Orchestral Favorites

Rehearsals, Performances & Recording

FZ, interviewed by Lanny Waggoner, Los Angeles Free Press, September 12, 1975

I did this because I wanted to hear my music. Nobody came to me and asked me to put on a concert. [...] The grand total cost is between $50,000 and $70,000, which includes costs like $10,000 just to pay the copyist for making up the scores. Every time we have a full rehearsal of the orchestra, it's about $5,000. It's real lunacy to even be doing this.

[...] You haven't heard anything like this before. One concert will be recorded for an album later on. It's really a tremendous feeling doing this. The only other American composer to put on his own music like this was Charles Ives, and he had made his fortune already in insurance. Something I haven't done.

pbuzby, Zappateers, September 30, 2011

I happened to get a record from the library by film composer David Raksin recently, and noticed that he mentioned in the liner notes that he had conducted some reading rehearsals of FZ's music prior to the sessions for this record (August 1975). This must have been prep for the Abnuceals concerts.

David Sherr, "Zappa," Bel Air Jazz

In 1975 I got a call to do a concert and recording with Frank at UCLA. The orchestra (The "Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra") was large and excellent. Frank was on his best behavior and the gig, a few rehearsals, two concerts at Royce Hall and a post concert recording session to "clean up" a few spots, was easy (except for the music) and fun. It got a lot of attention but not as much as the capture of Patty Hearst, which took place the day of the last concert.

FZ, interviewed by Chris August, Synapse, January/February, 1979

When I did that performance at UCLA a couple of years ago, the total bill for the copyist was $15,000.00 for 40 pieces.

Chris Michie, "We Are The Mothers . . . And This Is What We Sound Like!" Mix, January 1, 2003

[Davey] Moire, who met Zappa during the live recordings that went into Bongo Fury (1975), joined the organization when Zappa asked him to mix FOH for the Royce Hall (UCLA) concerts, which resulted in the Orchestral Favorites album (recorded in 1975, but not released until 1979).

L. Roy Goldberg, "Zappa Gives UCLA Audience The Bird," Daily Trojan, September 25, 1975

Zappa was at the mixer board, mixing the heavily miked 37-piece orchestra.

 

The Musicians

Terry Bozzio

Terry Bozzio, "Orchestral Favorites," terrybozzio.com, c. 2002

When I got off the first road tour with Frank in 75 he had organized a concert of his classical music to be played by a 40 piece orchestra of the best players in Los Angeles, at Royce Hall, UCLA. He started by telling me that it would include 4 percussionists who could read and play anything (Emil Richards, John Bergamo, Alan Estes and Tom Rainey), and handed me the music to Bogus Pomp, Pedro's Dowery and Naval Aviation in Art.

[...] This was some difficult stuff and I immediately started to practice it in a little rehearsal room behind Frank's office/rehearsal complex (Intercontinental Absurdities) on Sunset, between Bronson & Van Ness. I decided to play it on my smaller black Gretch kit w/4 toms because it was written for not so many toms. [...]

Then Frank gave me more music from 200 Motels, Gregory Peccary, Uncle Meat, Peaches en Regalia and more. Frank had a precussion section rehearsal (after the first of only a few rehearsals) at Emil Richards "Magic Toy Shop" (a cartage warehouse filled with the most amazing percussion instrument collection I've ever seen!) and was really impressed with my command of his difficult music. After all I had been practicing it on my own and had a good feel for it, where as the others were busy as professional musicians and were more or less sight reading.

[...] The shows demanded classical concentration and presented many ensemble problems with the time and feel but we pulled it off. George Duke came backstage after the show and complimented me on my playing and my press rolls which he said sounded like someone tearing a piece of tissue paper (ie: very smooth)—I was so proud and happy because I felt at last I had gained the respect of not only a great jazz musician who I admired (he was at that time playing with Billy Cobbham), but one of the Zappa veterans that I was so inhibited by when I was first playing with him in the band, and so desperately wanted to be accepted by.

Lou Anne Neill

Lou Anne Neill, on personal correspondence with Michael Gula

I first worked with Frank on a super concert at Royce Hall at UCLA. Then, whenever he needed harp on any of his albums, he'd call me into his studio.

