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 Post subject: Some of My Recent Correspondence with an Author
PostPosted: February 8th, 2012, 6:22 am 
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The Book:

Pauline Butcher's Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Freak-Out ... 8334279391

I have great respect for Ben Watson's highbrow approach in his book on Frank but having just finished your book, Pauline, I will tell the world to read your book first. Finally, a portrait from someone who was there and had the sensitivity to see and note all that was going on in the under-reported Log Cabin phase. It helps explain why Frank told CREEM magazine that he was "frozen" in 1966. Bob Marshall and I did a 3.5-hour interview with Frank on Oct.22, 1988, which has been very useful to Zappa biographers. I'm going to make a few posts with excerpts from it inspired by the new information you've given us. You've REALLY filled in the gaps on so many themes, Pauline!! We owe you millions! :@)

Frank wasn't a music literalist or fundamentalist. He considered any human expression within the province of music - especially after the appearance of John Cage. So, actually, Pauline, your book IS about Frank's music!! Since the psychological connectives, discontinuities, and nuances make up the SPRECHSTIMME framework of much of Zappa's compositional emphasis, then the body language and mental-gestural dance (ESP) that you are very good at evoking during intimate encounters within the log cabin scene is an important factor in understanding and enjoying Frank's rhythms. Frank did say that he saw a conceptual (uniquely for Frank) connection between what the blues artists (Hooker, Slim, Watson, et al.) created and what the new classical composers (Webern, Berg, et al.) created in their common interest in composing speech-based musical rhythms. This is why Zappa-informed readers of your book feel/intuit there is NEW information in it. A casual glance by someone who had no familiarity with Frank's OEUVRE would think your book is just gossip from a fashion-industry functionary who happened to wander into Monty Python's "Argument Clinic" and mistook it for an acting-school class. :@) So next time, you tell these stick-in-the-muds your book is the key to postmodern and paramodern music!!

This quotation from Ben Watson's review of EVERYTHING IS HEALING NICELY gets at the body language aspect of Frank Zappa's music (movies being the medium highlighting gestural communication - remember the description on HOT RATS: "This is a movie for your ears"):

{{ To direct his musicians, Zappa was using techniques developed by Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Sun Ra. Sure, there were scores - neither the acheing melody of `Amnerika', hocketed to different instruments, nor the atonal drama of `None Of The Above' could have been achieved any other way - but Zappa also set up `objects', `motifs', `vamps', `chord structures' and `gestures (musical or theatrical)' which could be cued spontaneously by hand signals, funny faces and even eyebrow twitches, events that could be triggered at any moment (the slogan at the time was: `anything anytime anywhere for no reason at all').

Fully-rounded sounds redolent of expensive musical educations are mixed with bleats and moos from children's toys, a didgeridoo burbling into a spitoon full of dark water, bizarre groans from the percussion and vocal ejaculations. But this is not some postmodernist exercise: because these sounds resonate in real time, they establish real musical relations with each other. }}

Pauline Butcher's book provides the "human scenario" that Frank translated into ear stuff on the albums and remixed into visual, kinetic, proprioceptive, and iconic stuff in his films. The third medium/recombination he never got to exploit was the TV talk show... although he came tantalizingly close several times over the decades. Here's his definition of this multimedia para-musical approach:

"The project/object (maybe you like event/organism better) incorporates any available visual medium, consciousness of all participants (including audience), all perceptual deficiencies, God (as energy), The Big Note (as universal basic building material), and other things. We make a special art in an environment hostile to dreamers."

Frank loved Doo Wop but his later cover story was that he was interested in it for its "harmonic climates" and for the "archetypes" that he used in RUBEN & THE JETS:

{{ Miles: Things like the Ruben & The Jets tracks, are they essentially recreations rather than ...?

FZ: Oh they're more than recreations, they're careful conglomerates of archetypal cliches. For instance one song on the Ruben & The Jets album simultaneously has quotes from background chants sung by The Moonglows, the opening theme of The Rites of Spring, in fact the tune of 'Fountain Of Love', it's on the fade-out but nobody ever heard that as The Rites Of Spring because there's like five different levels of musical accompaniment going on, not counting the band. There's all these different vocal parts and they're all clichés and they're all carefully chosen for nostalgia value and then built into this song with the most imbecile words in the world.

Miles: Not all the tracks are like that, some use the same old themes you keep playing with all the time ...

FZ: Note themes or word themes?

Miles: Old Mothers themes. It seems you're working in two directions. In using these old 1956 sounds, even little snatches of them, you're working with other people's material whereas old Mothers' themes are original material.

FZ: I don't understand that. That must be happening on some unconscious level.

