Archive for the ‘transcriptions’ Category

From the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln – Freunde facebook page

From the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln – Freunde facebook page

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

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

Studierende der Musikhochschulen NRW
WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln

Jonathan Stockhammer: conductor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, The Brass From Utopia, NORWIND records, 2013

The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, The Brass From Utopia, NORWIND records, 2013

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Great (old) news from Norway. In October 2013 The Norwegian Wind Ensemble released his tribute to Frank Zappa: The Brass From Utopia. In the words of the artistic leader Stian Aareskjold: “In 1993 I, as many others, was blown away by Frank Zappa’s record with Ensemble Modern, The Yellow Shark, from that day I dug into the complex, wonderful and humorous world of Frank Zappa, I wanted to play his music. And I wanted to do it in a new way. Not as a copy of Zappa’s own band. Not as a copy of the Ensemble Modern. I wanted to do it for brass and percussion. It took a while to find the right group of brass players, but The Norwegian Wind Ensemble has got the perfect mix of musicians to express the many styles and moods of Zappa’s intriguing music. They took the Challenge!” (from the liner notes).

The outcome is truly entertaining, the Ensemble is tight and deliver a very accurate performance, mostly of familiar arrangements adapted for this particular setting, with a lot of new details that contribute to create their original voice as Zappa performers. The album includes three new transcriptions also, and this is a really appealing part of their work, for sure for who is looking for a new light upon the Zappa catalogue. Namely Fembot In a Wet T- Shirt, I Promise not to Come in Your Mouth and Blessed Relief. And between those three I would choose re-orchestration of the Zappa in New York song as the most intriguing. The original is great and The Norwegian Wind Ensemble succeeded in rendering the ambiguous tone of such a “sensitive instrumental ballad for late-nite easy listening”, and for creatures from the outer space.

From the Det Norske Blåseensemble (DNBE) profile web page, and with a little help of a pernicious on-line translator, we understand that the Ensemble is a very old institution, being founded in 1774, that today focuses on improvised music and early music, especially baroque.

In the case of the Zappa album, “Det Norske Zappa-ensemble” is a thirteen piece band: ten brass musicians (two of them at bass trombone and tuba), one drummer and two percussionists.

Here are the complete credits from back and inner sleeve (note that it is a ZFT approved project).

The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, The Brass From Utopia, digipack back cover

The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, The Brass From Utopia, digipack back cover

 

The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, The Brass From Utopia, digipack inner cover

The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, The Brass From Utopia, digipack inner cover

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The album starts with Peaches en Regalia, the reference arrangement is that of the Ensemble Modern (from Greggery Peccary and other Persuasions). In this case the piece starts at a slower tempo and there are a lot of differences in the orchestration, such as a written trombone solo (0:58-1:14) instead of a woodwinds/guitar section, just to give an example. A perfect intro to the sound of the Ensemble.

Medley from “Make a Jazz Noise Here” declares his origin in the name. This arrangement sounds quite natural due to the brass nature of the original. The Tuba lines are a truly entertaining substitute of the Scott Thunes parts. And the xylophone instead of the electric guitar intro to Theme from Lumpy Gravy is a choice that gives a slightly different tone to the humor inside. It would be interesting to hear this very same version in a mix where the percussion is more upfront, it seems too much far here.

For the next two pieces the reference arrangement is the Dog/Meat Yellow Shark duo. The lack of woodwinds adds drama in some passages, during the first Dog Breath theme for instance, the band timbre sounds really dark.

Back to Make a Jazz Noise Here for the first part of Big Swifty. The classical quotes are here also: Lohengrin, prelude to act III (Wagner), Carmen (Bizet) and the 1812 Overture (Tchaikovsky). The following Best Band improvised “Jazz Noise” section is replaced by a long trumpet solo where the Ensemble swings like a great Jazz Big Band. Back to the original for the closing section.

Fembot In a Wet T-Shirt, the first new transcription, follows and goes with the Joe’s Garage version until more or less 2:15 in the original, which features a middle section with the short composition #8, and materials from the first movement of Mo ‘N Herb’s Vacation. Especially for this middle section the result is brilliant, and the Ensemble is really at ease with the swing nature of the rest of the piece.

