The composer Lewis Saul was prompted to write to us about the current movie release "A Late Quartet" and his reaction to the trailer. Lewis had earlier written about the Beethoven String Quartet in C Minor, the subject of the film and one of his most beloved pieces of music.
December 17, 2012:
I have not yet seen the entire film. Watching this trailer, I wonder how many of you -- trained musicians or not -- can tell that the actors are "faking" it? Does it bother you?
Obviously, good directors do everything they can to "shield" the audience from seeing this sort of thing -- but as a musician, and IN PARTICULAR -- as someone who considers this marvelous piece of music to be one of the most sublime compositions ever created by human spirit, I am hoping it won't ruin any part of the film for me!
With that in mind, I thought folks who have already seen the film might enjoy reading my post on this unbelievably potent and heavenly work. Or read my post, then go see the film.
I still cannot believe they made a movie about the Great Opus 131, and I can't wait to see it. Soap opera and everything."
Here's Lewis's original post from July 12, 2010: Op. 131:
No, that can't be right -- it just sounded nice! But it was like 39 or so -- and it was Paris -- a Montparnasse cafe in fact and it was raining lightly (probably) and I knew a poet (definitely) who expressed his unreserved enthusiasm for Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Op. 125 -- particularly the final movement, the "Ode To Joy," where Beethoven unleashes all the forces at his disposal, including vocal soloists and chorus.
I tried to explain to this poet how Beethoven -- using only the simplest and most basic harmonic structure (think two-chord rock 'n roll) -- spins the earth around with powerful orchestration and unbelievablly brilliant variation in color and temperment ...
... but the best part was that this particular poet taught me the meaning of the German words which I had never really taken the trouble to learn.
Muß ein lieber vater wohnen means a lot more to me now thanks to this wonderful poet friend who turned me on to James Joyce, playfully informed me that Joan Miró was not a woman -- and had the good sense to bring Frank Zappa along as the soundtrack to our local hysteria ...
Much like his musical output as a whole, Beethoven’s 17 string quartets can be divided into three convenient periods: Early, Middle and Late.
Early: Opus 18, Nos. 1-6, all written between 1798-1800;
Middle: Opus 59, Nos. 1-3 (1805/6); Op. 74, the “Harp” (1809), and Op. 95 (1810);
Late: Op. 127, 130, 131, 132, 133, 135 (1823-26)
I cannot recall when I first heard a Late Beethoven quartet. It must have been my senior year of high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy, where my composition teacher had pointed me towards the microfiche machine and a few spools of microfilm which contained the Complete Works of Beethoven! How I used to pour over those beautiful scores, surfing the microfilm the way we do the net today -- carefully studying these (mostly) unfamiliar scores.
After thoroughly absorbing the Late Quartets, I began to feel a particular fondness and appreciation of Op. 131 -- not that the others are not equally brilliant and exciting, world-shaking music -- but 131 became a focal point for my idea about what it means to write for these four stringed instruments …
HOW I BECAME SUCH A HUGE AMADEUS FAN
I have 15 or 20 different recordings of the string quartets. The Amadeus Quartet recordings from the 1960’s -- recently reissued on CD -- are my favorites, by far!
I still have the original 10-LP DGG set and listen to it often, marveling at how much better analog vinyl sounds than squeezy-thin dynamic range and contrast CDs. I’ve never heard better performances -- particular the Late Quartets.
Unlike most quartets with a famous name, who routinely replace departing players (“Juilliard,” “Tokyo,” “Turtle Island”), The Amadeus Quartet had always agreed that “ … if any member could no longer play, for whatever reason, the Quartet would not continue” -- and when Peter Schidlof, the violist, died in 1987, The Amadeus Quartet disbanded.
I had the good fortune to hear the Tokyo Quartet play this here in Tucson in April of 2008. My review of that performance is here.
HOW FIVE BECAME SIX AND OTHER DETAILS
Op. 133 (“Grosse Fuge”) was originally the last movement of Op. 130. Shockingly, Beethoven listened to reason and his publisher and agreed to replace the mammoth movement with a light dance movement (one of the very last things he ever wrote!), which now stands as the Finale to Op. 130.
Op. 133 was published separately -- although more and more quartets today are playing this as the Finale of Op. 130, a strange historic reconstruction …
What makes these late quartets so special?
First of all, if you are familiar with the Ninth (Op. 125) and/or the Missa Solemnis (Op. 123) or the Diabelli Variations (Op. 120), you already know that his style and perhaps even his fundamental musical language had changed dramatically from his output of the previous decade or so.
But the string quartet being the intimate, ultimate form for any composer (true today, methinx), Beethoven seems to have deliberately set out to not only “change” music -- but to revolutionize it!
Briefly, the other Late Quartets:
Op. 127 (Eb Major). The “Eroica” (or “heroic”) key! The quartet begins with massed tonics (seven or eight notes played by four) going to dominant seventh chords in -- respectively -- second and third inversions -- all leading to a quick transition to a delightful, slippery Allegro trip in ¾ time, which ends simply. The second movement is an astonishing series of variations on a simple, rising theme in Ab Major. The notes become blacker and blacker (faster rhythms) as the movement progresses, modulating to E Major a few times, before a beautiful ending; simplicity itself. The third movement (“Scherzando vivace”) is the usual jocular Beethoven, but in this Late period, the joke is a bit bizarre and otherworldly -- particularly in the Trio, which sweeps by like a witch on a broomstick. The Finale is a regular rondo-type 4th movement -- but the theme has a very bizarre (“Late”) element to it -- the Ab changing to an A-natural after two repetitions:
Op. 130 (Bb Major). Not only did Beethoven search out new sounds and explore novel harmonic territory, but he obviously felt constrained by the typical four-movement form (Op. 127, for example). Here he burst forth with six separate movements!
I. Adagio - Allegro. A wonderful example of beginning with a fairly typical sonata-form type of exposition and quickly changing key and mood (there are some major seventh chords in this section which are astonishingly beautiful for 1826 or anytime!)
II. Presto. A thrilling fun ride. Beethoven screws with your head as he jumps from duple to triple meter;
III. Andante. Gradually increases in intensity until it fairly busts apart at the end!
IV. Alla danza tedesca. A light joyful dance -- four voices in perfect balance;
V. Cavatina -- Adagio. This short movement is rightfully proclaimed a mini-masterpiece. The middle section (Beklemmt [“anguished”]) is positively 20th-century sounding!
