Zappa & Amnerika

Frank Zappa’s “Amnerika” from Civilization Phaze III, released posthumously in 1994. Composed and conducted by Frank Zappa and performed by the Ensemble Modern orchestra.

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200 Follows

I got my 200th follow. I still don’t know exactly what that involves, but thanks to all who’ve been following, and special thanks to Luís Henriques, our 200th! I often wonder what I must be putting you folks through. It’s gotta seem like an extremely idiosyncratic selection. Anyway, when we hit the number 200 around here (or anything like it), we have been known to do this:

 

Easter Music Special & Zappa & Mahler

Kind of an Easter tradition around here.

First, Zappa’s extended guitar piece “Watermelon in Easter Hay,” originally from Joe’s Garage Act III (1979). This live recording is from 1988.

Next, most of the choral segment from the finale of Gustav Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony (no. 2). Myung-Whun Chung conducts the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra (2010). Chorus and soloists unknown.

This segment of the text is by Mahler himself.

O glaube, mein Herz, o glaube:
Es geht dir nichts verloren!
Dein ist, ja dein, was du gesehnt!
Dein, was du geliebt,
Was du gestritten!

O glaube
Du wardst nicht umsonst geboren!
Hast nicht umsonst gelebt, gelitten!

Was entstanden ist
Das muß vergehen!
Was vergangen, auferstehen!
Hör’ auf zu beben!
Bereite dich zu leben!

O Schmerz! Du Alldurchdringer!
Dir bin ich entrungen!
O Tod! Du Allbezwinger!
Nun bist du bezwungen!

Mit Flügeln, die ich mir errungen,
In heißem Liebesstreben,
Werd’ich entschweben
Zum Licht, zu dem kein Aug’ gedrungen!

Sterben werd’ ich, um zu leben!
Aufersteh’n, ja aufersteh’n
wirst du, mein Herz, in einem Nu!
Was du geschlagen
zu Gott wird es dich tragen!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

O believe, my heart, O believe:
Nothing to you is lost!
Yours is, yes yours, is what you desired
Yours, what you have loved
What you have fought for!

O believe,
You were not born for nothing!
Have not for nothing, lived, suffered!

What was created
Must perish,
What perished, rise again!
Cease from trembling!
Prepare yourself to live!

O Pain, You piercer of all things,
From you, I have been wrested!
O Death, You masterer of all things,
Now, are you conquered!

With wings which I have won for myself,
In love’s fierce striving,
I shall soar upwards
To the light which no eye has penetrated!

Die shall I in order to live.
Rise again, yes, rise again,
Will you, my heart, in an instant!
That for which you suffered,
To God will it lead you!

Marking the Double Nought Milestones

My blogdaddy Nightsky hit 200 posts, for which the only appropriate response is a full length movie.

By uncanny coincidence, Whud Yuhd Faye is also hitting the double noughts at the same time. Five double oh, people. Yes, this post is the big five double-a-rooni. Five. Oh. Oh.

In this epic but pathetically doomed Oedipal struggle, yours truly, the miscreant son, has been trying to outdo Dad with all that manic posting, especially in the initial months of this blogging adventure. Predictably, the results have been questionable in terms of quality . . . but, by gosh . . . THERE’S NO QUESTION AT ALL IN TERMS OF QUANTITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And like Nightsky, we celebrate by playing with numbers. In our case, we will start with five and lay on the zeroes one by one until we get to 500. Let us begin!

OK, I’ve never been a huge Brubeck fan, but he definitely had his moments and this was one of them.

“Take Five,” with Paul Desmond (sax), Eugene Wright (bass), Joe Morello (drums). The album Time Out (1959) was the first jazz album to go past platinum. I just remembered: I was also told Brubeck took a spiritual direction with his music later in life, which is something we’ll have to investigate for our Sunday selections.

Anyway, Wikipedia tells me Dave Brubeck suffered a serious spinal injury after diving into the Hawaiian surf in 1951. (Hey, fifties!) Not good for Dave Brubeck. But who knows what graces came out of it, including a life path that led to the first jazz album to go past platinum? One good thing that definitely came out of that incident, though, is that it gives me a nifty little segue to the next clip, which may be among the top five, certainly the top ten tv show themes EVER!

