Vincent Zappa was born on December 21, 1940, in Baltimore , Maryland. His
ancestry was Sicilian, Greek, Arab, and French. His father worked as a
meterologist at the Edgewood Arsenal which made poison gas during World
War II. His father would bring home flasks, beakers and little blobs of
mercury for Frank to play with. His family had a rack of gas masks in his
home; one for each member of the family. His father used to make extra
money to pay rent by being a human test subject for dangerous chemical
agents. He itched a lot. When he was sick, his parents would only take
him to Italian doctors who would sometimes shove radium up his noise to
stop earaches and sinus infections. Sounds like fun childhood.
Frank Zappa's first instrument was the drums. At the age of twelve he started off learning orchestral percussion and quickly moved to the family furniture when his family could no longer afford to rent him a snare drum. In 1956, his first rock and roll experience was when he played "pots and pans" in an rhythm and blues band called "The Ramblers". He was fired from the band for playing the cymbals too much.
At fifteen, Frank Zappa purchased his first record "The Complete Works of Edgard Varese" after reading an article that described the recording as "nothing but drums- its dissonant and terrible, the worst music in the world" (Zappa 31). Soon after, Zappa decided it would be fun to talk to the composer himself seeing as how he was still alive and most composers were long dead. After talking to Varese and hearing of a new compostition being written about deserts, and he himslef living in one at the time, he decided this new, strange music was something he deeply desired.
In high school, Zappa was extremely interested in music theory and was first introduced to the twelve tone system of writing music someti,es used by composers such as Webern and Stravinsky.
Zappa attended college for a short time and then dropped out at the age of twenty to get married to his first wife.
Zappa is possibly best known for his work in the band "The Mothers
" or as they were later called , "The Mothers of Invention". It was
with this band that Zappa recorded the album "Hot Rats" which features
many all-instrumental pieces including, dun du du dunn, "Peaches
Peaches En Regalia
This is the
first piece on Frank Zappa's 1969 recording, "Hot Rats." Hot Rats was a
solo recording produced by Zappa without the Mothers. As is
common with most of Zappa's music, there is a slew of instrumentation in
this piece from the regular guitar, bass and drums to saxophones,
clarinets, an octave bass guitar, flute and auxillary percussion played
by Zappa himself.
Peaches En Regalia was frequently played by the Mothers from 1970 to 1988. On the Hot Rats recording, it was just Zappa and his colleague Ian Underwood who produced most of the album with the help of several other musicians. Zappa is known for his guitar work but would frequently, as is the case with Hot Rats, play other instruments such as piano and drums.
rhythms in Peaches En Regalia are one of the most interesting aspects of
the piece. As was common with a lot of Frank Zappa's music, the rhythms
range from simple to very complicated. One rhythm which is used quite a
bit in the second theme of the piece is the triplet. A triplet consists
of three notes that are played in the space of two notes. Try saying "trip-el-et,
trip-el-et" over and over. When you do this you will actually be speaking
triplets rhythmically. Triplets are notated on paper by way of a
tie or bracket with a three above the notes.
Zappa also uses upbeats to give the melody a more interesting syncopated feel. In a measure of 4/4 time we have four beats: 1, 2, 3, 4, these are called the downbeats because they fall on each beat of the measure. Whenever we say "one, two, three, four," we are saying downbeats. Now let's put plus signs between all the beats: 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +. This is said, "one AND two AND three AND four AND. These "ands" are called the upbeats because they occur between the beats. They are the opposite of downbeats.
discuss the contour of the major melody of Peaches En Regalia. The major
theme of the piece starts on the B in the middle of the staff, rises to
the fourth space E and then down to the second space A. The melody then
takes a leap up to the fourth line D and then briefly reaches the highest
note in the melody, fourth space E, after which it descends to middle C.
Think of the melody as looking like a mountain.
|If you look at the contour of this mountain you will see that it resembles that of the main melodic theme of the piece. Just as the main theme starts on a low pitch, the mountain also starts low, rises to a higher peak, falls a bit, rises even higher to a climax at the summit and then descends to rest at a lower peak than when it began. This is just what the main theme does.|
structure of Peaches En Regalia is anything if not odd. If we look at the
key signature of piece, we see that we have three sharps to work with.
