"Contempo '70" Plans Announced

By The Echo

The Echo, April, 1970

Plans for “Contempo '70," an innovative series of tour concerts of 20th Century music featuring the Los Angeles Philharmonic and several important figures in the classical and rock music field were disclosed today during a press conference at the Music Center.

 Making the announcement were Zubin Mehta, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Frank Zappa, tamed rock musician and composer and leader of the Mothers of Invention, and Ernest Fleischmann, executive director of the Philharmonic.

The concerts will take place May 3 and 10 at the Ahmanson Theatre, May 15 at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion and May 31 at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus. Complete title of‘ the series is “Contempo '70 – 20th Century Music: How It Was, How It Is." It will include the century's several phases of music, from works by the early masters – Bartok. Schoenberg Stravinsky, Varese, and Webern – to the music of NOW – Luciano Berio, Mel Powell, Morton Subotnick and Frank Zappa.

Zubin Mehta will conduct the first three concerts; Pierre Boulez, celebrated composer and music director elect of the New York Philharmonic and the BBC Symphony, will conduct the final program. Guest artists are the Swingle Singers, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention and Morton Subotnick.

On a preliminary statement prior to the discussion, Fleischmann stressed the unprecedented opportunity offered by Contempo '70. “This is a splendid chance to get acquainted with the music of our time – to come to grips with the sounds of the 20th Century," he declared.

"On May 10 and May 31, Zubin Mehta and Pierre Boulez will show how Bartok, Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Webern lit the fuse for the conflagration to come. On May 3 and May I15, we will experience the musical explosions of Berio, Powell, Subotnick and Zappa."

 "Contempo '70 audiences also will be encouraged to participate in the programs. During a forum following each concert ideas may be exchanged among conductors, composers, guest artists and members of the audience.

Mehta, a native of Bombay, India, is in his eighth year as music director of the Philharmonic. He has conducted leading orchestras and opera companies throughout the world. He and the Philharmonic recently starred on the NBC television special, “The Switched-On Symphony," and Mehta, as musical adviser of the Israel Philharmonic, has conducted concerts of symphonic and rock music repertoire.

Zappy, one of the leading figures in underground music, was a pioneer in the use of amplified and electronically modified instruments. The Mothers of Invention is credited with laying much of the theoretical ground work that influenced the design of many commercially manufactured electro-musical devices.

Zubin Mehta, 34, is in his eighth year as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and during that period he has guided the Philharmonic to an enviable position among the world's great orchestras through a unique relationship with the musicians based upon mutual respect and affection. Despite invitations from leading orchestras and opera companies across the globe, Mehta spends more time with his orchestra than most music directors.

Mehta is extremely aware of the dramatic changes that have taken place in music and his influence in this direction is attracting growing audiences to his Los Angeles concerts. The especially large increase in attendance of young people is a credit to his unusual ability to program as well as his youthful outlook on music. The NBC television special, "The Switched-On Symphony," starring Mehta and the Philharmonic, illustrates well the viable present – and future – potential of a symphony orchestra under proper, visionary direction. The program provides a collage of music with ingredients drawn from classical, rock and folk artists and repertoire.

Zubin Mehta was born in Bombay in 1936. A Parsee, he is descended from the ancient Persians who fled into India after the followers of Mohammed overran the Middle East during the sixth century.

Young Zubin received his early musical training from his father, Mehli Mehta, founder and first concertmaster, later conductor, of the Bombay Symphony Orchestra. Mehta recalls those early days filled with music:

"From the cradle on, I heard chamber music. I became acquainted with Beethoven quartets before I ever heard a symphony, and could sing all this music before I could read a note."

He began study of the violin and piano at seven, and at 16 began conducting concerto accompaniments for his father. While still a teenager he was entrusted with the orchestra while his father was away touring.

Despite this firm foundation in music, Zubin Mehta at one point cast aside this profession and entered medical school. But soon after taking his first M.B., he returned to music. Mehta then left to Vienna, where he studied piano, composition, string bass and conducting at the Academy of Music while playing the violin and bass in various orchestras, and singing in choruses under great conductors, as well as attending different opera or concert almost every night. At one time his heavy schedule included 12 courses taken simultaneously! Recalling his receipt of a diploma for conducting he observes, "I always had the intention of becoming a conductor because orchestral music appeals to me most. Otherwise I would have been a pianist."

The following year Mehta began conducting at the Musikverein in Vienna and, later that year entered and won the first Liverpool International Conductors' Competition in a field of 100 contestants. Later, substituting for Eugene Ormandy, he became the youngest conductor to lead the Vienna Philharmonic. He was also the youngest man in history to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic. He electrified the August Salzburg Festival with his performance of Stravinsky and Brahms. At 25, he was invited to conduct the then 25-year-old Israel Philharmonic, and was asked to return at least once a year until their mutual 50th birthday. He is now that orchestra's Music Adviser, conducting more of its concerts than any other conductor.

Numerous guest appearances with major orchestras led him to the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1961 where, alter his first appearance, he made so profound an impression that he was engaged as music director the following year. He was the seventh music director in the Philharmonic's history, and at the age of 26, the youngest. His association with the Philharmonic also had further significance: A year earlier he became the music director of the Montreal Symphony. Thus Zubin Mehta was the first music director of two major North American orchestras, a practice that recently has become more common.

A highlight of this dual association came during Expo 67 in Montreal when Mehta conducted the two groups in a massed performance of Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique. Mehta left the Montreal Symphony in 1967 to devote more time to his important Los Angeles duties. In December, 1964, Mehta led an historic concert featuring Jascha Heifetz to open Los Angeles' elegant Music Center Pavilion, where the Philharmonic plays its winter season programs.

