Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Art School at The Sherman Foundation: Frank Zappa on Composing

Composing a Life. A great essay on creative process by Frank Zappa from Creators on Creating.

What Do You Do For A Living, Dad?

If any of my kids ever asked me that question, the answer would have to be: "What I do is composition." I just happen to use material other than notes for the pieces.

Composition is a process of organization, very much like architecture. As long as you can conceptualize what that organizational process is, you can be a "composer" - in any medium you want.

You can be a "video composer," a "film composer," a "choreography composer," a "social engineering composer" — whatever. Just give me some stuff, and I'll organize it for you. That's what I do.

Project/Object is a term I have used to describe the overall concept of my work in various mediums. Each project (in whatever realm), or interview connected to it, is part of a larger object, for which there is no "technical name."

Think of connecting material in the Project/Object this way: A novelist invents a character. If the character is a good one, he takes on a life of his own. Why should he get to go to only one party? He could pop up anytime in a future novel.

Or: Rembrandt got his "look" by mixing just a little brown into every other color - he didn't do "red" unless it had brown in it. The brown itself wasn't especially fascinating, but the result of its obsessive inclusion was that "look."

...A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians.

Want to be a composer? You don't even have to be able to write it down. The stuff that gets written down is only a recipe, remember? ... If you can think design, you can execute design — it's only a bunch of air molecules, who's gonna check up on you?

Just Follow These Simple Instructions:

1. Declare your intention to create a "composition."

2. Start a piece at some time.

3. Cause something to happen over a period of time (it doesn't matter what happens in your "time hole" — we have critics to tell us whether it's any good or not, so we won't worry about that part).

4. End the piece at some time (or keep it going, telling the audience it is a "work in progress").

5. Get a part-time job so you can continue to do stuff like this.


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