Mark Drobnick
Mark Drobnick

Dweezil Zappa fan:  Ed Morse

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/26/technology/start-ups-take-on-challenge-of-nuclear-fusion.html?_r=0
Mark Drobnick and Dweezil Zappa
Before Waukegan concert
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Author & Dweezil
At Genesee Theatre's ground floor rehearsal room
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Via Zammata
November 27 general distribution availability: Dweezil's newest album
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News Up-Date!!!


http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/26/technology/start-ups-take-on-challenge-of-nuclear-fusion.html?_r=0

 

Ed Morse, quoted in New York Times, 25 October 2015, [middle portion of report] regarding fusion energy start-ups. 


Amazon and Microsoft principals have frittered away their investment money in a boondoggle, is essence of what I glean from Ed's expert assessment.

 

M.D.

 

 

To:  Professor Edward C. Morse, decades long-time, Nuclear Engineering faculty member---University of California, Berkeley


Re:  Zappa & Your E-mail

 

Title:  "Dweezil Zappa fan:  Ed Morse" 
            [extrapolation, from our mutual appreciation of music of Frank Zappa] 
Date:  29 Sep. 2015

 

Hey Ed, 
Always great to hear from you,

 


1.  My spiel---Zappa at Waukegan's Genesee:  critique.


Check out ATTACHED data:  Mark Drobnick PHOTOS with "Frank Zappa Jr." (Dweezil), from last Thursday; current album COVER.  Dweezil visited Waukegan with his band.  


Excellent, musical revue!  It was his dad's (FZ=Frank Zappa) music, basically.  But also, Dweezil has a new album of 12 songs, "Via Zammata", out for general distribution Nov. 27.  It's maybe available right now on DweezilZappaWorld.com  It's his first album in 10 years.


The concert lasted 2½ hours, he and five other musicians.  Showcased was FZ's "One Size Fits All"; they performed it start to finish.


Remember "Apostrophe" album?  They did "Cosmik Debris".  "I got the crystal ball" line, was sung by female.  And, instead of interpreted by them, they solicited audience participation, and got it, for the line, "and your old lady has just gone down!"  We knew the lyrics.


They performed the Jack Bruce instrumental, too.  It was just Dweezil, bass player, and drummer.  When they all took a bow together at end, you could see how big that drummer was, tallest of six.  And, I'm telling you, he sounded powerful.


How they played those "Apostrophe" excerpts were as good as album, or better!  Dweezil called the Bruce tune, "garage band music for young teens".  Another time, he commented, "so many decades of great music here to be played".  And, then they continued into it.


Guitarist Joe Guzzo (and wife) sat in on the Master Class, I describe below.  He's from Chicago.  The surprise was that during concert later that evening, Dweezil called Joe, who had been one of our fellow students, up on stage to improvise and jam along with him, for "Cosmik Debris".

 
Looked like Joe handled lion's share of solo during the number, although both guitarists were plugged in, sallying forth.  The music they generated was spot on.  Came off very nicely.


Show's focus was music, not visual effects nor costumes.  All six of Dweezil's band were quite accomplished.


The girl played a dynamite sax:  Dweezil's big on pedal effects, as with his guitar, and you could easily detect "delay" (long-lasting reverb), processing her saxophone.  So, it sounded like two sax's, or echo in a large cave.  (She also played piccolo, compact synthesizer & tambourine).

 
The lead singer did rhythm guitar, trombone, trumpet and harmonica.  The bass player jumped around like a kid.

 

The keyboard player was visually inconspicuous.  But, the sound, bottom-line, was virtuoso quality, like everyone else on stage.


There was bit of "theatre" at mid-point, when Dweezil made like the dinosaur in "Jurassic Park".  With every step he took, you could hear and feel electric bass and huge, drum percussion, synchronized.  Remember the glass of water with the earthquake-rippling in movie?  Was like that.


