other Persuasions concerts
Peter Eötvös (conductor), Ali N. Askin (arrangements and transcriptions), Todd Yvega ( synclavier transcriptions)
The album released in 2003 includes en excerpt of
Dental Hygiene Dilemma (partially unreleased, from I’m Stealing The Room)
June 23-24
Holland Festival
Amsterdam, Koninklijk Theater Carré
200 Motels, The Suites
Adaptation: Ali N. Askin
Company: Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest and Cappella Amsterdam
Conductor: Jurjen Hempel
zappateers audience recording available
2013 October 23
Green Umbrella: Zappa’s 200 Motels
Los Angeles, Walt Disney Concert Hall
200 Motels, The Suites
Scruitinization & Remedials by Kurt Morgan: scoremeister
Company: Los Angeles Philharmonic & Los Angeles Master Chorale
Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen
Chorus Master: Grant Gershon
October 29
The Rest Is Noise
London, Royal Albert Hall
200 Motels, The Suites
Scruitinization & Remedials by Kurt Morgan: scoremeister
Company: BBC Concert Orchestra, Southbank Sinfonia, London Voices
Conductor: Jurjen Hempel
Chorus Master: Terry Edwards
BBC Radio 3 broadcast available through the bigO audio archive
2015 November 20
Frank Zappa: 200 Motels – The Suites (Universal/Zappa Records, 2CD)
spotify link

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The CONTEMPO 70 concert was the first orchestral performance of 200 Motels scores. Unfortunately, due to the usual difficulties with unions regulations, he could not record the concert performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta. Frank Zappa recalls the story in The Real Frank Zappa Book.

Sometime in 1970, I had an offer for a major concert performance of the orchestral music accumulating in my closet. During the M.O.I.’s first five years, I had carried with me, on the road, masses of manuscript paper, and, whenever there was an opportunity, scribbled stuff on it. This material eventually became the score for 200 Motels (based on an estimate of the number of gigs we played in the first five years—forty jobs per year?).

The performance was to be held at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion (a basketball arena seating about fourteen thousand people), with Zubin Mehta conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. A pretty big deal.

There was a ‘catch,’ though—the orchestra didn’t really want to play the stuff—they wanted AN EVENT; something ‘unique’—like—uhh, maybe a ROCK GROUP and—uhhhhh—a REAL ORCHESTRA sort of—uhhh—well you know—‘rocking out together.’ It didn’t matter what the music was.

This eventually led to a few problems. First of all, I didn’t have a ‘ROCK GROUP’—the M.O.I had been disbanded for about a year. Second, there were no parts copied for the scores, and I was being asked to pay for this enormous job (seven thousand 1970 dollars). The third problem was that I wanted some kind of tape of the show, and the Musicians’ Union wouldn’t allow it. (They didn’t do anything when some asshole in the audience ran a cassette and made a bootleg album out of it, but they were promising stern action if I made one for my own use—just to find out what my pieces sounded like . . . but let me slow down here.)

We solved problem number one by putting together an interim one-shot ‘Mothers-Of-Invention-Sort-Of-Group.’ It did a short tour to warm up, maybe half a dozen dates, and returned to L.A. for the show.

The second problem was solved by me spending the seven thousand bucks on a team of copyists.

The third problem never got solved, and I never got a tape of the show.

It was the most successful indoor concert of the L.A. Phil’s season that year—sold out. Somewhere in the mass of spectators were Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, a.k.a. Flo & Eddie.

They came backstage after the show, said they liked it, and told me that the Turtles had split up and they were looking for something to do. The rest is history.

In spite of all those issues, the show was a success and gave a chance for the first encounter with Volman and Kaylan (Flo & Eddie), a crucial duo for the future of 200 Motels. Luckily enough bootleg recordings exist, one of them is available through the bigO audio archive.

