Francesco Zappa (composer)

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Frank Zappa posing in 18th-century costume, 1984.

Francesco Zappa (Milan, Italy, 1717 - The Hague, The Netherlands, 17 January 1803) was an Italian composer and cellist. He faded away in obscurity, until Frank Zappa (to whom he wasn't related) brought him back under public interest in 1984.

Frank Zappa and Francesco Zappa

In 1984 David Ocker looked up Zappa's name in Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, but only found somebody named Francesco Zappa, an unknown 18th-century cellist and composer. He showed the entry to Frank Zappa, who had some scores by this namesake delivered to him. Zappa was surprised that the music was slightly eccentric compared with most other 18th-century classical music. He released an album named Francesco Zappa (1984), on which Francesco Zappa's music is played on Synclavier, giving it a futuristic sound. Despite this, many listeners still think it's music by Frank Zappa and Francesco Zappa is a fictional character. Indeed he's not. Francesco Zappa was a genuine 18th-century musician and Francesco Zappa is basically Frank Zappa's only cover album.

Zappa used Francesco Zappa again as a narrator in the Them Or Us book.

Frank Zappa about Francesco Zappa

"I also have an album of the music of Francesco Zappa. He was a composer who flourished between 1766 and 1788. Nobody knows when he was born or when he died. He was a cello player from Milan and wrote mostly string trios. I found out about his music and located a bunch of it in the Berkeley Library and the Library of Congress. My assistant loaded it into the Synclavier and now we have a whole album of synthesized performances. He was a contemporary of Mozart. It's kind of happy, Italian-sounding music. It's nice, and real melodic. It's interesting, too; he does a few strange things harmonically that seem to be slightly ahead of his time – a few little weird things. Basically, it's typical of music of that period, except it doesn't sound typical when it comes out of the Synclavier." - Frank Zappa in Modern Music Is a Sick Puppy, Steve Birchall, Digital Audion, October/November 1984.

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