Thursday, 10 March 2011 15:44
Why FZ is important
This Tuesday the ESO performs one of the most unique concerts of this season
- or of many seasons, probably - and I thought I would take the opportunity to reprint an article by ESO Principal Trombone John McPherson about why this particular concert is important. Enjoy:
by John McPherson
From my viewpoint, I see Frank Zappa as THE most significant “music-creator” of the second half of the 20th century. He composed and performed music at the highest level of complexity, intelligence, and depth. His music most successfully combined the freedom of jazz, the authenticity of rock and roll, with an overall compositional attitude. He gathered the most skilled and musical players to create virtuosic ensembles that rival ANY that have ever existed in any genre. His performances were a complete experience of musical brilliance, creativity, and FUN, and his recordings were impeccably crafted musical compositions themselves.
I first discovered Frank Zappa’s music while exploring my older brother’s record collection, and I was immediately hooked. It was Just Another Band from L.A., and listening to “Billy the Mountain” thrilled a young musician with its freedom, sophistication, social satire, and unbridled FUN. He was using the musical language of American culture and creating art pieces in line with any great composer.
More significantly, he was always learning and looking ahead, exploring and taking the most outrageous chances – some more successful than others – but always fully engaged in the joy of music-making. Frank continually challenged us, though, and never let us feel completely comfortable. He railed against stupidity in all its forms and created the keenest, most intense satire imaginable. He made us face the power of language and demanded we look at how and why we react to words.
Frank Zappa was more than a musician – he was also a great thinker, observer, and philosopher. His thoughts and writings show him to be one of the clearest and most penetrating critics of the post-modern world, and his quotes are legendary (a few of them are scattered around this article). Many an interviewer was skewered by his piercing intellect and at the congressional hearings to debate music labelling, he famously demonstrated to the world how small-minded and ignorant the drafters of this legislation, in fact, were.
That his music is becoming more and more popular and respected is not only a testament to his genius, but also to an artist who had the audacity not to play by the arbitrary rules others tried to impose on him as he carved out a stunningly individual and pioneering path.
Thankfully, after some well-documented fits and starts, the classical music world is starting to embrace and present his music, as more and more purveyors of “serious” music realize, as Frank did, that ALL music must be “entertaining.” Once when arguing this point with a conductor, he poignantly asked, “…what is the opposite of ‘entertaining’ music – ‘punitive’ music?”
Our goal is to enthusiastically offer a “seriously fun” concert experience covering a broad range of FZ’s music, celebrating his genius, and demonstrating why we think Frank Zappa is important.
John McPherson is the ESO’s Principal Trombone, and is also a skilled composer and arranger. He was a driving force in the creation of the program.
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