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 Post subject: Zappa's Classical Music
PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:31 pm 
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I've always been a big fan of 200 Motels (particularly the Vareseian orchestral parts), Mo's and Herb's Vacation, Pedro's Dowry and the Yellow Shark program.

I recently made a suite version of the 200 Motels soundtrack which I think I'll upload somewhere, which I feel is stronger as a classical work than Bogus Pomp (I'm not much of a fan of that piece).

He had so much potential as a composer, I wish he would have put more emphasis on it in his career than like four albums :cry: But I guess Frank wouldn't be the same Frank otherwise...

Can we discuss his classical output here?


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:42 pm 
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From what I have gathered...it was money that stood in the way of him indulging in his modern classical side more than he did. Frankly (pun intended)...an orchestra is pricier than a rock group was the impression he put across in interviews...not to mention dealing with that many more egos and hence...attitudes. For myself...I love his classical works and his other instrumental pieces...maybe more so than the lyrical things (which is not to say I don't dig that side as well.) Wish I could write that intricately.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 12:47 am 
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Here is that edit, via soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/user-322914325/frank-zappa-200-motels-as-a-cohesive-work-for-orchestra-choir


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 1:17 am 
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Dances wrote:
From what I have gathered...it was money that stood in the way of him indulging in his modern classical side more than he did. Frankly (pun intended)...an orchestra is pricier than a rock group was the impression he put across in interviews...not to mention dealing with that many more egos and hence...attitudes. For myself...I love his classical works and his other instrumental pieces...maybe more so than the lyrical things (which is not to say I don't dig that side as well.) Wish I could write that intricately.



Yes, that's correct. It's part of the downside to him largely being an outsider to the classical community in his day (apart from Boulez and Nagano) :(


There are many brilliant pieces that should be re-recorded. I was never satisfied with the recordings on the LSO volumes, it sounds too dry and lacking in vital dynamics to me. The best version of Pedro's Dowry, I think is actually the bootleg of "A Zappa Affair", which has more emphasis on the percussion and overall textures (outside of the ostinato part).

I feel satisfied with the Yellow Shark CD but it was recorded live, which leaves various little miking issues with me.

I don't like Bogus Pomp as a whole (both versions), it doesn't feel like a coherent part and there are moments from the 200 motels score that I would not have included in it (as you can see from my version).

Mo's and Herb's Vacation I feel is possibly his greatest classical work, but again the LSO recording in and of itself, is not satisfactory.
It's a massive piece exploring lots of very awesome areas and can actually be taken as a "serious" work too, great Vareseian moments and it covers the whole spectrum.

I like Envelopes, it reminds me of late Messiaen. Quite an atmospheric piece, when played by an orchestra!

Sad Jane is another piece I don't like all that much, it's not bad but I can personally pass it. Her counterpart Bob In Dracon is slightly more interesting but not as impressive compared to the former classical works.

I Have Seen The Pleated Gazelle is also one of my absolute favorites, which is also derived from the 200 Motels score (or more realistically written at the same time but ended up being included in parts on the soundtrack). It has some very impressive Webernian vocal writing and a hilarious spoken script/text, I love that one!


There are a few thoughts there 8)


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 1:26 am 
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Also the old ancient Lumpy Gravy, which in itself is a conceptual sound-collage containing bits and pieces of electroacoustic music buried in there, but the bulk of the interludes are apparently a unrecorded orchestral work of it's own.
The writing on that album (orchestral) is great too and him at his most blatantly Vareseian.

Last year I also made an edit (similar to my 200 motels edit linked above) of Lumpy Gravy and it's quite a dark piece on it's own, without all the voices, electroacoustic passages and surf rock tracks! :shock:


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:09 pm 
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I would wear headphones at work and LSO was often coming through them. FZ's classical work is challenging when listened to closely, it is also good to stimulate thinking.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 4:45 pm 
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tweezers wrote:
I would wear headphones at work and LSO was often coming through them. FZ's classical work is challenging when listened to closely, it is also good to stimulate thinking.


The Yellow Shark plays well on a good set of car speakers, blast it loud and presto! :smoke:


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2017 7:12 am 
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Absolutely. Frank's classical works are superb. What I really enjoyed about them was the way he dared to steer away from traditional uses of melody and rhythm. There's not even a use of classical key structures and pieces can jump from one to the next. Without doubt avante garde 20th century.

