sun ra and frank zappa

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#1 Wed, 2010-12-29 04:26
SunRadio
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sun ra and frank zappa

http://vermontreview.tripod.com/essays/razappa.htm

stretching, for sure.  especially the last paragraph!
cb

Wed, 2010-12-29 06:40
Peter Van Laarhoven
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sun ra and frank zappa

I would like to have read something about their love for doo-wop music, or how they both left their home-town (resp. Chicago and L.A.) for New York City in the sixties.

Zappa played The Garrick for a year in 1967 while Sun Ra was performing a couple of blocks away.

I wonder if they ever saw each others concerts. If they were aware of each others music.

-- peter

[quote=SunRadio]

http://vermontreview.tripod.com/essays/razappa.htm

stretching,for sure. especially the last paragraph!

cb

[/quote]

Wed, 2010-12-29 09:00 (Reply to #2)
Sean Westergaard
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sun ra and frank zappa

sounds like the writer was much more familiar with Phish than either Ra or Zappa and based the similarities more on what he read than actual listening.  even so, thanks for passing it along, Charles.  always interesting to read views from another perspective.

I'm actually one of the sick people who has close to everything by both artists (no phish for me though)

most hardcore zappa folks I know couldn't even make it through Watson's book because he was so full of BS.

sean

[quote=Peter Van Laarhoven] I would like to have read something about their love for doo-wop music, or how they both left their home-town (resp. Chicago and L.A.) for New York City in the sixties.

 

Zappa played The Garrick for a year in 1967 while Sun Ra was performing a couple of blocks away.

I wonder if they ever saw each others concerts. If they were aware of each others music.

-- peter

[quote=SunRadio]

http://vermontreview.tripod.com/essays/razappa.htm

stretching,for sure. especially the last paragraph!

[/quote] [/quote]

Wed, 2010-12-29 10:50 (Reply to #3)
Rob Cohen
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sun ra and frank zappa

I’m another one of those sick people… I actually abandoned the idea of writing my Music Thesis at university about the two. I took the path of least resistance and opted to play some of their music along with my own. As Monk may have said, “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” I’ll do a little talking anyway.

I didn’t really buy the Stockhausen connection, and I don’t think Phish embodies the spirit of either artist. If you take out Zappa’s ever-present sneer and replace it with a giggle, I suppose you get Phish (whom I’ll admit to liking as well), but I don’t see any Ra in there.

I think George Clinton serves a great example for an artist heavily influenced by Ra and Zappa. He shares their aesthetic regarding the verbal aspect in their music – possibly as a result of the doo wop background of all 3 artists. Clinton took Ra’s complex afro-centric space mythology, and distilled it into a party. Clinton also admits to being a Zappa fan. In addition to routinely opening live shows with Zappa’s “I’m the Slime”, Clinton has also spoken of Zappa’s importance in interviews. As for the aesthetic regarding “the notes”, I suppose Clinton’s music lacks much in common with either artist.

-Rob

Wed, 2010-12-29 14:20 (Reply to #4)
Andy Wilson
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sun ra and frank zappa

[quote=Sean Westergaard]most hardcore zappa folks I know couldn't even make it through Watson's book because he was so full of BS.[/quote]

 

I'd count myself as a hard-core Zappa fan and thought Watson's book was the best music biography / analysis I ever read - it's absolutely bursting with original insights connecting the music with different aspects of politics, culture and psychology. The ambition of the book is itself a tribute to the ambition of Frank's work.

I'm not trying to disagree or argue with Sean; just letting people know that others regard Watson's book very highly indeed.

 

a

Wed, 2010-12-29 18:15 (Reply to #5)
Alan B Saul
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sun ra and frank zappa

Just watched the Frank Scheffer video on FZ, from 2007. Good music
and visuals, but pretty short on content as far as helping to
understand either the man or his music. Some of the best comments
were from George Duke, who says that Zappa taught him that all music
is worthwhile (specifically "simple" things).

People are complex. Simple comparisons don't do much justice to these
folks. They both had good ears and liked to manipulate people and
ideas. Slightly divergent when it came to sex, though, eh?

Wed, 2010-12-29 11:01
Neal Neal Bo Beal
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sun ra and frank zappa

Yeah, I couldn't enjoy Watson's book either, mostly because he was trying to draw way too many parallels between FZ's music and other literary works which Frank admitted to never reading. It did have some inciteful passages, especially his interview with him in his dying days, and listening CPIII with him.

 

That article has been around for about 10 years or so, and it is aching to find similarities. I think the biggest parallel between Zappa and Ra is their fanbase. I, and many other people I know listen to both, and own most of their catalogue. Same with the Residents and Beefheart, there seems to be that element not found within other music that draws people in. I'm sure there are others, but most often when I ask people, they bring up those two first.

