Musical example fourteen is an extract of some 'metrical spacings' that Zappa has used in two entirely different contexts.The rhythmical and melodic structure is entirely reminiscent of 'The Black Page', as is the instrumentation of the first context in which the theme appeared; drumset, marimba and bass on the song 'Wild Love' (1) .
Also, the listener can almost hear the 'editing logic' of the composer, and the desire to reach extremities; this is the weirdest bridge you are ever likely to hear in a song about fucking.
Placed in an entirely different context, as part of the track 'Sinister Footwear II', example fifteen seems strangely less sinister. The instrumentation has changed a little, now to include Steve Vai's 'Stunt Guitar' (2) . The creepy arpeggios in the opening section of the piece allow for such a left-field occurrenceas this dense rhythmic event.
This passage could almost be an exercise in polyrhythmic dexterity.The strain of the players attempting to accurately realise the quintuplet, sextuplet and septuplet figures is quite audible, especially in the young Vai's nervous finger squeaks across the guitar fretboard during rests. However, in the context of the piece, the section is complicated, but also musically valid.
If the 'Sinister Footwear' suite is to be played as consecutive movements, then it is worth noticing that 'Theme From The 3rd Movement of Sinister Footwear' was constructed three years before 'Sinister Footwear II', in the same fashion as the 'Black Page' chronology (3) .The musical connections between the pieces are obvious, and the listener can hear why the later piece would be tied to the original movement, whatever order they were written in, and wherever the original motivation for writing them may lie. Both pieces evoke a 'cheesy horror movie' soundworld - the 3rd movement uses a lydian tonality, lush but dense instrumentation and a driving swing opposing Zappa's blurted lines to create suspense, where 'Sinister II' relies on suspended chords and weaving diminished arpeggios in it's opening section to set the same atmosphere.
Zappa employed Steve Vai in the late '70's to begin transcribing from recordings of his Zappa guitar solos. One of the examples to be written out was the piece which later became 'Theme From The 3rd Movement Of Sinister Footwear'. Zappa took the transcription of his melody line and had Vai learn it on guitar, David Ocker learn it on bass clarinet and Ed Mann learn it on Marimba. Zappa then recorded these instruments doubling his line, and when they were complete, he replaced the original backing track. The end result places the piece in a fairly unique soundworld. I cannot think of any other piece of (originally improvised) music that has undergone such a treatment. Zappa again seemed to go to the extreme, to see where he could take his music.
After all the overdubbage, 'Theme From The 3rd Movement Of Sinister Footwear' has a strange quality; it has the urgency and edge of an improvisation, coupled with the precision of skilled sight readers realising a melody line.This links the piece in part to 'The Black Page', because that piece has a written instrumentation and harmony, but somehow maintains an improvisational quality; the difference is of course, that 'Footwear III' was at one point an improvisation, and 'The Black Page' never was.
The World Premiere of the Ballet in which the three movements of 'Sinister Footwear' feature was given at the Zellerbach Auditorium on 16 June 1984 by Kent Nagano with the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra. There has been no repeat performance, and the first movement has never been released. It certainly would be interesting to see Ballet dancers pirouette to a Frank Zappa guitar solo.
(1) 'Wild Love' appears as track seventeen on the album Sheik Yerbouti (see discography), released in 1979.
(2) 'Sinister Footwear II' appears on the album Them Or Us (see discography), released in 1984, Zappa's liner notes credit Steve Vai with playing 'Stunt Guitar'.
(3)'Theme From The 3rd Movement of Sinister Footwear' appears on the album You Are What You Is (see discography), released 1981.