By Kimberly A. Stoilis
At the age of twelve, Frank Zappa stumbled upon The Complete Works of Edgar Varése in a record store sale bin. Later he would recall how a review in Look Magazine, which resolutely panned the album, gave him his raison d’être. After reading their review of Varése, “nothing but drums...dissonant and terrible; the worst music in the world,” Zappa’s next three years were spent in search of his future muse. Once then-drummer Zappa discovered Varése, he never viewed music the same way.
As Zappa was affected by Varése’s misunderstood work so too has Zappa affected the way others regard music. Zappa's final album was recorded as a tribute to the man responsible for his early inspiration – The Rage and the Fury: The Music of Edgar Varése. This Saturday, with the first performance of their 1994-95 season, the Society for the Performing Arts (SPA) presents the United States debut of The Dangerous Kitchen. The ultimate Zappa tribute, The Dangerous Kitchen, is a retrospective of Zappa’s extensive catalog as performed by the Canadian electroacoustic ensemble ACREQ (the French acronym for the Quebec Association for the Creation and Research of Electroacoustics).
With The Dangerous Kitchen, Canadian composer and Artistic Director of ACREQ, Alain Thibault hopes to bring electroacoustic music out of the studio and introduce it to a new audience. Born in the recording studios of France’s national radio network in the early 1940s, the idea of electroacoustic music is simple. In electroacoustics, an abstract compositional form, everyday sounds – the ticking of a clock, thunder, the sounds of airplanes – are recorded and organized (through various taping techniques) into "music".
As explained by Claude Schryer a member of the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (a Montreal music think tank) in an interview with the Montreal Gazette, Electroacousticsis an innovative medium. It has the possibility to tell us how to better hear our world. It can tell you how acoustic environments work, how they affect you, how you can improve them, how important silence is.”
Thibault and his fellow ACREQ members hope to take some of the pretension away from the concert hall and present a more alive, accessible sound that people can take home with them. Spanning 25 years of Zappa’s career, The Dangerous Kitchen features earlier pieces such as “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It” from Absolutely Free and “The Voice Of The Cheese” from Uncle Meat. Later works featured in the performance include “Alien Orifice” from F Z. Meets The Mothers Of Prevention and “The Girl In The Magnesium Dress.”
“By blending acoustic sounds and electronic sounds and by mixing and adding other special sounds, we are giving the pieces a nineties sound with respect to the spirit of Zappa,” says Thibault.
Many of the pieces involve the pairing of the music group s vocalist with the computer She will sing the line and the computer will improvise her voice explained Thibault That is one way we keep the spirit of Zappa s improvisations.
Through Dangerous Kitchen, Thibault also hopes to convey the humorous part of Zappa’s personality. “Unlike most rock contemporaries, Zappa wasn’t narrow-minded. This is what we hope to show people,” says Thibault.
Zappa, a pioneer in the field of electronic music, was not only contacted for his approval prior to the development of Kitchen, but he also received a recording of the program shortly before he died last year at the age of 54, which Thibault says that Zappa was quite pleased with. Never at a loss for a word with which to praise his muse, Thibault is quick to answer when asked if he is considering this type of interpretation of anyone else’s work. “No. Zappa was the most interesting composer of this century. I like Pink Floyd and King Crimson, but no,” says Thibault. So who does Zappa enthusiast Thibault find interesting among today’s artists? Not surprisingly, it’s Nine Inch Nails. “I really like their blend of electronics and live words.”
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