Right before the “hit it Zubin!” (FZ during the intro) Pauley Pavilion concert, KPFK Radio organized a panel called “current state of popular and classical music in the U.S.” with Frank Zappa, Zubin Mehta (L.A. Philharmonic Music director), Ernest Fleischmann (L.A. Music Center and L.A. Phil. Manager), David Raksin (film-music composer) and hosted by station Classical Music Director William Strother. Here is a recording:

From left: Frank Zappa, Zubin Mehta and Ernest Fleischmann at a 1970 news conference (John Malmin / Los Angeles Times)

From left: Frank Zappa, Zubin Mehta and Ernest Fleischmann at a 1970 news conference (John Malmin / Los Angeles Times)

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Considering how emerging was rock culture in 1969 and what FZ wrote about CONTEMPO 70 in The Real Frank Zappa Book (“the orchestra didn’t really want to play the stuff—they wanted AN EVENT”), the background of the discussion appears clear. Metha asks “Once and for all: what is rock music?” or “rock is an instinctive idiom, how an Orchestra can play rock?”. Zappa answers (a paraphrase here): “Whatever merchandized in a rock packaging” and “I don’t want the Orchestra to play rock but I do think the Orchestra should sound instinctive”. Metha was looking for the secret recipe of the rock popularity, Zappa answered his way trying to put the issue differently: it is not a matter of Rock/Classical (low culture/high culture) it is a matter of proper content in the right frame.

Zappa:
I wanted to have a performance of the Rite of Spring in a dance environment where you could actually get kids to dance to it. I wanted to get the LA Philharmonic down there and have them taking up the whole back of the place, amplified, so it can really ride across your chest by the Rite of Spring, put on a light show and let everybody dance to it!
[…]
I would be more than happy, if I had a group, to carry on from The Rite of Spring and keep on pumping after the tune was over, because I never did like the end of The Rite of Spring.
[…]
As soon as the Orchestra quit, like a tape edit downbeat, then the other band starts up with a fuzz-tone!
[…]
You want people to appreciate beauty, give it to them!

I would run for such a thing!

Anyway, in 1969 in the U.S. the so called classical world was hardly trying to understand how to design musical events as successful as rock ‘n’ roll shows, and this circumstance brought an interest on Frank Zappa, probably more as a rock-star than as a composer. FZ was smart enough to understand and catch it.

If you bear in mind such a background the panel flows with a sort of underlying text behind.

The last jump across the timeline is to 1975 for the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra concert (Michael Zearott: conductor). There is not much information available on the web about these performances, later partially released on Orchestral Favorites (1979), with some other remnants on posthumous releases (QuAUDIOPHILIAc (2004) and One Shot Deal (2008)). On a 1976 article Frank Zappa gave a particularly zany comment: “I had a few laughs.” (Rip Rense, A Unique Musical Force or Blasphemous Freak: Which Is Frank Zappa?, The Valley News, Van Nuys, CA, June 27, 1976).

Zappa/Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra/Micheal Zearott, Los Angeles, Royce Hall, UCLA, September 1975 - Ad

Zappa/Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra/Micheal Zearott, Los Angeles, Royce Hall, UCLA, September 1975 – Ad

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The overall feeling is that the composer was happy enough with the project also because he was able to insert some kind of “instinctive” elements, the “eyebrows” he probably was trying to explain to Zubin Metha during that 1969 panel. One of them concerns Bogus Pomp.

Micheal Zearott conducting the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles, Royce Hall, UCLA, September 1975

Micheal Zearott conducting the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles, Royce Hall, UCLA, September 1975

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Early in Bogus Pomp there is an electric, wah-wah viola solo. Zappa explained before the piece that the rest of the orchestra would musically attack the viola player later in the piece because the viola got the first solo and because the soloist was a woman.
L. Roy Goldberg, Zappa Gives UCLA Audience The Bird, Daily Trojan, September 25, 1975

The episode is at 6:15 into Bogus Pomp (and there’s another at 9:21), Orchestral Favorites version, and the viola player is Pamela Goldsmith:

