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johneffay
26-11-2004, 08:29 AM
And re. Zappa, I'm still convinced Ian Penman has uttered the last necessary words. Sorry.

What were they then? I hate Ian Penman's writings (I can't even stand to read him singing the praises of Coil; one of my favourite bands), so I've never come across this.

heiku
26-11-2004, 05:32 PM
http://www.thewire.co.uk/archive/essays/zappa.html

"Zappa takes the piss out of some of the best things in the modern world (girls, drugs, discos, S&M) without offering anything better in their place... He had long hair but sneered at longhairs; he made a long and lucrative career out of endless guitar solos but sneered at other rock musicians; he constantly bumped his little tugboatful of 'compositions' up against the prows of the classical establishment, but he lambasted that, too. In stuff like "The Torture Never Stops" and "Dancing Fool" he got some of his biggest audiences by exploiting the very idea of exploitation he was supposedly upbraiding. He sneered at people who took drugs; he sneered at their parents who didn't. Most of all, he sneered at women; girls trying to get by in a world of hateful, mastery-obsessed fools like himself. He sneered at anything which represented the mess and fun and confusion of life. He sneered, in short, at anything/everything that wasn't Frank Zappa."

Amen (although I agree that Penman's presentation can often be wearing.)

Grievous Angel
07-12-2004, 04:20 PM
"Zappa takes the piss out of ...
What a load of toss.

Zappa ruuuuulezzz.

I used to go back to Essex and listen to loads of Zappa and Bix back in 91, 92.

I'd got bored of dance music by then.

Woebot
07-12-2004, 04:45 PM
Zappa ruuuuulezzz.
Can't stand Zappa myself. With Lester Bangs and Captain Beefheart over FZ any day. What I have, Hot Rats, Freak Out, We're only in it for the Money, well it's at best average.

I've always thought the Beefheart-Zappa dichotomy is as much as anything a Good Art-vs-Bad Art one. "Good Art" is made of stuff, it's the quality of the ingredients as much as anything else. "Good Art" celebrates the integrity of the unmediated statement (Beefheart never practised). "Good Art" has genuity, an honest spirit. "Good Art" isn't about trickery (Salvador Dali), it's about the canvas as much as the image presented thereon (Dali again, quite salient for Zappa methinks).

Thats how I've always understood it, and obv it may be controversial, but for me Zappa represents "Bad Art" in extremis. Funny how this agenda plays right into the hands of theorists like Carducci and seems (on the face of it least) quite anti-electronic. Though I've always thought the whole "bug in the bassbin" approach to making music, the ritualistic as procedural is very "Good Art".

johneffay
07-12-2004, 05:21 PM
(Beefheart never practised).

Are you serious? What about locking the Magic Band away in that house for months while he drilled them on how to play Trout Mask Replica?

Grievous Angel
07-12-2004, 05:39 PM
I think the proposition that better art comes from not practicing doesn't really hold water.

And I think that the notional divide between art and artifice isn't sustainable.

And the dualism of "good art" vs "bad art" won't wash either.

You don't like Dali? Fuck, Magritte's next!

Woebot
09-12-2004, 07:07 PM
I think the proposition that better art comes from not practicing doesn't really hold water.

And I think that the notional divide between art and artifice isn't sustainable.

And the dualism of "good art" vs "bad art" won't wash either.

