2016-03-02

His Best Work



The random page link at Wiki Jawaka lead me to this 1993 interview with Frank Zappa. Contained therein lies the following passage:
'The bulk of the people who enjoy my music have probably come into contact with it by seeking it out rather than having it delivered through the normal processes in the music industry', he says. 'And they write and tell me what it means to them and which albums they like best and why and that always has been immensely gratifying, an inspiration to go on. But most of the people, especially here in the United States, haven't an idea of what I do or have done. As I say rarely, if ever, get played on U.S. radio. If they play anything at all they'll play the "hit records" like Don't Eat The Yellow Snow or, inIreland, they may play Peaches En Regalia, but none of the things that I would say are my best work.' 
What would Frank Zappa describe as his best work? 
'Things like The Jazz Discharge Party Hats or The Dangerous Kitchen. I would say there's nothing else in rock 'n' roll or in any other medium that resembles those two songs. You mentioned Scott Walker writing rock songs within the tradition of Schoenberg, but I haven't heard those. But The Jazz Discharge Party does come close to Schönberg, with its jazz accompaniment to a Sprechgesang (speech-song) text presentation. In it, the melody and the words were improvised and the arrangement built around that in the studio. And in Dangerous Kitchen, the lyrics were written but the pitched recitation was something that was done free-form on stage, with the band following.'
This excerpt provides an important window into the artistic mind of a man who sought very hard to be a musical innovator.

Frank Zappa created a great deal of music that is unlike anything I've ever heard, certainly in the spectrum of rock music. It would be a fair criticism to say that his more advanced compositions never equaled those of his heroes, like Stravinsky and Varese.

But, nearing the end of his life and asked to reflect on what music he considers his best, Frank Zappa identifies two songs that are remarkable for the fact that there is no other music like those songs "in rock 'n roll or in any other medium." That is, these two songs seem to demonstrate Zappa's best effort at true innovation.

Can you imagine any modern musical artist feeling happiest about a song like "Jazz Discharge Party Hats?"

No. Artists today are not interested in artistic progress.