It was Jerry Kessler who asked me to join him in a string quartet (electrified) to play with Frank in a giant Royce Hall Concert. It was the first time I had dealt with a pickup (Barcus Berry in those days) and amp (giant Benson amp), so in combination with dealing with Frank I remember being extremely pressurized. I had feedback all the time, as I remember. I used a combination volume control and wah-wah pedal, and once I was fooling around with it during rehearsal and tried using it to produce ‘vibrato’. Frank came running out wild-eyed saying ‘that’s it-you have to use that’. So I did. I played barefoot because that was the only way I could feel the pedal underneath my foot (you must realize violists don’t use their feet to play and this was all new to me. I was fresh from Stanford University, having received my doctorate in eighteenth century performance practice). In the performance, Frank had the string quartet right in front at the edge of the stage, dressed in formal orchestral attire. Except for my bare feet. He definitely wrote for individual players, writing more and more difficult passages until you would hit your ‘wall’. I remember finally saying to him, “Frank, I can’t play that any faster”. Then he said, ‘okay’, and that was that. Everyone was apparently relieved that I was not intimidated by him (only by the electronics). I think I was the only woman around in that group (does anyone remember? this was a long time ago). Yes the music was highly complex and difficult, but challenging and fun to play. Michael Zearott conducted (the meter changes were so difficult and frequent)quite wonderfully as I recall. In fact, everyone was in top form, rising to the occasion of this incredible collection of players. more to follow later. pg

Here’s more: Frank definitely wrote personal music for his musicians. Someone must have told him I was involved with a trombone player at the time, so he wrote duets (in unison) for viola and trombone. I remember the marking was ‘grotesque’. The great trombone player, Bruce was a pleasure to try to imitate–he really had the satirical style down. The only two titles I remember were Bogus Pomp and Gregory Peccary. Somewhere in the Concert Frank came to the mike and announced to the audience, “you think I am a wonderful composer, but the truth is these musicians could improvise their own piece and it would be just as interesting, so let’s have them do it now. Let’s start with Pam”. Then he turned around and gestured to me. Can you imagine the terror that sprung into me at that moment. I picked up my viola and began to improvise, in a very avant-garde, all over the place style. (they tell me it sounded a little like Ornette Coleman) Then he gestured to others to join in, waved people in and out, indicated dynamic changes and so forth. When he cut off the music (noise, whatever), the audience cheered wildly. I could only think: “thank god that’s over–I hope no one ever asks me to improvise in public ever again”!
From the “Frank Zappa and The Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Orchestra” Bill Lantz web pages

To close this erratic trip back and forth the 200 Motels timeline, a final question arises (paraphrasing Zubin Metha): Once and for all: what’s the 200 Motels message?

We have an answer, it was given by Howard Kaylan at the end of The True Story of 200 Motels (0:51:13):

His intention is to create a, a piece of film so bizarre and, parts of it so full of bullshit and other parts of it so technically perfect, that the people are gonna leave the theater going, “I didn’t understand it at all! What’s he doing? What’s, what’s the message? What’s he trying to say?” Well, that’s the message, that he’s not trying to say it.

Or: “I had a few laughs.”

200 Motels collage by Dave McMacken

200 Motels collage by Dave McMacken

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Panty Quilt, Emily Alana James, circa 1982, commissioned by Zappa and constructed of ladies' undergarments thrown on stage during the Tinseltown Rebellion tour

Panty Quilt, Emily Alana James, circa 1982, commissioned by Zappa and constructed of ladies’ undergarments thrown on stage during the Tinseltown Rebellion tour

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Mark Pinske was a recording engineer for Frank Zappa from 1980 until 1987. Mark is also one of the featured voices on Drafted Again from from You Are What You Is.

On January 2003 Chris Michie interviewed Mark Pinske for Mix magazine: an extensive account on Mark career with a lot of Zappa insights. It is divided in 4 sections and available on line:
The Complete Mark Pinske Interview – Day One
The Complete Mark Pinske Interview – Day Two
The Complete Mark Pinske Interview – Day Three – part 1
The Complete Mark Pinske Interview – Day Three – part 2

In these very days Mike has been really kind to share through his web site two Zappa songs and a Panty Rap from the November 18, 1980 St Paul Civic Arena Bowl concert. A nice treat for Zappadan 2015!

City of Tiny Lights – 10:38

Love of my Life – 2:16

Panty Rap/Band intro – 4:33

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He have informed Zappateers of such good news, giving some comments on the two songs.