 

As for if they ever heard saw each other in concert, who knows. Frank was listening to Stravinsky and sea shanties around the late '60s, and Sun Ra was listening to Fletcher Henderson, so they might not have had any interest in other contemporary music, other than to find new musicians for their bands.

 

I've never listened to Phish either, I'm sure they're great, but there is so much great music out there I'm not going to get a chance to really listen to all of it.

"Your brain is simply wired to a nostalgic sense of audio distortion. You hear warmth, you think you hear grandeur, space, subtlety, all these things . . . but actually you're just satisfying an old recording in your brain." -Daniel Richler on vinyl.

Wed, 2010-12-29 11:30 (Reply to #7)
Gary Lawrence Murphy
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sun ra and frank zappa

While I did enjoy an adolescent fascination with Frank's antics through the 60's and up to about that Beefheart album in the 70's, I have to confess I got bored with his attitude; he did not seem to me to be a very happy man, unlike Sun Ra who was, even moments before his death, emploring me to join him to go fly a kite.  Recently I was reading http://pom.sagepub.com/content/39/1/3.abstract, "The effect of positive music and dispositional hope on state hope and affect" and there again, leaning to the Solar Myth makes more adaptive sense to me.


Musically, I never really found Zappa innovative per se; I came upon Hot Rats after enduring the scorn of my peers for cheering the electric-Miles, and duets on the bicycle seem kitch derivative compared to John Cage's Water Walk of 1960.  And ok, I do sometimes still gleefully quote Inca Roads, but I found I could only listen to Zombie Woof so many times; as Braxton said, "Intellectually interesting was just not interesting enough."

but being as there are so many Zappa-Ra fans, I am curious how they see this dichotomy between the snarky army-brat cynic and the ever hopeful pacifist alien, between the fixation on sophomore rudeboyness vs the spacechord wake up calls to Tomorrow's World or the horrorshow madness of Frank's famously lethal Laurel Canyon 'parties' vs Sun Ra's 'Jail' where everything not permitted is forbidden.  While one is composing half a dozen provocative squats, the other is handing out boarding passes to the cosmos, yet are we saying the musical results were strikingly similar?



On Wed, Dec 29, 2010 at 2:01 PM, <fhqwhgads@shaw.ca> wrote:



That article has been around for about 10 years or so, and it is aching to

find similarities. I think the biggest parallel between Zappa and Ra is their

fanbase. I, and many other people I know listen to both, and own most of

their catalogue. Same with the Residents and Beefheart, there seems to be

that element not found within other music that draws people in. I'm sure

there are others, but most often when I ask people, they bring up those two

first.


  

--

Have Blog, Will Travel: blog.teledyn.com
A Serviceable Substitute: post.teledyn.com


Wed, 2010-12-29 11:45
Reid Whitton
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sun ra and frank zappa

I'm a fan of both artists. I don't know if they ever crossed paths. As far as Sun Ra is concerned, I prefer the earlier albums. A lot of the totally free music doesn't do much for me. I think Zappa was innovative as far as the way he put everything together musically, and the way he produced albums. Zappa's musicianship goes far beyond the intellectual or satirical outlook. Anyone who has spent time listening to the complete catalog will realize he was a brilliant melodist, arranger, and had a genius for sophisticated rhythms. When he was in practice, he was also an excellent imrovising guitarist.

-----Original Message-----
From: Gary Lawrence Murphy
Sent: Dec 29, 2010 2:27 PM
To: saturn@outerspaceways.info
Subject: Re: [ Saturn ] sun ra and frank zappa

While I did enjoy an adolescent fascination with Frank's antics through the 60's and up to about that Beefheart album in the 70's, I have to confess I got bored with his attitude; he did not seem to me to be a very happy man, unlike Sun Ra who was, even moments before his death, emploring me to join him to go fly a kite.  Recently I was reading http://pom.sagepub.com/content/39/1/3.abstract, "The effect of positive music and dispositional hope on state hope and affect" and there again, leaning to the Solar Myth makes more adaptive sense to me.

