Frank Zappa: Musical Genius, Questionable Bible Knowledge

Saying that Frank Zappa’s music is influential to mine is an understatement. I very much appreciate his musical genius. Other than the music, most of the time I would agree with his criticisms of society. However, I have to say that when he makes such sweeping claims about the Bible, that’s where I would disagree with him. Had he read the Bible well with openness and understanding, he would not say that it turns people into idiots. Any person who carefully studies the Bible would need to exercise thought and logic. Most of the time he misinterprets scripture in some of his songs.

It seems to me that his criticisms stem from various facets of “Christianity” that give the Bible a bad name such as televangelism, the Roman Catholic Church, and all other cults and organizations that dupe people their money into a lot of doctrines that otherwise don’t hold up to the truth in the Bible. The thing is that all of these allegations against Christianity are the result of prominent individuals and groups pursuing their own selfish agendas while slapping the Christian label onto themselves. What a shame. Seems like Gandhi is vindicated when he said (I’m paraphrasing here), “I like your Christ. I don’t like your Christians.” It exposes the fact that many “Christians” do not follow what Jesus Christ actually said. In Matthew 7:15-23, the Lord said this about such people:

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

The reason why people such as Frank Zappa have loaded accusations against the Christian faith is because he sees the impact of such people claiming to be “Christian” and how much they’ve messed up society. They should be rightfully rebuked for their hypocrisy as Zappa tried to do within his lifetime. However, Zappa commits the error of making a sweeping accusation that such people are representatives of true Bible-based Christianity.

It’s fascinating when you see people like Frank Zappa and all of these other so-called geniuses mock the very thing that gave them the liberty to do what they wanted in the first place. Many of the laws that keep the civilized world free have been patterned after the Bible , so it really is kind of amusing when people start attacking it as the cause of bigotry and hatred around the world. Sweeping generalizations are dangerous; most of the time, it’s the result of seeing things from a narrow perspective rather than really getting into the meat of it all.

Listening to Frank Zappa’s music is always an exercise in critical thinking. I appreciate the music for it’s ingenuity. I would go so far as to say that serious musicians will find it very worthwhile to study the music of Zappa because it is very much groundbreaking. At the same time, it’s kind of like viewing a TV show like Family Guy any of those Seth McFarlane cartoons. You always need to take on it with a grain of salt and you shouldn’t watch or listen to such stuff without having a firm spiritual and intellectual foundation. At the end of this piece, I will still say that Zappa’s musical aptitude remains to be laudable. I just don’t agree with him when he starts attacking my faith from a skewed perspective.

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The EDM Hat: Still in the Process of Getting One for Myself

I will admit that I am no expert with regard to electronic dance music or EDM for short. I have some friends who are involved with that genre including my musical mentor from the early  ’90s who currently goes by the moniker “Silverfilter” and Albert (physical therapist by day, DJ by night) yet for some reason I cannot grasp the process of how to go about writing EDM. Perhaps it may not be my thing at all. But in the spirit of open-mindedness and in the effort to learn new things, I am in the process of trying to learn how to write stuff that sounds like EDM.

I do wonder if it involves similar processes as I do writing prog and jazz, you know, the muso-oriented stuff. Perhaps it may just be like writing disco with the exception that I use purely electronic instruments like loads and loads of synthesizers, drum machines, etc. Probably the closest I got to writing EDM was when I was trying to emulate Vangelis (who is NOT an EDM artist, although he was certainly influential). Is writing EDM just as simple as laying down a four-on-the-floor kick drum track with some minor-sounding synth bass on a Moog or something similar to that? I am of course familiar with the bells and whistles such as the creative use of compression like “ducking” and what not. The trouble is that I barely have an idea of how to go making things sound authentic.

I went back listening to examples of my electronic music, including my attempts to write EDM, and I would say that I don’t come close to sounding like I would shake up the walls of dance clubs and concert halls any time soon. I still have trouble figuring out the aesthetics of EDM. Maybe I should listen to more EDM so I can understand what the heck is going on because at this point I am not yet a fan of it. Perhaps if I achieve some level of fanaticism with it, then I could get the hang of EDM. Heck, prog-rock guitar heroes like Mike Oldfield and  Steve Hillage got the hang of EDM, so why couldn’t I? I probably don’t have to go the length of going to Ibiza for that like Mike Oldfield did.

Anyway, it would suffice to say for now that I’m trying to learn EDM. A composer has to wear many hats, and if I want to make progress, I should acquire the EDM hat soon. In the quest to learn and understand EDM, I stumbled across this Saturday Night Live clip. I find it funny.

Newbie Tries Live Looping Using Ableton Live

I am that newbie, and boy do I suck at this. How many times do I have to suck before getting it right just like those folks at the BOSS Loopstation Championships? Gotta shed some more wood on bass? Piano? Ableton? I guess that would be everything.

Christian Rock Apologetics

I am very tired of the hatred and bigotry that these so-called Christian Rock critics hurl at musicians and listeners who want to worship God through musical styles other than the Euro-centric traditional hymns. In a previous blog post, I have said my piece about this. In this new post, I’d like to share a more detailed site that covers a lot of ground about the topic of music in worship. Here it goes:

http://www.mindspring.com/~brucec/craindex.htm

This site has a wealth of information and presents a balanced viewpoint regarding how music should be in worship along with answers to common Christian Rock critic accusations.

Morality in Music

It annoys me every time I read or hear one of these things:

  • Christian Rock is depraved.
  • Drums and electric guitars are the Devil’s instruments.
  • Christian Hip Hop is inconsistent with scripture.
  • Contemporary Christian Music is evil.

