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Frank Zappa's EMU
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3 [all]
Author Frank Zappa's EMU
diller
Graham Hinton wrote:
Do you realise that Zappa was very disappointed with this system after all the hype? He dumped it and bought a Synclavier instead. So it seems strange putting this on a pedestal when he never liked it or used it for his music.


Graham Hinton should stick to talking down people about their inferior power supplies.

BTW Frank Zappa left the custom EMU in his will to Philharmonie de Paris. It's still there. Maybe you should cross the channel and try to see if your bullshitting can get you access. Just tell them everything they are doing is wrong, I'm sure they will let you right in.
atimbral
lolspew
Reality Checkpoint
diller wrote:
Graham Hinton wrote:
Do you realise that Zappa was very disappointed with this system after all the hype? He dumped it and bought a Synclavier instead. So it seems strange putting this on a pedestal when he never liked it or used it for his music.


Graham Hinton should stick to talking down people about their inferior power supplies.

BTW Frank Zappa left the custom EMU in his will to Philharmonie de Paris. It's still there. Maybe you should cross the channel and try to see if your bullshitting can get you access. Just tell them everything they are doing is wrong, I'm sure they will let you right in.


Sarcastic and unwarranted comments such as these have no place on this forum.
fireclown
Reality Checkpoint wrote:
diller wrote:
Graham Hinton wrote:
Do you realise that Zappa was very disappointed with this system after all the hype? He dumped it and bought a Synclavier instead. So it seems strange putting this on a pedestal when he never liked it or used it for his music.


Graham Hinton should stick to talking down people about their inferior power supplies.

BTW Frank Zappa left the custom EMU in his will to Philharmonie de Paris. It's still there. Maybe you should cross the channel and try to see if your bullshitting can get you access. Just tell them everything they are doing is wrong, I'm sure they will let you right in.


Sarcastic and unwarranted comments such as these have no place on this forum.


good one!
Phil999
unwarranted indeed.
zengomi
And yet, "Frank Zappa left the custom EMU in his will to Philharmonie de Paris."
Blairio
Iconoclasts get a rough ride in this forum. I wonder why? Maybe we are not as 'free thinking' as we would have ourselves believe.
dubonaire
Blairio wrote:
Iconoclasts get a rough ride in this forum. I wonder why? Maybe we are not as 'free thinking' as we would have ourselves believe.


I'm trying to work out who you are thinking of because there several poeple in or the subject of this thread who could be considered to be iconoclastic.
JohnLRice
sar·casm
the use of irony to mock or convey contempt.

i·con·o·clas·tic
characterized by attack on cherished beliefs or institutions.

While I liked a lot of Zappa's music, was impressed with the his and his band's technical musicianship, and was sometimes amused by the humor, I wasn't a major fan and didn't follow his writings and interviews closely but my impression is that his bread and butter, beyond his purely musical output, was sarcastic and iconoclastic comments? hmmm..... lol So it seems that any thread putting Zappa on a pedestal would delight in sarcastic and/or iconoclastic comments? (hides)
Blairio
dubonaire wrote:
Blairio wrote:
Iconoclasts get a rough ride in this forum. I wonder why? Maybe we are not as 'free thinking' as we would have ourselves believe.


I'm trying to work out who you are thinking of because there several poeple in or the subject of this thread who could be considered to be iconoclastic.


Zappa was an iconoclast - he had no interest in the EMU's reputation per se - he just wanted an instrument to do a job of work. I think it is to his credit that he left the instrument to the "Philharmonie de Paris". It wasn't for him, but he must have reckoned it carried some cultural or historic value.

The folk who dare to suggest Zappa's body of work as mostly smoke and mirrors, are iconoclasts. I had several of his albums as a callow youth, probably because my elders and 'betters' also had them. Years later I revisited those albums and they left me stone cold. Clever-clever, technically proficient, and not much else.

Iconoclasm is a good thing, and should be celebrated - a healthy counterbalance to lionisation. It helps keep folk honest.
dubonaire
Blairio wrote:
dubonaire wrote:
Blairio wrote:
Iconoclasts get a rough ride in this forum. I wonder why? Maybe we are not as 'free thinking' as we would have ourselves believe.


I'm trying to work out who you are thinking of because there several poeple in or the subject of this thread who could be considered to be iconoclastic.


Zappa was an iconoclast - he had no interest in the EMU's reputation per se - he just wanted an instrument to do a job of work. I think it is to his credit that he left the instrument to the "Philharmonie de Paris". It wasn't for him, but he must have reckoned it carried some cultural or historic value.