City of Tiny Lights
A song taken from an FZ show off of my board that has some very interesting live effects like the Ursa Major Space Station and octave divider on Franks Guitar.

Later around 6 minutes Steve Vai and Frank play together and some other thrills like Frank changing to a reggae tempo at around 9 minutes.

The line up was. FZ, Steve Vai, Tommy Mars, Arthur Barrow, Vinnie Colaiuta, Bob Harris, Ray White, Ike Willis. Isn’t that enough?

Love of my Life
Here is the live version of Love of my Life (short song) from the same show that features my dear friend Bob Harris using his wonderful falsetto that he used on the audition for the Tinsel Town Rebellion album and got him a place in Franks music.

I have a whole story that goes with that. (one little feedback screech near the end from the onstage monitor, my apology).

THANK YOU MARK!

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December 30, 2015 update
On December 26 Mark uploaded yet another number from the fall ’80 Colaiuta-drummed tour. Judging fron the file name, it should be from the December 11, 1980 show in Santa Monica, the last date of the fall ’80 tour, actually a two shows deal.

Outside Now!


During the intro rap FZ mentions Sand Diego as a two days ago panty bonanza experience, then at 1:15, after a quite abrupt cut towards the song, Joe starts to sing and lay the foundation for a great Zappa solo!

Again, thank you Mark, I do hope it will be a monthly thing!

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February 5, 2016 update
On February 4 Mark uploaded another 1980 file, this time from the Logeman-drummed tour:

Here is a little mix off my board from London Wembley Arena on 06-17-1980 just for fun.

It’s Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?, and features “Ray – Night of the Living Dead – White”!


Thank you Mark, it’s really monthly!

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September 17, 2016 update
Yet another Markman upload from the ’80s post-prodution laboratory, a Dub Rum Special mix outtake, just magnificent!

Something funny for today. I found a Beta Hi-Fi work tape from many years ago when I was working on the Dub Room Special with FZ. I did this ridiculous mix for the song StinkFoot and Frank said that he thought it might be a bit over the top. So I said to Frank that we need to make some of these things so they can hold up for the future because 20 years from now everything will be more outrageous. So Frank just started laughing hard and said “I tell you what Markman, you hang on to this work tape and then 20 years from now you can pull it out and see how well it does.” Well it has been more than 20 years so, see what you think. (This was my first headphone stereo Low frequency experiment) Oh yes on Franks guitar solo I used a 5 tap Ursa Major Space station, a Dynamix Flanger and a few Lexicon 240 reverbs.

 

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July 9, 2017 update – Beauty Knows No Pain

I found an early mix that I did for the You Are What Your Is album of Beauty Knows No Pain. I hope you like it.
For the Real Zappa fans, this has Steve Vai, Ike Willis, Ray White, Tommy Mars, Ed Mann, Arthur Barrow, David Logaman, and Jimmy Carl Black doing the snorts along with a young Moon Zappa on the end saying “it doesn’t have that stale after taste” Segway to Charlie’s enormous mouth. Oh and Yes Bob Harris singing up into the ways with that gorgeous high falsetto.

 

July 10, 2017 update – Teen-Age Wind

Ok, so now here is the deal. The YAWYI (You Are What You Is album was the only 100% studio album that we did at Frank Zappa’s studio, UMRK (Utility Muffin Research Kitchen). I recorded every track from scratch and I also did most of the mixing (with tag team help from a few others like Bob Stone God rest his soul). Special Thanks to John Good of DW drums for his help as always. This was one of the most creative times of Frank’s life and the recording sessions were some of the most unbelievable magic ever caught on tape. So here is a mix I did of Teen-Age Wind featuring Bob Harris as the Kid on vocals and complimented by the whole ensemble of other ZAPPA star vocalist like Ike Willis, Ray White, Frank Zappa, Jimmy Carl Black and others. This mix features the famous Pinske vocal layering and gets interesting with the panorama and the Jimmy Carl Black blow back overdubs that we did for the “Life long Fans”. I apologize for the abrupt cut off on the end, but that is only because FZ whole albums are segue oriented. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Frank did give me a lot of leeway and sometimes he would go up to bed and tell me to leave the final mix on the two track. The next day we would usually talk and laugh about each approach. He once told me that when he was on stage I had to be the producer because an artist cannot play and produce at the same time. I was very honored to try to do the best I can and I once asked him “Frank, why me” and he said because you are the only one I can trust. I felt truly blessed, another time he just finished over playing on a Guitar solo and came in to the control room and asked me what I thought and I said “Frank, it really sucked”! He just burst out laughing because nobody ever told him that before and then he said, “Yea, it really did suck didn’t it” then he got up and walked back to the multitrack machine and put all his guitar channels into record and erased the whole solo. Then he walked over to the basement and yelled up the stairwell saying “Dweezil come on down I got a solo I want you to play on this song”. If I remember right it was on Stevie’s Spanking. You never knew what Frank would do next, he was totally an original.

