Speaking of Music:
Frank Zappa (1984)

Item Type: Sound Recording Duration: 134 min
Event Type: Interview and Music  

In an interview recorded on May 20, 1984, before a live audience as part of the San Francisco Exploratorium's Speaking of Music series, Charles Amirkhanian speaks with Frank Zappa about his forays into, and subsequent retreat from, the world of so called “serious” music. Zappa begins his remarks with the proclamation that Art in America is dead. He then lays the blame for its moribund state on schools that have ceased to educate, a mass media that only entertains but never explores, and the tendency of those who do still attend cultural events to be only interested in being seen and drinking copious amounts of white wine. During the first half of the program Zappa plays excerpts from a number of projects, including performances of his music by the London Symphony Orchestra and Ensemble InterContemporain, as well as a number of works composed on the Synclavier, one of the first digital synthesizers. The later part of the program is devoted to a reading of a hilarious play Zappa had written about the obscure 18th century Italian composer, and possible namesake, Francesco Zappa. Interspersed among the music and readings, Zappa takes rapid fire questions from the enthusiastic crowd, who are not disappointed by his sometimes outrageous answers and anecdotes, be it about faking a chamber music performance, the deceleration that tobacco is food, composing minimal music using an Echoplex and a chimpanzee, or simply talking about touring, upcoming releases, and his children’s careers. All in all it is a remarkable program that offers an opportunity to investigate aspects of Frank Zappa’s art that fans of his rock music may be unaware of but which will not fail to amuse or illuminate.

Part 1 of 2:  
Musical Selections:  [excerpts from the re-mastered album “Lumpy Gravy”] (ca.1967) (1:28) / Frank Zappa -- Mo ‘n Herbs Vacation [1st movement, remixed] (ca. 1983) (4:50) / Frank Zappa -- Love Story (ca. 1984) (0:57)) / Frank Zappa -- Naval Aviation in Art? (ca. 1984) (2:28) / Frank Zappa -- The Girl in the Magnesium Dress [excerpt] (ca. 1984) (2:46) / Frank Zappa -- Jonestown [excerpt] (ca. 1984) (5:23) / Frank Zappa -- While You Were Out (ca. 1981) (5:50) / Frank Zappa -- While You Were Art (ca. 1984) (7:13) / Frank Zappa
Performers:  David Ocker, clarinet soloist (Mo)
London Symphony Orchestra (Mo)
Kent Nagano, conductor (Mo)
Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort, a.k.a. synclavier (Love ; Girl ; Jonestown)
Ensemble InterContemporain, (Naval)
Pierre Boulez, conductor, (Naval)
Frank Zappa, lead guitar (While)
Warren Cuccurullo, rhythm guitar (While)
Vinnie Colaiuta, drums (While)
Genres:  Popular Music; Avant-Garde
Subject:  Zappa, Frank; Rock music; Orchestral music; Computer music; Instrumental music
People:  Amirkhanian, Charles; Zappa, Frank; Ocker, David; Nagano, Kent, 1951-; Boulez, Pierre, 1925- 2016; Cuccurullo, Warren ; Colaiuta, Vinnie
Recording Date:  5/20/1984
First Broadcast Date:  8/5/1984
Part 2 of 2:  
Musical Selections:  He’s So Gay [from “Thing-Fish”] (ca. 1980-84) (2:46) / Frank Zappa -- Opus I, No. 3 [2nd movement, Presto] (1765, arr. 1984) (1:50) / Francesco Zappa [arr. by Frank Zappa] -- Opus I, No. 6 [2nd movement: Minuet] (1765, arr. 1984) (2:01) / Francesco Zappa [arr. by Frank Zappa] -- Opus I, No. 1 [2nd movement: Allegro con Brio] (1765, arr. 1984) (1:23) / Francesco Zappa [arr. by Frank Zappa] -- Francesco: The almost fictional life or an obscure Italian composer” [a play] (36:13) / Frank Zappa -- [unidentified excerpt] (1765, arr. 1984) (3:03) / Francesco Zappa [arr. by Frank Zappa]
Performers:  Calvin Ahlgren, speaker (Francesco)
Genres:  Popular Music; Avant-Garde
Subject:  Zappa, Frank; Zappa, Francesco, fl. 1763-1788; Rock music; Musicals -- Excerpts; Trio sonatas (Synthesizer) -- Excerpts, Arranged; Computer music
People:  Amirkhanian, Charles; Zappa, Frank; Zappa, Francesco, fl. 1763-1788; Ahlgren, Calvin
Recording Date:  5/20/1984
First Broadcast Date:  8/5/1984


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