As promised, here is the first of what will be a series of short introductions of the forthcoming Zappa book. Chapter 1 is by my friend and colleague Prof. Richard Hand. Richard can actually be accredited for my recent obsession with Zappa. When having a casual conversation several years ago, we both realised, that although Richard has a background in Drama, and me in music, we had something in common – Zappa. This let to some initial research for Palatine into the Music Theatre of Zappa – An Experiment in Interdisciplinary Teaching. This also had an associated report – which examined some creative work we implemented with music and drama students. We had so much fun doing this, that we published two more papers, the first was an examination of Zappa and Musical Theatre, which was followed up with an essay on Zappa and the Musical Theatrical Gesture.
The following extract is from Richard’s chapter from the book – Chapter 1. He is an excellent writer and displays interesting insights into Zappa’s interface with Horror Movies.
Zappa and Horror: Screamin’ at the Monster
Richard J. Hand
When looking at the link between horror and music in general what might spring to mind most immediately is the nineteenth-century Gothic tradition as epitomised by Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain (1867) and Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse macabre (1872) through to later works such as Béla Bartók’s opera Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (1918). Alternatively, we might think of horror movie soundtracks from Bernard Herrmann’s paradigmatic score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho,John Carpenter’s own compositions for his early films or Goblin’s work for Dario Argento’s movies. When it comes to considering the links between horror and popular music we might think of Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett’s novelty song ‘Monster Mash’, the high Gothic camp of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the appropriated horror iconography prevalent in many examples of the heavy metal genre or the specific image customised by groups such as Kiss and individuals such as Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. One of the preeminent ‘horror music’ icons in popular culture is Alice Cooper, who developed a neo-gothic image not least through legendary stage performances which deployed macabre illusions as a complement to the rock songs. Alice Cooper was, in fact, ‘discovered’ by Frank Zappa, his first three albums being recorded on the Bizarre label. Discovering Alice Cooper notwithstanding, Zappa may seem a surprising figure to associate with horror, and yet it is a profound relationship. Throughout his career, Zappa reveals a recurrent interest in popular horror culture which is manifest in his achievements as a creative force of performance, composition and production.
Sorry to be pedantic (or am I?!), but FZ ‘discovered’ the Alice Cooper band, and its first three albums were on the Straight label. Having said that, I very much look forward to reading more fer sure.
Cheers Andrew – As always – good to get your perspective. First point – I suppose it could be argued he discovered AP by default! However, the Straight point is important. I may ask if you can proof read the book prior to publication if your interested? Won’t be for a few months yet – academic publishing is SLOW 🙂