Musically, I never really found Zappa innovative per se; I came upon Hot Rats after enduring the scorn of my peers for cheering the electric-Miles, and duets on the bicycle seem kitch derivative compared to John Cage's Water Walk of 1960.  And ok, I do sometimes still gleefully quote Inca Roads, but I found I could only listen to Zombie Woof so many times; as Braxton said, "Intellectually interesting was just not interesting enough."
but being as there are so many Zappa-Ra fans, I am curious how they see this dichotomy between the snarky army-brat cynic and the ever hopeful pacifist alien, between the fixation on sophomore rudeboyness vs the spacechord wake up calls to Tomorrow's World or the horrorshow madness of Frank's famously lethal Laurel Canyon 'parties' vs Sun Ra's 'Jail' where everything not permitted is forbidden.  While one is composing half a dozen provocative squats, the other is handing out boarding passes to the cosmos, yet are we saying the musical results were strikingly similar?
On Wed, Dec 29, 2010 at 2:01 PM, <fhqwhgads@shaw.ca> wrote:
That article has been around for about 10 years or so, and it is aching to
find similarities. I think the biggest parallel between Zappa and Ra is their
fanbase. I, and many other people I know listen to both, and own most of
their catalogue. Same with the Residents and Beefheart, there seems to be
that element not found within other music that draws people in. I'm sure
there are others, but most often when I ask people, they bring up those two
first.

  

--

Have Blog, Will Travel: blog.teledyn.com
A Serviceable Substitute: post.teledyn.com
Wed, 2010-12-29 12:50 (Reply to #9)
Ben Opie 4
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sun ra and frank zappa

Sun Ra and Frank Zappa:

I think their work is tangential at best. It seems to me there is a
*major* difference, which can largely be boiled down to their attitudes
regarding determinism vs. improvisation.

Now it's true that Zappa was an improvisor on guitar, even an
interesting one at times (though very limited! Every solo he takes is
over a vamp figure), and would sometimes direct conducted
improvisations. Nonetheless, he would grouse about musicians who
couldn't play his impossibly difficult ensemble music, and his bands
were extraordinarily tight groups with limited expressive possibilities.

Sun Ra was quite the opposite. Every performance was a possibility to
explore new combinations, new possibilities. Isn't there that passage in
"Mystery, Mr. Ra" in which he rehearses a piece with Archie Shepp
several times, and then changes is up when they perform it? Sun Ra's
music has a greater fluidity in performance.

Understand that this is a broad generalization, and the greater truth is
far more subtle. I still think it's the crux of the matter. I don't
offer this as a blessing or indictment to either man; Zappa was probably
my first major musical influence on me, and I still enjoy many of his
recordings. At this time however I feel more sympathetic to Sun Ra's
approach.

Ben
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Wed, 2010-12-29 13:20 (Reply to #10)
James L Wolf 2
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sun ra and frank zappa

I agree with Ben. There was something essentially limited and rigid in Zappa's music, especially as the years progressed. The older I get, the less of the post 68 stuff I enjoy.

The opposite is true with Ra. Yes, he wanted his musicians disciplined and precise, but only so that they could hear and play what needed to be played at the moment, which was seldom exactly what he had them rehearse. For me, that living spirit still comes across in the music from all of Sun Ra's career, beginning to end.

Last night, I happened to listen to Love in Outer Space from a recording of the first Ra show I attended, Freedom Plaza, DC, Oct. 6, 1990. Besides bringing me back to a magical evening in my life, it reminded me of how Sun Ra made his listeners and audiences feel. You can hear in the crowd's spontaneous reactions that they were transported, more alive than usual, ready to fly a kite or a spaceship. That was Sun Ra and the Arkestra's gift to the world. That's why they really matter.

James

-----Original Message-----
From: saturn-bounces@lists.outerspaceways.info [mailto:saturn-bounces@lists.outerspaceways.info] On Behalf Of Ben Opie
Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 2010 3:47 PM
To: saturn@outerspaceways.info
Subject: Re: [ Saturn ] sun ra and frank zappa

Sun Ra and Frank Zappa:

I think their work is tangential at best. It seems to me there is a
*major* difference, which can largely be boiled down to their attitudes regarding determinism vs. improvisation.

Now it's true that Zappa was an improvisor on guitar, even an interesting one at times (though very limited! Every solo he takes is over a vamp figure), and would sometimes direct conducted improvisations. Nonetheless, he would grouse about musicians who couldn't play his impossibly difficult ensemble music, and his bands were extraordinarily tight groups with limited expressive possibilities.

Sun Ra was quite the opposite. Every performance was a possibility to explore new combinations, new possibilities. Isn't there that passage in "Mystery, Mr. Ra" in which he rehearses a piece with Archie Shepp several times, and then changes is up when they perform it? Sun Ra's music has a greater fluidity in performance.

Understand that this is a broad generalization, and the greater truth is far more subtle. I still think it's the crux of the matter. I don't offer this as a blessing or indictment to either man; Zappa was probably my first major musical influence on me, and I still enjoy many of his recordings. At this time however I feel more sympathetic to Sun Ra's approach.