The folk who dare to suggest Zappa's body of work as mostly smoke and mirrors, are iconoclasts. I had several of his albums as a callow youth, probably because my elders and 'betters' also had them. Years later I revisited those albums and they left me stone cold. Clever-clever, technically proficient, and not much else.

Iconoclasm is a good thing, and should be celebrated - a healthy counterbalance to lionisation. It helps keep folk honest.


It is a good thing, and Zappa has become an icon, so people who criticize Zappa are also iconoclasts. Actually I don’t entirely see Zappa, making music as a late jazz musician taking aim at the obvious, to be an amazing iconoclast. And the interview Hinton linked too was not much more than “no one is as good a musician as me.” You could even argue he was conservative. Read the article, not what I would call the words of a revolutionary.
diller
If it wasn't for my "sarcastic" comments everyone reading this thread would think Zappa 'dumped' the EMU. I have never heard of Frank selling any gear. The man rarely gifted or gave away gear during his lifetime. Unless it was to someone like Jimi Hendrix or his children, someone he valued as being important in some respects.

dubonaire He was very conservative, but I'm not sure what that has to do with his musicianship and composition skills?
Graham Hinton
dubonaire wrote:
And the interview Hinton linked too was not much more than “no one is as good a musician as me.”.


All is yellow to a jaundiced eye.
I referenced that interview because it supported the fact that the E-mu was put into storage and I could lay my hands on that magazine. There were other interviews at the time, as I previously said, in magazines that I never kept.

This is not about whether anybody likes Zappa himself or his music or not. It is about the absurdity of a object that has spent most of its existence unused either as a stage prop, in storage or in a museum being billed as Zappa's (read anybody famous') synthesizer. What do you get out of seeing a synthesizer behind glass in a museum that you can't get out of a picture on a web page? You can't try it out. Would you put anybody famous' TV set in a museum just because they happened to own it and never watched it?

I know two people a short drive away both with E-mu systems that I have tried out and they do get used for albums. So I personally don't rate the E-mu modular that highly precisely because it isn't an untouchable myth for me whereas when it's locked up in a museum you can believe anything that isn't true, even that Zappa owned it has any meaning.

I feel the same way about the use of TONTO in 'The Phantom of the Paradise' or an ARP 2500 in 'Close Encounters'. It's just misrepresentation.
fireclown
diller wrote:
If it wasn't for my "sarcastic" comments everyone reading this thread would think Zappa 'dumped' the EMU. I have never heard of Frank selling any gear. The man rarely gifted or gave away gear during his lifetime. Unless it was to someone like Jimi Hendrix or his children, someone he valued as being important in some respects.

dubonaire He was very conservative, but I'm not sure what that has to do with his musicianship and composition skills?


I suppose the CS80's for $500 and all the other gear was after his passing, I cant recall that far back the order of events.
I was taken aback to hear that Ruth Underwood and others had played the EMU on stage. A lot more use than i realized, and being described as a lack thereof?
I dont see the potential for monotimbral polyphonics or the need to diminish what Emu put out there. Trailblazers who contributed much more than they ever received credit for.
If all Zappa ever squeezed out of the Emu was the big brassy chords on Sheik Yerbouti behind some transplanted guitar solos? Worth every penny. that synth wont be forgotten.
Conservative as in "Freedom of Speech" conservating? I suppose so, but he called out the lies and oppression being passed off as Apple Pie from the very get go, and he continued to harangue the perpetrators of hypocrisy, misery and death with gusto for his entire career in ways NOBODY else did.
I think he got beat at his own entertainment game by The Tubes, and compositionally Don Van Vliet worked some real magic which Zappa never really achieved.
But as a citizen and human, he did INCREDIBLE things.
I cant imagine seeing it any other way.
dubonaire
Graham Hinton wrote:
dubonaire wrote:
And the interview Hinton linked too was not much more than “no one is as good a musician as me.”.


All is yellow to a jaundiced eye.


That's a good one coming from you.
dubonaire
diller wrote:
dubonaire He was very conservative, but I'm not sure what that has to do with his musicianship and composition skills?


Nothing, I was responding to Zappa being described as an iconoclast.

Anyway, I don't really care too much about Zappa or the old Emu modular, so enough from me.
oberdada
What about serge? Apparently Zappa used one (as claimed here), but in which recordings?