VI. Finale. A bouncy happy replacement for what used to be a massive double-fugue (see below).
Op. 132 (A Minor). Beethoven makes do with only five movements in this soul-shaking masterpiece. That he opens with a low G# (the “leading tone” to A, the tonic) on the cello was in itself a revolutionary thing to do -- but Beethoven pushes the form to its limits in these quartets. Here -- as in 130 and many other late, and even early and middle works -- he moves back and forth between slow and fast. A Minor is a “dark” key -- and he ends the movement with the first violin sawing back and forth on the same E on two different strings. The second movement (A Major, ¾) also begins on a G#! The trio uses the first violin’s A string to make a bagpipes-type sound. Then follows the famous “Lydian” hymn of thanksgiving, a march and a dazzling ¾ Allegro appasionato to close things out.
Op. 133 (Bb Major). This massive double-fugue which must be heard to be believed. There is a massive amount of ink, virtual and real, spilled over this masterpiece. One of my favorites is here.
Op. 135 (F Major). Famously, Beethoven “prefaced” the music with actual musical notation (which does not appear in the actual work itself) from a goofy canon he had written several months earlier. (Beethoven wrote many such canons. Some are very funny.)
OPUS 131 in C# Minor (39:17)
1. Adagio, ma non troppo e molto espressivo -- attacca: (6:58)
2. Allegro molto vivace -- attacca: (3:05)
3. Allegro moderato -- attacca: (0:56)
4. Andante, ma non troppo e molto cantabile -- Andante moderato e lusinghiero -- Adagio -- Allegretto -- Adagio, ma non troppo e semplice -- Allegretto (14:17)
5. Presto -- Molto poco adagio -- attacca: (5:27)
6. Adagio quasi un poco andante -- attacca: (2:04)
7. Allegro (6:30)
No one had ever written a string quartet in seven movements before!
The word “attacca” means that the players proceed directly to the next movement without pause. Therefore, a listener with no program might conclude that the piece is in two very long movements! (The only pause occurs after the fourth movement).
In fact, the quartet is really in five moments -- Nos. 3 and 6 are really just short introductions to Nos. 4 and 7, respectively.
1. Adagio, ma non troppo e molto espressivo -- attacca: (6:58)
A fugue of unsurpassed beauty, intensity, majesty -- and of course, inventiveness! The first violin (notation above) opens with the dominant note (G#) which lands on the leading tone (B#), followed by the tonic (C#).
The fourth note (the first beat of the second full bar) dips down to the submediant (A) and is held for three beats -- almost like a divine sigh -- before it continues on its way towards the second entry in the second violin, played a fifth lower. The texture thickens magnificently as the viola enters back in the tonic and the cello follows, again a fifth lower. With much typical fugal imitation, the music continues along, moved steadily by the quarter-note pulse, surging towards something.
Using an enharmonic (D#/Eb), he modulates to six flats; nine bars later to G# Minor (eighth-notes are introduced), and then to A Major, where we then encounter the First and Second violins in a delicious duet:
Beethoven immediately repeats the octave skip, but a half-step higher, as he moves to D Major for the
2. Allegro molto vivace -- attacca: (3:05)
second movement -- a delightful romp in 6/8. Beethoven at first holds back a bit with a fermata and ritard, but eventually the quartet shouts out a slippery bit of off-beat sforzandi in unison much of the time -- until the music simply dies away …
3. Allegro moderato -- attacca: (0:56)
This quick transitional movement features a wonderful run in the first violin:
and ends on a nice loud dominant chord.
4. Andante, ma non troppo e molto cantabile -- Andante moderato e lusinghiero -- Adagio -- Allegretto -- Adagio, ma non troppo e semplice -- Allegretto (14:17)
This massive theme and variations begins with a theme which speaks to simplicity itself. There is barely anything to it.
A long passionate section follows and transforms itself with dotted rhythms and a sweeping lick (a 16th and two 32nds) until concluding with a light flurry of 32nd notes leading right into a 4/4 march variation.
RELEASES #81-94 (2007-2012)
81. The Dub Room Special! (CD, Zappa Records ZR 20006, August 24, 2007)
This is the soundtrack for a television program FZ put together in 1974 called "A Token of His Extreme." This planned show was released on DVD for the first time only recently.
However, the basic television broadcast was actually one of the very first video projects released by FZ's home label, Honker Home Video, and was entitled "The Dub Room Special." It featured FZ in a video mixing room (wearing the bizarre "stereo" helmet seen on the cover!) and moving between clips of the '74 band at KCET and the '81 band (Palladium, NYC, Halloween '81).
As stated above (#20), comparing the "Inca Roads" here with what ended up on the album is both instructive and awesome...
82. Wazoo (2CD, Vaulternative VR 2007-2, October 31, 2007)
A special document of an underappreciated and very much under-represented-by-recordings era.
FZ introduces the band:
... [Well, here we are in Boston, ladies and gentlemen. Just to fill you in on some of the zaniness that took place earlier this] ... afternoon. In the process of examining the stage to make sure that it was fit for human consumption, these large objects over here on the side with the horns on top of 'em—you know those speakers there?—they fell over backwards and completely mangled Jay Migliori's woodwind instruments. So Mr. Migliori is at a certain disadvantage this evening. We just thought we'd let you know. Fortunately, Mr. Migliori was not sitting there when the cabinets went down, so that part's okay.
Well, now that we got that over with, I'd like to introduce the rest of the lads in the band—and the ladies in the band—to all of you here.
Let's start up in the top, with trumpet number one, Malcolm McNab. And the indispensible Salvator Marquez. And on pygmy trumpet and tuba, Tom Malone. And Bruce Fowler on trombone. And Glenn "hands up, face to the wall" Ferris on trombone. And Kenny "always jovial" Shroyer on trombone. And Ruth "also jovial" Underwood on marimba. That's a jovial little marimba. And Tom "with one smashed hand" Raney on congas.
And, over here in the wind section, you already know Jay. Play something, Jay. That one works. And Mike Altschul. Ray "The Phantom" Reed. Charles "up and down" Owens. Joann Caldwell McNab. Earle Dumler. Wait, wait. Try that one again. Can you hear him? That's a little bit better, yeah. Just a minute now. Jerry Kessler on cello. Ian Underwood on keyboards, et cetera. Jim Gordon on drums. Dave Parlato on bass. And Tony Duran on slide guitar.