 

July 11, 2017 update – Doreen

So then, I didn’t know if I should do this or not, but in our frenzy during the making of YAWYI, Frank wanted to do a one minute and 30 second version of the song Doreen with a 2 minute totally ridiculous vamp that rocked out with a massive kludge of overlays. So, well ok, that is what I mixed. This features Ray White on the lead vocal. The funny thing is that in the middle of laughing during the vamp, you are actually able to make out some of the intended lyrics that made the whole song a lot of fun to do. We did use a different mix on the album I think that was more sparse, but when I went back to listen to this one I think it somehow fit the more teen age frenzy that Frank had in mind for just a fun wild feel. Oh I almost forgot that about 3 minutes into it Frank said Markman it’s not quite thick enough I think you should put the kitchen sink into it too!

 

What’s next?

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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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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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IRCAM (Paris) by Arnfried Zerche

IRCAM (Paris) by Arnfried Zerche

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An intense but little known interview conducted in Paris,
and how Frank Zappa got to know “Uncle Sal” from Bitti
(Barbagia, Sardinia, Italy)

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Landscape of Barbagia, Sardinia, Italy

Landscape of Barbagia, Sardinia, Italy

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There has been a thread connecting Paris and Bitti via Rome. Frank Zappa at IRCAM (for the Pierre Boulez recordings) and Salvatore Bandinu (bass voice for Tenores di Bitti “Remunnu ‘e Locu”), via Riccardo Giagni.

Giagni is a musicologist and composer who had a very peculiar relationship with Frank Zappa, started in January 1984, when he managed to interview him. As it will be clear soon, their relation was based on a common enthusiastic inclination: the music from the traditions of Bulgaria, India, Arab Culture and Sardinia, and probably from other territories too. Giagni told this story in Frank Zappa Domani, an Italian book published by Castelvecchi in 2000 and now out of print. “Frank Zappa Domani” was also a conference held in Tivoli in 1999 and organized by Gianfranco Salvatore, who was the editor of the book too.

In 1984 Riccardo Giagni was working for RadioTre (an Italian public radio channel), for “Un Certo Discorso”, a radio show rather relevant at that time, from a cultural point of view. Riccardo proposed to go to Paris to meet Zappa and interview him at IRCAM while he was working with Pierre Bolulez. Luckily RadioTre agreed, so Riccardo asked Massimo Bassoli to help him to get in touch with Zappa, who at first accepted a five minutes talk. They met at the composer Hotel suite in Paris, and eventually the conversation become very extensive, it lasted the whole afternoon.

In the book Riccardo tells that the interview took a good path, probably because he did not ask details concerning forthcoming releases or about his use of wah-wah, he addressed the core of his compositional strategies instead. “I think of composition as a process of decorating time” was one of the statements that hit Giagni most. Later in 1988 he gave more or less the same statement in The Real Frank Zappa Book: “A composer’s job involves the decoration of fragments of time.” The composer fills his time as the painter fills his canvas.

