Saturday, December 21, 2013

Influences: Edgard Varèse

Edgard Varèse was, reputedly, one of Zappa's early influences. Listening to this performance, I can totally see it. I know that a lot of people don't much care for music that doesn't soothe their ear-holes, and I get that. I do. I like a challenge, though. I like that music can do more than make you feel good. You notice it in musical scores for films (or maybe you don't, if it's especially well integrated), and, in fact, take discordance, atonality, ironic placement of dissimilar elements, and so forth, for granted.

Me, I like this sort of thing. It's weird and wonderful. I don't listen to it a lot. You don't need to, any more than you need to take a shot of strong drink. It's bracing. It's good. But too much, too soon, and it just stops working the same way. Anyway... here is Intégrales by Varèse.

Wrap your brain around this.

And here is a similar composition by Zappa.

The Adventures of Greggery Peccary!

Who was Edgard Varèse? Here's a snippet from the Wikipedia page, so you don't have to figure it out for yourselves.

Varèse's emphasis on timbre, rhythm, and new technologies inspired a generation of musicians who came of age during the 1960s and 1970s. One of Varèse's biggest fans was the American guitarist and composer Frank Zappa, who, upon hearing a copy of The Complete Works of Edgard Varèse, Vol. 1, which included IntégralesDensity 21.5Ionisation, and Octandre, became obsessed with the composer's music.[20] On his 15th birthday, December 21, 1955, Zappa's mother, Rosemarie, allowed him a call to Varèse as a present. At the time Varèse was in Brussels,Belgium, so Zappa spoke to Varèse's wife Louise instead. Eventually Zappa and Varèse spoke on the phone, and they discussed the possibility of meeting each other. Although this meeting never took place, Zappa did receive a letter from Varèse. Varèse's spirit of experimentation with which he redefined the bounds of what was possible in music lived on in Zappa's long and prolific career.[21] Zappa's final project was The Rage and the Fury, a recording of the works of Varèse. In the linernotes of his early albums, he quoted the ICG manifesto, "The present day composer refuses to die." In 1981, Zappa produced and hosted "A Tribute to Edgard Varèse" at the Palladium in New York City, an event at which Louise was an honored guest.