RELEASES #68-81 (1998-2007)
68. Mystery Disc (CD, Rykodisc RCD 10580, September 15, 1998)
All of this material was previously released on the two discs which accompanied the re-released materials on the first two Old Masters boxes (#43 and #46).
Like #64, this disc is filled with nostalgic gems from the early days.
Discs like these are certainly not for those new to Zappa.
But once you have (burp) digested much the material that forms the corpus of Frank's work ... you tend to start feeling hungry for these sort of bizarre nuggets. For example, "I Was a Teen-age Malt Shop" features FZ on piano.
The disc proceeds more or less chronologically. Several tracks from the Albert Hall show are here (#61). Things get zanier until coming to a tentative conclusion with "Harmonica Fun."
69. Everything Is Healing Nicely (CD, Barking Pumpkin UMRK 03, December 21, 1999)
Essentially a kind of documentary companion to The Yellow Shark (#62), this disc certainly contains no "Valdez" masterpiece or the like.
Instead, it is a collection of rehearsals, improvisations and bits that didn't make it onto Shark. Having stated that, this is actually a fine release with some, er, unusual works ("Master Ringo," "Wonderful Tattoo!") and pieces like "This is a Test," a short piece originally titled "Igor" which FZ had printed off the Synclavier and given to the EM as a sightreading test! Interesting that at times it sounds more like Milhaud than Stravinsky...
Using the same conducting technique he used to employ with the original Mothers (hand signals indicated predetermined musical phrases, motifs, or cells; or noises of all types, etc.), "Jolly Good Fellow" (4:34) sounds like a written-out composition. Ali Askin:
"... It looked as though Frank was playing the Ensemble like an instrument."
"Library Card" (7:42) -- the first track on this release:
Todd Yvega (Frank's Synclavier assistant):
" ... Frank assigned several musicians to improvise spoken interaction. The pianist, Hermann Kretzschmar, whipped out his library card to use as a text. The distinctive timbre of his voice, the German accent, and the humorous pace of his delivery obviously struck Frank as a vehicle to be developed and utilized."
Continuing with the same sort of idea, but this time reading from something a little heavier than his library card (the piercing magazine, PFIQ), Hermann has the EM (and FZ) in stitches with his readings in "Master Ringo" and "Wonderful Tattoo!" Warning: not for the faint of heart -- but it's also funny as hell!
"T'Mershi Duween" (2:30) is also found on #52 and #56 -- all three excellent renditions!
"Nap Time" (8:03) might just be that one unique track in the entire FZ catalog which defies description. It is unlike anything else in his catalog!
"9/8 Objects" (3:06) was recorded in July '91, Frank's house, when the EM were visiting and L. Shankar happened to be about. Awesome music here.
"Naked City" (8:42). Yvega:
" ... The guitar motifs were written in advance as was the primary motif played by the orchestra. The rest, including improvisations, were directed and improvised under FZ's baton."
"Whitey (Prototype)" (1:12) is mainly interesting as a comparison with the final version on Shark.
"Amnerika Goes Home" (3:00) -- an astonishing take from one of the Yellow Shark performances. Compare this to the Synclavier version on #63 and all the little details the EM gets right.
"None of the Above (Revised & Previsited)" (8:38) is a much longer version than the one on Yellow Shark and uses additional EM players -- mainly percussion -- in several sections.
... everything is healing nicely ...
70. FZ:OZ (2CD, Vaulternative VR 2002-1, August 16, 2002)
As Gail got the posthumous industry going into full gear, she and Joe Travers began raiding the Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark type UMRK vault for nuggets of enjoyment -- and in this case came up with a very special live concert that even the hard-core "tape traders" were ecstatic to see released!
To begin with, this '76 band is poorly represented in the catalog in general -- here it is only five pieces -- but they are very tight. Roy Estrada is consistently good throughout, with the young new Bozzio keeping a constantly moving groove.
"Stink-Foot" (6:35) is a perfect example of what a shame it is to have so few recordings from this particular band. They support Zappa beautifully (particularly Bozzio) as he sculpts one of his more interesting solos here.
RELEASES #54-67 (1989-1997)
54. You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 3 (2CD, Rykodisc RCD 10085/86, November 13, 1989)
Five previously unreleased tracks ("Ride My Face to Chicago," "Carol You Fool," "Chana in da Bushwop," "Hands with a Hammer," and "Nig Biz").
One dramatically different arrangement of previously released tracks: ("Bamboozled by Love").
Six years covered: '71, '73, '76, '81, '82, and '84.
55. The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life (2CD, Barking Pumpkin D2 74233, April 16, 1991)
Twenty-eight tracks of '88 documentation.
Things really get going after an electrifying "Zomby Woof" segues into Ravel's "Bolero" (except on European CDs, due to copyright issues) ... and the band finishes off the first disc with some wonderful new versions of old favorites: "Zoot Allures," and "Mr. Green Genes" followed by a fantastic three-piece OSFA suite: "Florentine Pogen," "Andy," and "Inca Roads," and wrapped up with a beautiful version of "Sofa No. 1."
Disc Two is quite shifty -- Hendrix and Cream covers ("Purple Haze" and "Sunshine of Your Love") followed by an energetic "Let's Move to Cleveland," with most of the remainder of the disc being a Jimmy Swaggart suite, of sorts ... "Lonesome Cowboy Burt":
My name is Swaggart
I am an asshole ...
"Trouble Every Day," fresh and invigorating, as Zappa and Ike Willis seem to be improvising the lyrics:
Wednesday I watched Jimmy Swaggart
Watched him weepin' all over the place
An' I watched him weepin' an' weepin' an' weepin'
And that shit rollin' down his face
(Oh . . . I sinned!)
An' then I watched him weep some more
An' he kept on weepin' again
(Oh, forgive me, Assembly O' God!)
And they smacked him on his little hand
And he went out makin' more money
and "Penguin in Bondage":
You know it must be a Penguin bound down
When you hear that terrible weepin' and there ain't no other
all get special treatment in honor of the infamous televangelist's sexual escapades and subsequent teary apology.
Finishing with yet another cover, the band belts out the Zep tune, "Stairway to Heaven" with real zest and energy.
