Saturday, April 26, 2008

Slash What The Fuck

But the nonprofit group Arf Society, which organizes the event, also sells merchandise complete with the unmistakable logo depicting Zappa's unique facial hair, the moustache-soul patch combo. And that, says Gail Zappa, Frank's widow and head of the Zappa Family Trust, violates the Zappa trademark. She is suing the group for €150,000 ($236,000) in damages and an additional €250,000, should the Zappanale continue selling Zappa merchandise.

Has the Arf Society caused €150,000 in "damages" to anyone? What means this "damage?" How does one party prove that €150,000 has been damaged away from another party through the sale of tee shirts, tote bags and coffee mugs with a logo depicting facial hair? Is that the kind of thing you learn in law school? Sounds fun!

Was Frank Zappa the first person to have that "unique" facial hair? Was he the only person to have that "unique" facial hair?

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Her real concern though, she says, is her husband's legacy.

"One of the reasons you file a trademark is to protect the works of a person," Gail Zappa told SPIEGEL ONLINE in a telephone interview. "I felt we were getting into territory where we were putting the audience at risk in terms of who Frank was. You become concerned."

How does one harm music? (Are all my efforts to destroy Mozart's music really in vain?) How does one protect music? Is it "music" that is harmed and protected, or is it an individual's ability to make money off of someone else's labor that is harmed or protected?

How does someone put someone "at risk in terms of who Frank was?" Who is this "we" that is putting the audience at risk "in terms of who Frank was?" Was it the evil tribute bands?

Who became concerned? The "at risk" audience? Was this concern consumer driven or producer driven?

"Help us, we are an audience and we are concerned about being at risk in terms of who Frank was!"

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"She is harming Frank Zappa's legacy much more than she is helping it," Dippel says. "I have talked to a number of people who are planning on boycotting all Zappa products in the future."

How does one harm or help a legacy? Can't you only do that with a time machine? The works of Frank Zappa are forever set in zeros and ones for anyone interested in that work. (period.) Zappa's legacy is his work, and his work is easily available to all, and that work is now and forever unchanging.

That people are "unofficially" performing Zappa's music ultimately does nothing to the reality of Frank Zappa's music, some of which has been in shrink wrap for almost 40 years.

Has anyone proven that "unofficial" performances of Frank Zappa's music have caused "damages" (€150,000 or otherwise) to (the now dead) Frank Zappa?

Has anyone proven that "unofficial" performances of Frank Zappa's music have created "competition" for other organizations performing the music of Frank Zappa, "officially" or otherwise?

Yes, yes, the rules say, the rules the rules the rules--but really now, how do you prove those kind of things?

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"Would the Zappanale folks be doing this if Frank was still alive? No fucking way," she says. "We licensed performances when he was still alive. But you at least check to make sure they do a good job. I'm sure he would probably do what I am doing."

A good job according to whom? The composer (who is now dead) or someone other than the composer?

What constitutes a "good job?" Is that which constitutes a "good job" a static thing, or can it change?

Does Charles Gayle do a "good job" playing Naima? Does Michael Brecker?

How about this robot--does it do a "good job" at playing Giant Steps? The robot is playing it faster than Coltrane did. Faster is better, no? Should "we" sue the robot just for good measure?

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Gail -- who refers to the statue as an "impish creature" that "doesn't look like Frank Zappa unless you argue that putting a moustache on any face looks like Frank Zappa" -- says that very little communication has taken place with the Zappanale. "I've long known that there was this quote-unquote festival slash event slash what the fuck," she says.

But then along comes "quote-unquote festival slash event slash what the fuck"--which is genius. Pure genius--and it is a genius that I, as an artist, shall take and use for my own, in the same way that lesser minds (like me) have done with (to?) greater geniuses since the beginning of expression. So now, when people ask me what kind of music I do (which isn't very often) as of this moment forward I tell them "slash-what-the-fuck" music.

There really is a little good in everything.

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But she also claims that the organizers have not responded to requests by her lawyers to detail exactly what kind of products they are selling and how great the turnover is. She insists, however, that her primary concern is the music. "My obligation, which I cannot be relieved of by anyone other than Frank Zappa, is to protect the intent and integrity of his music," she says. "That's my job. I have no choice."