FYI, personnel:  Dweezil Zappa-guitar,  Kurt Morgan-bass,  Ryan Brown-drums, 
     Scheila González-saxophone, etc.,  Chris Norton-keyboards,  Ben Thomas-lead vocals, etc.  


Highlight for me was the mid-afternoon, Master Class in theatre's basement, prior to concert.  I and eleven other students, got tutored by Dweezil on guitar, for an hour and a half!  He was quite adept, bright, quick, patient, and, generous with his time.  Is how I got pix.


"Mr. Zappa, okay if I tape this?", asked yours truly at the outset.  "Sure, okay, just make sure it doesn't end up on YouTube," he answered.  


I later asked him about hammer-on with pinkie, he appeared to be doing.  "Sure [that's practicable], if that's what's most convenient solution to getting through a line or passage, while causing the least amount of effort for guitarist."  (Otherwise, often is taught, and not inconsistently, to utilize strongest finger, whenever choice is possible.)  


I asked him if those were his vocals on "Dragon Master" from his new album, which he sampled for us.  He replied, that was another musician.

 
Story behind the tune is that FZ wrote "humorous" lyrics in 1988 to parody heavy metal, as in Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath.  Then FZ handed to Dweezil:  "here, see if you can put this to music."


Maybe it's just my take, but there appear to be two levels of "parody" subtlety, one being much more easily discernible than the other.  One level would be e.g., "Valley Girl", the song FZ did with Dweezil's sister, Moon Unit.  From the starting gate, the listener rapidly detects that something humorous is happening here.  Nothing needs to be explained.


But, as for "Dragon Master", absent Dweezil's orienting us about how it germinated, I'm not sure how I would react to the song's ambiance.  Maybe I would hear it a couple of times, classify it as being part of a nihilistic or pagan genre, then bypass it as not being my cup of tea.


Dweezil declares "rhythm" as being a more important element in music, than melody.  He demonstrated by playing a well-known song, completely with the wrong notes.  Nevertheless, we rapidly recognized it soon after he got into it:  "Happy Birthday".


He explained permutations of rhythm with another song:  "Jenny" (Tommy Tutone), which he played, adroitly.  For example, you can take a sequence of nine notes, then arbitrarily group them into sub-sets, e.g. 5 + 4, 6 + 2 + 1, etc., to incorporate into your song.  

 

He tied that thinking in to the last digit of the phone number, from "Jenny".  Upon that rhythm, you can situate a handful of notes you're able to run up and down the fretboard with, 'til you've found an aesthetically pleasing combination. 


For the class, he played a Gibson SG guitar (very light weight, is its saving grace), amped thru what looked like a Marshall 12-inch, tube unit (great, "British" tone).


He occasionally returned to the five, pentatonic, box-shape progressions for blues.  There we students sat, imitating his progressions on our instruments.  I had brought an Epiphone Casino (Beatles mainstay), so I could hear myself even if not plugged in.  Semi-hollow body allows that:  hybrid between solid body and acoustic.

 
Dweezil's new "Via Zammata" album is really accessible, moreso than FZ's music.  I like the collection very much.  


As Pete Seeger once wrote (paraphrased), "the musician wants to strike a balance between experimental, and the tried and true.  Too much of the former loses your audience."  So, Dweezil's current offering is neither too avant-garde, nor too retro.  I think he's struck it perfect[ly].

  
Especially tracks 4 thru 12, I found easiest to get into first.  Track 1 is a 15/8 time signature, which Dweezil explained to us.  It's like a syncopation (off-beat) effect which keeps listener on his/her toes.  It takes awhile into song, to become accustomed and know when to expect pulse emphasis to happen, and repetition to recur.


Track 4 is sung/narrated by actor John Malkovich.  It's some kind of sci-fi, gothic, heavy narrative.  But, the outro is a hoot.  Chorus inquires in synonymous expletive, "what the heck [was] that all about?"  


Brings me back to some of my college courses as a young man.  What on earth was that prof rambling on about?