You don't like Dali? Fuck, Magritte's next!

i'm not proposing that "better" art comes from not practising. to clarify i mean "good" in the sense of "true", "honest", "ethical" as opposed to the term necessarily being a qualititative assesment. though (speaking subjectively) i think i tend to come down on the side of "good art" over "bad art"

as for the the divide between art and artifice. well, it's less a divide than an incline. i'm not coming down in favour of de kooning and rothko per se, just remarking that foregrounding the materiality of the construction is an aesthetic necessity. saying that "properly-made" art will inevitably wear it's own construction like a badge, in the same manner a meandering river will leave behind an oxbow lake.

as effay points out, CB DID lock the magic band in a house and get them to work away, but the result he was intent on was closer to brainwashing. he wanted his band all to play like him, so they could collectively improvise as though they were figments of his imagination. as for himself, he NEVER practised, was militant about it. but yeah, i'll grudgingly concede there is some element of a priori organisation, he would hum them their parts certainly.

practise is anathema isnt it? i mean who here actually writes anything but from the top of their head? that's how i write! i get all the necessary raw info in hand and then splurge, maybe a bit of tidying up at the end. it's the only way to write isnt it? you jump up in the air, do your funny move, and land. end of story.

i do all my comics and pictures the same way. as an animator on the other hand, i've been trained not to work "straightahead" as it's called, and work with "keys" (defining each end of a shot, and drawing "inbetweens") but actually i think my animations have tended to be quite stilted. my next project (if i ever get time to do it) is going to be done in an improvisational manner. planning just ruins art. dali's art is clearly intensely planned and, to me at least, it looks just that, flat and dead. you have to let the energy flow through you, you can't dam it up.

the trick is, i suppose (ahem) to have such a tight rein on your baser mores that you can just lay it down without recourse to noodling or repetition. i suppose everyone is thinking "derek bailey", but no, what about the minutemen. one take. or bug kahn and the plastic jam. made in three minutes. the beatles didn't practise in hamburg, they played their level best every night.

really paul, i'm surprised that you of all people (a disciple of magick!) are so hostile to this. i think your point about magritte (who's a bit chocolate boxy) is slightly by-the-by. it's more about how you get from a to b, from idea to manifestation. though an over-polished turd the like of which dali produced is a sure sign of planning run rampant.

to return to FZ. zappa is so in thrall with an afterimage of "famous dead composer" that he ends up writing scores!!! gasps! what a moron! that's why classical music is so fucked! it relies for any life-force upon genius interpreters like menuhin to figure out some way of invigorating it. as any fule kno in the days when classical music really was alive the composer/performer was far more prevalent and the score was probably more of an afterthought.

as a final thought, this detachedness from the evidence of creation is almost certainly why modern electronica is going backwards. the whole "infinite palatte of sound" that electronic instruments provide these days is antithetical to delineating the process of creation itself. the sound of an orchestra can be conjoured at the press of a button, the act devoid of any representative energy, and thus empty of significance. the sounds themselves "untrue", "fake". no wonder grime's playstation approach makes so much more artistic sense, there is a conspicuous materiality to the sound.

Woebot
15-12-2004, 08:58 AM
interested in anyone's thoughts on this which ive split off from the Prog thread.....

johneffay
15-12-2004, 09:29 AM
interested in anyone's thoughts on this which ive split off from the Prog thread.....

I wondered how I managed to start this thread!

I think this 'Zappa wrote scores' is a bit of a red herring. Lots of people people write music down. Anyway, as any collector of live Zappa material will tell you there's a great deal of improv going on, albeit tightly controlled by our Frank.

What's wrong with scores anyway? Steve Vai's solos which were scored by Zappa are a lot more interesting than the ones he improvised :p

Zappa vs Beefheart? When either of them are good, they're brilliant, but sometimes they can both be rather embarassing. If forced, I'd probably come down on the side of Zappa, but only because I like to follow along with the score when I'm listening to an album ;)

puretokyo
15-12-2004, 09:56 AM
That Penman bloke's obviously a fucking wanker. Criticising Zappa because Zappa criticises everything? What a fucking non-argument.

