Curiosities and special effects!

Houdy!

I love music. Melodic, Inharmonial, Cacophonic, Euphonic, Brutal, Soft, Simple, Complex, anything (well, almost). And, as a professional music consumer I’m also interested in everything related – the bands history and relations with other bands, how certain songs are composed/produced/whatever and other curiosities. Thus, it made all sense to write this post about some curiosities and special effects.

Ok, let’s start with special effects. I once saw a documentary from the series Classic Albums about the Judas Priest best seller British Steel. In the time it was released (1980), digital sampling was not widely available and so any extra sounds to be added would have to be analog recorded and processed. This paved the way to ingenuity: for example, the song Metal Gods, about machines taking over the Earth, needed the sound of machines marching. Listen to this snippet of the song and tell me how do you think they achieved it?

If you said a cutlery tray, you’re correct! They also broke milk bottles and used police sirens in the song Breaking the law. Inventive, ha?

Another guy who loved inventing was Frank Zappa (remember him?). He created a composition technique called Xenochrony, which comes from the greek words strange and time and consists on extracting a musical part from one song and putting it inside another song. All the guitar solos in his rock opera (another one, yes) Joe’s Garage are xenochronous, but a great example of xenochrony is the song Rubber Shirt. In Zappa’s words:

And so the musical result is the result of two musicians, who were never in the same room at the same time, playing at two different rates in two different moods for two different purposes, when blended together, yielding a third result which is musical and synchronizes in a strange way. That’s Xenochrony.

Zappa also used polyrhythms in his career (as did Queen, King Crimson, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix). Polyrhythms are the fusion of two tempos together, like in this example.

And finally, here’s the curiosities!

Zappa must be mentioned again, as he was so eccentric. He was probably the only artist to release an instrumental album (Jazz from Hell) with an “explicit lyrics” sticker. Yes, in an album without any lyrics whatsoever! That’s how harmful his music can be to your hears haha!

Last but not the least, we arrive to the very good icelandic band, Sigur Rós. They are amazing, their music is so different from everything else, so soothing yet daunting. Just listen to their masterpiece Viðrar vel til loftárása:

But that is not why I brought them here. Their 3rd album in 2002 was sung entirely in a constructed language with no semantics called Vonlenska, or Hopelandic. How awesome is that?

But, however awesome that is, they were not the first to do it. In the early 70’s, the french drummer and composer Christian Vander assembled together a band called Magma in which all songs are sung in Kobaïan, the language of the fictional planet Kobaïa. Their music is completely different from anything you’ve ever heard, to the extent that it generated a whole new genre, Zeuhl, which is Kobaïan for celestial. It is a mixture of jazz, big band, large choruses, rock, heavy bass-driven music. As one of the many Magma alumni said:

Zeuhl sounds like, well, about what you’d expect an alien rock opera to sound like: massed, chanted choral motifs, martial, repetitive percussion, sudden bursts of explosive improv and just as unexpected lapses into eerie, minimalist trance-rock.

Hope you liked this as much as I enjoyed putting it all together! 😀

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Let’s break some rules, shall we?

Hey again!

Disclaimer: You’re about to hear groundbreaking music. I’m not responsible for any brain damage resultant from these videos.

Zappa's trademark moustache and goatee (taken from http://drbristol.wordpress.com/2009/08/19/blast-from-the-past-frank-zappa/)

Now seriously, today I’m gonna speak about Frank Zappa, one of the greatest guitarists (even musical performers, damn it) to have ever lived, and certainly one of the best composers in the late 20th century.

Ok, he was all that, but he was also completely nuts. Come on, the man wanted to name one of his sons Dweezil, and as the hospital didn’t permit, he named him Ian Donald Calvin Euclid Zappa, after the first names of his bandmates. Still, not the strangest name he gave to a kid 😛

One of the most amazing things about his sadly shortened career (he died of cancer in 1993) is the diversity of musical styles he offers in more than 60 albums, in which he covers rock, reggae, funk, classical, comedy rock, jazz, big band and what I like to call zappa-esque music.

As a great fan of the guitar, I obviously had to get to know mr. Zappa, as everyone has heard of him (unfortunately, not his music). However, the size of his musical output discouraged me, and Hot Rats, the album I tried, didn’t get my full attention then. As my musical acceptability grew wider, I took another shot of his music and was completely blown away. His live work is absolutely amazing and diverse! Try one of the You can’t do that on stage anymore volumes or the album The best band you never heard in your life and you’ll get my drift.

But, enough talking, time to be forget every musical rule and hear a fusion of every (good) style anyone ever invented 😀

In this video, Zappa and his band incorporate the song Owner of a lonely heart by Yes into his solo, in what is a very good mashup. You can see that he almost seems distracted and there only to conduct the band, but when he picks up his guitar, you are struck by his in-your-face solo! Another Zappa’s trademark are the lyrics, full of puns and jokes like this song, which starts with “Oh lord, the shit done hit the fan” and ends with “And the reason you have not seen her, seen her
Is she is underneath the lawn”..

Earlier in his career, he worked with a man nicknamed Captain Beefheart, who had a very peculiar voice. He sounded like a drunken sailor with a rusty voice, but that is what makes it nice 😛 A staple song from that era is Willie the pimp

And finally, if you enjoyed both songs, I’d advise you to listen to Zomby woof, another great song. If not, well, from my personal experience, I’d tell you to give it a try in a few months, his music is sometimes very intricate and difficult to digest..

Hope you liked the post, I sure enjoyed preparing myself to write it by diving into Zappa’s songs.. Oh, and sorry for the long post 😉