Frank and Doo-Wop music. He was listed as

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Frank Zappa:

Frank Vincent Zappa, an American musician, composer, activist, and filmmaker. He was known for his freeform experimentation, sound experimentation, and his satire towards American culture.  Originally in a band called The Mother of Inventions, but after he published most of his work as a solo artist. He not only focused on one single genre during his lifetime, he composed music extending from rock to pop, jazz, orchestral, experimental music, etc. He generally did not have discrete periods where he performed one style or another but blended them together and reverted back as it interested him.

Unlike many other rock musicians of his generation, he personally disapproved of and seldom used drugs, but supported their decriminalization and regulation.

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As a teenager he has been influenced greatly by avant-garde composers like Edgard Varese, Igor Stravinsky, and Anton Webern, therefore having a lot of experimental elements like electric sounds in his music. He was also heavily influenced by the 1950s rhythm and blues and Doo-Wop music.  

He was listed as one of the four most influential composers, the other 3 were, John Cage, Alexander Knaifel, and Stockhausen. His works continue to be a huge influence on music, for example, Alice Cooper, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton were all inspired heavily by his works. 

His honors include an induction into the 1995 Rock and Roll of Fame and the 1997 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. 

A difference in rhythm is that Frank Zappa uses constant change in meters throughout his music.

Baroque Period:

The art and architecture of the Baroque period reflect an often bizarre style characterized by ornamental decorations. Especially noted in churches, palaces and other buildings of the period is the profusion of worldly splendor apparent in grandiose designs and elaborate decorations.

Thick and complex polyphonic texture prevails in many composers works. A sense of drama and urgency is incorporated into in vocal forms such as the cantata, mass, opera, oratorio and passion, and in instrumental forms such as the concerto, Concerto Grosso, prelude, fugue, toccata sonata, and suite.

Vibrant rhythms and expressive dissonances heighten tension in many Baroque works.

Famous composers during this period consist of Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel, Henry Purcell, Antonio Vivaldi, etc.

Use of dissonance to provide the tone of the music.

Baroque Period

Baroque composers decided to use dissonance much more because they wanted to depict extreme emotions within their works, providing tone. 

Characteristic of harmony during the Baroque Period: 
Functional harmony base on central tonic with much tonal sequence and strong harmonic flow (circle of fifths frequent); larger harmonic vocabulary and more dissonance for expression (but fully regulated). Fast to moderate harmonic rhythm, with relatively few but very strong V-I cadences (often with a trill on the upper neighbor).

Work: The Goldberg Variation BWV 988
This is a piece that has been written for the harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach consisting of an Aria and 30 sets of variations. This work has been considered as one of the most important examples of the variation forms. The name “Goldberg Variation” may have been set since the first performer is Johann Gottlieb Goldberg.

Most dissonances can be identified in the appoggiaturas and chords, for example, the sevenths, seconds, and thirds were all commonly used within these sections which are common representations of dissonance chords. Fig.1 shows an example of dissonance in the chords at the 13th variation, we could see in the left-hand part, the AG or the DE chords played are both examples of dissonance used in this piece of music.

Fig.2 is another example where dissonance has been identified, the first appoggiatura found in the 25th variation from E to D is a second which is a typical example of a dissonance. 


Frank Zappa uses all kinds of dissonance, no matter if its lyrical, rhythmic, or harmonic dissonance, it helps Zappa achieve the same effect of contradiction and provide a deeper message to the audience.

Lyrical Dissonance: when the music and the lyrics are going in opposite directions. Happy upbeat lyrics set to sad music also qualifies. This can also be used for comic effect, either by putting serious, dramatic music to silly lyrics, or by simply treating the subject matter as if it did fit the tune.

Harmonic Dissonance: According to an interview between a fellow musician and Zappa, he states that he likes music with a lot of dissonances, “And I can’t stand that fucking V-I!.” 

“Dissonance when it is unresolved is like having a headache for life…. The most interesting music … is music in which dissonance is created, sustained for the proper amount of time, and resolved…. Same thing with words.” He also later explained the use of dissonance and noises in his music is a signifier of social disharmony and critique of modern society.

Rhythmic Dissonance: In Zappa’s music, the use of rhythmic dissonance is very common, especially grouping dissonances rather than displacement dissonances, suggesting that he viewed metrical dissonance as an extension of his early polymetrical practices. 

For example, “The Black Page #2” is a typical piece consist of the use of grouping dissonance.  the primary metrical consonance resides in the accompaniment; here the accompanying instruments enforce the notated 4/4 meter, the drums providing a quarter-note rhythmic unit and the bass replicating a “disco-type” accompaniment every four units. The dissonant layer—as in all of Zappa’s pieces—is presented by the melody, which creates a 5-layer by sustaining each successive pitch for five units, resulting in a G5/4 dissonance with the accompaniment.

Use of Syncopation:

Baroque Period:
There is a use of harmonically driven counterpoint. The nature of counterpoint changed during the Baroque era compared to previous times. Treble – bass polarity and the use of continuo altered the balance among the parts, replacing the polyphony of equal voices typical of the sixteenth century with an emphasis on the bass. Even in imitative counterpoint, the individual melodic lines were subordinated to a succession of chords implied by the bass, producing a counterpoint driven by harmony. 

For Bach, there is often conflicting demands of harmony and counterpoint, of melody and polyphony, reach a tense but satisfying equilibrium. 

For example, the last variation of The Goldberg Variation BWV 988 which is a quodlibet, combining two popular-song melodies in counterpoint above the bass of the theme.

One of the most prominent characteristic found within this piece would be Canon, which is a type of counterpoint. With 30 variations, if we combine 3 variations into one group, the last variation of that particular group will always be a Canon, with the 30th one as an exception.
A typical example of a Canon identified within the variations would be #18. We can see clearly within bar 1-4 there is a use of Canon at the right-hand side. This use of Canon can be easily identified everywhere throughout this variation showing how key this characteristic is to the Baroque era.

Work: What will this evening bring me this morning
Hardly any rules apply to Zappa’s music however and when you take the little use of counterpoint as characteristic, you will also find sections showing the opposite, together enough to fill a CD with counterpoint exercises. 

Begins with a folk-like syncopated melody, eventually, other melodies join in and played simultaneously in different combinations. Therefore including syncopated rhythm in multiple layers. Fugal. The main melody is presented at the beginning, which is a characteristic of a fugue. Created unity within the A section by elaborating on a single melodic idea, creating a unity of mood by an insistent rhythmic drive. 

List of music by Frank Zappa that includes syncopation:
What will this evening bring me this morning
Didja get any Onya
Eric Dolphy Memorial Party
My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama
Dog Breathe Variation
Ruth is Sleeping


Here in Fig.4 is an example a type of counterpoint used by Frank Zappa, which is imitation. We can see that the first part of the right hand section and the second bar of the left hand section is exactly the same.


Within Fig.5 we see this use of counterpoint throughout multiple layers by Frank Zappa. It opens with an interesting counterpoint showpiece, where several (sped up) melodies are played simultaneously in different combinations. Rhythmically melody B opens with several syncopes.

Categories: Music


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