These and other statements have that air of bigotry and intolerance. I really want to ask such people these questions such as these:

  • If a hammer can be used to smash another person’s head to smithereens, should the serious Christian avoid using a hammer in carpentry because a hammer has the potential to be used as a murder weapon?
  • If a match can be used to burn a house down, should a Christian freezing at the mercy of wintertime avoid using a match to light a fire and keep oneself warm?
  • If a depraved person can use a fork or a chopstick to stab somebody in the throat, should Christians stop using forks and chopsticks because they have the unchristian potential to harm another person?
  • If Handel’s big hit “Hallelujah” from the oratorio Messiah features a 4/4 rhythm and features fast scalar runs similar to non-Christian guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen, should Christians stop singing the song because it shares a lot of traits with the “music of the world”?

More often than not, people who appeal to such rhetoric are those individuals who tend to impose their own musical preferences on other people. If we were to accept the fact that the style of music found in traditional hymns is the only proper way to worship God through music, isn’t that just simply confining ourselves to a particular musical culture that came out of Europe? Are we therefore equating European sacred music as the only kind of music that could glorify God? Sounds very ethnocentric and bigoted to me. Such arguments fall along similar lines such as the Authorized King James Version is the only acceptable bible ergo archaic English is the only kind of language acceptable to praise God. Such is hogwash.

Every genre and style of music can be considered a particular language that reaches people both in the intellectual and emotional level. Do proponents of such a narrow-minded view say that only traditional hymns are acceptable music for worship? Doesn’t that eerily follow the same line of thinking that the Roman Catholic Church followed when they did not allow the Bible to be published in languages other than Latin? Do we mean to say that people from Africa, Asia, and the rest of the world will be in sin if they wrote and sung worship music in the particular style of their culture? I would strongly disagree to such notions. Where is it that we read in the Bible that we cannot use pentatonic scales, percussion instruments, drones, and other non-European musical techniques in worship? We read it nowhere! Matter of fact is if we read passages like Psalm 33 and 150, it seems to me that ancient Israel used music accompanied by stringed instruments, trumpets, timbrels, and dancing. Now tell me, does that look like a choir accompanied by an organ or piano? In my mind, it sounds more like a big band rather than your hymn-singing choir.

Psalm 33:3 (KJV) even reads, “Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.” It doesn’t sound like somber hymn singing to me. If we are to be really legalistic about this, then church should be burning their organs and pianos into one big bonfire and start training musicians how to play the kinnor and shofar and teaching the congregation to sing songs  in Phrygian Dominant rather than the more traditional major and minor scales. You sure can’t find in the Bible that organs and pianos are the only instruments allowed and that electric guitars and drums are the Devil’s. If you really are dead set on thinking that drums are evil, perhaps you should rearrange Handel’s “Hallelujah” in a way that the piano doesn’t sound so percussive. Oh, and if you have an orchestra that will play it for you, forget about using timpani too.  If you’re going to say that music that tends to elicit certain emotions is not appropriate for worship, why not go for something emotionally neutral like 12-tone serial music? I will be the first to tell you that is a ridiculous idea.

Don’t get me wrong: I love playing and singing traditional hymns and I play such music every Sunday at church. The fact that I have a strong disgust for are these people who brand themselves as Christians  imposing their own tastes on others and declaring that to be holy writ. Such bigoted declarations on music are the laws of men rather than the word of God and are bound to cause division rather than unity. I have always believed that music for worship should be composed in an appropriate way, matching the content of the words with the expression of music, using a delicate touch when being meditative and expressing power when proclaiming God’s magnificence.

I would go on to proclaim that music i.e. the arrangement of sound and silences in an organized manner is amoral. It’s about as good as a hammer can be when used to build a house and can be as evil as the same tool when used for murder. We can only attach morality to music depending on how it is used. You would never expect me to write music reflecting God’s omnipotence using a sweet-sounding flute and light string arrangements; It would be all out bombast with drums, brass,  and a distorted guitar to demonstrate that.

Want more info? Go to these links:

http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-music.html

http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-music.html

http://www.gotquestions.org/contemporary-Christian-music.html

Berocca Aluminum Tube Kazoo

It’s true: You can create musical instruments out of garbage. Being inspired by Frank Zappa as well as the Landfillharmonic, I decided to go create an improvised instrument and improvise some solo quasi-trumpet garbage jazz on it.

I’ve been taking Berocca (the fizzy vitamin tablets) for the past three weeks now as supplements. As a result, I have these leftover aluminum tubes. I thought that perhaps I can turn these tubes  into musical instruments so I made a kazoo with one of them. I cut out the other end of the tube, place some kind of wax paper membrane on the other end, secured it with a hair tie, and voila I got myself a kazoo. I wanted to know how it sounded like  so I filmed myself. It sounds okay to me and I think it would be useful in various musical creations. At the very least, I can grab the attention of my cats with it. It’s either the cats love it or it emits certain sound frequencies that they themselves can only hear so well that it’s annoying.

Bassists Matter

People who ask whether bassists matter or not are just plain ignorant.

Again, I will repeat this: people who ask whether bassists matter or not are plain ignorant.

Every time you take out all the bass frequencies in any piece of music, it will sound bare. It’s as if you took out a person’s spine.

Some people try to further ponder upon the question, :Do bassists matter?” by examining isolated bass tracks. That is probably one of the most idiotic things I’ve ever seen on the Internet.

Here’s a better challenge to those who question whether or not bassists matter: Try to listen to tracks of any of these artists without the bass tracks:

  1. Rush
  2. Primus
  3. Iron Maiden
  4. Return to Forever
  5. Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

Any person who would say that bassists don’t matter at all after hearing bass-less tracks of these artists are idiots.