56. Make A Jazz Noise Here (2CD, Barking Pumpkin D2 74234, June 4, 1991)
The title comes from an actual line Zappa says during "Big Swifty." As the head winds down in anticipation of the solos, Ike Willis makes an "ooowwww" type of noise -- FZ gets the audience to sing along -- and at the exact moment when the last note of the opening melody is being held, he says:
Make a jazz noise here ...
This double-CD set -- the final document of the '88 band -- is an impressive release of mostly instrumental charts.
And the 12 musicians in this band make it seem like a walk in the park.
After a slinky guitar solo on "Stinkfoot," Zappa proceeds to politely embarrass Ed Mann.
"When Yuppies Go To Hell" (13:28) is a fascinating piece, stitched together from seven different performances. Before you know it, the sampled vocal "goin' to hell" is being repeated over and over, leading to a Walt Fowler trumpet solo in five which melts into a Synclavier/drum duet (Wackerman never sounded better). Bruce Fowler joins in, leading to another complete breakdown with bizarre synth noises ("make one here!") ... long improvised section with a few quasi-magical moments -- frankly, a few moments of excessive bullshit -- but those things happened, and Frank documented them -- with glee!
RELEASES #41-53 (1984-1988)
41. Thing-Fish (3LP, Barking Pumpkin SKCO-74201, November 21, 1984)
It will soon be 30 years.
When this three-album box-set was released, many Zappa fans were severely disappointed. Many old tracks were simply re-recorded with overdubs: ("Torchum" and "Artificial Rhonda" from 1976; "Galoot Up-Date," "YAWYI," "Mudd Club," and "Meek," from 1980; "Clowns" and "No Not Now" from 1981-1982 as well the guitar outro to "Mammy Nuns.") The whole thing seemed outrageous and offensive.
The album's storyline is inspired by Broadway theatre, AIDS, eugenics, conspiracy theories, feminism, homosexuality and African American culture. It involves an evil, racist prince/theatre critic who creates a disease intended to eradicate African Americans and homosexuals. The disease is tested on prisoners who are turned into "Mammy Nuns" led by the story's narrator, Thing-Fish. The story within a story is a satire of a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant couple, Harry and Rhonda, who attend a play performed by the "Mammy Nuns," and find themselves confronted with their pasts: Harry presented as a homosexual boy, Rhonda presented as a sex doll brought to life (Wikipedia).
In retrospect, Zappa may have pulled a fast one here. After years of imagining an actual production -- someone actually pulled it off in 2003. What a shame Frank didn't live to see it.
42. Francesco Zappa (LP, Barking Pumpkin ST-74202, November 21, 1984)
The one and only Frank Zappa release without a speck of music written by Frank Zappa!
Yes -- Francesco was a real composer -- check him out here.
Zappa's assistant, David Ocker, helped him program the synclavier with what he thought might be "appropriate" patches for 18th century music.
Naturally, Frank would come in the next day and change all of David's settings with more bizarre patches -- marimbas, spooky synths, etc.
A toss-off for the average Zappa fan, this one continues to hold interest for the person deeply interested in the Complete Works of Frank Zappa.
43, The Old Masters Box One (7LP, Barking Pumpkin BPR-7777, April 19, 1985)
For many years, a great deal of Zappa's early work was nearly impossible to obtain. In 1985, with the new medium of the compact disc creeping up on the music industry, Frank remixed nearly his entire catalog -- sometimes adding new bass and drum parts (#03, #05) or creating radical new mixes like #08).
At $100 per box, this was an easy choice for most serious Zappa fans. Using high-quality vinyl and reproducing the album covers and booklets (cutely scratching out old addresses for defunct record companies, fan clubs, etc.) -- FZ put the first five releases in here plus the "Mystery Disc" (which later -- along with the "Mystery Disc" from #46 -- become a separate release, #68).
44. Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers Of Prevention (LP, Barking Pumpkin ST-74203, November 21, 1985)
At the time, watching Frank testify up on Capitol Hill, you just sensed that something amazing was going to come out of all this -- musically, speaking!
This is it!
Certainly, "Porn Wars" (12:05) is the featured track here -- but again, Zappa is nothing if not imaginative and all-encompassing in this exciting mid-80's release.
"I Don't Even Care" (4:39) features Johnny Guitar Watson, one of Frank's childhood heroes.
The next three tracks are Synclavier compositions -- "Little Beige Sambo" (3:02) is a nice tribute to Conlon Nancarrow. Pure genius at work here -- and a wonderful preview of much exciting "classical" music to come in the few years left in Zappa's too-short life.
"We're Turning Again" (4:55) is Zappa commenting:
They took a whole bunch of acid
So they could see where it's at
(It's over there, over there,
Over there, over there
And under here also)
Name-checked: Donovan, Hendrix, Morrison, Mama Cass, Janis Joplin, and Keith Moon.
"Alien Orifice" (4:10) -- an instrumental -- is played nearly perfectly by this amazing eight-piece '81-'82 band!
"Yo Cats" (3:33) -- Zappa's third anti-union ditty (previously, "Ruby Wants to Buy Yez a Drink" [#11] and "Stick Together" [#36]).
"What's New in Baltimore" (5:20) is another one of those very special FZ compositions that is truly filled with beautiful marvels! The track is put together with at least three separate edits from the above-referenced '81-'82 band.
RELEASES #28-40 (1979-1984)
28. Joe's Garage Act I (LP, Zappa SRZ-1-1603,
September 3, 1979)
29. Joe's Garage Acts II & III (2LP, Zappa SRZ-2-1502, November 19, 1979)
Originally, three discs covering two separate releases. The compact disc era compressed the material and today the CD is one complete release on two discs.
These are the final Frank Zappa albums recorded in a regular studio -- after this, everything will emanate from the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen, Zappa's home studio.
However, as we discussed in #18, getting his music on the radio was really not Zappa's highest priority! The "singles" were incorporated into an ever-evolving Project/Object which today we call a "rock-opera." Zappa himself referred to it as a "stupid little story about how the the government is going to do away with music."
After "The Central Scrutinizer" (FZ) introduces himself, "Joe's Garage" surprises us with its undisguised sentimentality:
Down in Joe's Garage
We didn't have no dope or LSD
But a coupla quartsa beer
Would fix it so the intonation
Would not offend yer ear
And the same old chords goin' over 'n over
Became a symphony
We could play it again 'n again 'n again
Cause it sounded good to me
ONE MORE TIME!
