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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Saturday, November 7

Varese and Zappa

Synopsis

The November 7th, 1950 issue of Look magazine included a record review of a new LP of music by the avant-garde composer Edgard Varèse. “Varèse is unlike anything else in music,” suggested the review, “and well worth knowing.”

A young Californian named Frank Zappa, just short of his 10th birthday, was fascinated by the Look magazine photo of Varèse accompanying the review, which made the composer look a little like a mad scientist in vintage horror films. The young Zappa felt compelled to hunt down the record and begin composing music himself. For his 15th birthday, Zappa chose to spend a $5 gift from his parents on a long-distance phone call to Varèse, who Zappa correctly guessed must live in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Today, Frank Zappa is best remembered as the head of the iconoclastic rock band of the 60s and 70s, The Mothers of Invention, but in 1983, Zappa also conducted works of Varèse at a San Francisco concert honoring the composer’s centenary, and always acknowledged Varèse as a major influence. One of Zappa’s final projects, recorded in 1993, the last year of his life, was an orchestral tribute to Varèse.

Music Played in Today's Program

Edgar Varèse (1883 - 1965) Ionisation New York Philharmonic; Pierre Boulez, cond. Sony 45844

Frank Zappa (1940 – 1993) Dog Breath Variations Cincinnati Conservatory Wind Symphony; Eugene Corporon, cond. Mark 1116

Additional Information

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