I'd argue that most of Frank's instrumental works could be classed as classical. The purple lagoon, The Ocean is the ultimate solution and the awesome RDNZL are without doubt works that could have been adapted to an orchestral arrangement without to much work.

That reminds me of something Frank mentions in 'The Real Frank Zappa' book I think it is. That was that the cost to produce manuscript alone for an orchestra is not cheap as you have to pay for transposition for the numerous instruments that require specialised notation(French horns come to mind.) That said I've met saxophone players for example that can transcribe in real time as they play and surely professionals like the London Symphony Orchestra players could do the same. Despite this possibility, Frank made a special point of having the complete orchestra manuscripts all Doctored nicely and printed up especially to ensure each member of the orchestra had there own copy of the pieces he wanted to realise on the day of recording. Due to the expense he only got one crack at some of them.

The bit that annoyed Frank the most was that unlike a rock band(which Frank seemed to look at as a budget orchestra in any case), the members of the London Symphony Orchestra at the time would not sit and go through the music or listen to what Frank was trying to achieve etc. They would take off if there part was not required at that time, go and have a drink in the pub etc, then come back and want to be paid full orchestra day rates for the entire day even if they were only there for 30% of the time or less. So it's understandable that he would get annoyed about them. Most of the people I've read interviews about who worked with Frank declared that he wanted 101% and let's be honest if you or I were paying people to produce our music, we'd want dedication and professional standards with no nonsense and value for money to.

I've no doubt that Frank would have put together symphonies and incredible pieces for orchestra had orchestra's been within his financial grasp but as he declared on a David Letterman interview, sadly classical instrumental works, especially new ones do not sell as well as rock albums.

The Yellow Shark was a beautiful album and it was so fantastic that Frank got to experience a group of classically trained musicians who actually cared about his music before his passing. It was proof that without a doubt there was a lot more classical works being constructed in Frank's mind that's for sure. I'm often blown away by the performance of G-Spot Tornado on the Yellow Shark performance versus the Synclavier version on Jazz From Hell. Without a doubt the group blitz it. It was interesting to note that it took a lot of rehearsals to pull it off as well. Frank even commented that he had written that piece of music believing no group would actually be able to perform it and hence his choice of the Synclavier for the initial delivering of that piece to the world.

Have you heard the SACD 'Omnibus Wind Ensemble' performing the music of Frank Zappa? They do a superb job showing how terrific a lot of Frank's other pieces sound with classical arrangements. It was also a nice touch to end with there version of Bolero by Maurice Ravel which was a piece that Frank enjoyed as well.

Thanks for sharing your 200 Motels edit I've always found the original 200 Motels to be a fascinating musical work. Without the music of Frank Zappa, 200 Motels would be the strangest play anyone could ever see. Oh how I wish they would finally release a long overdue Vinyl, CD and 24bit wav USB release of this sadly overlooked master piece.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2017 7:22 am 
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Spaceresearcher wrote:
Have you heard the SACD 'Omnibus Wind Ensemble' performing the music of Frank Zappa? They do a superb job showing how terrific a lot of Frank's other pieces sound with classical arrangements. It was also a nice touch to end with there version of Bolero by Maurice Ravel which was a piece that Frank enjoyed as well.

Thanks, nice words.

I have this [plain] CD and I like it very much. I always wondered what could "No applause after this number" means...

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2017 10:50 am 
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It's a request that orchestras and ensembles have sometimes, for the audience not to clap after a song is over...

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2017 9:01 pm 
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It's kinda funny to hear live musicians play the synclavier stuff which was often the result of FZ's random experimental compositions. FZ would never learn to play much of his synclavier material because learning it would be far too tedious for him. It would also be too difficult to execute some of the more absurd, inhuman passages. It is at times like replicating the sound of a machine.

Assigning qualities to chosen notes for each assigned instrument to play, setting tempos, meter(s), key changes, velocity etc and then editing the whole mess and letting the computer play it was fun for FZ, but to actually go ahead and learn to play some of that stuff was obviously out of the question. He seemed to love it when someone else stepped up to play it but it's really just shotgun art. You can use, say, protools like a synclavier and splatter your own canvas with random drops.