"Catholic Girls" is not only as hilarious as "Jewish Princess" -- but contains some remarkable passage work. "Crew Slut" has a dirty Chicago-blues feel to it which just keeps on grinding.
"Fembot" (note the different titles on the LP and CD versions) uses a cool little theme which Frank liked so much, it became the opening motif of "Mo 'N Herb's Vacation" (#38), a complex orchestral work.
Zappa also continued his work with xenochrony, splicing guitar solos on top of unrelated backing tracks. His guitar playing is as exciting as any other time-period here, and he pushes his band to respond accordingly. "Keep it Greasey" features a section in 19/16 time (5/4 with one 16th-note chopped off the end of the bar!)
"Watermelon in Easter Hay" (original title: "Playing a Guitar Solo With This Band is Like Trying to Grow a Watermelon in Easter Hay") -- a 9/4 magical ride into Zappa's most intimate guitar solo ever -- is a very special piece of music; as is "Packard Goose" which closes with Zappa's classic and eternal statement:
Voice Of Mary's Vision:
Hi! It's me . . . the girl from the bus . . .
The last tour?
Well . . .
Information is not knowledge
Knowledge is not wisdom
Wisdom is not truth
Truth is not beauty
Beauty is not love
Love is not music
Music is THE BEST . . .
Wisdom is the domain of the Wis (which is extinct)
Beauty is a French phonetic corruption
Of a short cloth neck ornament
Currently in resurgence ...
You don't want to miss this one!
30. Tinsel Town Rebellion (2LP, Barking Pumpkin PW2 37336, May 11, 1981)
With Steve Vai now playing "stunt guitar," and a huge band filled with keyboards and percussion and more guitars -- Zappa was beginning to enjoy re-arranging some of his earlier material into challenges for this exciting new band:
"Fine Girl" is the only studio cut. Bob Harris #2 sings falsetto. (#2 because there was another Bob Harris who played in the "Flo & Eddie" band!)
"Easy Meat" begins with 4/29/80, Tower Theater, Upper Darby, PA. At 2:59, we briefly hear the 9/18/75 (Royce Hall, UCLA) mini-orchestra. This dissolves into a brief "inside-the-piano" motif with Davey Moire (?) saying:
" ... if he'd played something else ...
'Cause, uh, they just aren't gonna stand for it ...
RELEASES #14-27 (1972-1979)
14. Just Another Band From L.A. (LP, Bizarre/Reprise MS 2075, March 26, 1972)
There is no incarnation of any Zappa band that did not incorporate large doses of FZ-humor into its regular repertoire. However, over the years, this band has come to be known as "Zappa's Comedy Group." They appear only on #11-14 (and a few posthumous releases). If the hard-core early Zappa fans stubbornly refused to give this band a chance -- they missed out on a quite a bit of incredible music!
Everything on this disc was recorded on August 7, 1971 at Pauley Pavilion (UCLA).
"Billy the Mountain" is a classic (CC: compare the versions on Release #60 and 91).
"Call Any Vegetable" gets a unique treatment with a Gustav Holst quote thrown in for good measure, which cleverly segues into an historic high-octane guitar solo.
15. Waka/Jawaka (LP, Bizarre/Reprise MS 2094, July 5, 1972)
With good reason, FZ put the words "HOT RATS" on the faucet handles. This is a sort of follow-up to the '69 masterpiece; it is an all-studio album, but it is also quite different than Hot Rats. There is no Ian Underwood, no Ponty or Sugarcane Harris.
Zappa had been thrown off a stage in London by a crazed fan and was severely injured. He recuperated by creating two new masterpieces.
"Big Swifty" (17:22) features an amazing five-piece band (FZ, guitar & percussion / Tony Duran, slide guitar / George Duke, ring-modulated & echoplexed electric piano / Sal Marquez, many trumpets & chimes / Erroneous [Alex Dmochowski], electric bass / and Aynsley Dunbar, drums) with tons of overdubs. The initial melody, stomps out an insistent seven, dissolving into long -- but never boring -- solos by Marquez and FZ.
"Your Mouth" (3:12) is hilarious. By now, Zappa's producing abilities were enhancing his compositional skills -- like the weird little musical snippets which accompany the vocals here -- and creating an end product that sounds both slick and shockingly original.
"It Just Might Be a One-Shot Deal" (4:16) features FZ on "electric bed springs." The lyrics -- something about a frog with a satchel -- are partially recited with a Russian accent. This is wonderfully obtuse.
"Waka/Jawaka" (11:19). Nine musicians make this track sound like a full big band! Masterful music with never a dull moment, despite the track's length.
16. The Grand Wazoo (LP, Bizarre/Reprise MS 2093, November 27, 1972)
As Zappa's injuries healed, he rehearsed this large ensemble from his wheelchair, and began pondering the idea of taking this current band on the road -- which he ultimately did for two very brief tours at the tail end of 1972 (see Charles Ulrich: Big Band Projects of 1972). The five tracks on this record are all suberb -- the final one "Blessed Relief" (about pain meds, I heard once -- but it might have referred to the time when he could finally stop taking the pills -- he hated taking drugs in any form, other than coffee and cigarettes) has become something of a jazz standard, with its lilting 3/4 melody and rich 9th-chord harmonies.
17. Over-Nite Sensation (LP, DiscReet MS 2149, September 7, 1973)
Many people believe -- and sales would probably verify -- that the next four releases constitute the finest period in the entire oeuvre. It would be hard to argue otherwise. These are four slickly produced studio albums (Roxy is live, of course) played by some of the finest studio musicians in the world.
This seven-track release is stitched together like a thousand-dollar suit. What sound like relatively simplistic "pop songs" are carefully tailored charts, using Zappa's sophisticated musical language in new and unusual ways (for example: the dirty blues feel he achieves with syncopated flat-sevens; the cute musical fills in tight rhythmic spaces, etc.)
Next week will mark the 47th anniversary of Frank Zappa's first release, Freak Out! (#01)* (June 27, 1966).
On December 12th, 2012, Gail Zappa released Finer Moments (#94), a beautifully-packaged double-CD of music from 1969-1972. To date, this is the 94th "Official Release" in the Frank Zappa catalog. (The term "official release" is used to distinguish the recognized canon from bootleg recordings, live shows taped by fans, compilation albums, etc.)