Maybe I already asked this, but how does one protect the "intent" let alone the "integrity" of someone else's music that is already released and recorded by the artist himself, who is now dead? (But the shrink wrap--nothing can get through shrink wrap...)

I really am asking. Yes yes, "integrity"--don't let sell D. Boon's song to Volvo, blah blah blah. But "intent?" How does one protect "intent?" How does someone other than the artist who created in the work in question know what the artist's intent was in creating that work in the first place--let alone the intent of someone like Frank Zappa?

(It's all so radionic!)

Was Frank Zappa really so simple that his intent could be understood? Did Frank Zappa understand Frank Zappa's intentions? Did he ever communicate those intentions verbally or in a language other than music? Have Frank Zappa's intentions become more or less clear in the last decade, or have they stayed constant? Again, I am asking from a place of not knowing.

Is it possible to create a work without intent? What if the intent of the artist creating a particular work of art is to document "being in the [passing] moment without intent"--as can sometimes be the case in an "improvisation?" How does one "protect" that intent? Do "improvisations" even deserve "protection?" Are improvisations even music? Are improvisors even musicians?

How is one to gauge the effectiveness of a protection bestowed upon an "intent?" How about the effectiveness of a protection bestowed upon an "integrity?" Is that something an accountant measures, or can that be gauged with one of them thetan readers?

Does it take [personal] integrity to protect the integrity of a body of work?

What does it look like when a body of work's integrity is well protected? Which dead artist's integrity of body of work is well protected? (Is that even a sentence?)

Is the integrity of Richard Wagner's work well protected? Is the integrity of the works of Michael Jackson well protected? How about Phil Spector? Does he count? How about the "intent" of the afore mentioned artists? What can we say about Richard Wagner's intent? What can we say about Michael Jackson's intent? Is the "intent" of their work under siege, or is the "reality" of their person under siege? What if you just like the Jackson 5?

(I know it sounds like I'm being a smart ass, but I'm really trying to make sense of this. While "protecting integrity and intent" all reads very well on the video monitor, I just don't know what it really means. Of course, I am [foolishly and quaintly] operating under the assumption that words have meaning, so all of this is probably a waste of my time and, if you've read this far, definitely a waste of yours.)

If, however, in the event words do mean something--anything--then how is it that Gail Zappa has "no choice" in what she is doing? How is it that "only Frank Zappa" (who is dead) can relieve her of her "Job?"

Is that slavery? Is that legal? Aren't there rules against that? Can't someone be punished? Can't all problems be fixed with money?

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Exhibit B.

Before his death in 1993, Frank Zappa offered his wife many earnest bits of advice. One piece, in particular, was to be applied to the music business that the composer, guitarist and bandleader had worked within and battled against for much of his 30-year career.

”Get out.“

It sounds to me like someone has just been relieved of their "Job"--but only on planet Words-Mean-Something.

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Gail Zappa's work as head of the Zappa Family Trust is to preserve perhaps the most vital ­aspect of her husband's work: artistic intent.

If you could preserve only one, which one would you preserve:

1. The aural reality of Zappa's work--you know, the 50 some odd discs he completed himself while alive that you can play in a CD player and purchase on the internet and are preserved in shrinkwrap anyway


2. The silent "artistic intent" as codified by someone other than the (now dead) Frank Zappa that cannot be played in your CD player nor realized in any three dimensional way what so ever?

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”It's like what they write on the side of the cars of the Los Angeles Police Department: "To Protect and Serve,'“ said Zappa, who will visit Lexington on Friday as the keynote speaker of the American Musicological ­Society's South-Central Chapter conference. The talk, followed by a concert of his music, is free and open to the public.

What is being protected and who is being served? Is the artist who created the work in the first place but who is now dead enjoying this protection, or is it someone other than the artist who is being protected? Is the artist who created the work in the first place but who is now dead being served, or is someone other than the artist who is being served?

