Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians

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... In his hand he carries a copy of Grove’s Dictionary and Musicians. He walks to center stage and, as the overture concludes, announces (…)
FRANCESCO: (…) Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians indicates that I ‘flourished’ between the years 1763 and 1788. Right around the time of that little stronz, Mozart.
Stage directions for the entrance of Francesco Zappa in Them Or Us, page 4
FRANCESCO: Por-r-r-r-co Dio!
The opening String Trio is heard once more. FRANCESCO tosses his copy of GROVE’S into the manger.
Stage directions in Them Or Us, page 349

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians is an encyclopedic dictionary of music and musicians and is regarded as the most authoritative reference source on the subject in the English language. Along with the German-language MGG, it is the largest Western music reference work. Initially released through the vision and toil of George Grove, it was brought to a new height by Stanley Sadie and is the leading music reference source in English for both encyclopedic information and bibliographies.

Zappa has two entries in Grove's:

In the general music section:

Zappa, Frank [Francis] (Vincent)

(b Baltimore, 21 Dec 1940; d Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, 4 Dec 1993). American composer, rock musician and guitarist. His family moved to California in 1950, where Zappa played the drums and guitar in high-school bands with, among others, Don Van Vliet (later to become Captain Beefheart). He studied briefly at Chaffey College, Alta Loma, but left to write music for B-movies. In 1964 he formed his band the Mothers of Invention (originally the Soul Giants); the personnel changed frequently and Zappa disbanded the group in the 1970s to work with musicians selected for particular projects, including Ian Underwood (keyboards, saxophones, brass, guitar etc.), Ruth Underwood (percussion), George Duke (keyboards and trombone), Aynsley Dunbar (drums), Sugar Cane Harris (organ, electric violin and vocals) and Jean-Luc Ponty (violin).

The Mothers of Invention’s first release was Freak Out! (Verve, 1966), which savagely parodied both corporate America and hippy counter-culture in such songs as ‘Hungry Freaks, Daddy’ and ‘Who are the Brain Police?’, culminating in ‘The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet’, an extended improvisation using avant-garde techniques. It was followed by Absolutely Free (Verve, 1967), the experimental orchestral album Lumpy Gravy (Verve, 1968), the parody of the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper in We’re Only in it for the Money (Verve, 1968), and the doo-wop pastiches of Cruising with Ruben & The Jets (Verve, 1968). They developed a cult following on both sides of the Atlantic, having made their UK début in 1967, and Zappa was releasing on average two albums a year, a level he was to sustain throughout his career. He toured extensively, with a stage act involving props and interaction with the audience, and developed a system of hand signals which enabled him to initiate rapid switches of style, rhythm and tempo, lending a spontaneity to what were otherwise tightly-controlled structures. In 1970 Zappa performed 200 Motels (U.A., 1971) for rock band and orchestra in Los Angeles at a contemporary music festival organized by Zubin Mehta, and the following year made a film of it: this is one of a number of Zappa large-scale multi-media projects.

Zappa’s music is eclectic and draws freely on the popular music of the 1950s and early 60s, embracing rhythm and blues, rock and roll, doo-wop, middle-of-the-road ballads, the world of Hollywood film music and of TV advertisements, treating them as objets trouvés; at the same time it also draws on the soundworlds of Stravinsky, Ives, Varèse and Stockhausen, creating multi-layered textures and employing montage techniques and abrupt stylistic juxtapositions which have the effect of Brechtian alienation and Dadaist confrontation, as in Burnt Weeny Sandwich(Reprise, 1970) and Over-Nite Sensation (Discreet, 1973). Zappa wanted his music to achieve the autonomy associated with high art music while subversively working from within the popular music industry. In the 1980s this was accentuated by the increasing esteem in which Zappa was held as a serious composer, so that his performances and two albums with the London SO (LSO: Zappa, 1983–7) and with the Ensemble Intercontemporain (The Perfect Stranger, 1984) appear at the same time as his bizarre synthesizer recreations of pieces by his 18th-century namesake (1984). He set up his own record company (Barking Pumpkin) and, after lawsuits, gained control over the master-tapes of his albums released in the 1960s and 1970s by MGM/Verve. In his final decade he worked at his home studio, using a Synclavier synthesizer to create such albums as Jazz From Hell (Capitol, 1986), and to remix much of his earlier work and, in effect, to re-create, through intercutting, a body of previously unissued recordings. His last public appearance was in Frankfurt in 1992 at a concert of his works by the Ensemble Modern, recorded as The Yellow Shark(Barking Pumpkin, 1993), a few months before his death. The first posthumous album appeared in 1994, Civilization: Phaze III, on which Zappa had been working since the late 1980s.