In addition to the 94 LPs and CDs, Zappa directed two amazing full-length films (200 Motels  and Baby Snakes ); wrote two books (Them or Us  and The Real Frank Zappa Book ); produced numerous video compilations and played literally thousands of live concerts between 1966 and 1988.
Thus the term “project/object,” which refers to the whole shebang: music (live and studio), films, books, interviews, public appearances, etc. The PO is held together by the musical, lyrical and Dadaistic connections of FZ’s universal language. Poodles, dental floss, the tritone, a gas mask, naughty televangelists – all figure into the mysterious, ethereal, ever-changing world that Frank Zappa created, nurtured and produced over an approximately 35-year period.
Zappa used the term conceptual continuity to define the inner workings of his Project/Object. CC has a variety of usages in the FZ universe.
For example, chronologically, the word "poodle" is first used on a track entitled "The Purse" from the posthumous 2005 release, Joe's XMASage (#75). (In the liner notes, Gail says that "there are over 19,321 clues in this one.")
Al Surratt is reading a letter from some girl out loud to Zappa:
'Guess what? I have a French poodle. That's right.
A pedigree. Apricot champagne French poodle. He was given to me as a present, gift from a man who raises them. He was repaying me for a flavor I did him once. I named the dog Duchamp, with a long A. He sure is a cute thing, and I -- and so well-behaved. He is six months old. I wish you could have see him. He is the prettiest color. George just loves him. And he is trying to spoil him something awful. Sometimes I feel he comes over just to see the dog.'
'We are doing real good in football so far. We played Burroughs last Friday for our first league game. And beset them.'
From that 1963 tape onwards, there are 16 additional and separate references to poodles on other releases, not including the clever title of Ben Watson's mighty tome, "The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play."
2. #14. (1972) On the high-energy remake of "Call Any Vegetable," Flo & Eddie engage in this brief rap over a repeating vamp:
You know, a lot of people don't bother about their friends in the vegetable kingdom. They think, "What can I say?" Sometimes they think, "Where can I go?" / Where can I go to get my poodle clipped in Burbank? / At Ralph's vegetarian poodle clippin', where you can come this ...
3. #17. (1973) In the original three-minute "Dirty Love," Zappa as narrator sings:
Your dirty love
Just like your mama
Make her fuzzy poodle do
4. #18. (1974) The "Stink-Foot" outro repeats the
poodle bites / the poodle chews it ...
section from "Dirty Love."
5. #19. (1974) On "Cheepnis," the poodle is named Frunobulax -- a movie monster!
6. #52. (1974) In Helsinki, the poodle became Frenchie.
7-9. #70/#86/#59. (1976-1977) "The Poodle Lecture" preceded "Dirty Love" in concert, usually with the assistance of visual aids, as Frank would explain it all for his rapt audience.
10. #37. (1977) "They stole my poodle from last ..." screams a deranged fan into the microphone during "Disco Boy." (Most likely, the guy was referring to the stuffed poodle toys that Zappa used as props in "The Poodle Lecture.")
11-12. #34/#80. (1980) "Mudd Club." Zappa's voice is electronically modulated:
Try it on a Saturday 'bout four o'clock in the mornin'
Or even a Monday at midnight
When there's just a few of those
Doin' the Peppermint Twist for real
In a black sack dress with nine inch heels
And then a guy with a blue mohawk comes in
In Serious Leather ...
(And all the rest of whom for which
To whensonever of partially indeterminate
Seek the path to the sudsy yellow nozzle
Of their foaming nocturnal
Parametric digital whole-wheat inter-faith
Geo-thermal terpsichorean ejectamenta)
13-15. #40/#54/#67. (1984) "In France"
Now we cannot wait
(Wait wait waiting)
Till we go back
(Wait wait waiting)
Gets so exciting
(Wait wait waiting)
When the poodles 'react'
16. #62. (1993) How fitting that this one last poodle reference made its way onto this track on this magnificent FZ release -- the last one before his death -- for which the complete lyrics are as follows:
'Food Gathering In Post-Industrial America, 1992'
When the last decrepit factory
Has dumped its final load of toxic waste into the water supply
And shipped its last badly manufactured,
Incompetently designed consumer-thing,
We gaze in astonishment
As the denizens of NU-PERFECT AMERICA dine on rats,
Styrofoam packing pellets,
All floating in a broth of tritium-enriched sewage,
Roasting the least-diseased body parts of abandoned 'wild children'
(Accumulating since the total ban on abortion a few years back)
Similarly, musical connections can be made from era to era; for example, this single line in "Fembot in a Wet T-Shirt" from Joe's Garage, Act I (#28):
I know you want someone to show you some tit!
is re-used as the initial motive which begins Zappa's greatest orchestral work, "Mo 'N Herb's Vacation" (#38).
Quotes from Stravinsky, Holst and even Tchaikovsky adorn some pieces, while "The Sailor's Hornpipe" is just as likely to show up in some marginal musical space as the "Entry of the Gladiators (Thunder and Blazes)" by Julius Fučík (1872-1916) -- written in 1897.
For our purposes, think of Zappa’s work as one big lifetime-long composition. This week, I will attempt to deconstruct that work into its sub-units, the 94 “Official Releases.”
For a good history of FZ’s life before 1966, the Wikipedia article is a good place to start.
(ed note: Lewis Saul's tribute to Dave Brubeck, who died last week, prompted this affectionate exchange between Jamie Katz and Lew, two musicians who know their stuff. I thought it worth highlighting since both raise important points. A big thank-you as well to Jamie for turning me on to Lionel Loueke, whom I've been listening to with much pleasure. Check him out! -- sdh)
December 11, 2012:
Thank you for this wonderful essay. Of course, as you know, you were the one who turned me on to what I still call the odd meters—how to hear them and think about them. Now we have artists such as Lionel Loueke routinely playing complex rhythms without any strain or feeling of unnaturalness and creating grooves that cook like 4/4. (You can go a whole week in New York jazz clubs without hearing 4/4 these days.) Loueke—who is originally from Benin—is a favorite of mine. After hearing him play at the Jazz Gallery in Manhattan a few years ago, I asked him if growing up with West African music had nourished his liking for polyrhythmic grooves and meters like 19/8. And he said, actually, it was more about Bartók and Stravinsky. I think possibly he said that to ward off any assumptions he thought I might have been making about his musical sophistication being "native." Black musicians have been dealing with that insulting assumption for a long time.