Rachel Verinder
15-12-2004, 10:15 AM
He criticises Zappa for criticising everyone else because Zappa had nothing good or better to offer in return. As is clearly stated in the article.

iueke
15-12-2004, 11:01 AM
as a final thought, this detachedness from the evidence of creation is almost certainly why modern electronica is going backwards. the whole "infinite palatte of sound" that electronic instruments provide these days is antithetical to delineating the process of creation itself. the sound of an orchestra can be conjoured at the press of a button, the act devoid of any representative energy, and thus empty of significance. the sounds themselves "untrue", "fake". no wonder grime's playstation approach makes so much more artistic sense, there is a conspicuous materiality to the sound.


this kind of criticism of electronic music is most most often heard. whether you apply to it electronica or serious electronic music the problem has never been the abundance of technological possibilities but the lack creative honesty. The idea that a musician would use a keyboard to imitate an orchestra is shameful.

Rachel Verinder
15-12-2004, 11:11 AM
that's silent way and bitches brew gone as well, then. shame on miles

iueke
15-12-2004, 11:22 AM
to say that a MELOTRON is imitating an orchestra is pushing it...

redcrescent
15-12-2004, 11:23 AM
Most definitely Beefheart. The only thing I respect about Zappa, really, is his stance on censorship (then again, that's the only thing I respect about the likes of Blackie Lawless and W.A.S.P., too. Or Marilyn Manson for that matter.)

"Either you get it or you don't." --FZ
Sorry Frank, I don't.

Woebot
15-12-2004, 11:31 AM
that's silent way and bitches brew gone as well, then. shame on miles
weren't they rambling rams that teo macero cut into shape?

mms
15-12-2004, 11:43 AM
the problem has never been the abundance of technological possibilities but the lack creative honesty. The idea that a musician would use a keyboard to imitate an orchestra is shameful.

i don't honestly think anyone in their right minds think a keyboard can replace an orchestra but the limitations of the sounds that attempt to create something fantastic and lovely. plus most musicians can't afford to hire an orchestra. and orchestral pops albums are almost completely terrible so orchestras aren't all good.

Rachel Verinder
15-12-2004, 11:58 AM
weren't they rambling rams that teo macero cut into shape?

yep but if you read miles' autobiography he says that the idea for the 3 keyboards was to get a gil evans-type orchestral effect without having to go to the expense of hiring 19 horn players. plus 3 keyboards were more fluid, could improvise more, so the backing would keep shifting and changing.

actually i've got a live album of dubious provenance (?bootleg) which is the quintet doing some of the b brew stuff in '69 - miles, shorter, corea, holland, de johnette - and it sounds like punk. anything but ambient! explosive & pretty atonal. wouldn't have sounded out of place on byg. makes hot rats sound like the boomtown rats!

puretokyo
15-12-2004, 02:17 PM
He criticises Zappa for criticising everyone else because Zappa had nothing good or better to offer in return. As is clearly stated in the article.

The heart of that argument is that criticism is not valid of itself, that it is merely a means to an end, that is, 'offering something as good or better in return'. And whats more, that both the 'criticism' and the presumed purpose for which it is done (the 'good or better to offer in return') must be undertaken at the same time, by the same individual (?!).

I disagree, insofar as I think that highlighting faults or failures is a valid activity of its own. Otherwise, how can progress be made? No-one is allowed to critique without a complete replacement solution in place ready to go? If that was the case, I think half of the blog community would be out of work...

Hence,


Criticising Zappa because Zappa criticises everything? What a fucking non-argument.

All criticism welcome, of course...!

johneffay
15-12-2004, 02:29 PM
He criticises Zappa for criticising everyone else because Zappa had nothing good or better to offer in return. As is clearly stated in the article.

This is a a standard response from people who haven't bothered to find out what Zappa was actually offering. Now, I don't go along with Zappa's brand of vaguely rightwing laissez fairism, but to claim that he never offered an alternative to what he criticized is just plain wrong. 'Good or better' are obviously matters of opinion. Given some of the recent posts round here, I'm sure there are several people who are prepared to go along with Zappa's contention that drugs turn you into a non-productive fuckwit, for example.

