Here is a lecture on Frank Zappa I gave to students as part of a musicology class this week.
<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/carrp/session-7-zappa-final-presentation” title=”Session 7 zappa final presentation” target=”_blank”>Session 7 zappa final presentation</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/carrp” target=”_blank”>Paul Carr</a></strong> </div>
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This weeks musicology session focused on the relationship of the Elements of Music to Musical Form. I have asked students to consider the following questions -
- Examples of pieces of music with unusual bar numbers between sections
- Examples of how rhythm delineates form between sections
- Examples of pieces of music which has the same chords for both verse and chorus
- Examples of artist specific sounds
- Examples of texture/instrumentation delineating form
- Examples of how metre delineates form between sections
Examples of how sounds allude toward change of style for an artist
Examples of how sounds indicate a specefic place or time.
Examples of how musical textures outline the lyrics or a title of a song
Any thoughts welcome!
<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/carrp/session-3the-elements-of-music-16223884″ title=”Session 3‘the elements of music’” target=”_blank”>Session 3‘the elements of music’</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/carrp” target=”_blank”>Paul Carr</a></strong> </div>
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Chapter 9 of the Zappa book is by David Sanjek – who sadly passed away only 2-3 weeks after sending me the finished chapter. David was an outstanding academic with an encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music. I am really proud that Zappa And The And features a chapter by this fabulous academic. He will be sadly missed.
No one ever accused Frank Zappa of lacking a sense of humour. Most people would characterise the thrust of Zappa’s wit as being, amongst other things, snarky
and sarcastic. Throughout his career, he conducted himself like an equal opportunity
tweaker of taboos and remained convinced that whatever a person’s ideological disposition, all of us potentially can succumb to the batons of those forces of coercion that Zappa dubbed the ‘brain police’.This predilection to interrogate authority potentially met its match when the composer found himself figuratively attached to the establishment: for the first time, he was in a position to call his own shots, rather than simply be an employee of a recording company. In 1968, Zappa left Verve Records and signed a new distribution deal with Warner Brothers/Reprise, one of the preeminent companies of the day and now. Whereas Verve seemed to perceive Zappa as nothing more or less than a marketable reversion from the mainstream, his new employers appeared to believe the composer could potentially disengage from his long-time ‘no commercial potential’ rallying cry, without evacuating his material of the idiosyncrasies that made it stand out from the work of his contemporaries.
Furthermore, an inevitably attractive portion of the contract permitted Zappa to operate two boutique labels that the corporation would promote and distribute; the recordings would feature solo material by the composer as well as the ensemble efforts of Zappa’s band, The Mothers of Invention, in addition to performances by other artists he appreciated and wished to produce and promote. One can only imagine that his choice of names for the concerns reflects Zappa’s recognition of the inescapable ironies embedded in his situation. He named the first, inaugurated in 1968, Bizarre, and the other, initiated the following year, Straight. Not only did the titles evoke his appreciation of his potentially disjointed affiliation with the major players in the record industry, but they also echoed the antagonistic energies unleashed throughout much of society during this tumultuous period of time. Like a number in his audience, Zappa recognised that the country had fragmented along ideological fault lines that appeared incapable of reconciliation. The pressure cooker of polemical contention revealed a society just barely under control, such that when any excess amount of enthusiasm, whether emerging from the right or the left, became unhinged, the consequences could be lethal. The bashing of protestors on the streets of Chicago during the democratic convention or the brutalising of the audience at the Altamont Speedway during the appearance of the Rolling Stones reinforced
Zappa’s admonition that there was, as the title of a song on Freak Out! indicated, ‘trouble every day’ amongst us and we placed ourselves at risk whenever we endeavoured to test the limitations of those opportunities when we inhabit the sphere embodied by the title of The Mothers of Invention’s second album: Absolutely Free.
