Zappa and Modernism: An Extended Study of ‘Brown Shoes Don’t Make It’
With only a couple of months to go before the Release of Zappa and the And – I need to get a move on to ensure I cover all chapters via my blog. So – here is the into to Chapter 10 – by Martin Knakkergaard. Martin has actually published on Zappa before, and this chapter is one of the few musicological chapters in the book – a detailed essay on Brown Shoes Don’t Make It.
Frank Zappa is an outstanding figure in Western musical, cultural and even political life of the twentieth century, with a musical legacy of extraordinary stylistic breadth and complexity. His musical universe comprises an abundance of styles and genres across historical, artistic and musical boundaries, yet still constitutes an intellectual whole, a cohesive musical oeuvre that can rightfully be acknowledged as Modern. Modern not just in its everyday sense, but also ideologically, it contests tradition, resists norms, neutralises the morally good and functionally useful, and insists on staging the dialectic continuum between secrecy and scandal.
Taking the collage-composition ‘Brown Shoes Don’t Make It’ as an exemplar, this article weaves a mosaic of analyses, ranging from strictly structural, to purely discursive and hypertextual, constructing the case that Zappa’s work, rather than being a wild profusion of styles, is instead a highly coherent and stringently complex work of meaning. It is an oeuvre in which subtle correspondences between music styles, titles, lyrics, texts and more, critically reflect central aspects of modern culture and human life in a psychological, sociological as well as philosophical exposition. In addition to a close reading of the primary text and citations of other artists’ work, the article includes references to much of Zappa’s discography and aims to point out how the musical coding in Zappa’s work take on a decisive modernistic role in an almost Adornian sense, expressing the historical necessity of complexity and opposition.
To read on – buy the book 🙂