Zappa’s importance lies less in any obvious influence on rock music than in the way in which his music embraces American popular culture while simultaneously maintaining a critical distance from it, and in the way in which his musical critique at the same time constitutes a political and social critique. He saw the music business as concerned with the manipulation of music and its consumers and dedicated to profit. His own material is always calculatedly secondhand, disposable and ephemeral; his approach to structuring it is critical, ironic and self-reflective. The result has a richness of allusion, wealth of detail and a consistency of thought reminiscent of James Joyce. The comprehensive study by Watson (1993) is part of a large and expanding interpretative literature.


BIBLIOGRAPHY
D. Walley: No Commercial Potential: the Saga of Frank Zappa (New York, 1980, 2/1996)
F. Zappa and P. Ochiogrosso: The Real Frank Zappa Book (London, 1989)
B. Miles: Frank Zappa: a Visual Documentary (London, 1993) [incl. discography]
B. Watson: Frank Zappa: the Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play (London, 1993) [incl. discography and bibliography]
F. Zappa and B. Miles: Frank Zappa: in his Own Words (London, 1993)
R. Kostelanetz ed.: The Frank Zappa Companion (London, 1997)
B. Watson: The Complete Guide to the Music of Frank Zappa (London, 1998) [incl. discography]


MAX PADDISON


In the Jazz section:

Zappa, Frank [Francis Vincent, Jr.]
(b Baltimore, 21 Dec 1940; d Los Angeles, 4 Dec 1993). American electric guitaristand composer. He moved with his family to California at the age of ten, began playing drums when he was 12, and took up the guitar soon afterwards. While in his teens he sang blues and rock, and for six months he studied theory at Chaffey College, Alta Loma, California. Although he is best known as a rock songwriter and guitarist, his work often included elements of jazz. His group the Mothers of Invention, which he led from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, involved such jazz-rock musicians as the saxophonist Ian Underwood (on a regular basis) and George Duke and Bruce Fowler (both periodically during the early 1970s). In 1969 Jean-Luc Ponty recorded an album of Zappa’s compositions (King Kong, PJ 20172), and in 1972 Zappa led the Grand Wazoo, a jazz-rock big band of which Jay Migliori, Charles Owens, and David Parlato were members. Around 1973 he recorded the album A-pos-tro-phe (Discreet 2175), with Ponty, Duke, Fowler, and Jack Bruce among his sidemen. Among later members of his groups were Vinnie Colaiuta (1978–82) and Chad Wackerman (1981–8). Always a highly eclectic musician, as a soloist Zappa incorporated blues, rock, raga, and jazz licks into his improvised lines. From the mid-1970s his work was much more closely related to rock and to contemporary classical music than to jazz, but connections with the jazz aesthetic remained on, for example, the albums Jazz from Hell (c1986, Barking Pumpkin 74205) and Make a Jazz Noise Here (c1990, Barking Pumpkin D2AS74234).


BIBLIOGRAPHY
Feather–Gitler ’70s
L. Kart: “Frank Zappa: the Mother of Us All,” DB, xxxvi/22 (1969), 14
H. Siders: “Meet the Grand Wazoo,” DB, xxix/18 (1972), 13
D. Walley: No Commercial Potential: the Saga of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention (New York, 1972, 2/1980) [incl. discography]
J. Schaffer: “The Perspective of Frank Zappa,” DB, l/15 (1973), 14
R. Denyer, I. Guillory, and A. M. Crawford: The Guitar Handbook (London and Sydney, 1982), 28
M. Davis: “Frank Zappa Makes a Jazz Noise,” DB, lviii/7 (1991), 29
Obituaries: J. Pareles, New York Times (6 Dec 1993); D. Ouellette, DB, lxi/3 (1994), 20


BARRY KERNFELD


See Also