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Well, it seems ironic that during the week of submitting my report to the Higher Education Academy on the relationships of live Music and Higher Education – a new Facebook Group has been created : a group whose purpose I find incredibly sad – but not surprising. Set up by Ashley Slater, the group is essentially lobbying against the expectations for musicians to provide their services for free when engaging in events surrounding the Olympic Games. Only a few weeks ago, I attended a week long Philosophy Festival that featured live music on the hour, seven days a week, eight hours a day. When speaking to one or two of the musicians (many of who are established locally) – it transpired they were all playing for free! How sad that some live music has an exchange value of – Zero! As many have indicated in the Facebook Group – musicians have the option of simply not playing – but this is indicative of a larger issue, which has been around for many years – where live music simply has e or little or no value for many. I know for example that many bands living around the Cardiff area will only get £50 (for the entire band) – when supporting ‘name’ artists – and this is happening at a time when the UK live music industry turns over more than one billion per year!! So – back to the Olympics. I presume the planning for this has been precise – with all services from hot dog stands to souvenir stalls having an exchange value -i.e. they will be getting paid . It simply makes no sense, in an age where recorded music is heading in a similar direction, that live music of this nature, often played by world class musicians, has no Value. Come on Olympics – get you act together.
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Chaper 7 of Frank Zappa and the And is by Geoff Wills. Geoff’s chapter covers loads of interesting cross references that influenced Zappa’s musical idiolect.I have copied the first few hundred words below to give you a feel for the subject matter. Also – Geoff is an accomplished artist – and the attached drawing will be incorporated for the cover of the book.
The era in America after World War II was an especially rich one with regard to cultural phenomena. In the area of music, Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky had moved to the USA, and were wielding considerable influence. Charles Ives was finally achieving recognition after his second symphony was premiered by Leonard Bernstein in 1951. In jazz, the bebop experiments of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie had emerged, as had the orchestral innovations of Stan Kenton, Boyd Raeburn and Claude Thornhill. In Cinema, the 1940s created the bleak atmosphere for Film Noir, while in the 1950s a fear of Communism was obliquely reflected in a wave of Science-Fiction movies such as The Thing from Another World and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. American art made a worldwide impact with Abstract Expressionism, as did American literature with the Beat writers. Comedy was also transformed by a group of satirical stand-up comics, such as Shelley Berman and Lenny Bruce, not to mention the emergence of Rock n’ Roll. This was the era in which Frank Zappa grew up and, sponge-like, he soaked in all the cultural influences around him, stored them, and ultimately regurgitated them in an original synthesis. This chapter will focus on one approach that Zappa used to present his synthesis, namely the story-song. It will attempt to make parallels between themes in his work and those in the wider area of American culture. It will also examine the way that Zappa developed the trade-mark sound of his voice to frequently present these story-songs.
 Christian Nyby and Howard Halks, The Thing from Another World, Winchester Pictures Corporation (1951).
 Don Seigel, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Allied Artists Pictures (1956).
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I have managed to find time to see several events at the Hay Festival fringe event this week – How The Light Get’s In. I have to say I have been impressed – so much so that I have not made any events at the main Hay Festival (which is also very good of course). After spending much of last Saturday listening to philosophical debates ranging from the meaning of time, Hawkins v Philosophy to the nature of reality, it was good to spend time today listening to discussions related to music: which I know a little more about The first session today was reportedly the first philosophical debate concerning music at the festival – concerning the relationship of ‘classical’ music to pop – and if the former is under threat by the latter. The conversation was stimulating – although at times predictable. It did make me think that there really is space for more debates such as this year – with the potential to get a greater span of speakers taken from ‘popular music’ academia.