Miles: It seems to be the two poles of your music. One side the nostalgic music which you didn't write yourselves, and attacking it, changing it, trying to work something out of your system with it and on the other side is the new music which comes straight from your head. The difference between these approaches is gigantic.

FZ: I like that kind of music, I'm very fond of close harmony group vocal Oo-Wah Rock & Roll, I really like it. But the scientific side of Ruben & The Jets is that it was an experiment in cliché collages because that music was just riddled with stereotyped motifs that made it sound the way it did. Not only did it give it its characteristic sound but it gave it its emotional value. Like there's a real science to playing Rock & Roll triplets, not everybody who can play three notes at once on the piano can play Rock & Roll triplets, and make it sound convincing. There's little weird things in their so there was a lot of exploration done at the time were putting Ruben & The Jets together. }}

So it seems that Frank objected to the words and concepts in love songs but not the instrumental expressions within the Doo Wop music.

If I was a teacher in high school or freshman college-level leading some kind of humanities course or media literacy course, I would have Pauline and Moon's books ["America the Beautiful" (2001), a novel by Moon Zappa] on my suggested (or even prescribed) reading list. They throw a laser light on the hyper-celebrity culture that the recent "New Batch" (Beefheart) or "New Inheritors" (Wintersleep) generations have to mature within. I'm serious because the multimedia pop culture (classroom-without-walls) is where the more forceful education occurs. And Frank was the first on-the-ground (in the bunker) "professor" dealing with this cultural challenge along with Marshall McLuhan, another musical composer.

Frank said that Gail understood her role in relation to Frank's media role. Your book shows that she had the "respect" problem in the early years of their relationship. But when he said in the 80s that "Gail is no Linda McCartney", I think he was telling us he appreciated how she figured out where she could get the "respect".

I hope that doesn't sound too crude - especially considering it's not my business to judge these personal matters. But the paradox of our media-intimate era is we are almost forced as consumers to feel we are involved and our "judgements" matter (Gingrich has this very problem today). Moon really portrays this well on pp.273-75 with the tearful airline-counter guy scene. You KNOW that scene is autobiographical - probably happened many times to her. And the fact that her spiritual epiphany involves her father's media role is a contemporary factor that religionists did not have to confront before the 20th Century. Just think of all those children of the hundreds of celebrities in California and New York over the past 30 years, many of whom were influenced by FZ. Moon's book is obviously relevant to them. But perhaps not so obvious is the relevance of your archetypal situation to Moon's audience. Your book is not just historically resonant to the Baby Boomer women's market that the Guardian review stressed. The "youth" of today are still subjected to the same "American Throne" famous-for-30-seconds syndrome your generation was fascinated by.

6. Excerpt from one of my conversations with FZ:

Bob Dobbs: The other aspect that I discovered about Zappa's work in listening to an interview with David Walley that he did in 1971 preparing for his book on Zappa. Zappa talked about the making of the film, the training film about bizarre behavior, for the Cucamonga police department in 1964. This turned out to be a setup for his arrest, but the fact that he was making a film, which Frank was happy to do to put his studio to work, in order to educate the police department about bizarre behavior in the population so they could have better public relations with these deviants, struck me that that was a basic concept that he expanded for the concept behind his first album FREAK OUT in which he wanted to educate the American public about people who do different things and bizarre behavior, but he did this through the music industry. And to me it seemed an expanded notion of his original task of educating the police department, so it is an interesting motif of his conceptual continuity that his educating the American populace through the music industry about bizarre behavior was a replay of what he did with the original police department of Cucamonga, which led to a setup. So that complex situation made Frank very ironic and self-conscious about his albums because he knew he was educating the public, but he also knew he could get in trouble for it. Was that Frank's thinking at the time of making FREAK OUT?
Frank: You're almost exactly on.
Bob Dobbs: So is there anything to add to what I said?
Frank: You can educate but sometimes they don't listen.
Bob Dobbs: You can also get into trouble with those people who don't want to be educated.
Frank: Yes, indeed.
Bob Dobbs: You learned a lot from your police bust about American society, the corrupt side, and that was always a reference point in later ideas in scripts and plays?
Frank: Yes.
Bob Dobbs: So that is part of the conceptual continuity?
Frank: Yes.
Bob Dobbs: Including up to CIVILIZATION PHAZE THREE, your last work?
Frank: CIVILIZATION was more of what would it be after they learned.
Bob Dobbs: And, of course, the other conceptual continuity motif we discussed was the dwarf. So, we have two parallel major themes in all your work here: the dwarf theme, and the original porno bust and educating from that. I'm correct on that?
Frank: Yes, you are.

Bob Dobbs

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