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Thread: Not-strictly-classical Composers

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    Default Not-strictly-classical Composers

    What are your opinions on composers such as Frank Zappa and John Zorn, who are famous for their exploits into the worlds of rock and jazz, but are simultaneously prolific classical composers too?

    Recommended listening:

    Frank Zappa- The Yellow Shark (performed by the Ensemble Modern)
    Frank Zappa- Civilization Phaze III (performed by Synclavier and the Ensemble Modern)
    John Zorn- Magick (performed by the Borodin String Quartet)

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    I like Yngwie Malmsteen. He gives Baroque a whole new look.

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    I haven't heard any of his classical recordings. Can't say I've heard good things about them though... additionally, is he a composer? Or just performing other's works? I thought the latter...

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    Surely someone must have an opinion, positive or negative, about this?

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    Senior Member rojo's Avatar
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    I do, I do!

    I`ve listened to Zappa`s Yellow Shark, and some of Zorn`s stuff - the wild Locus Solus, the jazz, groove-type works Gevura, Tekufah and Khebar, some of his computer/electro-acoustic collaborations, and some of his more classical-ish stuff with the Masada Trio, which is highly listenable. Haven`t heard anything of his with the Borodin String Quartet, but I have heard them (BSQ) playing Shostakovich, from which I gleaned that they are a fine ensemble. I figure that if the BSQ is willing to play Zorn`s stuff, it can`t be half bad.

    I liked some of the stuff on the Zappa album, and some of Zorn`s stuff with the Masada Trio and some of his jazz stuff. It`s too soon to tell if any of their 'classical' stuff will take it`s place in the classical repertoire. However, I think not. Why? Because 1) These composers are primarily known for their work and expertise in other genres, 2) They are polystylist, experimental contemporary composers, and I think few classical music listeners listen to this kind of stuff, 3) I could be wrong, but I think the people who do listen to their 'classical' stuff are already fans of these guys from other genres (rock and jazz respectively), who like and/or prefer other genres than classical, (in general), and 4) This kind of modern classical music is in a very small niche market, hence making it relatively unpopular.

    However, I could be completely wrong.

    Btw, I don`t think I would say that their classical composing is prolific; there are tons of classical composers who have composed way more classical stuff than they have.
    omnia vincit amor - Virgil

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    I discovered yesterday that I made a mistake. It wasn't the Borodin Quartet, it was the Crowley Quartet that performed Necronominon on Zorn's "Magick" album. Not sure where I got Borodin Quartet from... maybe one of his other albums.

    Glad to see another Zorn/Zappa fan here though. In case you're interested, I found this site earlier today. It provides sheet music and mp3's of various Zorn compositions... http://www.hipsroadedition.com/

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    I saw this thread earlier but decided to ignore it. It tends to attract some folk who don't really like conventional classical music but who like Frank Zappa and who think the rest of us are fuddy-duddies for not liking him. Such discussion can get quite disruptive, and lead to big arguments! I'm only entering this discussion because "rojo" has commented.

    Five points:

    1. As "rojo" says, it's most likely that the only folk who would appreciate Frank Zappa as a possible classical composer are those who started out as fans of his rock music. I can't see many people whose primary interest is in conventional classical music embracing him as a serious classical music composer.
    2. On this side of the Atlantic, he was never regarded that highly as a rock performer. Even in North America, I don't he ever enjoyed super-star rock status. This is not my assessment but is the opinion of those on another music forum, where there are literally thousands of rock and other music fans who spend all their time discussing and ranking different musical artists. Frank Zappa comes out about rank 50 in the top 100 rock performers, which thus indicates only moderate to good ranking, not an outstanding one. In the UK, his ranking would be lower than this, as the forum I am referring to has a clear USA bias.
    3. I have listened to samples of his more alleged classical pretensions (on Amazon) and it doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. Zorn's is of even less interest. I bet most of the posters on here would not care much for it. Try it. Go to Amazon and try a few samples. You'll soon get the flavour. It actually grates on my nerves.
    4. Moreover, I have never, ever heard any classical radio stations play any Zappa/Zorn music.
    5. I really don't think this topic is properly located in the classical section. It's more suited to the non-classical department under possibly a rock/classical fusion thread.


    Topaz
    Last edited by Topaz; Dec-27-2006 at 12:00.

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    "I really don't think this topic is properly located in the classical section. It's more suited to the non-classical department under possibly a rock/classical fusion thread."

    But the thread is about the classical compositions of these composers. They are recognised by various education boards (IB, for one) and by various composers (Pierre Boulez, for one) as classical composers and there music is certainly classifiable as classical. I don't see why they should be seen as different just because they span across other genre's too.

    "On this side of the Atlantic, he was never regarded that highly as a rock performer. Even in North America, I don't he ever enjoyed super-star rock status. This is not my assessment but is the opinion of those on another music forum, where there are literally thousands of rock and other music fans who spend all their time discussing and ranking different musical artists. Frank Zappa comes out about rank 50 in the top 100 rock performers, which thus indicates only moderate to good ranking, not an outstanding one. In the UK, his ranking would be lower than this, as the forum I am referring to has a clear USA bias."

    Its true. Zappa's music (the stuff he really wanted to play) is far too complex and thought provoking to reach great heights of popularity with the public... as is most classical music. While he could quite easily churn out a pretty good rock solo, alot of his soloing on guitar is more steeped in the avant-garde and jazz than rock. The same goes for many of his compositions. AND THEN you have the purely classical stuff... compositions such as "Outrage At Valdez" and "Pound For A Brown".