This was followed by a showing of Michael Nyman’s new work Nyman With a Movie Camera – a remake of his Man with a Movie Camera – using his own footage alongside the original score, with the showing of the film followed by a short discussion with Nyman himself. I have always enjoyed the original version – and was fascinated to see what the inspiration is behind the new version. When watching the movie, for me, I got the impression that the new version was based on the relationship between change and the ‘unchanging’ – as all of the footage is overtly based on the original film. However, it was interesting that Nyman did not really seem to have any objective for the movie aside from giving himself artistic gratification. Much of the movie is based on what seems to me to be a voyeuristic obsession with recording other people’s life as he passes through his own – I found it a bit odd really. However – great music by a great composer – although the ‘meaning’ associated with it during the after film debate was very vague.It was great to get someone of Nyman’s stature to the festival – so heres hoping that there is more musicological debate next year. @iaitv #howthelightgetsin
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Well, it is the time of year where everything is put on hold - so I can wade through dozens of student essays and creative projects. However, last week, I took a break from marking madness and presented two at two conferences in a week – both related to my research project for the Higher Education Academy on the relationship of Higher Education and Live Music in Wales.
The first conference was at Kingston University, and entitled 21st Century Musician: Essential Skills for Making Music Today. It was hosted by Moke bass player Alex Evens – and featured a really interesting range of academic and music industry speakers. As you will see from the programme – my paper was followed by a talk by Sandy Swaw – a lovely lady – who provided an interesting insight into her career in the music industry.
After getting home for one night, I set off for Leeds for the two day Live Music Exchange conference. As you will see from the programme, this event was more directly related to live music, and for me the initiatve is really making a contribution to the ways in which the live music industry can work with academics such as myself. I will upload my paper at a later date, but for the moment, the event confirmed that as a nation, Wales could learn much from what is taking place in Scotland – and this is something I intend to explore more after I have completed my live music research for the Higher Education Academy.
With this project I am currently documenting the critical report – so more info on this later.
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When I put the call out for contributors to the Zappa book, one of the areas I wanted authors to explore was described as ‘Zappa and God’. Although most Zappa fans probably find this relationship problematic, I have always found Zappa’s Catholic upbringing and his opposition to Christian Fundamentalism interesting. Pandora’s Kevin Seal took up the challenge of exploring this fascinating area – and here is the beginning of his essay.
In the mythology Frank Zappa built throughout his work, he depicted religion as pure folly. Followers of religion appear as judgmental and gullible dupes, with religious leaders displayed as malevolent hypocrites. Yet throughout compositions such as ‘Watermelon in Easter Hay’ and ‘Sofa #2’, Zappa presents hints of the infinite. Is his take on a divine creator as cynical as his approach to zealots and patchouli-scented mystics? This essay intends to illuminate Zappa’s opinions of Catholicism, evangelical Christianity, and Eastern religions, and to demonstrate his view that music serves as a more valid means of spiritual communication than that which any organised religion can provide. After outlining Zappa’s position on religion, the essay will place particular emphasis on the texts of One Size Fits All, Joe’s Garage, You Are What You Is, and Broadway the Hard Way, and will examine the ways in which Conceptual Continuity and his Big Note theory resonate in the intersection of science and faith.
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The musicology session I taught today was another step in the direction of using technology to assist with module delivery. Using Panopto, I have recorded one of my sessions for the first time. Although not edited in anyway – what students can see is essentially the lecture as it was delivered. However, does content such as this encourage students to miss lectures? This is something I would be interested in finding out about.
The session we discussed was the final partof a nine-part lecture series, and focused on amongst many other things about the difference between what William Echarddescribes as Cliches and Typical Features. I am not going to explain what they are at this point – watch the video if you are interst. I would be interested in examples of either of those in this blogTo view the fully featured one, click on this link or for the streaming MP4 version (mobile friendly) click here
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My most recent musicology lecture focused on the relationship between musical form and the elements of music. I am looking for examples of the following – feel free to suggest -
Examples of pieces with unusual bar numbers between sections (verse – chorus etc)
Examples of how changes in rhythm delineate form
Examples of verse and chorus with same chords
Examples of artist specific sounds – ie Hendrix, Metheny etc.
Examples of texture/instrumentation delineating form
Examples of how metre delineates form – ie 3 / 4 to 4 / 4.
Examples of how sounds allude toward change of style
Examples of how sounds indicate a place or a time.
Examples of textures that outline the lyrics and or title of a song
With all of these questions you need to also ask ‘how’?
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