Pamela Goldsmith

Pamela Goldmsith, on personal correspondence with Bill Lantz

It was Jerry Kessler who asked me to join him in a string quartet (electrified) to play with Frank in a giant Royce Hall Concert. It was the first time I had dealt with a pickup (Barcus Berry in those days) and amp (giant Benson amp), so in combination with dealing with Frank I remember being extremely pressurized. I had feedback all the time, as I remember. I used a combination volume control and wah-wah pedal, and once I was fooling around with it during rehearsal and tried using it to produce 'vibrato'. Frank came running out wild-eyed saying 'that's it—you have to use that'. So I did. I played barefoot because that was the only way I could feel the pedal underneath my foot [...]. In the performance, Frank had the string quartet right in front at the edge of the stage, dressed in formal orchestral attire. Except for my bare feet.

[...] Somewhere in the concert Frank came to the mike and announced to the audience, "You think I am a wonderful composer, but the truth is these musicians could improvise their own piece and it would be just as interesting, so let's have them do it now. Let's start with Pam." Then he turned around and gestured to me. Can you imagine the terror that sprung into me at that moment. I picked up my viola and began to improvise, in a very avant-garde, all over the place style (they tell me it sounded a little like ornette coleman). Then he gestured to others to join in, waved people in and out, indicated dynamic changes and so forth. When he cut off the music (noise, whatever), the audience cheered wildly. I could only think: "Thank god that's over—I hope no one ever asks me to improvise in public ever again"!

Malcolm McNab

Malcolm McNab, interviewed by Chris Wade, Zappateers, May 6, 2016

UCLA Royce Hall with a 37 piece orchestra. Same stage where I met and worked with Aaron Copland. I remember that during the concert Michael Zearott was conducting in white tie and tails and Frank removed his shirt and jumped on the podium dismissing Zearott and took over the baton.

The Original Project

Six Things

Eve Brandstein, "The Secret Life Of Zappa," Blast, December, 1976

I asked him about his experience playing with orchestras and writing music that incorporated classical stylings.

"I just did another album—Six Things," he replied and jumped up to put on his new orchestral work with enthusiasm. He told me from the other side of the room. "I don't do this kind of music to be part of that scene. Basically the setting disgusts me."

As he placed the record on the phonograph we discussed classical musicians he admires. Some of the composers who he finds exciting are: Ligeti, Penderecki, Messiaen, all extraordinary contemporary musical expressionists. [...] Frank was very interested and then placed the needle on the acetate. I was impressed by the collage of opening sounds and the different qualities. A mixture of serious and fun. I was moved to ask him if he considered himself a genius. "Yeah," he answered with a grin. He told me that he hoped the orchestral album would be released soon and would be enjoyed by his regular audience.

April 5, 1976—Untitled Kendun Recorders Acetate

Rockaway.com Auction, c. October, 2007

Kendun Recorders

SIDE ONE
EGYPTION STRUT
PEDRO'S DOWRY
NAVAL AVIATION IN ART
LOW BUDGET

SIDE TWO
BOGUS POMP
STRICTLY GENTEEL

Kendun Recorders

DISCREET RECORDS
FRANK ZAPPA

33 1/3 RPM
STEREO
4/5/76

side 1

REGYPTION STRUT
PEDRO'S DOWRY
NAVAL AVIATION IN ART
LOW BUDGET

 

April 22, 1976—Six Things (Kendun acetate)

"Frank Zappa—Lather/Six Things," Rockaway Records, retr. May 19, 2017

Six Things

SIDE ONE
RE-GYPTIAN STRUT
PEDRO'S DOWRY
STRICTLY GENTEEL
NAVAL AVIATION IN ART

SIDE TWO
MUSIC FOR GUITAR & LOW BUDGET ORCH
BOGUS POMP

Six Things

SIX THINGS
4-22-76
Artist FRANK ZAPPA
Producer F. ZAPPA
Label [xxx]

"Frank Zappa—Lather/Six Things," Rockaway Records, retr. July 29, 2017

The following songs include the running time on this release next to the running on the official release and they appear to be largely the later released versions (though the xylophone in "Re-Gyptian Strut" does seem a bit more in the forefront than the Ryko version). Side One: Re-Gyptian Strut (4:09 / 4:36), Pedro's Dowry (7:36 / 7:42), Strictly Genteel (6:58 / 7:04), Naval Aviation In Art (1:20 / 1:23). Side Two: Music For Guitar & Low Budget Symphony & Bogus Pomp. These two tracks segue into each other to form one long track, unlike the released versions which appeared on the albums "Studio Tan" and "Orchestral Favorites," respectively (total running time 20:52 versus the 21:05 combined running time of the two tracks).

