An Autocratic Approach to Music Copyright? The means through which Frank Zappa translated and adapted both his own and other composers music

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Abstract

Since the death of Frank Zappa in 1993, there has been an ongoing legal battle between the Zappa Family Trust (ZFT) and the so called ‘tribute bands’ that are determined to continue translating his music through live and recorded mediums. It could be argued that these ensembles effectively not only pay direct homage to Zappa’s legacy by interpreting his music in numerous innovative ways, but also keep his memory alive by interfacing with both his long standing audience, and with a younger generation who may not be aware of his music. The most famous of the rock based ensembles is entitled Zappa Plays Zappa and has the unusual credit of being ‘legally’ sanctified to perform his music live. This legality is no coincidence, as the band is headed by Zappa's eldest son Dweezil and features the 'Vault Master' responsible for compiling the legal recordings heralding from the ZFT - Joe Travers on drums. This paper intends to contribute to the small number of academic documents pertaining to Zappa by investigating the means through which he translated and adapted both his own and other composers’ work over. This research was carried out principally through musicological and content analysis of a range of Zappa and related recordings, which were consequently contextualized by key texts. This is the first stage of a two part research process, which will subsequently include an investigation into the various philosophical, legal and industrial factors behind why the ZFT are so intent on selectively prohibiting performances of his music and how/why such a diverse range of tribute bands and ensembles are so intent on continuing to experiment with Zappa’s music despite the threat of legal challenges
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2009
Event Performa 09 Encontros de Investigao em Performance - University of Evora, Portugal.
Duration: 1 May 20091 May 2009

Presentation

Presentation Performa 09 Encontros de Investigao em Performance
Period1/05/091/05/09

Keywords

  • frank zappa
  • the zappa family trust
  • popular music

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