15 October 2010

wind & rain

A friend from a bit further north posted:
Frank Zappa is frequently acknowledged as a classical music composer. I’m somewhat familiar with his music but 100 percent of the time I have been faced with this notion of Zappa the classical music composer, I confess to some inner laughter telling me otherwise. If you believe that he is such a composer, on what ground do you entertain such a belief? Training? Instrumentation? Recognizable forms? Thematic development and structure?
I replied:
I think that’s “overselling” one element of Zappa’s musical activity; and while those who worked with Zappa report that he didn’t think of boundaries dividing music (that he thought to the effect of, it’s all music, no matter what kind of music), Zappa never claimed to be “a classical music composer.” He was smitten with the music of Varèse, and with Le sacre, at an early age, and those were lessons he freely applied at times throughout his career; and he included parts written for orchestral instruments in many albums, starting with the inaugural Freak Out! But he was (simply) pursuing his own (widely varied) musical interests as he wished, and he was never after “recognition” as “a classical music composer.”

I think it means something about the musical intelligence with which Zappa pursued his work, that “legit” musicians as varied as Boulez, Kent Nagano & Nicolas Slonimsky had some respect for Zappa’s music. Was he more nearly “a classical music composer” than (say) Paul McCartney in such attempts as Working Man’s Classical and the Liverpool Oratorio? Certainly. (For only one small thing, Zappa was notation-literate.) But Zappa himself would have been (one suspects) derisory of the “bogus pomp” of trying to tout him as “a classical music composer.”

Have started to browse Alex Ross’s new book, Listen to This. Really enjoyed the introduction, one of whose themes is “It’s all music” (see above). Although (like The Rest Is Noise) it’s all well written, certainly, I find myself less crazy about the first chapter proper. Well, I should read the entirety before presuming to comment on the book, probably.

The opening line in a blog post headed Does Your Music Always Come Out the Way You Want It To? — to which my answer must be, Not always; sometimes it comes out even better — is: Creativity is as much a sickness as it is a gift.

Golly, people do sound fatuous when they take their own particular thoughts, and announce them as supposedly Universal Truth. Sorry he should feel that way about his work. As for me, 100% gift, 0% sickness. Maybe my native tolerance is greater.

We are what we gig, says Stuart Simon:

Start out with something louder, and you know what you're going to get, particularly from the front table: "could you tell that pianist to turn it down." As if I'm a stereo or something.

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