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Is New Music Relevant In An Industrial Society? - A Speech By Frank Zappa

The most baffling aspect of the industrial-American-relevance question is: Why do people continue to compose music, and even pretend to teach others how to do it, when they already know the answer? Nobody gives a fuck.

Is it really worth the trouble to write a new piece of music for an audience that doesn't care?

The general consensus seems to be that music by living composers is not only irrelevant, but also genuinely oblivious to a society which concerns itself primarily with the consumption of disposable merchandise.

Surely we must be punished for wasting everyone's precious time with an art form so unrequired and trivial in the general scheme of things. Ask your banker- ask your loan officer at the bank, he'll tell you: We are scum. We are the scum of the earth. We are bad people. We are useless bums. No matter how much tenure we manage to weasel out of the univesities where we manufactue our baffling, insipid packages of inconsequental poot, we know that deep down, we are worthless.

Some of us smoke a pipe. Others have tweed sports coats with leather patches on the elbows. Some of us have long hair. Some of us have ripped jeans. Some of us have mad scientists' eyebrows. Some of us engage in the shameless display of incredibly dramatic mufflers, dangling in the vicinity of a turtleneck sweater. These are only a few reasons why "we" should be punished.

Today, just as in the glorious past, the composer has to accomodate the specific tastes (no matter how bad) of THE KING- reincarnated as a movie or TV producer, the head of the opera company, the radio station programmers, executives, MTV, the lady with the frightening hair on the "special committee" or her niece, Debbie. Some of you don't know about Debbie, since you don't have to deal with radio stations and record companies they way that people in the real world do, but you ought to find out about her, just in case you might decide to visit later.

Debbie is thirteen years old. Her parents like to think of themselves as the average, God-fearing, white American folk. Her dad belongs to a corporate union of some sort and is, as we might suspect, a lazy, incompetent, overpaid son-of-a-bitch.

Her mother is a sexually maladjusted mercenary shrew who lives to spend her husband's paycheck on ridiculous clothes- to make her look "younger."

Debbie is incredibly stupid. She has been raised to respect the values and traditions which her parents hold sacred. Sometimes she dreams about being kissed by a lifeguard.

When the people in the Secret Office Where They Run Everything From found out about Debbie, they were thrilled. She was perfect. She was hopeless. She was their kind of girl.

She was immediatley chosen to become the Archetypical Imaginary Pop Music Consumer & Ultimate Arbiter of Musical Taste for the Entire Nation - from that moment on, everything musical in this country would have to be modified to conform to what they computed to be her needs and desires.

Debbie's "taste" determined the size, shape, and color of all musical broadcast and sold in the United States during the latter part of the twentieth century. Eventually she grew up to be just like her mother, and married a guy just like her dad. She has somehow managed to reproduce herself. The people in The Secret Office have their eye on her daughter at this very moment.

Now, as a serious American composer or musician, should Debbie concern you? I think so.

Since Debbie prefers only short songs with with lyrics about boy-girl relationships, sung by persons of indeterminate sex, wearing hot, trendy, fashionable clothing, and because there is LARGE MONEY involved, the major record compaines (which a few years ago occasionally risked investment in the recording of new works) have all but shut down their classical, progressive, metal, and jazz divisions, seldom recording new music.

If you make a record, you are not automatically ensured that the song you wrote or recorded will reach the marketplace, because some coward from the record company may come up and say he can't allow it to be released for "reasons."

This is biting the mouth of the hand that feeds you!

If the artists can't sing the songs they want to sing, release the record they want to release, and earn the living they are entitled to earn from doing what they love, they are cheated, and the audience too is cheated- because they don't get to hear the best work of the artists- only that which they are allowed to release!

Will the artists ever get back in control? Tune in again tomorrow, folks.

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