Weekend Gallimaufry with a roundtable panel discussion on the state of Classical Music and music in general in the US. Featuring Frank Zappa, Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Zubin Mehta, Los Angeles Philharmonic Manager Ernest Fleischmann, Film music composer David Raksin and KPFK moderators Lew Merckelson and William Strother. Recorded circa 1968-69 (rebroadcast in 1971).
November 19, 2011

The age-old query: "what is it you people want?"

In the 1960's endless discussions were spent laboring over the subject of The Communications Gap. An adjunct to the Generation Gap, The Communications Gap had more to do with selective hearing than it actually had to do with language skills. Case in point was the subject of music. Even in the 60's members of the mainstream were hard pressed to figure out what Rock music was. Rather than accept it as a form of popular music it was viewed as some secret society to which only a select few were privy to the myriad of ever-changing codes. The dark, mysterious and all encompassing Counterculture.

I ran across this panel discussion (more of an inquiry), originally broadcast around 1969 and rebroadcast in 1971. It featured a rather eclectic cast of characters, including Frank Zappa, L.A. Philharmonic Music Director and Conductor Zubin Mehta. Philharmonic Manager Ernest Fleischmann. Film composer David Raksin and the KPFK moderators Lew Merckelson and William Strother.

Zappa is viewed by Mehta and Fleischmann much the same way Esmeralda viewed Quasimodo - with a degree of repulsion and curiosity. Mehta is adamant in explaining that "young people don't understand counterpoint" as the reason they don't go to Classical music concerts. Zappa explains that Classical music has gone through a season of doldrums and the conservative programming in the concert hall needed more new and adventuresome pieces performed. The younger audiences were there - Zubin and Ernest were just going about finding them the wrong way. The borderline patronizing and condescending dismissal were symptomatic of what the universal problem was in all aspects of the 60's. Music was no exception.

What's interesting about this interview is that it pre-dates the L.A. Philharmonic/Mothers Of Invention concerts that eventually took place at UCLA in May of 1970 - the results being partially disastrous and part wildly successful in the first performance of 200 Motels which featured both the L.A. Philharmonic and The Mothers of Invention in what Frank referred to as "Zubin And The Jets". So obviously some groundwork was laid, no matter how tenuous.

But from a historic point of view this is an interesting panel discussion and one I don't think has been heard in 40 years. It's interesting to realize how much the whole field has changed in that time. Zappa went on to be regarded as a composer capable of not only his signature material, but also his serious material and was championed in that regard by none other than Pierre Boulez, who is also a respected composer and much loved musician (there was an attempt once, by members of the Philharmonic to draft Boulez as Music Director, but flattered, he declined).

So attitudes eventually change, but hearing how they arrive there is usually more interesting than the end results. This half hour broadcast gives you some idea of just what the atmosphere was like.

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