Saturday, June 2, 2007

Zappa, Boulez, and Jazz From Hell

Zappa and BoulezFrank Zappa was a true musical pioneer. Although mainly known for his rock output, Zappa was also an accomplished classical composer. In 1984, the brilliant conductor Pierre Boulez took to the podium and led his orchestra through three Zappa compositions. These performances resulted in the album Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger. If this was not glorious enough, Zappa also included some tracks using the Synclavier System.


The 8-bit mono Synclavier was one of the first synthesizers to completely integrate digital technology. It was often called a tapeless studio because of its ability to create and sample sounds on magnetic disks. This provided Zappa the ability to compose an entire song without needing to bring in a band and set up recording gear. Zappa would often credit the synth tracks as being performed by "The Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort".This technology did not come cheap as Synclavier Digital Audio Systems retailed between $200,000 - $300,000 US.


SynclavierZappa truly loved the capabilities of the Synclavier and would continue to use it throughout his career. His Grammy Award winning album, Jazz From Hell, was almost totally composed and performed with the unit. In fact, many professional studios still use the Synclavier to this day because of the unique tones and textures that it can produce. If the Ghost of Zappa inspires you, there are emulators available!