Possibly scary thought:  I think I've actually got a line on what Malkovich is saying.  Perception puts a cap on your reality.  How you see the universe versus how it really is, may be two, entirely different things.  And, for many you meet on the street, probably is that disparity!


Which is another reason I've always liked Ed, for being an engineer (as also is one "Kurt", elsewhere mentioned herein).  Hey, if those guys can keep an aircraft in the above, flying, and safely reaching its destination, then they must have some fundamental, sound, realistic connections to the "Great Architect's" pure reality.

 
Putting a man on the moon and returning him back here, for example, constitutes another noteworthy, astounding feat.  You can't pull those off by laboring under delusions.

 
How about a couple of the next, scientific frontiers?  Is time travel even possible?  Can we manipulate gravity (other than in artificially generating centrifugal force)?  Which brings to mind another song from FZ's "Apostrophe" album ("Excentrifugal Forz").


Back to "Via Zammata" music, Dweezil's really got an empathy for women, rather interesting, very articulate and able, as you can hear in several cuts.  Maybe [it's] attributable to [the] customary, tender company of wife and three daughters.

 
Accounts for his insightful lyrics.  He knows what he's talking about, and has an intuitive feel for the message and poetry.


"Truth" is a luscious, gorgeous instrumental.  When I create my own original music, frequently I find lyrics end up being the finishing touch.  But, some compositions are so beautiful, that they easily may stand alone.  Dweezil's "Truth" is a prime example.  
Incidentally, Beatles' Geoff Emerick was involved as engineer on this one.  You can hear Beatle-esque harmonium-type effects on some album cuts.

 
Also, Dweezil utilizes the fretless guitar's variety of nuances, when that is the coloring called for.  Thereby are produced an infinite variety of microtones, which beautifully slide into one another as he glissandos along the guitar neck, achieving augmented pinnacles of emotive expression.

 
"Billionaire's Son" is quite funny, the last cut.  Has some Mexican horn color to it.  (And, I detect Dweezil on banjo, alongside the horns.)  As for its tone or treatment, the comedy served up is what one would denominate as gallows humor or black humor.

  
Thematically, I would say that the lyrics venture a unique essay on questions of:  values, and, being able to see beyond the tip of one's nose, i.e. long-term thinking about consequences; and, consequence's consequences.

 
Primarily, at the most obvious level, is involved contravention of one of society's most basic laws.  And, although not explicit, we may infer that justice be served.

  
I remember your habitual emphasis, Ed, on thriftiness when you and I were roommates.  I think this song will make you chuckle.  That's sure what it did for me.


Can you believe the amount of time Dweezil invested in making his album?  Comes out to half a year, full-time (as in 40 hours per week).

 
Obviously, his efforts paid off.  Gosh!  I'm both awed and impressed.

 

 

 

2.  Answering your news. 


Dear Ed, 


If I remember correctly, that fellow was a roommate of yours across the hall from me in F.A.R. (Florida Ave. Residence-Oglesby Hall).  Long, blonde hair; thin, tall.  His dad was a professor at NIU-DeKalb.


I am so sorry to hear of his premature exit from this world.  My condolences to all affected.  And, time has healed much of that, I think and imagine, when you inform me how long ago that was.

 
He was your first roommate when you precociously moved out of the dorm into apartment living.  Then, Mark P. took his place for the summer, right?  Was it something like that?  


The average student had to wait two years for private-housing eligibility; nevertheless, you pulled it off in one!  That's so like you, advanced and all that.

 
In a good way, I mean!  Who else but you, could score an "A" average in Electrical Engineering, graduate it in 3 years, then secure your Nuclear Engineering Ph.D. by age 22?  Wow!  That belongs in some kind of records book.


Remember Nobel prize winner John Bardeen passing up and down the hallway by us, as we frequented the Physics department?  Not bad company to rub elbows with!  That can only have influenced us for the better.