Reel To Reel Tape (date unknown)

Yojimbo, Zappateers, October 31, 2008

01 Strictly Genteel (totally different take, with differences in orchestration)
02 Duke Of Prunes (no guitar solo; just backing tracks)
03 Black Napkins (from Sep. 18 concert, unreleased)
04 Rollo (longer edit than on QuAUDIOPHILIAc; 42 secs more at the beginning)
05 Pedro's Dowry (possibly differences in mix compared to OF version)
06 Naval Aviation In Art? (no difference to OF version)

[...] Reel-to-reel tape (probably 1st gen)

Columbia Masterworks

Scott, "Frank Zappa | Fort Homer Hesterly Armory 10.14.76," Tie Your Shoes Reviews, [2014]

[FZ] has completed an orchestral album, but "Columbia Masterworks would'nt agree to my terms," he explained, "so they arent going to get it."

Additional informant: Javier Marcote.

2. Pedro's Dowry

FZ, interviewed by Lanny Waggoner, Los Angeles Free Press, September 12, 1975

The unusual concert partly grew out of Zappa's longstanding effort to get away for a vacation. "I really needed one and even had a room reserved at a hotel. Then I decided I would do this orchestra thing, so I sat down in my basement workroom and started writing 'Pedro's Dowry.' I was really involved—14 to 18 hours a day, for three weeks. I haven't felt that good in years!

"I told my wife, 'That's the best vacation I ever had!' 'Pedro's Dowry' is wonderful. It may even last as a great piece of music—and this is only the second time I've felt this way about one of my own pieces. It's got some neat things in it."

L. Roy Goldberg, "Zappa Gives UCLA Audience The Bird," Daily Trojan, September 25, 1975

"Pedro's Dowry" is a ballet. Since a stage production of a ballet would have been too expensive, Zappa read us the storyline: A woman waits at the window for her lover. He arrives with an inexpensive guitar. She puts on some more lipstick. The woman mixes him a stimulating drink. An ashtray is overturned in the midst of their heated love-making.

The orchestra not only plays the complex, constantly evolving score, but also performs the added stage directions such as "brass section waves hankies," "orchestra lights cigarettes during rest," and "lead violin rips off bow tie, tears open shirt, plays blistering three-note solo, bows, and is presented with flowers by harpist."

The presentation is very theatrical and much more interesting than the standard orchestral performance which it parodies. This piece was also conducted by Zearott with Zappa at the mixer. Again here, Zappa quoted from past works such as Lumpy Gravy and 200 Motels. Parts of the romance/ballet were acted out by the viola player who flirted with the trombonist. He responded by suggestively pumping his slide back at her. To celebrate the end of the piece, the entire orchestra whipped out noisemakers and streamers. Zappa made them do it.

"Pedro's Dowry—Yes, That's Right"

"Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra and Contemporary Music Ensemble: Zappa and Varèse," Northwestern, c. March 21, 2017

Millennium Park, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, free

[...] Frank Zappa, Dog Breath Variations/Uncle Meat and Pedro's Dowry: yes, that's right

yetanother, Zappateers, March 21, 2017

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like this is the first time the work's subtitle makes it into a public concert program.

yetanother, Zappateers, March 25, 2017

FZ himself never made no public mention of it, not even in concert programs. But it's certainly there in the Munchkin Edition score (although not in the "reduction").

Pedro's Dowry—Yes, That's Right

 

4. Duke Of Prunes

FZ, interviewed by Michael Davis, Record Review, April 1979

No overdubs on the orchestra stuff, except for the guitar solo on "Duke of Prunes". There's no way you can get a feedback sound, playing at that volume, and record an orchestra at the same time. It's a nice effect though; I love the idea of screaming feedback guitar backed up by a symphony orchestra.

 

5. Bogus Pomp

L. Roy Goldberg, "Zappa Gives UCLA Audience The Bird," Daily Trojan, September 25, 1975

The concert at U.C.L.A.'s Royce Hall Thursday began with Zappa's "Bogus Pomp" conducted by Michael Zearott. [...] Early in "Bogus Pomp" there is an electric, wah-wah viola solo. Zappa explained before the piece that the rest of the orchestra would musically attack the viola player later in the piece because the viola got the first solo and because the soloist was a woman [Pamela Goldsmith].

 

 

Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos
http://globalia.net/donlope/fz/
This page updated: 2017-10-03