For all his talk of "serious music" a lot of the synclavier stuff seems to be the result of improvised accidents and heavy editing. Accidents make for some of the best art but is it any more serious than a song like Any Way The Wind Blows? Punky's Whips is a more serious composition to me than many pieces on the synclavier or LSO albums. G Spot is a pain in the ass to learn but that does not make it serious. I consider it to be FZ fucking around with his toy. He's a musical madman so his fucking around is often brilliant. Maybe it's the time spent working on the finished product that determines its seriousness. I'll buy that. Still, it's just as easy to write a flurry of high speed 32nd notes as it is to write a bunch of slow tempo quarter notes. Particularly when you don't even know in your head what it will sound like, as Zappa said in a clip from Eat That Question. How serious is this music? Beethoven composed music after he became deaf! That's serious.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 8:05 pm 
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Spaceresearcher wrote:
Have you heard the SACD 'Omnibus Wind Ensemble' performing the music of Frank Zappa? They do a superb job showing how terrific a lot of Frank's other pieces sound with classical arrangements. It was also a nice touch to end with there version of Bolero by Maurice Ravel which was a piece that Frank enjoyed as well.


Yep, there are some great versions on that disk! Love it :)


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 8:12 pm 
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Spaceresearcher wrote:
I've no doubt that Frank would have put together symphonies and incredible pieces for orchestra had orchestra's been within his financial grasp but as he declared on a David Letterman interview, sadly classical instrumental works, especially new ones do not sell as well as rock albums.


Esa-Pekka Salonen (one of my favorite of the more well-known conductors), done a suite, concert version of the 200 Motels score a few years ago. I wish he had taken that as a chance to try and bring "Mo's and Herb's Vacation" into the spotlight :cry:


I believe it's (....vacation) Zappa's masterpiece and I do wish that it was more recognized to Zappa's name than...say....Bobby Brown (just sayin'). Also if Civilization Phase Three got a remaster and perhaps someone got performance rights to blast it alongside a set of electroacoustic (or acousmatic music) music in an electronic concert series, SOMETHING! :(


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 8:19 pm 
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BBP wrote:
It's a request that orchestras and ensembles have sometimes, for the audience not to clap after a song is over...



A stupid tradition thing taken from misinterpreting something in 18th century OPERA, not regular concert music. No wonder classical concerts don't attract as many younger people as it should! :evil:

I went to a spectral music concert (as I'm a huge fan of those composers; Grisey, Murail, Saariaho etc etc) and there where more older people than younger, which made me think this:

Quote:
HOLY FUCK WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU PEOPLE, THIS IS NEW MUSIC, IT'S FUCKING FUTURISTIC PSYCHEDELIC MUSIC AND ALL WE HAVE IS OLD PEOPLE, WHAT PLANET IS THIS?????


:mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:


Aside from that, classical audience culture hasn't really changed since Frank's time, which is fucking frustrating. What is the logic by trying to make a classical concert as vapid (in presentation/performance) as possible??? :?


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 8:20 pm 
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Imagine going to a grindcore (or any extreme metal) show and just seeing old people.....................that's how I feel.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 8:33 pm 
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downer mydnyte wrote:
For all his talk of "serious music" a lot of the synclavier stuff seems to be the result of improvised accidents and heavy editing. Accidents make for some of the best art but is it any more serious than a song like Any Way The Wind Blows? Punky's Whips is a more serious composition to me than many pieces on the synclavier or LSO albums. G Spot is a pain in the ass to learn but that does not make it serious. I consider it to be FZ fucking around with his toy. He's a musical madman so his fucking around is often brilliant. Maybe it's the time spent working on the finished product that determines its seriousness. I'll buy that. Still, it's just as easy to write a flurry of high speed 32nd notes as it is to write a bunch of slow tempo quarter notes. Particularly when you don't even know in your head what it will sound like, as Zappa said in a clip from Eat That Question. How serious is this music? Beethoven composed music after he became deaf! That's serious.



I think the idea of high and low culture is fucking stupid and non-existent, for one.

As for music genres (which I view all on the same playing field. I love everything from contemporary classical to prog rock to extreme metal to avantgarde jazz to even hip hop). It's more of a matter of novelty vs integrity (if I'm using the right words).

Music that is smack loaded with humor/comedy (of any kind) can speak volumes, so can music that is filled with a more pragmatic/profound (in the personal sense) approach, both have an equal place.


The high/low culture concept (often perceived as serious vs popular genres) is just a form of bigotry brought down through tradition, music will always be a personal thing and other people can never decide that for you.

So, for the record; I don't find Beethoven to be all that profound at all. :smoke:


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