Now, there was a third roommate who wasn't as close to you and our subject here.  He seemed to stay more on the margins.  I recall that he definitely was part of the shifting trio when Mark P. came into the picture.  I presume you've kept track of this unidentified fellow too, when you enumerate your checklist of "survivors".

 
Appears you've got aptitude for decedents' estates law practice as another one of your many talents.  You Renaissance man, you!

 
You're definitely quite the internet sleuth and investigatory detective!  You'd surely pull in a few extra bucks working with Ancestry.com.

 
(Editorial note:  and, in a follow-up e-mail, Ed let me know that he has traced his own family back to year 1350 A.D.!  A few centuries later, they emigrated from continental Europe to the English, American colonies, in face of onslaught of the ever persistent, recrudescent Bubonic Plague!

 
(That's so like Ed, leaving no stone unturned, no matter what the issue.  Habitually [he has always been] of the attitude "can do", and characteristically strives for excellence in all endeavors.)


While I'm on this thought Ed, maybe you could find something out about my maternal, Polish ancestors.  I understand a lot of our history is obliterated.

 
Hitler sent his boys in to pillage and destroy.  Or, was it the Russians, more responsible?  Thus, many records in present-day Poland are wiped out.  There's no courthouse to go to, to investigate history.

 
Now in Chile, South America, there's an alternative.  If you want to know someone ancient's birthdate and related data, and there's no governmental record, then there's a Plan B.  Frequently, the local, Catholic Church will have baptismal records available, containing useful information.


Yeah, talking about survivors, what has become of Kurt G.?  Remember "A is A", Aristotelian logic, and Ayn Rand, von Mises, Karl Popper, Nathaniel Branden, etc., etc.?  Seemed like Kurt's incessant litany.

 
Older brother Hayden was a pal, too.  Remember their pop?  [He] Switched from pathology to psychiatry when he moved his M.D. practice to New York.  Of course, your dad was an engineer, mine a lawyer.


Those university days were great times, my friend.  I remember only the best.  And, there's very little bad, if any, to have to try to forget.  It was such a cradle of nurturing.  Some of us never wanted to leave!


Thanks for the update on the departed roommate.  Illness is illness, however manifested.  It's too bad he didn't receive adequate remedies.


When I was pre-med, I worked over five years in a huge, general, medical, & surgical hospital, combined with psychiatric.  That's some of the best experience I've ever received in human conduct and its detour into disease.

 
The education has been of lifelong usefulness to me.  It's one of my touchstones in keeping both the designs and surprises life can bring, in proper perspective.


Take good care, Ed.  You are truly one of the most remarkable people I have ever met.  (And by now, I've met quite a few.)

 
Remember, I got to observe how you worked from very close by, when we lived at Sixth and Stoughton.  I learned many good things from you, our whole time on that campus.

 
I'll add, I hope you found my company then, worthwhile and enriching.  It seemed that you routinely did.

 
Your sense of humor has always been astute, incisive, and iconoclastic.  That's one of your traits I find most endearing. 


Yes, you were always fun to be around!  You've always, naturally, been quite the raconteur, entertainer, experimenter, and innovator.


It was only logical that you'd end up making a livelihood along these lines, before countless audiences of students.  You enthrall them with your energetic, enthusiastic, and zestful presentations on topics of high-level physics, math, and engineering. 


You belong on our alma mater's Bronze Tablet, buddy.  You've surely earned it.

 

And, it's just another step along the way, in an ever-lengthening list of achievements.    
 
Your friend, college chum, former roommate, and co-alum., from Champaign,


MARK  DROBNICK 

 

 

 

cc:  Edward C. Morse 

 

 

 

 

 

{ posted 06 October 2015 }

 

 

 

 

Before Waukegan concert Mark Drobnick & Dweezil Zappa
At Genesee Theatre's ground floor rehearsal room Author & Dweezil
November 27 general distribution availability:  Dweezil's newest album Via Zammata

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