And now, all we need is one more zero, which we find supplied by none other than Chick Corea and Return to Forever.

“500 Miles High,” from Light as a Feather (1973). Chick Corea (keyboards), Flora Purim (vocals), Joe Farrell (sax), Stanley Clark (bass), Airto Moreira (percussion). (I want you to know that I wrote all that album info from my head, and when I went back to check the only thing I got wrong was that Joe Farrell has two “l”s at the end of his name, not one.)

Let it also be known that my other blog associates, that zany, rollicking hippie commune that has come to be known as The Blog of Funny Names, also hit the big 5-0-0 not too long ago. I’m only a little behind.

It Must Be a Camel & Zappa

From Hot Rats (1969). Brilliant album, brilliant song.

This is a massively overdubbed, multi-track production. It was later remixed, but this is the original. I confess, some of the instruments are a puzzle to me. “Octave bass” is a bass guitar sped up to double speed, but I don’t know what “organus maximus” and “snorks” are. Reader commentary is welcome! Anyway, Frank Zappa (guitar, octave bass, percussion), Ian Underwood (piano, organus maximus, flute, all clarinets, all saxes), Max Bennett (bass), John Guerin (drums), Jean-Luc Ponty (violin), Lowell George (guitar), Harvey Shantz (Snorks).

Interesting excerpt from the Wikipedia entry!

Zappa used advanced recording equipment to create an album of outstanding technical and musical quality. The album was recorded on what Zappa described as a “homemade sixteen track” recorder; the machine was custom built by engineers at TTG Studios in Hollywood in late 1968. Additional tracks made it possible for Zappa to add multiple horn and keyboard overdubs by Ian Underwood. Only a few musicians were required to create an especially rich instrumental texture which gives the sound of a large group. It was this use of advanced overdubbing that was the main motivation for Zappa, who hated playing in a studio.

Zappa was among the first to record drums on multiple tracks. This made it possible to create a stereo drum sound. Prior to this time the entire drum set was typically recorded to a single (mono) track of an 8-track recorder. On Hot Rats, however, four of the tracks were assigned to the main drum set, including individual tracks for the snare and bass drums and left and right tracks for other drums and cymbals. In this setup the engineer had unprecedented control over the sound of each drum component in the final mix. This technique was widely imitated and became the norm in the early 1970s when machines with 16 or more tracks became widely available.

Zappa pioneered the use of tape speed manipulation to produce unusual timbres and tonal colors. On “Peaches en Regalia”, “Son of Mr. Green Genes”, and “It Must Be a Camel” Zappa plays “double-speed percussion.” After recording basic tracks (drums, bass, guitar and piano, etc.) at the fast speed of the recorder, Zappa played additional drum overdubs while listening to the basic tracks at half speed. On the finished recording, played at normal speed again, the overdubs are heard at twice the usual speed and pitch. This gives the drum overdubs a surreal, comical quality, much like toy drums.

Other instruments were processed in a similar way, including keyboards, saxophones and bass. Zappa is credited with “octave bass” (a bass guitar sped up to double speed)—the resulting sound is similar to that of a guitar but according to Zappa has more “punch” and energy. Additionally, a processed electronic organ was integrated as an orchestral voice within an ensemble of woodwinds and piano. “It Must Be a Camel” features the sound of a hard plastic comb being stroked, sounding almost like a jerky, audio slow-motion bell tree or wind chime; Zappa also ‘plays’ a ratchet wrench as percussion on “Willie the Pimp”. This was all done with analog technology more than 10 years before modern digital sound processing equipment became available.

Zappa & Filthy Habits

From Sleep Dirt (1979).

The Zappa restrospective continues unabated, and even for this formerly devout Zappa fan it’s turning out a lot better than I expected. Frank Zappa (guitar, keyboards), Dave Parlato (bass), Terry Bozzio (drums). I used to think this cut was the sound of desolation, and I guess I still do. But wow, what guitar work. And what a brilliant multitrack creation: Zappa is doing all the guitars (often overdubbed backwards), plus keyboards. The time signiature is 5/4.

I used to have this on vinyl. The whole album holds up really well. In fact, it would be more accurate to say it has aged really well, and is actually better now than I remember it. I have to bump this one to the top of the re-acquire list.