Usually, this would mean that the piece is either in A major or F# minor
yet the introduction and first theme of the piece are in B minor. How does
this work? Well, if we look at the key signature for B minor, we notice
that it is very closely related to that of F# minor. F# minor has three
sharps and B minor has two, therefore, Frank Zappa is making use of what
are called "closely related keys". Also, in the second measure, Zappa uses
an F# minor chord which further lends this
It could also be argued that Zappa is using what is called the "phrygian mode" in this section. Modes are scales that were used in church music during the eleventh century and can be heard in most chant music, such as the Gregorian Chants, from this era. Modes, in their original form, do not use sharps or flats because they were devised before the use of key signatures. This means that Dorian, starting on D, uses all the pitches from D to D with no sharps and flats. If we look at the key of C major, we notice that it uses no sharps or flats either. Because of this, C major was actually first called the Ionian mode. The chart below describes the four original church modes used during the eleventh century.
|Name of Mode||Scale|
|Dorian||D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D|
|Phrygian||E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E|
|Lydian||F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F|
|Mixolydian||G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G|
Each of these modes has their own system of whole and half steps that makes them different from each other. For example, the phrygian mode uses this system of whole and half steps: half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, and whole step. Again, it can be argued that Frank Zappa took this system of whole and half steps and instead of starting it on E, started it on F sharp. However, because the key signature of Peaches En Regalia is F# minor and the phrygian scale has a half step as its first interval (which F# minor does not with a G sharp) the G sharp must be lowered to create the scale. This is what Zappa does in the A theme.
hearing this piece for the first time, the form can be quite deceiving.
From the first hearing, one can easily hear that the first section of the
piece is repeated again at the end of the piece but the sections that occur
in between are not as obvious. Throughout history, music has progressed
from very simple melodies and forms to music which has no form at all.
Some common forms of music include sonata, binary, rondo, and through-composed
forms. The sonata form was the most important musical structure of the
classical period of music. A piece of music written in sonata form has
three main sections: exposition (statement), development, and recapitulation.
In the exposition, the main theme of the piece is usually stated and then
repeated. During the development, thematic material from the exposition
is used and expanded upon with new, smaller themes and ideas being produced
from it. The recapitulation, which can be thought of as the "recap", is
just that, a return of the exposition of the piece. However, this time
the exposition is changed slightly, possibly with a fuller texture added
or in a different key which then returns to the key of the exposition.
If we look at the call chart below, we can see that it almost takes the shape of sonata form. I say almost because each new theme clearly has its own thematic material which in some ways does not incorporate material from the exposition. Because of this, it can be argued that there is no development of theme A. However, the form does still resemble that of sonata form. If we were to use letters to represent the sections of a sonata form, it would look like this: A,A,B,A'. The exposition is repeated just as is the main theme of Peaches En Regalia is repeated. The development section is the B which could be said to be themes B, C, and D together acting as a development of theme A. The recapitulation is represented by the A however we now call this A prime as it is not exactly the same as the first A. As we can see by the chart, a rough version of this form is used in Peaches En Regalia.
|2||00:21-00:40||Theme A(theme A is repeated)|
|5||1:24-1:44||Transition to Theme D|
|7||2:05- 2:16||Transition back to Introduction and Theme A|
|9||2:35-3:36||Theme A '|
Listen to the main theme of Peaches En Regalia
In order to add different shades, colors, and textures to Peaches En Regalia, Frank Zappa employs the use of many different instruments. Zappa would characteristically use a large instrumentation on most of his pieces. Sometimes he would have two separate drummers, drummer A and the other drummer B. Saxophones also played a very large part in a lot of Zappa's music as they do in Peaches En Regalia. In theme C, the melody is played by guitar and flute. They play in octaves and the unorthodox pairing of instruments gives the melody an interesting texture. Zappa also makes use of synthesizers during the transitional periods between sections. When the first recording of Peaches En Regalia made, synth technology was in its infancy and Frank Zappa made full use of it in this piece. The change in timbre (the tone and sound of an instrument) from the plucked string sound of a guitar to the electronic synthesizer sound give these transitional sections of the piece an interesting tonal effect.
