Sunday, December 16, 2012

Zappadan, Day 13: What is your Conceptual Continuity?

Yesterday's Zappadan post was about original influences. This one is about virtuosity. In this case, it's about virtuosity on that instrument that is king to all other instruments, the electric guitar--Yeah, yeah, I know it's not really the King of All Instruments, but work with me here.

The following track consists purely of guitar work. A couple of the tracks feature Dweezil Zappa (the first and last, I believe), while the rest of them feature FZ himself. I've already told you about how Zappa was a band leader, and should be understood as such, but I don't think I've really given enough attention to the guitar work for which this man was responsible.


This is one long song, assembled from various solos. A lot of it is not really my thing (I tend to prefer my guitars loud, heavy, and fast. I prefer my solos more in a classical (or blues) than a jazz vein. Nonetheless, I can listen to Frank Zappa play guitar all day long. Here, then, you have the opportunity to do it for about an hour. Throw it on as some background to whatever else you're doing. Wallow in the fluid complexity of it all. Flow from one riff to the next. Listen to the distinct layers of sound in the compositions, with percussion, bass, et al. in complex harmonies, always moving forward, always maintaining Conceptual Continuity.

What is this hippie jam-band shit, anyway? I mean I don't much go for that sort of thing, as a rule. For some reason, though, Zappa makes everything all right. I can listen to this. It's FZ, and it's awesome.

Now, the thing: Each of us, as gamers, as players and/or GMs, have a "voice" in how we approach gaming, whether it be in the sorts of characters we play, the features of our campaigns, or whatever. We put our greasy, cheetoh-stained fingerprints all over everything we touch. Sometime this means chaos: I want to do all the things! Sometimes this means having a signature: I play thieves and only thieves! Sometimes this means having an aesthetic: All my campaign worlds are grim/dark (or gonzo/silly, or whatever)! The point being that we have our little affectations, our comfortable bags of tricks and tropes.

When I play in games with my various groups, I notice the different "personalities" we collectively bring to the proceedings, and the various quirks of players and GM. They give each group as sense of identity and "location" simply by being what they are, and by being different from each other. I get the sense that FLAILSNAILS conventions have made this dynamic even more interesting by "crossing the streams" of different conceptual continuities, sometimes with spectacular results, as in Zak Smiths recent Warlords of Vornheim games.

In this new world brought about by the hangout gaming, the Constantcon Phenomenon, presents us with an incredible opportunity to play, display, and learn about a dizzying array of play styles, to sample from a veritable buffet line of games, players, GMs, and campaign worlds, and at the same time to put out into the world those core and key concepts that make our own styles conceptually continuous, and distinct from those of others. It's a good time to be alive.