Ben
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Sun, 2011-01-02 13:35 (Reply to #11)
Eric Schultz
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sun ra and frank zappa

Another endorsement of Ben's point of view -

----------
I am a Ra fanatic but cannot stand tongue in cheek nihilism of Zappa's music.  It often sounds as if it's difficult for the only purpose of sounding difficult. Not only could Zappa not improvise over chord changes, but his tempo was shaky at best(not even talkiong about groove…)  and he couldn't have handled the gig as guitarist in any of George Clinton's bands.


Has anyone ever noted that "Peaches in Regalia" and the entire Hot Rats album is really very VERY square?

Well, if not, I just did…

On his last tour(1988), he became such a pain in the ass to his band, in private they started referring to him as the "F-Word"…


---------

>Space Is the Place

but

>"Yellow Snow" is faux…


E



On Wed, Dec 29, 2010 at 10:19 PM, Wolf, James L <jwol@loc.gov> wrote:

I agree with Ben. There was something essentially limited and rigid in Zappa's music, especially as the years progressed. The older I get, the less of the post 68 stuff I enjoy.



The opposite is true with Ra. Yes, he wanted his musicians disciplined and precise, but only so that they could hear and play what needed to be played at the moment, which was seldom exactly what he had them rehearse. For me, that living spirit still comes across in the music from all of Sun Ra's career, beginning to end.



Last night, I happened to listen to Love in Outer Space from a recording of the first Ra show I attended, Freedom Plaza, DC, Oct. 6, 1990. Besides bringing me back to a magical evening in my life, it reminded me of how Sun Ra made his listeners and audiences feel. You can hear in the crowd's spontaneous reactions that they were transported, more alive than usual, ready to fly a kite or a spaceship. That was Sun Ra and the Arkestra's gift to the world. That's why they really matter.



James




-----Original Message-----

From: saturn-bounces@lists.outerspaceways.info [mailto:saturn-bounces@lists.outerspaceways.info] On Behalf Of Ben Opie

Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 2010 3:47 PM

To: saturn@outerspaceways.info

Subject: Re: [ Saturn ] sun ra and frank zappa


Sun Ra and Frank Zappa:



I think their work is tangential at best. It seems to me there is a

*major* difference, which can largely be boiled down to their attitudes regarding determinism vs. improvisation.



Now it's true that Zappa was an improvisor on guitar, even an interesting one at times (though very limited! Every solo he takes is over a vamp figure), and would sometimes direct conducted improvisations. Nonetheless, he would grouse about musicians who couldn't play his impossibly difficult ensemble music, and his bands were extraordinarily tight groups with limited expressive possibilities.



Sun Ra was quite the opposite. Every performance was a possibility to explore new combinations, new possibilities. Isn't there that passage in "Mystery, Mr. Ra" in which he rehearses a piece with Archie Shepp several times, and then changes is up when they perform it? Sun Ra's music has a greater fluidity in performance.



Understand that this is a broad generalization, and the greater truth is far more subtle. I still think it's the crux of the matter. I don't offer this as a blessing or indictment to either man; Zappa was probably my first major musical influence on me, and I still enjoy many of his recordings. At this time however I feel more sympathetic to Sun Ra's approach.





Ben

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Thu, 2010-12-30 08:00 (Reply to #12)
Reid Whitton
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sun ra and frank zappa

If you want to understand the music, just listen. I enjoyed the Scheffer film. I thought it was a fine production.

 

[quote=Alan Saul]Just watched the Frank Scheffer video on FZ, from 2007. Good music and visuals, but pretty short on content as far as helping to understand either the man or his music. Some of the best comments  were from George Duke, who says that Zappa taught him that all music  is worthwhile (specifically "simple" things).

People are complex. Simple comparisons don't do much justice to these folks. They both had good ears and liked to manipulate people and  ideas. Slightly divergent when it came to sex, though, eh? [/quote]

Wed, 2010-12-29 17:23
Neal Neal Bo Beal
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sun ra and frank zappa

Lyrically Zappa was quite cynical, but when I listen to the music, I hear endless possibilities, and a lot of optimism. When you only listen to a handful of studio albums, they aren't exactly representative of what Zappa could achieve, and I think the same can be said for Sun Ra.

I didn't really begin to appreciate post-1969 Zappa until I heard the You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore series. Before that I subscribed to the standard ideology that the original Mothers were the only thing worth listening to. It seems to me now that I was influenced by the nostalgic tastes of critics, and not my own ears.

We could argue tastes forever, and if I brought up the subject of Sun Ra on a Zappa forum, I would find a reversal of the same arguments. Nevertheless, I still know a lot of Zappa-Ra-Residents fans simply because there are really no other bands like them, and probably never will be.

"Your brain is simply wired to a nostalgic sense of audio distortion. You hear warmth, you think you hear grandeur, space, subtlety, all these things . . . but actually you're just satisfying an old recording in your brain." -Daniel Richler on vinyl.