Related Arts Connection
Regalia was written during one of the most tumultuous times in American
cultural history, the 1960's. The sixties were also called "The Age of
Youth" because all the children born during the baby boom after World War
II were now teenagers and young adults. The movement away from the conservative
fifties continued and eventually resulted in revolutionary ways of thinking
and real change in the cultural fabric of American life. The cultural
values of the United States were changing rapidly and the artists of the
time reflected this change in their art.
One such artist was Alexander Calder. Calder is probably best known for his imaginative sculptures and his work with mobiles, some of which were surprisingly large. Calder received a mechanical engineering degree from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Here are some works by Alexander Calder:
|La Grande Vistesse
Steel Plate, bolts, and paint
Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Height 97.5 cm
artist from the sixties who revolutionized the "pop-art" genre was Andy
Warhol. Born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1928, Warhol
majored in pictoral design at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. After
graduating, Warhol moved to New York City and began working for several
popular magazines while developing his own style of pop art.
The 1960's were an immense period of creativity for Warhol. He began to get very interested in images from popular culture and this inspired works such as his Campbell's Soup Cans, and his pictures of Marylin Monroe. As stated above, Warhol was what is called a "pop-artist". Pop art takes normal everyday images and elevates them to artistic status.
Here are some works by Andy Warhol:
|Campbell's Soup 1
Frank Zappa makes extensive use of the pentatonic scale in Peaches En Regalia. The pentatonic scale consists of three whole steps and two intervals of a step and a half. If we tried building one starting on C, the pitches would be C, D, F, G, A, C . As you can see, the scale is made up of only five pitches. C, D, F, G, and A. This is why it is referred to as a pentatonic scale. The name roughly translates to "five tones".
PENTA = five TONIC = tone -- So a pentatonic scale is a five tone scale.
scale has five forms or modes:
C D F G A C
D F G A C D
F G A C D F
G A C D F G
A C D F G A
En Regalia, Frank Zappa uses the third mode and creates a pentatonic melody
starting on E.
This melody he creates is theme B.
scale is most commonly associated with the music of China, India, Africa,
Polynesia, Scotland, and the music of the Native Americans. In fact, most
tribal music is written in pentatonic scales as well as folk music from
around the world. However, the pentatonic scale is most closely associated
with Asian music which uses it almost exclusively. If you are writing a
piece and want it to sound Asian or Chinese, using a pentatonic scale would
definitely do the trick.
You might also want to use some traditional Chinese instruments in your piece. Here are a few common Chinese instruments brief descriptions:
The Er-hu is a member of the Hu-Qin family of two stringed, bowed instruments. It has a sound which resembles the Western violin, yet it is more soulful and expressive. It can be played for a variety of moods as its middle register is mellow and soothing and its higher register is sharp and bright. Playing the Er-hu takes great skill as the performer must use trills, stops, vibrato, pizzicato, and harmonics. The Er-hu is a principal instrument and occupies a very important place in Chinese traditional music.
The Yuequin is basically a Chinese mandolin named for its moon-shaped body. The body is often times octagonal or hexagonal with two strings tuned a fourth or a fifth apart. Two additional strings are sometimes added and tuned in unison with the other two strings. The Yuequin is typically used to accompany operas and other traditional Chinese performances.
The Di-zi is a traditional Chinese flute which originated in Asia Minor over 2,000 years ago. The flute is traditionally made of bamboo which is native to China. There are six finger holes, three for each hand and the instrument has a reed membrane covering the hole between the blow hole and the highest finger hole. This gives the flute its high, bright sound common to Chinese flutes. The Di-zi player utilizes many types of tonguing in playing the instrument from fluttered tonguing to double and triple tonguing. Some extremely skilled players are able to circular breath while playing to create a constant flow of sound.
|In order to get the full Zappa experience from this web site, give the people who have the rights to Frank Zappa's music some money and buy this CD of Frank Zappa's '69 classic album, Hot Rats. Don't worry, Zappa won't see any of the money, he's dead.|
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