Revised Music for Low Budget Orchestra follows the line of the Ensemble Modern arrangement included in Greggery Peccary and other Persuasions, but of course the orchestration is substantially different. The “guitar solo section” is given to the lead trombone and to the trumpet in replacement of the trombone/violin homologous of the Ensemble Modern, and the result is likewise effective.

I Promise not to Come in Your Mouth enters and some sort of heavy listeners will fly to New York, right away in 1976. The guitar solo section is played by the trombone, while the keyboard solo one is played by the trumpet. Thanks to DNBE the world has a new reference for this piece, to be hopefully played a lot more in the future.

Echinda’s Arf (Of You) follows the original, the brass way. Being so near to the Roxy by Proxy tour de force, the above mentioned heavy listener may only hope for a next two drummers brass version.

This Blessed Relief sounds already as a classic, as the other two new transcriptions. One should only ask why they materialized so late in this form. Great trombone solo, great overall swing.

With Dupree’s Paradise we are again back to Make a Jazz Noise Here, with the same approach followed for Big Swifty. Here also the original abstract improvised section is replaced with a Jazz Big Band section. The result is the shortest version ever conceived, but a lot swinging anyway.

G-Spot Tornado for the finale, of course the Ensemble Modern is the reference. A big challenge with a sparkling result. Size of course matters, the impact of the Ensemble Modern full orchestra and throttle is huge, but this accurate rendition is highly entertaining and the long final gong sound is a perfect closer.

“The gong always gets ’em.” Frank Zappa, “Carved In The Rock”, Roxy by Proxy

The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, Echinda’s Arf (Of You), Yellow Snow Festival, Larvik, Norway, February 11, 2012

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Ensemble musikFabrik

Ensemble musikFabrik

Thanks to zappateers, once again an audience recording of a FINE performance of the music of Frank Zappa is available also to the people in the world who could not be in Amsterdam on the 20th of February 2014. The venue in question was Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ, the FINE musicians are those of the Ensemble musikFabrik, the FINE drummer Dirk Rothbrust, and finally the FINE conductor Marco Blaauw. The quality of the recording is overall good, being an audience one. Beside the distorted beginning of The Black Page 1, the only real problem is with the strings, unfortunately quite distant.

The concert included the music of three American composers. Varèse was born in France actually, but he is considered to be part of the American musical culture. Here is the program:

Edgard Varèse – Ionisation
John Cage – Amores
John Cage – Credo in Us
Frank Zappa – The Black Page 1, 2
Frank Zappa – RDNZL
Frank Zappa – Echidna’s Arf (Of You)
Frank Zappa – Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing?
Frank Zappa – Peaches en Regalia (encore)

The full concert program in Dutch (with the list of the musicians) is digitally available through the Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ web site. (Anyone willing to translate into English the Zappa section?)

Also, @musikFabrik posted via twitter some Amsterdam pictures and a couple of tasty Vine videos.

Ensemble musikFabrik - American Mavericks Tour - Amsterdam - Muziekgebouw aan't IJ - Feb 20, 2014 - dress rehearsal

Ensemble musikFabrik – American Mavericks Tour – Amsterdam – Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ – Feb 20, 2014 – dress rehearsal

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Varèse siren

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Zappa string soundcheck

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The concert opened with Ionisation, a FZ favorite, in his own words, see the famous Stereo Review 1971 article. The percussive strength of musikFabrik is already on display. Right after, two John Cage compositions showed an Ensemble at ease with unusual tones and prepared instruments. The percussive nature of the compositions once again come out, also during the frequent low dynamic sections.

Then the Zappa performances followed, and the really good news of this project is that the drums swing and have a central role in the orchestrations. This should be an obvious option for The Black Page, and should be evident too for the rest of the FZ program, but in spite of this, the musikFabrik renditions are among the few attempts to render the richness of the drums and percussion arrangements conceived by FZ in the 70’s. Particularly, during ’73-’74, and maybe at their best in the two drummers period: October ’73 – May ’74.

A convincing performance emerges from the audience tape, it seems that the energy of the originals reached the audience. The Ensemble musikFabrik delivered a fluid and rhythmically tight execution, just very few and tiny details needed to be smoothed. For sure the following concerts in Kiel (Feb 21) and Bristol (Feb 23) went even better. As perfectly known to the mankind, the more you play such music the better you are going to reach the Zappa standard.

