Tuesday, June 27, 2006

La-La, Ha-Ha

Twenty years ago, Frank Zappa released an album entitled "Does Humor Belong In Music?" All the songs on the record exist to prove Frank's point: The answer to his somewhat rhetorical question is a resounding "yes!" Titles such as "Zoot Allures" and "Penguin In Bondage" alone are enough to bring a smile to your lips, while Zappa's take on the old war-horse "Whippin' Post" let's you know that they understand irony as well.
But let's not just take Frank Zappa's word for it. Turn back in your musical history books to Haydn's Symphony number ninety-four, best known for a jolting chord sounds near the beginning of the second movement after a relatively tranquil opening. The chord "disappears" as quickly as it arrives, and the music immediately returns to its original dynamic, as if nothing had happened. That nutty Haydn.
I consider my own music collection to be full of explicit models of humor in music. Sure, I have a lot of very earnest and heartfelt songs by very earnest and heartfelt artists. Pearl Jam, for example, probably won't be showing up on Doctor Demento any time soon. DEVO, on the other hand, has spent decades culminating their image - once referred to by David Letterman as "The Fisher-Price of rock and roll." I own a lot of DEVO. I also own a lot of Barenaked Ladies. These guys are Canadian, so if they're in a rock band, they've got to have a sense of humor (are you listening, Geddy Lee?) My idea of a musical genius is somebody like Lyle Lovett, who can write a three-hankie song like "She's Already Made Up Her Mind" and follow it up with something like "She's Leaving Me (Because She Really Wants To)."
Yes, Frank - humor doesn't just belong in music, it's vital to its very existence. If you don't believe me, try listening to the beginning of "Get Back" and see if those lads from Liverpool weren't having a little fun with us: "Sweet Loretta Fat thought she was a cleaner, but she was a frying pan."

1 comment:

Robin said...