After my second post about John Cage’s influence on Zappa yesterday, Arthur left a comment directing me to a lecture that Zappa gave (along with George Duke and Captain Beefheart) at Gifford Auditorium in Syracuse on April 23, 1975. Arthur sent me a .torrent file (many thanks, Arthur!), but I see now that the lecture is available streaming at “The Captain Beefheart Radar Station” website. (Listen here.)
Following up on my previous post (discussing Cage’s influence on Zappa with regards to performances they gave on popular television shows), I’d like to discuss some of Zappa’s comments on Cage and get into the issue of influence a little deeper. What follows is a (roughly chronological) account of instances where Zappa talks about Cage explicitly.
Most of you are probably already familiar with the following videos:
(The remainder of Zappa’s performance can be found here.) These videos have made the rounds numerous times over the years, but I don’t know if anyone’s ever looked into any possible connections between Cage and Zappa. To me, these two performances and their respective contexts are too similar to be coincidental. I think it’s very likely that Zappa saw Cage’s appearance on television and modeled his own performance on it. Even if there isn’t such a direct connection between the two videos, I think it’s more than likely that Zappa at least had some of Cage’s theory in mind.
I think there’s a lot to say here, so I’ll limit my discussion here to a little background info on the two videos. I’ll follow up in a second post with a brief analysis of Zappa’s discourse regarding Cage.
My dissertation–if you hadn’t already gathered–focuses on the convergence of popular and classical music streams that informs much of Frank Zappa’s music. This confluence means different things in different places (for both Zappa and his audience), but it seems to me to be a defining characteristic that runs through all of his work. My questions here are: Why would this be such an important aspect of his work? and, What influenced him in thinking this way?
On the one hand, Zappa was trying to establish for himself a reputation as a composer of serious art music. His reasons for this are, of course, open to debate, but Zappa was always quick to point out that his ambitions were aesthetically motivated. Continue reading “I Come From Nowhere(?)”