Considering such a percussion appetite, a next step for the Ensemble musikFabrik would be to take into account FZ orchestrations for two drums set. In this direction it will be for sure appropriate, as well as auspicious, to listen to the forthcoming Roxy by Proxy, and to watch to his future video companion (both of them, the long awaited follow-up to Roxy & Elsewhere).
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Roxy by Proxy cover as anticipated by Barfko-Swill

Roxy by Proxy cover as anticipated by Barfko-Swill

Also intriguing is to imagine a musikFabrik orchestration of the opening sequence of Road Tapes, Venue #2. As already said in this blog, this sequence sounds truly suitable for orchestras like this.

As far as what is recorded on their web site, the Ensemble musikFabrik performs Zappa since 2009 (they also have Big Swifty and T’Mershi Duween in repertoire), hopefully more will follow!

And it would be also great if some more recordings of this short three dates American Mavericks tour will emerge. The Harry Partch performances included in the other two concerts should have been also highly entertaining. The pictures shared via twitter on February 21 and 23 by @musikFabrik show a sumptuous Partch set.

A final note about the title of this post, which quotes the rap a distinguished member of the Ensemble delivered as the intro to Black Page part 2. Of course a paraphrase of the famous Zappa in New York “statistical density” discourse. The Amsterdam audience caught it!

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Ali N. Askin, arranger (and sometime also copyst) for Yellow Shark and other Zappa projects, sent a short note concerning the musikFabrik project. This blog is glad to include it also here. Thank you Ali!

From: Ali N. Askin
To: Francesco G.
Date: Mon, 3 Mar 2014 22:55:48 +0100
Subject: MusikFabrik

Hi Francesco,

I just read your nice blog entry about the MusikFabrik in Amsterdam. I would like to add that these are my arrangements which I did for them back in 2006. The first show included Morgan Ågren and Mats Oberg …

Ciao,
Ali

Inventionis Mater, Does Humor Belong in Classical Music?, 2013

Inventionis Mater, Does Humor Belong in Classical Music?, 2013

In these dull audio ages of extremely compressed sounds, take a deep breath and go for Inventionis Mater to enjoy a sound made of acoustic instruments, air and silence. It is a duo: Pierpaolo Romani on clarinet and bass clarinet, and Andrea Pennati on classical guitar. Andrea and Pierpaolo are at ease with low and high dynamics when playing, and masterful in creating arrangements for two single voices, using silence as part of their transcriptions.

If “peaceful” is the first adjective that comes into mind listening to Does Humor Belong in Classical Music?, maybe “tight”, “tense” or “bursting” are adjectives commonly associated with the music of Frank Zappa. In spite of this, these transcriptions work fine because the drama and the irony of the originals are still there.

The album starts properly with Lumpy Gravy (Duodenum actually). Peaceful and tight at the same time, it goes into a lyrical Oh No, with an ironic finale, a nice variation.

Just to digress a moment, Inventionis Mater is a great and appropriate name for this project, but “Denum Duo” would have served as a nice moniker too!

The album continues with Brown Shoes Don’t Make it, maybe the greatest challenge of the set, the duo transcription is of course dryer than the original but the lyricism inherent to the piece is very well rendered.

Let’s Make the Water Turn Black has a great start, then continues nicely, but maybe too much low profile, a good rendition, but the arrangement lacks that little something more that all the other transcriptions have.

Then the second challenging transcriptions: Peaches en Regalia. The original arrangement is so full of different colors that it is hard to imagine, but also to describe, a duo rendition, but try it for yourself and you will get a bizarre feeling, but in the right direction. As if you get the substance of it, the dna is there! Particularly effective are some changes of the leading role between the two voices, a brilliant expedient to create a varied duo arrangement.

Mom and Dad and Absolutely Free and are the nearest to Zappa as far as mood, the duo effectively captures the dramatic intension of the originals. The second being probably the most interesting outcome of this project. Particularly brilliant here are some changes in the stereo position of the instruments, corresponding to significant mood shifts in the piece.

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Silence, the third instrument of this duo, is called for his best performance in Mother People!

Sofa #2 is the perfect closer for this brief set, a total of 32 minutes. The divan cosmogony inherent drama is perfectly rendered. “Thanks for coming to the show, Hope you liked it, Goodnight!” is what materialize in the zap-o-phile mind at the end of the album. Or, what if the listener would have been be free of about 30 years of sofas, lumpy gravies and brown shoes? Any one in touch with Oliver Sacks?