Then there were all the attcks on fundamentalist Christians coupled with campaigns to get people to register to vote. Was all that just sneering cynicism as well, or is it only sneering cynicism when he attacks things you believe in?

Rachel Verinder
15-12-2004, 02:54 PM
Then there were all the attacks on fundamentalist Christians coupled with campaigns to get people to register to vote

yeah, look at american government 2004-style, it really worked didn't it, all those attacks and campaigns?

quoted in a 1992 interview: "capitalism is flawed but i'll go along with it any day in preference to communism."

therefore, part of the problem, not the solution.

skreeeeeeooooooytttbbbssh
15-12-2004, 03:06 PM
the trick is, i suppose (ahem) to have such a tight rein on your baser mores that you can just lay it down without recourse to noodling or repetition. i suppose everyone is thinking "derek bailey", but no, what about the minutemen. one take. or bug kahn and the plastic jam. made in three minutes. the beatles didn't practise in hamburg, they played their level best every night.

really paul, i'm surprised that you of all people (a disciple of magick!) are so hostile to this. i think your point about magritte (who's a bit chocolate boxy) is slightly by-the-by. it's more about how you get from a to b, from idea to manifestation. though an over-polished turd the like of which dali produced is a sure sign of planning run rampant.

to return to FZ. zappa is so in thrall with an afterimage of "famous dead composer" that he ends up writing scores!!! gasps! what a moron! that's why classical music is so fucked! it relies for any life-force upon genius interpreters like menuhin to figure out some way of invigorating it. as any fule kno in the days when classical music really was alive the composer/performer was far more prevalent and the score was probably more of an afterthought.

as a final thought, this detachedness from the evidence of creation is almost certainly why modern electronica is going backwards. the whole "infinite palatte of sound" that electronic instruments provide these days is antithetical to delineating the process of creation itself. the sound of an orchestra can be conjoured at the press of a button, the act devoid of any representative energy, and thus empty of significance. the sounds themselves "untrue", "fake". no wonder grime's playstation approach makes so much more artistic sense, there is a conspicuous materiality to the sound.


I don't get the classical music is dead DEAD (in a creative sense)! -- sure, commercially, its not a force by any means but look beyond sales figures and you some really good composers today (and yesterday!) (most classical music I listen to is post-1950) working with either ensembles (the orchestra has been broken down somewhat into smaller sized ensembles; additionally I think string quatets are written by a wider variety of composers today than symphonies) or individual performers on getting the music down onto the score/discussing performance strategy...just in the same way that a producer works with MCs on new tracks or when assembling a mixtape etc. Its also ironic that minimalism, the most commercially successful of current western classical musics, is the one that seems to dissolve the performer-composer relationship the most in favour of machine like rhythms. And from listening to quite a bit of electronica the whole 'sound' of it cannot be conjured up at a press of a button, there may be a lot of really awesome rhythmic push/pull but much of the time it does come down to a 'hot beat'. Much grime reminds me of itwith rhythms being diff and the MC being 50% of the whole thing.

to go back to the beat, that was something beefheart wasn't really keen on -- and as I recall at the time of TMR beefheart got a piano and the drummer to write the music down on paper after he'd improvise on it. But much of it sounds improvised, not composed (its like john cage using chance procedure and locking the 'randomness' in a score). songs with seemingly improvised parts - its scary stuff! Put it this way: listen to that then put some improvisation on and its not a million miles away from it. Beefheart and frank had a stronger relationship to classical (they grew up at the time when it wz a stronger presence in the kulcha, i guess): beefheart wz a control freak (which many composers are) and zappa wanted respectability from that world.

puretokyo
16-12-2004, 04:31 AM
'Good or better' are obviously matters of opinion.

...

Was all that just sneering cynicism as well, or is it only sneering cynicism when he attacks things you believe in?

