Here is the abstract of a paper I am preparing for a conference (somewhere). Let me know if you require any details about it.
Since the death of Frank Zappa in 1993, there has been an ongoing legal battle between the Zappa Family Trust (ZFT) and the so called ‘tribute bands’ that are determined to continue translating his music through live and recorded mediums. It could be argued that these ensembles effectively not only pay direct homage to Zappa’s legacy by interpreting his music in numerous innovative ways, but also keep his memory alive by interfacing with both his long standing audience, and with a younger generation who may not be aware of his music. The most famous of the rock based ensembles is entitled Zappa Plays Zappa and has the unusual credit of being ‘legally’ sanctified to perform his music live. This legality is no coincidence, as the band is headed by Zappa’s eldest son Dweezil and features the ‘Vault Master’ responsible for compiling the legal recordings heralding from the ZFT – Joe Travers on drums. After outlining the means through which Zappa consistently translated and adapted his own and other composers’ work over his 27 years in the public eye, this paper will explore how and why such a diverse range of bands and ensembles are so intent on continuing to experiment with his music, despite the legal challenges outlined above. This paper will subsequently examine the various philosophical, legal and industrial factors behind why the ZFT, an organization who have contributed so much to Zappa’s legacy over the last 15 years, seem intent on selectively prohibiting recorded and in particular live performance of his music, followed by a conclusory discussion of the cultural impact of this stance in the light of the supreme irony that Zappa was himself someone who ‘borrowed heavily’ from his diverse influences such as Surf Music, Do Wop and Chicago Blues, in addition to ‘serious’ composers such as Stravinsky, Stockhausen and his childhood hero – Edgard Varèse.