Archive for the ‘Zappa: The Composer’ Category

My Discovery of Frank Zappa: Music & Character
December 11, 2009

 

                           

 Usually when someone identifies popular mainstream music with orchestral like implementations together they draw comparisons to elevator or mall music, but never the likes of Frank Zappa. The reality of an artist being both a pop musician and a classical composer seems a bit far-fetched too many. However, as rare as it might be, Zappa stood alone as one of the only men in popular music to have significant achievements in the field of composition, with the exception of the occasional piece produced by Paul McCartney and the Beatles. Although Frank Zappa is best known for his work as an innovative Jazz and Rock guitarist, political agitator, social critic and founder of the band Mothers of Invention, he had a long and passionate interest in contemporary music. Beginning from a very early age, Zappa became fascinated with the likes of innovative classical composers Igor Stravinsky, Anton Webern, and Edgard Varèse.

Strangely enough, prior to this course “Frank Zappa: Composer and Social Critic”, I, like most people I’m sure, was not particularly familiar with Zappa’s contributions to popular music. Sadly, it is only now, years after his death, that I have come to know this alternate artistic and strangely beautiful side of him and his music. Since making such discoveries, I have been continuously surprised about what I hear and discover about the man. It has almost come to the point where I am no longer shocked by what I hear, read, and discover about the man, I now see that the possibilities of his genius stretch farther then the eye or ear can interpret. Surely, out of all the pop musicians I’ve heard throughout the years, he would be the one most capable of both being so misunderstood. By appearance, one might gasp at the idea of his capability to compose such ground breaking work held in such high accord. He truly is a testament, to the saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

Although his obvious unique and unmatched skill places him in a realm all his own, It is his attitude towards the business of music which truly singles him out. It appears as if he had no desire or time for the things associated with fame, his work was not meant to be for the sake of his reputation as a great musician, but for the work itself. This is something that not only a fan of his music can implore, but any human being with an appreciate and understanding for music or an individuals character. My discovery of Frank Zappa, both his music and character, has given me a new perspective on popular culture and the way I view and look at music. In my opinion, Zappa’s true legacy does not only exist in his music, but in his approach to it. Never again will I look at an absurd individual or piece of music with a cocked eye brow, but rather, with an open mind and new found acceptance.

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The Contribution of Frank Zappa’s “Freak Out” album
December 11, 2009

The album entitled “Freak Out” was the debut album of the experimental rock band The Mothers of Invention, released in June of 1966 on Verve Records. The album became the first ever double record debut and is considered to be one of the first concept records in the genre of Rock ’n” Roll. The concept behind the record centres around band leader Frank Zappa’s understanding of American pop culture and his satirical attitude towards it. It was a brilliantly placed and timed counter-attack on the flower power hippie movement that was taking place within American pop culture during the 1960’s.

The record presented listeners to the duel genius that was Frank Zappa, and gave them a sample of what they would gradually come to respect. On one side, you had this very serious musician who wished to express his feelings about the conditions of the world around him. While on the other side, you had a lyricist who rebelled to push the boundaries of music and social norms. Through musical content which included rhythm and blues, doo-wop, blues inspired rock and orchestral arrangements of the avant-garde format, the band was able to mask it’s cultural satire and outspoken political commentary on the record.

Initially poorly received in the United States, it made a much bigger impact on the European mainstream before making it’s way back to America. Freak Out presented itself as the birth of a cultural revolution, inspiring the music and culture of America to expand its horizons and explore the limitless boundaries and innovation of sound. It’s influence has been compared to that of the Sex Pistols album “Never Mind the Bollocks”, which was released in 1977, as they both sparked and marked a new era in music. Furthermore, the album has been directly attributed to having a large influence on the production of The Beatles, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, due to it’s experimental innovations of combining avant and musique concrete styles with mainstream rock and pop.

Since it’s release, the album has garnered the respect of receiving the honour of the Grammy Hall of Fame Award, and being ranked amongst the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine. All in all, Freak out! is not your typical rock and roll album, but then again, Zappa was not your typical rock artist. In many ways, creativity is a matter of individual interpretation, thus it is really in the ears of the record holder to decide just how influential and profound this controversial album really is. Happy listening…