    "I have listened to samples of his more alleged classical pretensions (on Amazon) and it doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. Zorn's is of even less interest. I bet most of the posters on here would not care much for it. Try it. Go to Amazon and try a few samples. You'll soon get the flavour. It actually grates on my nerves."

    Try that website I posted and listen to some of Zorn's chamber works or Orchestral works. You'll get a much larger sample, sometimes an entire piece, which is what is required to judge both Zappa and Zorn. Dismissing them based on some amazon.com samples is no different from judging Mahler or Beethoven based on 30 second clips.


    "It tends to attract some folk who don't really like conventional classical music but who like Frank Zappa and who think the rest of us are fuddy-duddies for not liking him."

    I can see where you'd be coming from if this was at, say, a Frank Zappa forum, but a forum that is dedicated to classical music, you're not likely to have many Frank Zappa fans signing up for the purpose of getting on at the "fuddy-duddies" who don't like his music. Naturally, most aren't going to enjoy the classical works of either Zorn or Zappa, just as most don't enjoy a lot of the modern, atonal, avant-garde composers, but thats not to say they should be dismissed right off the bat as being for "fans of his rock music only."

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    Senior Member rojo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IAmKing
    I discovered yesterday that I made a mistake. It wasn't the Borodin Quartet, it was the Crowley Quartet that performed Necronominon on Zorn's "Magick" album. Not sure where I got Borodin Quartet from...
    Well, that changes everything! Just kidding. Although I`m not familiar with the other quartet, nor the Magick album.

    Aw, what`s wrong with a little arguing, 'Topaz?' There have been a number of arguments here. It would be boring if everyone agreed on everything; we`re all civilized- don`t think anyone will get hurt.

    I should also add that I don`t like all these composers` works, just some of them. And I certainly have not heard all of their 'classical' stuff, so I`m no expert. Music from the Contemporary classical music period is not my favourite, although I do like some of it.

    Also, I haven`t heard anything really ground breaking in terms of ccontemporary classical music in their stuff, with the exception of a couple of works from Yellow Shark, and maybe Zappa`s Synclavier work. But tbh, I didn`t like those ones... I know even less of Zorn`s classical stuff. Zorn`s stuff with the Masada group is quite nice though.

    Interesting that wikipedia lists Zorn as a contemporary classical composer, but not Zappa.

    Thanks for the link, King! I`ll have a listen.
    omnia vincit amor - Virgil

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    Administrator Frederik Magle's Avatar
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    Just a quick note regarding the location of this thread.

    I have only listened to a few of the excerpts from "Yellow Shark" on amazon, and I will refrain from joining the discussion of its merits or lack thereof based on that. But it does seem to qualify as "contemporary classical music" to me, and thus the thread can stay here, even though Zappa may not be a "classical composer" per se (which is yet another discussion how you define that)


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    Yay!
    omnia vincit amor - Virgil

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    Hoorah.

    Interesting that wikipedia lists Zorn as a contemporary classical composer, but not Zappa.
    Strange. The sheet of paper I got for my IB music course that lists all significant composers contains Zappa, but not Zorn.

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    Senior Member rojo's Avatar
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    Go figure...

    Been checking out some of Zorn`s stuff- some of the more lyrical things I like, others not so much. He describes one of his pieces as 'genre busting'. I think that`s a good description of his overall style. He`s a genre buster! Is there any style this guy hasn`t integrated at least to some extent into his works? I doubt it.

    I should make a correction- the Masada stuff is not classical-ish, it`s jazzy, and fun to listen to I might add. But the stuff on that site is most definitely contemporary classical.

    I would say that Zappa and Zorn have a lot in common.
    omnia vincit amor - Virgil

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    Conceptually, I'd very much agree with your last statement.

    And yes, 'genre-busting' is a fine description of his work. Perhaps best exemplified by his band "Naked City" ... although discussion of that should probably be kept to a minimal here. They recorded a few covers of various classical pieces (Debussy's "The Sunken Cathedral", and a movement from Messiaen's "Quartet For The End of Time", and a few others) but apart from that its grindcore (death metal) influenced jazz, that incorporates all elements of blues, latin, swing, polka, bluegrass, country, noise, ambient and god knows what else into it.

    Did you listen to the bass clarient duo, Sortilège, rojo? I don't know whether you'd like it, seeing as you've professed to enjoy his more lyrical pieces, but its one of my favourites. Its added onto the end of the string quartet on the Magick album.

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    Senior Member rojo's Avatar
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    Wikipedia does list both Zappa and Zorn as 20th century classical composers, but only Zorn as a 21st century classical composer. Not sure what the date of his last work was, but maybe that`s why Zappa`s not mentioned as being a contemporary classical composer; maybe his last work was written too long ago. Wiki defines contemporary classical as having been composed since 1975, and more narrowly, it can refer to still living composers, so...

    Anyway, I thought some of Zorn`s stuff was thrash metal influenced as well. Would like to hear the Debussy and Messaien covers for sure. And I really enjoy Zorn`s groove stuff.

    I did listen to the bass cl. duo, as you requested. I think I prefer Kol Nidre. Although the piece is interesting; sometimes spooky, sometimes funny, sometimes wild, I`m not crazy about things that sound random, or like 'too many notes', where there`s nothing for me to grasp or appreciated, and I felt that here sometimes. The emotions I felt while listening to it were not the big ones I get when listening to some other works.

    I think you might like Schnittke; he`s another polystylist. He makes me laugh. Come to think of it, a fair amount of contemporary classical music makes me laugh. And that`s good.
    omnia vincit amor - Virgil

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