The album, released in 2013, is available for streaming through the Inventionis Mater soundcloud site, where two outtakes are also ready to be listened: Son of Suzy Creamcheese and Catholic Girls. As far as what can be heard from a compressed source, the audio production seems at a lower standard if compared to the others, and the files have been added later. Also, a lot of live footage is available through YouTube, including King Kong, Rhymin’ Man and Zomby Woof. First steps towards a next album? Meanwhile, go for the tragic story of the large gorilla, miniaturized!

As a member of the audience, for the following project I would respectfully suggest to take into consideration The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue, in the Helsinki ’73 arrangement (Road Tapes #2). More, since the audience imagination often goes beyond the fringe of anyone comprehension, I would also think about all the opening suite of Road Tapes #2 (from EDMBBQ, to RDNZL)!
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Enjoy Does Humor Belong in Classical Music? via spotify too, then purchase it contacting the Duo through the Inventionis Mater web site, or via cd baby.
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Does Humor Belong in Classical Music? back cover

Does Humor Belong in Classical Music? back cover

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Inventionis Mater flyer for a Lisbon concert, December 21, 2013

Inventionis Mater flyer for a Lisbon concert, December 21, 2013

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Marco Dalpane is a composer and a pianist primarily focused on 20th century and contemporary music. He plays piano in Orchestra Spaziale meets Zappafrank and is one of the producers for the A Simple Lunch netlabel. He has also transcribed, arranged and performed for piano solo Peaches and Regalia and Frank Zappa suite (Let’s Make the Water Turn Black/Harry, You Are a Beast/The Orange County Lumber Truck/Oh No/Theme from Lumpy Gravy).

Here are the videos of these performances.

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Especially in the case of Frank Zappa suite, Marco’s transcriptions demonstrate that the music of Frank Zappa is a text that can be read in different languages keeping the original message, and sometimes renewing it.

Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble / Franck Ollu – ZAPPA (2012)

On April 24, 2012, a new album entitled ZAPPA has been released, quite silently. A short press release is available through the Royal Academy of Music web site.

I have become aware of it a few weeks ago only, thanks to an Idiot post on zappateers that has not been discussed that much, understandably enough, since everybody is listening to reissues (some of them truly fantastic) and to new surprising releases.

However, I think it is worth dealing about and listening to it, for sure more than it is seems it has been done until now (I have just googled <“ensemble mason” +zappa> and I have got 4 results back!).

It is the Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble conducted by Franck Ollu (horn player in the Ensemble Modern for the Yellow Shark recordings) playing a repertoire performed live at the Roundhouse Zappa Festival on November 13, 2010. This recording was made immediately after that concert. Actually, the festival main events, including the London Contemporary Orchestra and Zappa plays Zappa concerts, took place one weekend before on November, from 5 to 7. This schedule may have caused little attention to the RAM Manson Ensemble concert, and therefore to the album. For instance, here a festival review is available, but includes just a few words about the RAMME concert (that has been available through zappateers).

Anyway, let us try to see what is behind this project. As far as it can be argued from the information included in the booklet and in the press release, it has been a ZFT approved initiative and includes “new transcriptions by Head of Composition, Philip Cashian, and current composition students”.

The concert program is available here the cd booklet almost entirely reprints it. It is interesting to note how old are the Cashian (who is born 1963) students involved for the transcriptions (this information is available in the program only):

  • Chris Lyons (1987) transcribed “Twenty Small Cigars”
  • Robert Peate (1987) “The Legend Of The Golden Arches”
  • Charlie Piper (1982) “St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast”
  • Joseph Davies (1987) “Little Umbrellas”

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While the teacher have transcribed the following:

  • “Black Page #2”
  • “Music For Low-Budget Orchestra” (based upon the Ian Underwood arrangement included in Songbook, vol.1)
  • “Alien Orifice”
  • “Little House I Used To Live In”

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I think these alone are interesting and good news: ZFT has agreed with a reliable Music Institution a performance of one of the Institution ensembles, conducted by an experienced Director, working on a program that includes new transcriptions done by selected young students and their composition teacher, who belongs to that Institution. Reliable here means, for instance, that an appropriate amount of rehearsals has been planned.

