Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Slime from schools and videos

It's been awhile since I've provided a music related post. This post from WFMU's Beware of the Blog has motivated me to change that. The good folks at WFMU have provided a relic from the past: a video clip of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention performing "King Kong" on BBC back in 1968.

VIDEO: Mothers of Invention - King Kong-BBC'68 (requires Real Player or something else that plays .rm files)

Image Hosted by Some of the comments provided at the WFMU blog are also worth noting:
Largely classically trained, oversexed, jaded intellectual too-cool-to-be-hippie motherfuckers - they simply do not make bands like this anymore. They inspired so many, and were narrowly rewarded for their efforts. Of course, Frank Zappa's post-Mothers career and all-too-short life is well documented, but it's the Mothers era that never ceases to amaze me.

Note Frank's comment at the top of this clip thanking the BBC for "allowing them to do things..." - the US hasn't changed that much, if at all; we still have the worst artist-censoring record this side of Iran.

I not only agree that the American media is way too puritanical and censor-happy, but that bands like this just don't seem to come to fruition anymore, which is a shame. (*note: During the sax solo, I noticed two split second subliminal type messages appear on the screen. When I was finally able to pause at the right moment, I found that the message said "A Consultant Psychiatrist". Heh...)

Fortunately, Zappa wasn't completely absent from American slime projectors (read: televisions). He actually appeared on Saturday Night Live a couple of times back in the 1970s, when the show was not only good, but actually provided some decent musical guests. Here are a couple of clips of Zappa performing a couple of great instrumental pieces on SNL.

VIDEO: FZ - Peaches en Regalia (SNL '76)
VIDEO: FZ - Samurai Son of St. Alphonzo (with John Belushi - SNL)

It's truly a shame that music like this would never be found on SNL, or any other mainstream boob tube program, today. If you don't produce simplistic, radio-friendly pop music products and/or have a cute face or nice rack, you ain't gonna be performing in front cameras and an audience of millions. I hestitate to call any of the crud you hear on the radio today music. I think that terms like music product, muzak, or musicstuff (like foodstuff) seem more appropriate.

There are times when I wonder if schools have wound up turning many minds off of good, wholesome music at an early age. There's plenty of good rock music and hip hop music out there, but it's a rare event to find youngsters who listen to anything other than those two primarily pop genres. I can recall music classes in elementary school where the teacher was old and boring and unwilling to let us experiment with instruments. She would usually make us practice singing Christmas carols or whatever awful songs struck her fancy in preparation for a holiday concert. I can't think of anyone who actually enjoyed music class, let alone anyone who actually took something worthwhile away from it. The "Doctor of Rock & Roll", guitarist Lowell George (who was once a member of the Mothers of Invention) once stated in an interview that he also had a low opinion of music classes in school.
At about five years old, I started playing harmonica. Taking lessons and learning all the notes. A teacher taught me how to read music, and all the time I was faking it... playing by ear. He'd say, "Hold that note." And I'd go humm. And he'd go, "No, that's not it." And then I would say, "You play it first..." which in terms of reading turned out to be a real drag. I never really did get to read a whole lot until I started playing flute and then... Music education at this stage is way out of the hands of the Board of Education. Most kids learn to play music completely disassociated from school. They learn in another place. They learn from private teachers if they're classically oriented and they learn from records if they learn how to play... other kinds of music. The elementary school system has almost no business trying to teach music. Only at the college level does it ever get anywhere... maybe one out of fifty kids get some kind of information that is useful later.

This brings me to recognition of Kevin Carson's latest great post titled Free Time, Scheduling, Schooling and Independent Thought. Carson's post is chock full of testimonies on how important free time away from authority figues is crucial towards broadening minds and developing them in ways that may run counter to the interests of the corporate state ruling class. There is also plenty of criticism towards government schooling and how they're ruining young minds. It seems to reinforce my belief that hordes of fans of performers like Britney Spears, P Diddy (or is it Doody), and Creed are one of the many effects of such conditioning and general mind assaults.

