Sunday, March 6, 2016


Frank Zappa - C Instruments - 2016 - Unpublished Song

On August 25 1999, Craig Jones posted a piece of Zappa music called "C Instruments" to alt.binaries.fz in the form of scans of sheet music (in David Ocker's hand) and a MIDI adaption. You don't get to hear new Zappa music every day, so this was quite sensational for many people, myself included. It's a transcription of a guitar solo that later went into the first movement of the "Sinister Footwear" ballet, but with a lot of changes. (The first movement is unreleased, but there's an orchestral recording of it on the bootlegs Serious Music and Apocrypha.)

"C Instruments" page 1 "C Instruments" page 2 "C Instruments" page 3 "C Instruments" page 4.

From Bill Lantz's interview with David Ocker, supplied by Charles Ulrich:

There was a discussion of a piece called "C Instruments". That was a guitar solo that Steve Vai had transcribed and Frank gave it to me to make a copy for people (including myself) to play - so I had to make two versions: one in the key of C (for everyone else) and one in Bb for me.

Usually there are three bits of information on the top of a piece of music:

a) the intended instruments—in this case "C Instruments" or "Bb" since lots of different instruments would be attempting it,
b) the title—there was none so this was blank, and
c) the composer—Frank Zappa. When the music got passed around no one knew what to call it—and they mistook "C Instruments" for the title. In effect for a short period of time I had named this piece. Later, reason prevailed, and Frank made it part of Sinister Footwear.

And Art Jarvinen's comments, from the same interview:

I still have my copy. I got it from David, I'm sure. The Antenna Repairmen did a concert at The House in Santa Monica on November 30, 1981, on which we played it. Bob and I did the melody on marimba and vibes, and M.B. Gordy made up a drum set part.

I had asked Frank if it was okay that we perform the piece and he said yes, but wanted to know how we were approaching it. At that time everyone was playing "The Black Page", and there were other works of that ilk going around - "Manx Needs Women" was one - but usually only the melody parts.

Frank said that "all those polyrhythms don't mean anything unless they're in reference to something". So he suggested we use a drum machine or drum set, to give the melodic line rhythmic meaning. So that's what we did. Melody and drums, no bass line. I do have a copy of the bass part, but we never used it. Maybe I didn't have that at the time.

Frank was still working on "Sinister Footwear". It was obvious that the piece was not called "C Instruments", so I asked Frank what we should list as the title. He said "The Melody from Sinister Footwear". It eventually became a big part of the first movement, but with a lot of changes. Mostly, easy stuff became easier - elongated. All the really hard shit (the tuplets over bars of 5 or nine) stayed in.

So, The Antenna Repairmen actually premiered part of "Sinister Footwear" in a working version. Frank, of course, was not there. David probably was though.

A digital audio workstation (D.A.W.) is an electronic device or computer software application for recording, editing and producing audio files such as songs, musical pieces, human speech or sound effects. DAWs come in a wide variety of configurations from a single software program on a laptop, to an integrated stand-alone unit, all the way to a highly complex configuration of numerous components controlled by a central computer. Regardless of configuration, modern DAWs have a central interface that allows the user to alter and mix multiple recordings and tracks into a final produced piece.

No comments:

Post a Comment