While You Were Out

FZ album(s) in which song has appeared:


FZ in a Keyboard Magazine interview from February 1987:

"While You Were Art II," that's really got a strange story to it. There's a song on the Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar album called "While You Were Out." A group at Cal Arts [California Institute of the Arts], led by a guy named Art Jarvinen, came to me and requested an arrangement of "While You Were Out" for their ensemble, so they could play it at a concert that they were giving in Los Angeles. So I had David Ocker, who was my assistant at that time, type into the Synclavier the actual transcription that Steve Vai did that is in the guitar book [The Frank Zappa Guitar Book, published by Hal Leonard]. That just gave me the chords and the melody line, which wasn't suitable for the instrumentation of their ensemble. Once the data was in there, then it was a matter of arranging it so that they could play it. So I put it through a bunch of permutations. For one thing, I squared off the rhythm to the nearest 32nd-note, instead of having all the tuplets and weird stuff going on. Then I hocketed the material, so that the line was bounced from instrument to instrument. And did a bunch of other stuff to it.
To aid in their performance, since it was already typed into the Synclavier, I produced a little practice cassette for them to play the piece by. When Art came to pick up the musical parts, he listened to it and he said, "There's no way that we can learn this in time for the show. It's too hard." So I said, "No problem. We'll just have the machine play it. All you do is go onstage and pretend that you're playing your instrument. You'll have wires coming out of your instruments, leading to some speakers, and play a cassette, and nobody will know the difference." Well, they did it. And guess what? Nobody knew the difference! The music critics of the Los Angeles Times didn't know, the man who was in charge of the concert series didn't know. The only person in that audience who knew was David Ocker, because he had typed it in. Nobody Knew! We've seen rock and roll videos where you have a model pretending to play an isntrument. In this case, you have musicians pretending to play instruments. They were actually looking at the sheet music, and moving their hands the way you would normally do it.
But to make matters worse, the version that is on Jazz from Hell is not the version that they played. The version that they played had no samples. It was only FM synthesis. And even at that, nobody knew. It doesn't even sound like the version played with samples that's on the album. This is quite deluxe.
It caused a scandal, to the point where three members of the group actually apologized to the musical community and swore that they would never do anything like that again. Instead, they should have been going, "Yeah, look at this! People who write about and critcize classical music can't even recognize a cheesy cassette." It wasn't even a digital tape that they played. It was a normal audio cassette played through a little P.A. system in this hall. And nobody knew that these people weren't playing the instruments. That, I think, is the real artistic statement of the piece. That's why it is called "While You Were Art."

And David Ocker in the world famous Bill Lantz's The David Ocker Internet Interview:

I remember asking Frank what the title meant. He said "While You Were Out" referred to someone who had gotten out of prison—I had the impression it was someone specific, but I'm not sure who. (ASIDE: Another time someone asked Frank what had happened to the other members of his first band in San Diego—"In prison" was his instant reply.) At some point the title was changed to "While You Were Art"—this had a double meaning—it referred to Art Jarvinen himself, who was motivating the project and acting as go-between between Frank and the ensemble—several of whom had to be convinced to go along with this project. "ART" also referred, I think, to the "ART" in worlds like "Art-world", "Art-music" or "High-art"—in other words, Frank was using it as a term of derision.

"While You Were Out" vs. "While You Were Art I" vs. "While You Were Art II"
00:00-00:49 00:00-00:51 00:00-00:51
00:49-01:53 00:51-01:59 00:51-01:59
01:53-03:02 01:59-03:12 01:59-03:12
03:02-03:35 03:12-03:48 03:12-03:48
03:35-04:25 03:48-04:40 03:48-04:38 (*)
04:25-05:20 04:40-05:38 04:38-05:36
05:20-05:58 05:38-06:19 05:36-06:17
  06:19-07:16 (**) 06:17-07:13 (**)

(*) At 3:48, "While You Were Art II" changes pitch, down 9 semitones.
(**) From 6:17 and 6:19 on, "While You Were Art I" and "While You Were Art II" repeat variations of the same figure.

The drumtrack:

Mike Genovese pointed that parts of "While You Were Out", "Stucco Homes", "He Used To Cut The Grass" and "Outside Now" (Joe's Garage version) share the same drumtrack, and this is as far as I've gone in the comparision:

00:07-00:20 03:03-03:16      
00:09-00:19   01:30-01:40    
00:14-00:21   04:36-04:42   00:51-00:57
01:54-02:10 03:18-03:33      
02:11-02:53 03:33-04:15      
02:38-03:01   01:04-01:27    
04:21-05:08     01:57-02:43  

(This is as far as I've gone on this stuff, but there must be many more repetitions)


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This page updated: 2012-08-01