Outside Los Angeles Mehta has been a welcome guest with at least 20 major orchestras and several opera companies.


Pierre Boulez, who was born in Montbrison, France, in 1925, is equally renowned as composer and conductor, and is music director elect of the New York Philharmonic and the BBC Symphony, and principal guest conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra.

After studying composition with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatory and with Rene Leibowitz, he became, in 1948, Music Director of the Jean-Louis Barrault-Madeleine Renaud Theatre Company. In 1953, he founded the avant-garde concert series which was to become known as the "Domaine Musicale"

During this period Mr. Boulez also became associated with the summer courses and festival at Darmstadt, Germany. In 1960, he was appointed a principal conductor of the Southwest German Radio in Baden-Baden. He has also been a guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Vienna Philharmonic,  Los Angeles Philharmonic, and at the music festivals of Edinburgh, Bayreuth, Holland, Vienna, Israel and Ojai. As a conductor, he has become closely identified with the music of Berg, Schoenberg, Webern, Stravinsky, Bartok, Debussy,  Schumann, Berlioz, Mahler and Wagner. Among his own compositions are three piano sonatas, Pli Selon Pli, Soleil des eaux, Eclat, and the widely-performed Le marteau sans maitre.


 [An adaptation of a retrospective written by David Walley for Rock Magazine upon Frank Zappa's announcement of his decision to disband the Mothers of Invention.:


The Mothers are dead. At least that was what the press release said a few days ago. To me the idea of the Mothers not gigging is an unmitigated disaster not only for the musicians, but more importantly for the audiences who will he deprived of good music. Frank's music strained the senses; it was music that made one think beyond British Blues, B.B. King riffs, or superstar ego-tripping and publicity hype games.

Admittedly, Frank himself had much to do with killing the group. He wanted something his audiences couldn't give him. He wanted to be understood and comprehended as a composer and a musician, not a "pop performer." But, for a generation which has grown accustomed to flash, it was doubly hard to relate to a musician it he played music without the trimmings.

Apparently more people came to see the Mothers because of their visuals than because of their music. They wanted a show, not to be exposed to a musical form which was far ahead of its time. Laughing at the Mothers was the hip thing to do. The Mothers passed from the performing arena because Zappa's public expected him to act the part of the iconoclast rather than be one.

Zappa is a serious, dedicated composer, who wanted to do something more than entertain people. Perhaps he expected too much trying to have people listen to rather than "consume" his music. Audiences regarded Frank as a freak. Reluctantly, he realized that those who went to see him were interested only in telling their friends what he said to hecklers. The show was more important than the music.

His early albums, beginning in 1966 with "Freak Out" and "Absolutely Free," were bought more for curiosity than for what they said; something with which to terrorize parents. Frank was committed not to turning people on to drugs, but to turning them towards self-reflection and an awareness of their environment. Songs like "Plastic People," "America Drinks and Goes Home,"  "I'm Losing Status At The High School, " were at few of his better known sociologically oriented numbers.

In one of the lesser known pieces, "What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body?," we find these lines:

All your children are poor unfortunate victims of systems beyond their control.
A plague upon your ignorance & the gray despair of your ugly life.

Where did Annie go when she went to town?
Who are all those creeps that she brings around?

All your children are poor unfortunate victims of lies you believe.
A plague upon your ignorance that keeps the young from the truth they deserve.  

This furnishes us with a basic picture of Zappa's attitude toward his audience.

 In "Lumpy Gravy," the basic structure of the composition is fundamental to classical orchestral music: introduction of a theme, its subsequent restatement, and modification through the various instrumental voices.

Typically, when the was confronted at all, its unity went unrecognized. Rather, it was regarded as an assemblage of diverse musical forms: open music, electronic music, theatre, aleatoric music (music by chance operation), and choral expression. Furthermore, Zappa's extension of classical thematic technique through the use of environments remained unperceived. Central musical statements in "Lumpy Gravy" were surrounded by sequences (whether music, speech, etc.) which by their very juxtaposition were intended as modifiers. The original statements reveal themselves to their fullest only when evaluated within their musical climates. A similar attitude of approach would be useful with regard to the material to be presented at Pauley Pavilion May 15.

It would be ironic indeed if the disbandment of the Mothers achieves what Zappa himself could not accomplish ,,, focusing attention on what was and continues to be his most important concern, the music.


Contempo '70: 20th Century Music
How It Was, How It Is


Sunday, May 3:                                                   8:00 P.M.

Ahmanson Theatre
Conductor: Zubin Mehta
The Swingle Singers, Morton Subotnick

Webern: 5 Pieces for Orchestra, op. posth. +
Subotnick: Play! 4 ++
Berio: Sinfonia ++

Sunday, May 10:                                                8:00 P.M.

Ahmanson Theatre
Conductor: Zubin Mehta

Stravinsky: Octet
Stravinsky: Symphony in 3 Movements
Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra

Friday, May 15:                                                  8:30 P.M.

Pauley Pavilion, UCLA
Conductor: Zubin Mehta
Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention

Powell: Immobiles 1-4 ++
Varese: Integrales
Zappa: Set by The Mothers
Concerto for Mothers & Orchestra +++

Friday, May 15:                                                  8:30 P.M.

Royce Hall, UCLA
Conductor: Pierre Boulez
Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention

Schoenberg: Chamber Symphony 1
Webern: 5 Pieces for Strings. Op. 5
Variations. Op. 30
Stravinsky: Symphonies of Wind Instruments
Suite. The Firebird

+        First U.S. performances of all 5 Pieces
++      First performances in Los Angeles
+++    First performance anywhere 

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