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Hey everyone, it's Let's Pretend Time:

Let's pretend we put some favorite Zappa albums (CD's, subcutaneous chips, etc) and put them in a lead lined box--a vault if you will--for safe keeping. Let's see...a copy of Crusin' with Reuben and the Jets, Tinsel Town Rebellion, Shut up and Play your Guitar, Civilization Phase Three, Studio Tan...there, that should do it.

Now let's pretend every man woman and child on the face of the earth grew "unique facial hair" and spent the rest of their days playing Frank Zappa's music to the exclusion of all other music and activity; fuck farming, forget medicine, adios to driving the bus, no more pizza delivery, no Coltrane, no Bach, no Dixon, no Lebenden Toten, no Keisha Chante--just Frank Zappa's music 24-7...For the next 300 years.

Finally lets pretend that in 300 years people still know how to operate shovels and CD players. From under a 60 foot pile of fast food wrappers, court documents, crack pipes, robot parts and red white and blue glitter, out comes our lead lined box and in go the CD's and the sub-cutaneous music chips in to the respective players.

Did the music change? Hold on, where did that other set of foot prints go?

What if the answer is no? What if the music stayed the same? What if all those ones and zeros stayed in the same order?

But really now--will there even be music 300 years from now? Will there be a 300 years from now? If there is a 300 years from now, and there is music, who will be make it? Will it sound anything like the music of today? More importantly, will there still be lawyers and "music law?"

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”My job is to protect the intent and the integrity of the work. That's the deal,“ she said.

Who's deal? What are the qualifications for the job, or is it a bloodline thing like the US presidency and all the well paying jobs?

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”Has the government changed?“ Gail Zappa asked in reply. ”People with rules, they never seem to change. They just add more.

How about punishments? Do "people with rules" just add more punishments when they "just add more rules?" What is it about our western addiction to rules and punishment? Rules and punishment, rules and punishment, rules and punishment.

Police and thieves.

Good and Evil.

Hate and War.

Laughs and chuckles.

How about people with power? How are they with rules? Any kind of general, rule-of-thumb track record for mixing people with power, rules and punishment?

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”I think some people, in an effort to preserve the status of their sort of elitism, have this attitude that has prevailed and prevented anything really imaginative, interesting, wonderful or creative to occur in a concert hall. It's all more of the same."

Isn't "the same" a valuable commodity? Isn't "different" a real liability? Isn't "the same" the thing that drives the economy--you know, repeatability?

And isn't "the same" and "repeatability" and serving the economy and lawyers and litigation and rules and punishment the essence/intent/integrity of Zappa (tm)?

(This could very well be a "trick" question to which I don't know the answer.)

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Is it really a "prevailing attitude" that prevents "anything really imaginative, interesting, wonderful or creative to occur in a concert hall" or is it something different...something else...something a little more concrete (and menacing) than an "attitude?"

Or maybe it is all about attitude. I've had more than one gym teacher tell me that. What do I know?

(Haven't we always been at war with Oceana?)

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Exhibit C.

Zappa plays Zappa is an official presentation of Frank Zappa's music because this performance series is licensed by the Zappa family trust.

This is absolutely true and it says nothing about music, only the presentation of the music, and when I think of presentations of music, I think of Drama students forming bands. Funk bands in particular.

Can music be official? Can the shoe of music really be smeared with the shit of officialdom?

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The decision to license is governed by two factors: the performances must be in accordance with, that is, respects the intent of the Composer and the integrity of the works.

Say I wanted to license a work by Frank Zappa. Who chooses and by what criteria does one determine whether or not the "intent" and "integrity" the composer is being "respected?" Not only must someone other than the composer know what the composer's (licensee) intent was, but they must also know the musician's (licensor) intent vis a vis the initial intent in their decision to perform the licensee's music.

(did I get the licensee/licensor thing right?)

Is that criteria "musical" in nature, or is that criteria "extra musical" in nature? Do "musical concerns" trump "extra musical concerns" or is it the other way around?

Doesn't licensing sound fun? Isn't that why we all got into music in the first license it?

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Speaking of fun, I heard a rumor that last year's vision festival performance by Bill Dixon and Orchestra is to be released some time this summer.