If the aim is to keep the interest on the orchestral side of the work of Frank Zappa high, this could be a very effective approach. At present, in fact, almost all the orchestral renditions are mainly based upon the well known repertoire included in the London Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Modern and (rarely) Meridian Arts Ensemble FZ albums. Thanks to such projects, this repertoire may be extended, giving to who come next the opportunity to work with new material, accordingly giving more appeal to future concert programs.

By the way, a similar objective may be reached through the work of independent groups, like Ensemble Ascolta (here in German with sound samplers) or the Fireworks Ensemble, I do hope there will soon be the chance to listen to their announced FZ albums.

I understand it is not easy for the ZFT to choose the right Music Institution and/or independent ensemble, the risk of a negative result is always there, but it is worth trying, as this album proves.

Almost all the new transcriptions are convincing, and in many passages give new highlights to the music. “St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast” only leaves some doubt, especially in the first part, which sounds a bit confused. It may be a sound issue: some melodic lines, that are particularly relevant, are too much backwards. It could also be a performance issue, but it would be an exception in the album, the ensemble is always precise, even though sometimes too slow, as they are for “G-Spot Tornado”, and a little bit for “Peaches en Regalia”, but the Ensemble Modern renditions of these classics remain unparalleled.

To me “The Legend Of The Golden Arches” and “Alien Orifice” are the most successful new transcriptions, but in all the others a lot of nice ideas can be appreciated, like the extremely slow finale of “Little House I Used To Live In” or the low-pitched horns parts on “Little Umbrellas”.

St. Alfonzo would deserve a revision aimed to a well balanced orchestration. This issue may be linked to a very effective metaphor described in The Real Frank Zappa Book (thank you LA Philharmonic for the recollection):

In my compositions, I employ a system of weights, balances, measured tensions and releases — in some ways similar to Varèse’s aesthetic. The similarities are best illustrated by comparison to a Calder mobile: a multicolored whatchamacallit, dangling in space, that has big blobs of metal connected to pieces of wire, balanced ingeniously against little metal dingleberries on the other end. Varèse knew Calder, and was fascinated by these creations.

So, in my case, I say: “A large mass of any material will ‘balance’ a smaller, denser mass of any material, according to the length of the gizmo it’s dangling on, and the ‘balance point’ chosen to facilitate the danglement.” The material being ‘balanced’ includes stuff other than the notes on the paper. If you can conceive of any material as a ‘weight’ and any idea-over-time as a ‘balance,’ you are ready for the next step: the ‘entertainment objects’ that derive from those concepts.

Alexander Calder, Rouge Triomphant, 1963, sheet metal, rod & paint 110 x 230 x 180 in., Courtesy of O’Hara Gallery

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Google-images “alexander calder mobile” for more!

Going back to the album, Golden Arches is my favourite, I particularly like the second part, right after the 2 minutes mark, especially the strings arrangement.

Also, nice to hear a new rendition of the Jon Nelson (Meridian Arts Ensemble) brass quintet transcription of “Big Swifty”, but also “Dupree’s Paradise” and “Perfect Stranger”, very well executed. “Dupree’s Paradise” in particular is slowed down if compared to the 1984 Boulez rendition (9:45 vs. 7:54), and sometimes the outcome is more dramatic, like the piano interlude that occurs at about 4:00.

Last but unfortunately not at all least, this album is badly affected by some considerable sound issues. The main one is the drums which are frequently distorted and, when not distorted, very often disturb all other instruments with their reverb. When there are no drums the Orchestra sounds much better, even though some instruments position/distance issues remain.

Hear the second movement of “Perfect Stranger” for instance, it sounds always quite nice but in the centre of the piece (about at 4:50), when some timpani hits destroy all the air. Pieces with a lot of drums like Peaches can’t be fully appreciated.

This is the only real drawback of the album, admittedly a significant one, however the music and the project behind are really promising.

I would like to close this post with a quotation from the short essay by Philip Cashian, included in the booklet:

“At a time when classical music had become far more of a profession and composer/performers few and far between, Zappa worked very much in the tradition of the nineteenth century composer/virtuosos”

“The future looks very challenging for young composers in 2010 but they can not have better role model than Frank Zappa”

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