They also discussed music of ethnic tradition and discovered a common ground in Indian classical music, traditional Arab music, but most of all, in the music of the Bulgarian tradition. So they started chatting about then obscure singers and players, now a little more known given that ethnic music later become a recognizable category. Valya Balkanska (FZ of her: “terrific!”), Philip Koutev, Nikola Ganchev or The Pennywhistlers were some of the names, they were both fond of the rhythmic structure of the Bulgarian music, with its typical odd figures. And here is where it all started, Riccardo promised to send a tape with the best of his collection of Bulgarian music. The Berlin Wall was still up, and such material was very difficult to reach from the US, but Giagni had good contacts at the Italy-URSS association, so he managed to gather a nice Balkanton vinyl collection. Zappa appreciated the Bulgaria tape a lot, to such an extent that he later used it as a warm up before his concerts.

Some interesting time decorations passed by fast, and in 1990 the composer and the musicologist with a taste for odd times in Bulgarian music, were still in touch. In a phone conversation in May, an already hill Zappa told Giagni about his project of a big world traditional music festival to be named “The Monsters of Folk” (an obvious pun with a famous heavy metal event). At this point Giagni told about the great Sardinia tradition of the “cantu a tenores“, a style of polyphonic folk singing from Barbagia, a mountain area of inner Sardinia. Zappa replied that he already knew about some Sardinia traditions through a tape given by the Italian promoter Claudio Trotta (of Barley Arts). Giagni insisted and presented Tenores di Bitti “Remunnu ‘e Locu” as the best group for the “cantu a tenores”. They have a real tight sound, they practice original harmonic solutions and the single voices of the quartet are beautiful, he said. Zappa asked for a tape with the single voices, Giagni went to Bitti, recorded and sent a DAT tape to LA, where it found the enthusiastic reaction of our time decorator, who asked for digital recordings of the single voices singing single notes to be sampled, and demanded for a full album to be produced by Riccardo Giagni. All the requests from California were accepted in Italy. Zappa received the single voice recordings and was again enthusiastic of the “Barbagia cowboys”, so he called the “Remunnu ‘e Locu” singers, and he was particularly thrilled by the bass Salvatore Bandinu (now retired), “the cowest of them all!”, FZ entered his voice into the synclavier as “Uncle Sal”.

To have an idea of how “Uncle Sal” could have sounded, play the following sample linked form the mp3 page available through the Tenores di Bitti “Remunnu ‘e Locu” web site. It is a recording of a single “bassu” voice.


Bassu singing fragment

–       ;- {=      –

And here comes some time and space for a digression (not so long, please be patient). Given the Ensemble Ascolta performance in Berlin in 2007, where they played Overture to Uncle Sam, Part I as an unreleased Synclavier composition, I am wondering if Uncle Sam is actually a misspelled Uncle Sal!

A 2:24 min version of this unreleased composition is available through the Ensemble “Ascolta Plays Zappa” page and linked here:

Overture to Uncle Sam, Part I by Ensemble Ascolta

A source (kulturkalender.faz.net, reported by IINK) reported that in the Ensemble Ascolta program, for Overture to Uncle Sam, Part I it was specified: “planned as an overture to an opera for La Scala in Milan”.

Moreover, in The Real Frank Zappa Book Dio Fa is depicted as a project for an opera to be premiered at La Scala. Describing the stage set details it says: “The musical accompaniment will include full orchestral settings, chamber music settings, ethnic choral and instrumental setting (executed via digital sampling and digital tape playback)”.

Finally, listen carefully to the throat vocals in Dio Fa, my guess is that “Uncle Sal” voice melts into a tuvan Huun-Huur-Tu voice.

–       ;- {=      –

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Back to the Zappa requests to Giagni, an album has been recorded and issued in 1990 by Tenores di Bitti “Remunnu ‘e Locu”, entitled In Tonos.

A statement by Frank Zappa appears in the back cover of the cd booklet.

Tenores di Bitti "Remunnu 'e Locu", In Tonos, 1990 (New Tone), cd booklet, first and last pages

Tenores di Bitti “Remunnu ‘e Locu”, In Tonos, 1990 (New Tone), cd booklet, first and last pages

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Here is a fragment of Muttos, a song from the album, linked from the already mentioned mp3 page from their web site.


Muttos (fragment)

In the following, some images from the booklet, and the back cover of the cd.

