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 Post subject: compositional techniques
PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2005 4:09 pm 
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Hi everyone - I just joined. I'm interested in learning about some of the compositional/recording techniques FZ used - not songwriting or music theory, however. More along the lines of : using recorded conversations, odd times, lots of cut & paste... Also what it was in the music of Varese that influenced Zappa. I'm sure you've been here before but I didn't know where to look for answers. If someone cd direct me I wd appreciate it. Thanks.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2005 7:59 pm 
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A lot of people ask this kind of stuff, and at one time I would have, but seriously, there's not a whole lot for a composer to say about how he composes, apart from technical stuff encompassing a vast world of music theory, 'music on paper' technicalities/calligraphy, electronics, physics/acoustics.<br><br>I think that one interested in that type of stuff is best off investing A LOT of time in learning about those fields, and in listening to FZ's music and analyzing it.<br><br>Also, try to get videos and other recordings of Zappa. In certain videos you can see him conducting, composing, rehearsing, etc. Besides that, listen to his solos a lot too. That's instant composition.<br><br>One of the key concepts in how FZ composed was CONCEPTUAL CONTINUITY. That is, any concept can be formulated and manipulated over time by its placement in various smaller compositions, because the entire output of one man is one composition in itself. Hence, references (verbal and/or musical) to things like poodles, doo-doo, Rondo Hatton, etc etc etc will pop up in various places.<br><br>Another technique = xenochrony (the superimposition of different tracks/pieces of music that wouldn't normally be paired. The literal translation is 'strange time')<br><br>The Synclavier, a sequencer,  provided still completely different ways of composing, some of which are briefly described in The Real Frank Zappa Book. But you should be familiar with how sequencing works to get that stuff. Basically, manipulating lots of numbers which represent digital bits which store MIDI information. To Frank's credit, using this new language, he STILL maintained his distinct personality in the music.<br><br>Editing/splicing tape was a big thing. For example, listen to the entire We're Only In It For The Money album.<br><br>Recorded conversations weren't usually used in music. When they were, later in the '80s, they were samples of course, I assume from the Synclavier's sampler?<br><br>Odd times - well... 5's and 7's abound everywhere, as polyrhythmic figures and as time signatures as well.<br>T'Mershi Duween -  if I remember right the basic melody is a 16th note type rhythm you can count in 23. I divide it into a sequence of 7/8, 5/16, 2/8...<br>There are a bunch of figures with 11's in his work. For example, Outside Now and Treacherous Cretins.<br><br>But these all just served the melodies. Frank had no signature in terms of using something in his compositions! His basic signature throughout his work was simply beautiful melodies and a supreme grasp of how everything works.<br><br>How Varese influenced FZ? Simply to become a composer! Prior to that, FZ was into science and stuff like that. You can hear Varese's influence in very few of Zappa's works. Let's see... Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet maybe, some of the orchestral stuff on LSO and Boulez/Zappa, maybe the Mt Saint Mary's Concert in '63.<br><br>Gotta go. Peace!  ;)

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2005 8:39 pm 
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[quote author=enggo_pah link=board=wishList;num=1113876581;start=0#2 date=04/18/05 at 22:59:50]A lot of people ask this kind of stuff, and at one time I would have, but seriously, there's not a whole lot for a composer to say about how he composes, apart from technical stuff encompassing a vast world of music theory, 'music on paper' technicalities/calligraphy, electronics, physics/acoustics.<br><br>I think that one interested in that type of stuff is best off investing A LOT of time in learning about those fields, and in listening to FZ's music and analyzing it.<br><br>Also, try to get videos and other recordings of Zappa. In certain videos you can see him conducting, composing, rehearsing, etc. Besides that, listen to his solos a lot too. That's instant composition.<br><br>One of the key concepts in how FZ composed was CONCEPTUAL CONTINUITY. That is, any concept can be formulated and manipulated over time by its placement in various smaller compositions, because the entire output of one man is one composition in itself. Hence, references (verbal and/or musical) to things like poodles, doo-doo, Rondo Hatton, etc etc etc will pop up in various places.<br><br>Another technique = xenochrony (the superimposition of different tracks/pieces of music that wouldn't normally be paired. The literal translation is 'strange time')<br><br>The Synclavier, a sequencer,  provided still completely different ways of composing, some of which are briefly described in The Real Frank Zappa Book. But you should be familiar with how sequencing works to get that stuff. Basically, manipulating lots of numbers which represent digital bits which store MIDI information. To Frank's credit, using this new language, he STILL maintained his distinct personality in the music.<br><br>Editing/splicing tape was a big thing. For example, listen to the entire We're Only In It For The Money album.<br><br>Recorded conversations weren't usually used in music. When they were, later in the '80s, they were samples of course, I assume from the Synclavier's sampler?<br><br>Odd times - well... 5's and 7's abound everywhere, as polyrhythmic figures and as time signatures as well.<br>T'Mershi Duween -  if I remember right the basic melody is a 16th note type rhythm you can count in 23. I divide it into a sequence of 7/8, 5/16, 2/8...<br>There are a bunch of figures with 11's in his work. For example, Outside Now and Treacherous Cretins.<br><br>But these all just served the melodies. Frank had no signature in terms of using something in his compositions! His basic signature throughout his work was simply beautiful melodies and a supreme grasp of how everything works.<br><br>How Varese influenced FZ? Simply to become a composer! Prior to that, FZ was into science and stuff like that. You can hear Varese's influence in very few of Zappa's works. Let's see... Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet maybe, some of the orchestral stuff on LSO and Boulez/Zappa, maybe the Mt Saint Mary's Concert in '63.<br><br>Gotta go. Peace!  ;)[/quote]<br><br>that's a rap !<br>

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2005 9:19 am 
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Oh... just thought of a few more things... Of course in the '60s the Mothers performed (parts of?) Varese's Octandres at concerts.<br><br>And many musical quotes abound everywhere, so who knows where there are quotes of Varese or other composers? I'm sure there are many that I can't spot.<br><br>Another odd time that I've spotted in some solo sections of songs such as Big Swifty (sometimes), Keep It Greasy on Joe's Garage and possibly something(s) else I can't think of at the moment is 19/16, or basically just 4/4 with 3 extra 16th notes tacked on the end.<br><br>[edit - oh wait, oops, the Big Swifty part I think of is 11/16 I think, as is Inca Roads solo part]

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2005 10:31 am 
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Many thanks for yr time & insights. If yr interested, here are some samples of what I've been doing & I think Zappa's influence will take me to the next level.<br><br>http://www.soundclick.com/bands/7/thebluezonemusic.htm   <br><br>(click on Ambient)

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