It took me a long time to come around to Brubeck. His popularity got in my way, as did the odd meters and my feeling that other pianists from his generation—such as Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, Ahmad Jamal and Bill Evans—were more deserving of acclaim. But that's stupid. As you also taught me, if you love steak, you can love chicken, too! I'm terribly glad I got to hear Brubeck when I could still enjoy him live, as I did at Damrosch Park in Lincoln Center three years ago. He was joyful! (And his alto player, Bobby Militello, is a motherfucker!)I was also influenced by stories I heard about Brubeck. When he became the first jazz artist on the cover of Time magazine, in 1954, he apologized (unnecessarily, but still appropriately) to Duke Ellington. And then there was the deeply moving clip Ken Burns included in his "Jazz" series. Brubeck, who grew up on a cattle ranch and served in Patton's Third Army during the war, was talking about racism.
“The first black man that I [ever] saw, my dad took me to see on the Sacramento River in California," Brubeck said. "And he said to his friend, ‘Open your shirt for Dave.’ ”
“There was a brand on his chest," Brubeck said, breaking down as he shared his horror, still fresh in mind some 60 years later. “And my dad said, ‘These things can’t happen.’ That’s why I fought for what I fought for.”
Brubeck was a mensch: a fine pianist, a beautiful composer, a musician's musician who somehow kept it going for generations, a generous friend and teacher—and a humble man, too.
I am grateful that you spent time with him, and have shared some of his goodness with me and many others.
-- Jamie Katz
December 12, 2012:
Jamie, you nailed two very important points.
First, Bartok and Stravinsky were doing things in odd meters in the first two decades of the 20th century -- at least 40 years before "Take Five."
What Bartok and Stravinsky is (obviously) infinitely more complex than ANY Brubeck tune ~ but Dave studied that music with Milhaud (who's no slouch with time sigs, either!) and TRANSMORGIFIED that dynamic to the jazz slash pop-music world -- and he did it with elan, polish and style.
And you were right (and brave) to admit that many many black pianists were ignored in the 60's while Dave basked in his Time Magazine cover glory. I think he felt much the same way as you did. He LOVED those guys and was most likely slightly embarrassed by all the (white)-media attention...
One more great example:
Check out Paul Simon's THE TEACHER from his CD "You're the One." In ELEVEN (6+5), but it sounds so perfectly natural and flowing that no one would think of it as an "odd" meter.
That's what I meant by following, but "trying to make sense of the past."
December 12, 2012:
One more salient point:
TAKE FIVE was recorded over a period of several weeks ~ perhaps 20-30 hours for composition, recording and editing.
TRUTH IS FALLEN (how many of you readers have ever heard it? [The LP is Out Of Print and there is no CD]).
Dave probably spent nearly 1,000 hours composing, COPYING (!), and rehearsing the massive combined forces for the performances and recordings.
The disconnect between "good" jazz and "this-is-good-for-you" classical is a deep, uncrossable chasm.
My father Joseph Lehman was born today in Furth, Germany, ninety-nine years ago. Ludwig Van Beethoven was born in Bonn on the same date in 1770. When my father had his fatal heart attack in December 1971, I flew home from Paris, where I was studying, arriving too late to see him alive one last time. The fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth, not only the major theme but the entire movement, from instrumentals through vocals, from development to coda, went through my mind in the following days. I could hear the singing at the funeral, at the cemetery, at home, and in the sickbed that awaited me in Paris upon my return there weeks later. I didn't know then that my father and Ludwig Van shared a birthday. In Paris, Ludwig Van Saul and I spent hours listening to to a recording of the symphony, he doing his best to educate me. Two friends form that time remember my saying, of my father, that he was "a holy man." I believe it. That was also the year I read Dostoyevski, and my head was full of Raskolnikov, the gambler, the Karamazovs, and certain saintly fools. -- DL
*52. Akibiyori (Late Autumn) (11/13/60) (125 min.) [Sound Color] [buy it here]
A girl lives with her mother. Though she has had opportunities to marry, she refused, preferring to stay at home. The widowed mother, however, feels that her daughter is sacrificing herself and attempts to find her a suitable husband. The daughter opposes this until she comes to believe, mistakenly, that her mother is motivated by a desire to remarry. The mother goes back to the apartment and begins her life alone.
In 1951, Keisuke Kinoshita's Carmen Comes Home became the first Japanese film in color. Two years later, Kinugasa's Gate of Hell became an international hit. Ozu did not like the way red turned out on Eastman Kodak film. It wasn't until he was satisfied with the Agfa red looked that he proceeded to make a color film.
Kurosawa waited even longer. In his first color film, Dodesukaden, made in 1970, he was so dissatisfied with the way "reality" looked that he painted most of the sets with loud, garish colors so as to mute the harsh natural colors of his locations. Five years later, Dersu Uzala was made in beautiful 70mm widescreen; and finally in 1980 and 1985 we get the splendid gorgeous colors of Kagemusha and Ran.
And so the rainbow bursts ...
*49. Higanbana (Equinox Flower) (9/7/58) (118 min.) [Sound Color] [buy it here]
A daughter wishes to marry the man of her choice, but her father objects. Her mother understands her feelings, however, as does her friend from Kyoto. Eventually, the father is won over.
*45. Ochazuke no aji (Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) (10/1/52) (115 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]
The characters sing a lot in this film:
*41. Kaze no naka no mendori (A Hen in the Wind) (9/20/48) (90 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]A destitute woman is awaiting the demobilization of her husband when her child falls ill. She prostitutes herself to pay the hospital. When her husband returns, she tells all. He knocks her down the stairs but later apologizes, suddenly realizing all she has been through.
*42. Banshun (Late Spring) (9/1949) (108 min.) [Sound B&W) [buy it here]A young woman, somewhat past the usual marriage age, lives with her father in Kamakura. She is happy with him, and when she hears of one of his friends remarrying, she disapproves. The father, however, feels that he is keeping her from marriage. She refuses several offers. Then her aunt tells her that her father is thinking of remarrying. She is disturbed, but believing that this is what he wants, she agrees to get married herself. Father and daughter go on a final trip together to Kyoto. When they return, she is married. The father, who had no intention of remarrying, is left alone.
