Z is for Frank Zappa

Who does not love tying divergent strands together to finish a project as a unified whole? I know I do…

A recent Kickstarter project raised over a million dollars to help finance a documentary about Frank Zappa and preserve his archive of works (known as The Vault).

Zappa died in 1993 but remains ever present (he has been featured in several A to Z posts here) as he has throughout my life since I was thirteen when he made quite an impression

“Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you’ve got any guts. Some of you like Pep rallies and plastic robots who tell you what to read.”

One may imagine that had he lived to see the growth of the web he would be all over it. Long before iTunes and MP3s were imaginable he proposed a system where music would be played down a phone line and the recipient would record the music on to tape. Such was his growing resentment towards record companies and their control over the production and distribution of music. And it always returned to the music…

“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.”

From Cage and Varèse to Tuvan throat singers to Reggae to Doo Wop he was fascinated by it all.

He was one of the first to own a Synclavier but was frustrated by its limitations – things that today one can achieve on even a modest laptop computer.

But why would you believe anything I say…

X is for OS X

Who does not love a good computer operating system? I know I do – every day.

As the classic Mac OS grew in to an ever growing tangle of code it was decided to find a replacement and start again. Several options were available and a likely contender was the Be system but ultimately Apple decided to buy NeXTSTEP which had been created by NeXT the company that Steve Jobs had started after leaving Apple – effectively bring Jobs back to Apple. NeXTSTEP was reworked in to a new version of Mac OS. As it would be the tenth version, was based on a UNIX system and was a departure from the last version Mac OS 9 it was called Mac OS X rather but still pronounced 10. The name was later shortened to just OS X. It is now expected to revert back to Mac OS so as to fit in with iOS, tvOS and watchOS.

W is for World Wide Web

Who does not love browsing the web? I know I do and frequently do so. In a little over twenty years the world wide web has grown to become as integral a part of our lives as the water and electricity supplies. In that time it has also lost its clunky name and is often now referred to as the web or the Internet as it is the most familiar face of the Internet.

This week we have checked bank accounts, done shopping (groceries, fabrics and yarns, baking equipment, books), checked when the courier will be delivering goods, applied for jobs, watched TV, listened to radio programming, played games, applied to audition to appear on TV, listened to music, watched film trailers, checked news, weather and travel details, written and read blogs, video chatted with friends and answered questions from strangers, checked library book status, and all the incidental daily diversions one may encounter. All thanks to the ubiquitous web. How did we ever manage before?

The future is not what it used to be….

V is for Vinyl

Who does not love reminiscing about old gramophone records? I know I do and having once owned several thousand records I can understand the appeal of vinyl. But there is some weird stuff going on with the current so called vinyl revival. Firstly it hardly registers as a revival – more a slight blip…

And then there is the strange case of people buying vinyl records although they do not own any means to actually play them. Conversely many years ago (early to mid 1970’s) I purchased a secondhand Garrard 301 from someone locally and he had an impressively large and expensive HiFi system but only owned three records.


Where as once one could spend a lot of time and money finding the obscure records of choice today we can access most music for very little money and hardly any effort. As wonderful as such streaming services are it can be a little disconcerting to have Apple Music stream a pristine digital version of an old record when you are anticipating the old snap crackle and pop dubbed from vinyl one in your library.

S is for Erik Satie

Who does not love brief eccentric piano works? I know I do and have done for most of my life.

When I was very young I would Listen With Mother and on a good day the not very exciting story and inane song would not be of sufficient length to fill the space before the news headlines and so a short piece of music would be played. On a very good day the short piece of music would be by Erik Satie. As he composed numerous short pieces it was often a very good day.

One exceptionally short piece was Bonjour Biqui, Bonjour.

Biqui was his affectionate name for the one love of his life during their brief relationship.

Another short piece was never published/performed during his life but includes a suggestion that it be played repeatedly 840 times.

In the 1960s John Cage and a relay team of pianists decided to give it a try. It took over 18 hours to complete (it can take longer). At the completion a member of the much diminished audience shouted “Encore!”.

391 Cover
Satie contributed to the Dada magazine 391 with his eccentric sense of humour fitting well with the Dada spirit. Anyone arriving at a theatre to see the ballet Relâche may wonder if the performance is cancelled. The performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring the Fratellini family clowns, and supervised by Edgard Varèse never opened and as Varèse soon departed for America they did not collaborate again.

Things to do before I die: Learn to play the piano and play Satie’s piano pieces.

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