Friday, August 11, 2006

Finally finished: The Real Frank Zappa Book, by Frank Zappa with Peter Occhiogrosso

Finally finished: The Real Frank Zappa Book, by Frank Zappa with Peter Occhiogrosso, 1989, 067163870X.

This was good. Zappa was a smart guy. Of course, he also had some goofy conspiracy ideas. The book is a standard celebrity auto-biography with some personal history and a lot of writing about "current events". A lot of those current events are really dated. Theories about AIDS, the whole story about Zappa's fight over album labels and the nonsense of Tipper Gore and friends.

Some of Zappa's ideas were ahead of their time. Zappa had a business plan to offer downloadable music to consumers. Recordings would have been delivered via cable television or telephone. Consumers would receive paper catalogs listing content, place an order, and keep the recording. The cable television option would have cover art and liner notes on the screen as the download was going on.

Another idea of Zappa's was, in result, The Daily Show. He offered to host a five day a week evening show that would discuss major news events, feature satellite interviews, analysis, and a live band. The band would occasionally perform "Purposely cheesey sitcom segments...[the band] will 'pre-enact' the possible social consequences, twenty years down the road." Re-runs or weekly compilations would have been shown on MTV.

Other things Zappa talks about never age: military spending, supposed bias in the media, the drug war (although Zappa was very much against drug use), taxes, etc.

Other items: Zappa liked coffee, was not that good a guitar player, a bad singer, loved his kids but was a bit anti-social, worked a lot, liked humour in music, and enjoyed and wrote symphonic music.

His comments on modern symphonic music were eye-opening. The costs and trouble associated with booking an orchestra, the musicians' high rehearsal costs, dealing with musician unions, recording for release, etc. The costs are astronomical for getting a new piece rehearsed, performed, and recorded. Professional musicians can play Bach or Beethoven right off the bat; they have been practicing the music their whole lives but need good rehearsal time for newer compositions. Big-name orchestral conductors sell tickets because the audience wants to see the guy put on a show and wave his arms. Those Bach and Beethoven pieces don't entail composer royalties either. A modern composer has a heck of a time getting his work produced.

No comments: