Archive for Arthur Barrow

TRANSCRIPTION | Zappa “I Come From Nowhere” (excerpt)

Posted in transcriptions with tags , , , , , on May 10, 2017 by dukewisdom

Their eyes are all frozen over

… and when I say excerpt, I mean approximately one measure. Here’s a shard that I can hardly believe still exists, a transcription of a harmonized line featured in the Frank Zappa song “I Come From Nowhere” (from the album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch). I deciphered this tangle (presumably originally performed by Steve Vai, Arthur Barrow, Tommy Mars and/or Bobby Martin) in about 1999 for an ambitious project that never quite got off the ground, by working from a vastly slowed down version of the recording. (Back in those days we just let the kerosene powered record player run down, of course.) As the run is written in tablature, there’s no key signature indicated. And it really wouldn’t help: This is classic Zappa, full of chromatic twists and turns, arpeggio inversions battling each other in parallel harmony and other madness that defies clear categorization. And, seeing as it was essentially an internal memo, I didn’t include a time signature. With Zappa, of course, the rhythmic concepts are as complex as the melodic material. This transcription by Kasper Sloots has the pattern in 27/16, which makes sense, though I’m not sure I agree with it in context.

Is it accurate? I thought so at the time. If Mike Keneally were swinging by to give me a technical edit I wouldn’t withdraw the scrap of paper, but I might not bet my paycheck on it. While there’s no archival film footage of any of Frank Zappa’s bands playing the piece for reference (it was apparently never performed live), there are video clips of Zappa Plays Zappa (or whatever the hell they were allowed to call themselves at the time) taking it on in 2013. I notice Dweezil plays his part in a different position. Maybe that would make it rest under the fingers better. (Just kidding.)

Care to spend an evening working this handful of notes up to tempo?