Seen.

martin
16-12-2004, 10:13 AM
I think Frank Zappa's just Weird Al Yankovic with loads of guitar wanking, whereas
Capt Beefheart is amazing

Rachel Verinder
16-12-2004, 11:53 AM
that's a terrible insult to weird al! ;)

Grievous Angel
17-12-2004, 09:43 PM
Ooh, the thread has spawned -- good, I missed the ending last time. Excellent points from Matt...

i mean "good" in the sense of "true", "honest", "ethical" as opposed to the term necessarily being a qualititative assesment
OK as far as it goes -- one could pick holes but lets not be picky.


saying that "properly-made" art will inevitably wear it's own construction like a badge
Think I get it... but is is Zappa "properly made"? Question of game rules I think. Sometimes he follows orchestral composition game rules, sometimes he does doo-wop, sometimes he does weird art pieces. That's a lot of badges!


i'll grudgingly concede there is some element of a priori organisation, he would hum them their parts certainly.Bit more than a priori organiation on good Beefhart!


practise is anathema isnt it? i mean who here actually writes anything but from the top of their head? that's how i write! i get all the necessary raw info in hand and then splurge, maybe a bit of tidying up at the end. it's the only way to write isnt it? you jump up in the air, do your funny move, and land. end of story.

No, practice isn't anathema at all. Don't forget, you've done lots of practice. At your age, with your experience, you've got chops. That's why you're at a professional level of writing, sometimes in the economic sense. Lots of people on Dissensus either have real world economic experience of professional writing, and most of them have the skills (acquired through practice) of a pro writer. Practice isn't just scales.

Animation takes longer to get really hot chops, and you've probably not been doing it as long.


really paul, i'm surprised that you of all people (a disciple of magick!) are so hostile to this.
No K's on magic this year, darling! (And no I'm not hostile :).) However, the comparison with magic is a good one. Magic isn't about intuition. It's about putting the work in, putting the practice in, to be able to deploy intution and other skills to engage with... whatever it is. It really isn't about just doing the jump in the air and doing your thing. It's about acquiring the imaginative discipline (Eden's favourite word! and I note you used the word disciple :)) and obtaining the practical and esoteric skills that enable you to, when the moment takes you, just jump in the air and do your thing... and it works.

Music production works much the same way.


though an over-polished turd the like of which dali produced is a sure sign of planning run rampant.Ah, we're departing from the orthodoxy of Coil now, so... :)


to return to FZ. zappa is so in thrall with an afterimage of "famous dead composer" that he ends up writing scores!!! gasps! what a moron!
Well, facilely, lots of musicians write scores, probably including many you like but... yeah, he does play the composer game, and sometimes the "famous dead composer" game. So what? Some of it's alright, some of it I'm not so keen on. But let's cut to the chase with a list, which is where this was always heading. I suspect you just haven't been listening to the right Zappa albums (lets face it, he did so many, few will like them all).

So, you want free-flowing emotion and artistry without (too much) artifice? And you want a kinder, gentler Zappa with less of a cynical overlay and more authentic humanity? I'm guessing here, but that's my impression. OK.

Well, your first port of call should be Broadway the Hard Way. If you don't like this then that's it -- so if you you've heard this already and it didn't work, you just don't like Frank Zappa and we should give up now cos the man simply winds you up! It's got tunes a-gogo basically. You should also give Joe's Garage a try, probably not all of it but the title track certainly and some of the weird "Dumb All Over" disco. For pure freeform uncomposed improv you should perhaps try Shut Up and Play Your Guitar, though it is all solos :), or one of the You Can't Do That Onstage Anymore series, probably the one with the fantastic version of Dickie's Such An Asshole.

Basically, I know what you're saying, but Zappa isn't Rush :).

paul.meme

johneffay
18-12-2004, 10:18 AM
As Paul has started the Zappa list game, I'll just add that if all you jazz snobs ;) really want to hear him with a band doing incredibly good improv, you should check out 'The Purple Lagoon/Approximate on Zappa in New York.