Carson also quotes a Joel Schlosberg blog post that brings the ideas of Erich Fromm to the table.
Erich Fromm, who had the courage to use psychology to critique rather than reinforce the status quo, pointed out with his concept of an "insane society" that when a society's norms run counter to the conditions for human mental health, what is considered to be normal behavior is actually mental illness.
This reminds me of a passage from Aldous Huxley's Brave New World Revisited that has always been stuck in my mind, especially since I was a weirdo in school who was diagnosed as having ADD (non-hyperactive). Huxley also refers to Fromm quite a bit, with the parts of the following excerpt in quotes coming from Fromm directly.
The really hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be the most normal. "Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existance, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does." They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted, still cherish "the illusion of individuality," but in fact they have been to a great extent deindividualized. Their conformity is developing into something like uniformity. But "uniformity and freedom are incompatible. Uniformity and mental health are incompatible too... Man is not made to be an automaton, and if he becomes one, the basis for mental health is destroyed."

Heh... at this point, this blog post has seemed to lose it's focus as we've gone from Zappa to educational critiques to Fromm. At least it seems that way to me. Maybe it's my lowered attention span. Many people seem to have a lowered attention span these days, and a likely culprit aside from schools is another tool of social control - television.

Image Hosted by I'll finish off this post with Zappa's commentary on the slime projector, performed on Saturday Night Live of all places! Notice how the line "I'm the slime oozing out from your TV set" has had the TV set removed from it, replaced by Frank yelling out "take it away, Don Pardo". Pardo seemed to be amused by it all, as he took over for some of the lyrics, and later yelled out "I am slime, Frank, I AM SLLLIIIME!"

MP3: Frank Zappa - I'm the Slime (SNL)


Blogger matt said...

Hey Freeman -- excellent post! All of Zappa's music was so marvelous, but the Mothers' output from '65 -'72 or so (along w/ Zappa's Hot Rats) is the most amazing. Weasels Ripped My Flesh has got to be my favorite Zappa collection. His later chamber music & electronic compositions were also sublime (the more mainstream Jazz from Hell rockS!).

although i'm quite a bit older, gotta say i had a very good experience w/ a public school music program back in the mid-late '70's in a very racially mixed high school. My love of jazz & funk began in Jr. High music programs & took off from there. Its true that primary learning, growth & cultural absorption took place in an extracurricular settings. Yet i can't imagine being exposed to so much w/ out the mix & milieu of the school's expansive program.

but hey, that's just my own little experience in dif time & place. (Connor Oberst had a different experience in same city (dif. schools) no so long ago . . . but he was playing club gigs starting @ age 13, and didn't need the school jazz band!!) and Yo, check DJ Shadow & quannum's School House Funk series for perfect example of what i'm talkin' 'bout (& how it works!!

11:42 PM  
Blogger etnobofin said...

Ah, Zappa, the trendmongers don't manufacture them like that any more...

I'd have to say my experience of music in high school was also pretty good. Because I was already a musician played in bands/orchestras etc, the music department was the one place where I fitted in from day one, and finding that niche early on probably kept geeky old me from getting beaten up. The formal music classes were a joke, but the out-of-class bands and workshops opened my teenage ears to a bunch of new stuff (to me) - Mahler, Bach, jazz, Shostakovich. And outside school we all played in rock and jazz bands where we pushed everything even further.

The key to music education from my non-expert POV is early childhood. Get the 2, 3 and 4 year olds banging drums and singing and dancing. Teach them that music is something that you PARTICIPATE IN, not something that you passively listen to. And play them a bunch of different kinds of music, all the time. By the time a kid hits their teens, it's generally too late to enthuse them about music, unless they're already playing and listening.

4:42 AM  
Blogger Taxi Driver said...

Thanx a million for the Zappa stuff! I've been a Zappa fan since I started to play!
Great discussion (everybody) on music education.

Maybe I'll finally do the Zappa reated post @ Xanax Taxi I've been thinking about for ages!

8:21 AM  
Blogger Tito Maury said...

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3:51 PM  

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