Frank Zappa's musical language
Frank Zappa's musical language
A study of the music of Frank Zappa

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Other composers and music in general:

- I listened to the Varèse record over and over [in 1957]; I looked at the cover for hours to obtain any bit of information I could gather. I couldn't really understand the musical terms, but I memorized them nevertheless.
- My second LP was one by Stravinsky. I found a recording of the "Le sacre du Printemps" in a low budget series by something like The World Symphony Orchestra. I loved Stravinsky almost as much as Varèse. Another composer, whom I greatly respect - I couldn't believe someone could write such music - was Anton Webern.
- While all other guys spent all their money on cars, I bought records (I didn't have a car). I went to second hand stores to buy jukebox records with rhythm and blues songs.
(Real FZ book, Ch. 2)

Photo to the right: Zappa being interviewed for the Today show, 1993.

- Is there any type of music you hate?
- There are certain things I'm not fond of, but hate takes a lot of energy. I'm not really fond of commercial cowboy music or contemporary country - the "Slick Willy" type of shit. And lounge music I don't enjoy.
- Do you care for the old guys? ... Beethoven?
- I have an appreciation for the skill of putting it together, but the sound of it is not something I enjoy, so...
- Bach?
- I just like the way it sounds. The same reason I like Varèse. But I wouldn't go out of my way to attend a Bach concert or buy an album of that kind of music... I don't start getting interested in so-called classical music until the early 20th century.
-Indian music?
- I've always loved Indian music. There was even a period in my life I thought "I must go to India to hear this music." Then I heard how many needles they had to give you, and what kind of diseases were lurking for you over there. I decided, "Well I'll just get the records instead".
- What do you think of Don van Vliet's music?
- The best of it is unbelievable, and the worst of it is under the influence of some really bad A&R people at Warner Brothers. But there are things on "Trout mask replica" that are unbelievable, and on "Clear spot" also.
(Zappa!, pages 44, 57 and 60)

Love and relationships:

- At the Whiskey a go-go [1967] I was introduced to Gail Sloatman. It lasted a few minutes, but (don't laugh) I fell in love and we went living together... We married a couple of days before my first European tour. Yes fellows, I do indeed have a tiny bit in common with my "brother in Christ" Pat Robertson - but I've never lied about it.
- Gail is also my best friend. If you can't deal with your husband or wife as a friend, you'll probably won't enjoy living together. Friendship (and I don't want to get sentimental here) is a very important dimension. I think a marriage without friendship is pretty boring.
- I hate love songs. I think one of the reasons for the bad mental health condition of the US is that people grow up listening to love songs. It's a training that in your subconscience creates a desire for a fantasy situation, that will never become real for you. People that buy this myth will feel cheated the rest of their lives... As they start dragging about love as a romantic concept - especially in the lyrics by the sensitive singer/songwriter type - we're even a step closer to a total mental breakdown.
- Am I a sexist? If you look at the number of lyrics I've written about "women in humiliating positions" compared to "men in humiliating positions", then you'll find out that most of my texts are about stupid men. The songs that I write about women aren't meant as unreasonable attacks upon them, but are about things that happen.
(Real FZ book, Ch. 4, 11 and 14)

Rock critics:

- Most reviews of my albums bypass the musical content, because writers that have sufficient knowledge of music hardly ever write about rock 'n roll. Whatever image I have in the pop music business, it's mostly based upon opinions by people who aren't qualified to give such opinions at all.
- People who write articles aren't interested in how music is composed and why it's composed that way... Then when music is marketed, the attention shifts to the pseudo-personality of the artist, a blowing up of how that person behaves on stage.
(Real FZ book, Ch. 11)


- During a San Francisco lecture someone asked me "If you're against drugs then why do you smoke cigarettes". I replied: "For me cigarettes are food. I live my life by smoking these things, as well as by drinking this "black water" from this cup."
- The drugs subject gets raised again in every interview, because people simply refuse to believe that I don't use drugs. There appears to be a consensus in the US - because so many people from all sorts of professions are using drugs - that a person can't be normal if he doesn't use drugs.
- Americans take drugs as a special excuse to behave as an asshole. Whatever way they misconducted themselves the night before, they'll always have the immediate answer that they were "high" doing it, so they can't be blamed.
(Real FZ book, Ch. 12)


- I know you've probably all heard it, folks, but I'll say it once again: the American constitution states that church and state are separated.
- Everyone who claims that the Path to Justice is written out in a book (or pamphlet) is an asshole at least, or more likely, a fanatic, in the strict objective meaning of the word.
- If someone wants religion that's fine with me - I support your right to enjoy it. However I would appreciate it if you could show some more respect for people who don't want to participate in your faith, fulfillment or destination.
(Real FZ book, Ch. 16)


- Politically I consider myself (don't laugh) a moderate conservative. I want a smaller less interfering government and less taxes.
- I think people are entitled to decide for their own future; people control themselves. I also think that in a democracy a government functions because (and only as long as), individual citizens grant that government a "temporary license to exist" - in exchange for a promise to behave. In a democracy you control the government, not the other way round.
- "Don't forget to register to vote".
(Real FZ book, Ch. 17)

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