As for his rejection of the modular as a live instrument it shouldn't come as a surprise given Zappa's approach to composition. He wasn't really much of an experimental composer in the sense of one who explores uncertain outcomes, unstable media, accidents, randomness and happy coincidences. It was always much more about self-expression, perfect control and deterministic structures. For a person with that kind of inclination a modular might not make as much sense as for someone more interested in open-ended exploration.
sduck
oberdada wrote:
What about serge? Apparently Zappa used one (as claimed here), but in which recordings?


I have quite a few books about Zappa and his equipment and such, and have never ran across a Serge system mentioned or pictured anywhere.
MindMachine
sduck wrote:
Graham Hinton wrote:
01235813 wrote:
I knew he made extensive use of the Synclavier. The fact that he had a huge EMU custom made is nevertheless quite interesting.


He could afford to try it and write it off as a bad experience. It didn't work out and became a white mastodon.


While there are pictures of both Eddie Jobson and Ruth Underwood playing it in the same booklet I got that picture from, it was obviously underutilized in real life, especially considering the expense. My belief from the actual concert photos (and performances I was at) of the time is that it was largely on stage for show - or it may be set up for one patch or sound effect, and only used once. There is a minimoog set up in front of it in one picture, and a 2600 in another, both instruments that actually got some use. This was all in 1975-77 or so - Zappa and his various musicians were experimenting with how to work this new technology into the act, as were just about every other hip musician at the time. Starting in 78 they went to Oberheim poly keyboards, which were roadworthy and much more flexible musically.


Yes, with a little perusing of the old Contemporary Keyboard magazines, you will find that for a few tours they had their EML and Emu synths hardwired for a few sounds. Their Hammonds were also wired to Minimoogs or some other voice for particular sounds/songs pre-MIDI.

Then they toured with the Synclavier extensively. Mr. Green
MindMachine
Graham Hinton wrote:
MindMachine wrote:
Go be cranky on your own time. You are more divisive than contributive in a lot of these threads (no matter your stature). History is more than your lopsided view.


So history doesn't fit your rose tinted view and you go straight into ad hominem mode. Who's being cranky?

Quote:
you know he also had synthesists and keyboardists that actually made this shit work.


My point, which is really Zappa's point, is that he couldn't find any. Read the interview I referenced: Synapse_Vol_3_No_1 page 31. If Don Preston or George Duke had walked into a room with a massive modular and were told they were going on tour with it their first thought would be about screwing up in front of a large audience and looking a pratt and then how to get off the tour.

If whoever sold him that system knew anything about Zappa or his music they should have been careful promising what it could achieve instead of just seeing $$$. Zappa always knew what he wanted and anything less wasn't good enough.

When he got the Synclavier he was able to do things he had only dreamed of. One of those things was playing 57 notes in the time of 56 and he had been frustrated trying to get real musicians to play that from sheet music. I've heard the results and they are "meh", but he got it out of his system (in both senses). Would you want to be the hired synthesist on that E-mu system if that was the first thing he asked you to do after you had told him it could make any sound?


No rose colored view. Just different magazine articles than you referenced. He was a crank who routinely disparaged his players, genres of music, etc.

Patrick Gleeson was amazed how the Emu was far beyond the Moog and ARP 2600's that he used. He made some great music with it (not live of course). It was an evolution of things I suppose. If Zappa didn't like the Emu he didn't have to use it, but he did.

I don't care for either Zappa's or Gleeson's Synclavier music. I bet Zappa could find players to make his hardware work. He was just a prick apparently.

Anyhow your initial post seemed to betray the hardware more than the operator, at least to me. And that would be bunk.

ps - I would rather hear Larry Fast on a Polymoog than any Synclavier recording.
mr anxiety
I never realized how hip this set-up was during it's time with Zappa. It was the forerunner to all of those big brass patches we tried to make with our polysynths.

Awesome!
MindMachine
mr anxiety wrote:
I never realized how hip this set-up was during it's time with Zappa. It was the forerunner to all of those big brass patches we tried to make with our polysynths.

Awesome!


If you can find the old Contemporary Keyboard issue with Peter Wolfe and Tommy Mars, they detail how they had Emu wired for patches. They also detail the Hammond Minimoog combo and the hard wiring of the EML for a French horn (if I remember correctly).

Faahhhhh.
3hands
The thing I’ve gotten from Zappa, is that his music was so hilariously overdone, I’m sure he sat back and made massive fun of anyone who liked it. Zappa could gar been the originator if the Rick Roll.

He was never as serious as everyone wanted him to be.
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