Ozu begins the film with four extraordinarily beautiful pillow shots:
The leisurely music begins in Cut 2; birds chirping.
*36. Hitori musuko (The Only Son) (9/15/36) (87 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]
*37. Shukujo wa nani o wasureta ka (What Did the Lady Forget?) (3/3/37) (73 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]
*38. Todake no kyodai (The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family) (3/1/41) (105 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]
*39. Chichi ariki (There Was a Father) (4/1/42) (94 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]
*40. Nagaya shinshiroku (Record of a Tenement Gentleman) (5/20/47) (72 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]
34. Kagamijishi (6/29/36) (24 min.) [Sound/Silent B&W clip of 17:36 here]
*36. Hitori musuko (The Only Son) (9/15/36) (83 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]
*29. Dekigokoro (Passing Fancy) (9/17/33) (101 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
*30. Haha wo kowazuya (A Mother Should Be Loved) (5/11/34) (93 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
*31. Ukikusa monogatari (A Story of Floating Weeds) (11/23/34) (86 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
*33. Tôkyô no yado (An Inn in Tokyo) (11/21/35) (82 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
*29. Dekigokoro (Passing Fancy) (9/17/33) (101 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
A subtle and beautiful film about a boy and his father who live together in a tenement, the father working, the boy going to school. The father is attracted to a younger woman, and though nothing comes of it, the boy is worried and disappointed. Offered a new job in a distant town, the father goes off only to leave when halfway there to return to his son.
*30. Haha wo kowazuya (A Mother Should Be Loved) (5/11/34) (73 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
A family film about the relations between two half-brothers who have different mothers; good character delineation, somewhat spoiled by melodrama.
"I think that Ozu is the greatest director ever to work in the history of cinema, and if I had to choose his competitor it would be Mizoguchi and if I lived on a desert island I would just take all their films with me and that would be fine. That's cinema as far as I'm concerned.
And I think he's making great films from almost the start of his career. I don't think we find a steady ascent towards perfection and then a falling off like we do find in some directors. I don't think we find that zigzag up and down that we find in many great directors like John Ford. I think this guy had the hottest hand of anybody. I can't imagine a film of Ozu that I would actively call 'bad'" (Ozu scholar David Bordwell, interview from The Only Son  DVD).
How often have you heard someone refer to a film as being "poetic"? Googling "poetic film" took me here. These posts were made over a period of 14 months (8/09 to 10/10) and mention about 50 films. Not one Ozu film was proposed.
Michael Radford's brilliant Il Postino was mentioned several times; an obvious choice because the movie is about an actual poet (Neruda). So were such "dreamy" films as Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre, Tarkovsky's The Mirror (just about all of Tarkovsky's films feature the poetry of his father, Arseny), Benigni's Life is Beautiful and Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. All these so-called art films do in fact have either a dreamy, poetic quality about them or attempt to pretty much literally transform written poem to visual image (see most Tarkovsky, esp. Andrei Rublev)...
In these seven posts I will attempt to emphasize the particulars underlying my own personal assertion that the films of Yasujiro Ozu (1903-1963) are Poetry in Moving Images -- works of art eternal in their splendor which inspire one to decipher meaning, probe form, and observe the cosmic humor and tragedy on display.
Of course, there is nothing else remotely like Ozu in the history of cinema (though many now copy him) -- this uniqueness alone requires close investigation.
I have a pretty massive DVD collection (2000+). When I buy DVDs, I have only one criterion: is this a film that I will want to watch more than once? When I re-watch an Ozu film, I feel like an old friend has dropped by. We'll talk about the same old stuff and enjoy each other's company and that's the plot!
A typical Ozu film has very little going on, plot-wise. But because the story is presented to us with such unassuming realism; familiar characterization, meticulous set design; rock-solid steady and invisible camera; and the acting so completely void of artifice, the end result is something startlingly transcendental. (It is said that Ozu treated his actors badly ... he made them do so many takes, some thought it cruel -- but it was his way of beating out the "performer" in the actor and obtaining something very "real").
If you've already seen some or all of Ozu's surviving films, I hope you'll enjoy re-watching them, perhaps grokking anew with some of my more unusual bullet-points in mind. If you are new to Ozu, I hope my writing makes you interested in seeing these masterpieces. Imagine how gratified I will feel if you become an Ozu-nut, like myself.
Yasujiro Ozu was born in Tokyo on December 12, 1903. His father was a fertilizer salesman. He and his brothers -- as was the custom in middle-class families at the time -- were sent to the countryside to be educated. Ozu was a rebellious, undisciplined student. He matriculated no further than middle school, preferring his twin passions of watching American films and drinking. He rarely saw his father between 1913 and 1923, but forged a potent relationship with his loving mother -- Ozu never married and lived with her until her death in 1962 at the age of 87. Ozu himself died just a year later -- the day before his 60th birthday, December 11, 1963. Carved on his tombstone is a single Japanese character -- mu -- the Zen nothingness that is everything.
Ozu's uncle got him his first job in the film industry as an assistant cameraman, which basically involved schlepping heavy cameras from place to place. He worked his way up to become an assistant director to the both now and then obscure Tadamoto Okubo, who "specialized in a kind of comedy which was called 'nonsense-mono' -- a running series of gags held together by a slight story line, a succession of chuckles intended to make the time pass" ["Ozu" by Donald Richie, p. 200] (must reading for any serious fan).
Ozu was quite satisfied with the position. He could drink to his heart's content (he was a heavy drinker, all his life) and had none of the responsibilities and worries that he quickly realized were the domain of the director.
Nevertheless, his friends urged him on and an incident (a waiter at the studio cafeteria insulted him) provoked him to overcome the inertia of his non-ambition. Besides, he had always loved film (almost all American -- at his job interview, he admitted to having seen only three Japanese films!) and probably felt the confidence to strike out on his own.
Ozu directed 54 films between 1927 and 1962.
Of the surviving completed films, I will discuss four in the first two posts; five in the third; four in the fourth and fifth; and three in each of the final two posts (the six color films) ...
*8. Gakusei romansu: Wakaki hi (Days of Youth) (4/13/29) (103 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
*22. Tokyo no gassho (Tokyo Chorus) (8/15/31) (91 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
*24. Umarete wa mita keredo (I Was Born, But...) (6/3/32) (100 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
*28. Hijosen no onna (Dragnet Girl) (4/27/33) (100 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.