mary's orchestra
the liner notes to "the lost episodes"

***  this music, as fz told don menn in the 1992 "zappa!" tribute magazine (published by keyboard and guitar player magazines) is part of the very first zappa-led performance of the composer's so-called "serious," or orchestral music. it took place in 1963 at, of all pastoral places, lovely mount st. mary's college, a private catholic institution perched in the lush santa monica mountains above west los angeles.  zappa spent $300 from his own pocket, organized a "college orchestra," and "put on this little concert."  it was taped and broadcast by los angeles public radio station kpfk, but fz did not hear the tape until 1991, after a fan in england mailed him a cassette. although the concert was much longer than this tiny fragment*, this excerpt of what fz described as "oddball, textured weirdo stuff" is still a minor treasure.  the composer's musical personality and skill are suprisingly mature; it is easy to detect stylistic hints fo the future, more elaborate work.  the music's level of accomplishment and ambition, in fact, is a jarring reminder that, as fz told menn, "by the time i graduated from high school in 1958, i still hadn't written any rock and roll songs... i didn't write any rock and roll stuff until i was in my twenties.  all the music writing i was doing was either chamber music or orchestral, and none of it ever got played until this concert..."  the program included a piece called "opus 5," aleatoric works that required some improvisation, a piece for orchestra and taped electronic music, with accompanying visuals in the form of fz's own experimental 8mm films.   euclid james 'motorhead' sherwood described one such film depicting the los angeles county fair carnival, double exposed with passing telephone poles).  it is also worth pointing out that fz's elaborate conducting technique of improvising music through pre-arranged hand signals and body gestures was employed at this concert (san francisco chronicle columnist ralph j. gleason wrote in 1968 that "zappa's conducting style is worth a column all by itself") and that his ease and charm with audiences was already in evidence.

        *fz said "not much tape survives" of the concert (indeed, it is not in the kpfk archives), but collectors report the existence of a 69-minute recording of this event.  ***

regarding experimental 8mm films: check frank zappa's "video from hell" for footage of this film, used as music visuals the song nite school.