larger object, for which there is no 'technical name' ". (1)
Zappa found it necessary in his Project / Object to provide a conceptual continuity. This basically involved placing recurring themes throughout his oeuvre that provided some hidden 'clues' as to how his work could be perceived as a whole. The themes were usually entirely conceptual, involving some mention of vegetables or poodle dogs in his lyrical output, but there were also musical themes that would recur in his work and bind pieces together.
Often Zappa would place these clues on his album cover designs,or less frequently in his liner notes:
"The exact same rhythm patterns you have just heard are now the metric spacings of a melody that sounds like the missing link between "Uncle Meat" and "The Be-Bop Tango". (2)
Although the mystique enforced around his output was probably a marketing ploy to encourage people to buy more Zappa records, the author proposes to take the above statement literally.
Musical examples eleven twelve and thirteen are extracts from 'Uncle Meat', 'The Black Page No.2' and 'Be-Bop Tango', the three pieces mentioned in the album liner notes. The 'missing link' connection between these pieces in terms of 'metric spacings' was perhaps something that Zappa heard after he composed the Black Page. It is hard to believe that he wrote the piece with this preconceived function in mind, as he proposed that all his work was connected as one whole, and other examples of his 'suites' (more later) tended to be grouped together after they had been composed separately. In fact, Zappa rarely played his instrumental compositions as a suite, unless it was in an orchestral context; pieces that he proposed were movements in a whole were usually played by different rock ensembles on different albums.
In contrast, the extract from 'The Black Page No.2' is played by marimba and vibraphone, now with the drums and bass providing a 4/4, 120 bpm fixed disco vamp. In terms of 'metrical' comparison between the two themes, 'The Black Page' could be considered as a cluster of ornamentation next to 'Uncle Meat'. There are, however, similarities in the intricate thematic developments of the two pieces; It seems as if 'The Black Page' could be the most challenging movement in any conceptual 'suite'.
'The Be-Bop Tango' is the last proposed movement. This is an incredibly complex piece dealing with two completely different musical styles - the Tango, and Be-Bop. Where Zappa found the inspiration to write a piece that combines such apparently separate musics is difficult to understand, but it was probably for the same reason he reckoned he wrote most of his music; for his own personal amusement.
The extract in example thirteen manages to combine the pomp of a tango with the rhythmical and harmonic complexities of be-bop. A typically twisted theme, it was probably not designed to be instantly appealing, and because it is basically a wonderfully absurd idea, it is therefore probably more likely to have been conceived courtesy of Zappa's "Anything, Any Time, Anywhere-for No Reason at All" philosophy, becoming an enjoyably stupid exercise as well as a challenging musical statement.
Technically, the piece could be perceived as having some kind of musical connection with 'The Black Page'. There is still the tendency towards rhythmical density, and the theme contains the same jarring note groupings as the middle section of 'The Black Page' in musical example twelve.
It is important to note that the three pieces were not written in the order that Zappa proposes they should be heard. 'The Be-Bop Tango' was written three years before 'The Black Page', around1974. Zappa's suggestion that 'The Black Page' serves as a 'missing link' between 'Uncle Meat' and the 'Be-Bop Tango' is probably an entirely conceptual connection, based on the pieces having a strong rhythmical emphasis. Alternatively, it could be none of the above; Zappa may be referring to a more
abstract bond between the pieces.
(1) Quote taken from The Real Frank Zappa Book (see bib.), chapter eight, 'All About Music', p.139.
(2) Extract from the sleeve notes to 'The Black Page Drum solo / Black Page No.1', track four on the album Zappa in New York (see discography)
(3) 'Uncle Meat' seems partly influenced by the early pieces in Bartok's 'Mikrokosmos' series (153 piano pieces progressively arranged from very easy to very difficult). Written after
Bartok's studies into Hungarian, then Slovak, Rumanian and even Arabic folk song, the unusual rhythms and modes found in the piano studies seem to have found their way into
Zappa's piece. 'Transylvania Boogie' on the album Chunga's Revenge (see discography) also explores Bartok's modal discoveries.
Stravinsky's interest in Russian folk song also influenced Zappa, documented as 'Igor's Boogie' on the album Burnt Weeny Sandwich (see discography).
(4) Specifically the instrumentation of 'The Rite of Spring', Stravinsky's ground-breaking Ballet written in 1913.
(5) The Album Roxy And Elsewhere (see discography), track 10. The band on this album comprises what some fans believe to be the best touring lineup Zappa ever had.The attitude
is such that unsurpassed musicianship combines with a healthy sense of humour and performance, allowing for this kind of organised chaos.