Tenores di Bitti "Remunnu 'e Locu", In Tonos, 1990 (New Tone), cd booklet, credits

Tenores di Bitti “Remunnu ‘e Locu”, In Tonos, 1990 (New Tone), cd booklet, credits

Tenores di Bitti "Remunnu 'e Locu", In Tonos, 1990 (New Tone), cd booklet, about the "a Tenores" singing

Tenores di Bitti “Remunnu ‘e Locu”, In Tonos, 1990 (New Tone), cd booklet, about the “a Tenores” singing

Tenores di Bitti "Remunnu 'e Locu", In Tonos, 1990 (New Tone), cd booklet, about Tenores di Bitti "Remunnu 'e Locu"

Tenores di Bitti “Remunnu ‘e Locu”, In Tonos, 1990 (New Tone), cd booklet, about Tenores di Bitti “Remunnu ‘e Locu”

Tenores di Bitti "Remunnu 'e Locu", In Tonos, 1990 (New Tone), cd back cover

Tenores di Bitti “Remunnu ‘e Locu”, In Tonos, 1990 (New Tone), cd back cover

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Back to the ’80s and forward to 2013, the Paris interview has been broadcasted in 1984 by Rai Radio 3 into the “Un Certo Discorso” show, and partially transmitted again by Radio 3 on December 9, 2013 into “La Grande Radio” show, to pay a tribute to FZ, 20 years after his passing. The 2013 radio program included extracts form three shows the Radio3 devoted to the music of Frank Zappa: “Zappa in Testa” (2003), “Un Certo Discorso” (1984), “Storyville” (2002).

Here is the December 9, 2013 podcast, the “Un Certo Discorso” fragment starts at 10:45.


La Grande Radio, December 9, 2013 podcast

The interview has been translated into Italian, the voice of Zappa is always in the background. Only a short bit has been left without translation, it’s from 33:28 to 35:43 into the podcast.

Here is the transcription (please correct):

If you have a regular pulse, and you offend it with a very irregular phrase that goes over it… But that phrase has to be played exactly, it can’t be played as if it were an improvisation, it has to be an exact… it has to be a blasphemy against the original rhythm concept.

I like the idea of music where you can tap your foot to the basic pulse of the bar, and against that hear things that are very tense, and the tension of the rhythm of the melody, versus how those notes affect the chords, is what is going to determine how tense the whole composition is going to be.

In very traditional diatonic music there are stupid types of tensions, like dominant 7th chord and variations on that, which eventually resolve to a tonic.

And in jazz there’s two, five, one, which is the most offensive thing that you can deal with, it’s like you know it’s going home any minute now.

All things for the western hear that are costumes, they become a costume to hearing things presented that way.

They know that if something is really academic and nice it’s going to go back to the tonic after a certain period of time.

And the hear is come to expect that. By denying that, constantly… it’s like sleep deprivation torture, in a way. Have you ever been without sleep for a long time? You begin to see and hear things that aren’t really there, but they’re actually quite interesting.

You can do the same thing in a composition by presenting it in such a way that the psychological results of what you are doing are known in advance, you build this into the composition.

Because of what the listener expects to hear, by denying that to the listener, you are going to create a sensation for the listener that he wouldn’t get ordinarily.

So that is part of the composition.

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It is a truly significant statement that anticipates what Zappa will write in his autobiography:

The creation and destruction of harmonic and ‘statistical’ tensions is essential to the maintenance of compositional drama. Any composition (or improvisation) which remains consistent and ‘regular’ throughout is, for me, equivalent to watching a movie with only ‘good guys’ in it, or eating cottage cheese.

Frank Zappa, The Real Frank Zappa Book, page 181, Frank Zappa and Peter Occhiogrosso, 1989 —

Which is also quoted in the Harmony wikipedia article.

Riccardo Giagni was able to set the right climate for the interview: Frank Zappa felt free to express his own firm beliefs concerning composition, and to discuss other topics, as traditional music, as if he knew the interviewer since a long time. And it was also seminal for an important album of traditional music from Sardinia. I do hope this interview will be published in his complete form soon!

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