Sunday, July 28, 2013


More incongruously entertaining than them I die


You must not believe what Frank Zappa tells you what the music signifies, expresses or even means. It might be what he had in mind at the time of his starting the composition, but notes do not work like words and music like language. So it cannot mean all the gibberish English he uses to manipulate us into believing music is an articulated language like English Arabic or Chinese. It is of course not.

So what meaning can we find in this music?

A tremendous amount.

First there is the project of Pierre Boulez, a composer of symphonic music considered as classical, though he is contemporary; Pierre Boulez a conductor that has conducted operas by Wagner, Alban Berg, and many others, concerts of the best classical music, some of the most famous orchestras and musicians, soloists or not; Pierre Boulez whose music is performed in the best and most elegant if not most fashionable concert halls all over the world; Pierre Boulez who conducts here Frank Zappa, that Californian pop music composer and performer who is generally best served in amplified music concert halls in front of audiences that would probably most of them never go to an opera by Mozart or Richard Strauss, or a symphony by Schoenberg or Haydn. This then is incongruous, surprising, astonishing. These two people are so far apart and here they meet.

What is then interesting in this adventure is the music which is typically American in many ways. First of all it is expressive in such a way that you can recognize this or that sound from real life, this or that situation in real life. It is impressionistic too and it tries to impress you with emotions, sentiments. In many ways it is music for a film but you only have the music and not the film, so that you have to invent the pictures, imagine them. But Zappa is taking us for fools if he believes we are going to accept his own stories. Each one of us is going to imagine their own stories and there won’t be two that would be the same. And the vacuum-cleaner peddler is definitely out, for a very simple reason: we do not have peddlers of that type any more and people under 40 may never have seen one.

In fact this expressivity is going to make us project into the music all kinds of situations and scenes directly borrowed from all the series and films we are watching all the time on TV. This music is turning us into exhibitionistic voyeurs. We project our phantasms and we peep at them as if we were invisible, well hidden, as if we were peeping toms looking at our own private crimes or sexual capers. This music is turning us inside out because of this double dimension.

But this music is also extremely modern in the fact that it gives every single sound, every single note, every single interval a clarity and a distinctiveness so that we are like bombarded by thousands of musical objects, many too fast to be identifiable and we are assembling them live in our ears and eyes, because we see them as much as we hear them. And there we reconstruct meaningful elements like a plodding heavy and fat person going down a metal bridge with some kind of a band in the distance and maybe a funfair on the left ands some merry-go-rounds. Joyland in one word and an amusement park. We suddenly see a strange character coming down the street and going directly at us, pulling a gun out and a brandishing a saber and we feel the bullets going through our skulls and the saber cutting our legs in one vast swerving movement.

But all that is in our head and not in the music.

At another moment I feel the cold air coming out of a dark tunnel whose door has just been opened behind me. I turn around and I see a whole set of monsters with all kinds of scissors, shears, cutters, chisels in their hands and they are coming toward me slowly at first, each one with their menacing airs, each one with their lightness and particular sounds, and I can really not see beyond their faces, if these are faces, because beyond it is pitch black dark night and I can’t run because I am frozen and behind me there is nothing except an enormous and uncrossable wall of night and fear.

That’s what I feel, but I am aware that anyone else will feel something completely different, except that everyone should feel disturbed because the music has no continuous melody, no continuous musical sentences, but many sentences that are intermittent and crisscross one another into some kind of patchwork, coverlet or whatever you may use at night in the winter to cover yourself. At every single corner of the most winding road I have ever seen, a road that has many bumps and potholes, you know these holes that look like the pots of some witches assembled for a great Sabbath or Walpurgis night, you come across something unexpected, sound, instrument, or rhythm or twist or twirl, and you have thus to let yourself be transported down the chute into the municipal music collecting truck that is taking you and the music to the municipal music dump or landfill. And you get acquainted, and even addicted, to that feeling and you let yourself be taken anywhere the two men want to take you. Submit, wait and see. You might even learn how to swim in such a perilous sea. We should have more of these strange meetings of artists from different planets. The result is generally fascinating. Tonight the Pope meets Prophet Muhammad under a bodhi tree in front of a Buddhist temple contiguous to a synagogue.

Imagine Philippe Jaroussky and Bob Dylan being respectively Bess and Porgy in “Porgy and Bess” under the direction of Steven Spielberg on a script written by Stephen King and Joe Hill. And imagine this performance in the ruins of Crystal Palace in London. Queen Victoria might even decide to take part in the event.


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