Zappa and Modernism: An extended study of Brown Shoes Don't Make It

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Frank Zappa is an outstanding figure in Western musical, cultural and even political life of the twentieth century. His massive musical production is of an extraordinary stylistic breadth and complexity no matter in which perspective it is viewed or reflected upon. His universe comprises an abundance of styles and genres across historical, artistic and musical boundaries yet still constitutes an intellectual whole, a cohesive musical oeuvre, that can rightfully be acknowledged as ‘Modern’.

Taking the collage-composition ‘Brown Shoes Don’t Make It’ as a leading thread, the article weaves a mosaic of analyses, ranging from strictly structural analyses that are stylistic and semiotic in nature to purely discursive and hypertextual studies, constructing the case that Zappa’s work, rather than being a wild profusion of styles, is instead a highly coherent and stringently complex work of meaning. It is an oeuvre in which subtle correspondences between music styles, titles, lyrics, texts and more, critically reflect central aspects of modern culture and human life in a psychological, sociological as well as philosophical elucidation. In addition to close reading of ‘Brown Shoes Don’t Make It’ and references to other artists’ work, the article includes references to most of Zappa’s discography and aims to point out how the musical coding in Zappa’s work take on a decisive role in an almost Adornian sense, expressing the historical necessity of complexity and opposition.
Translated title of the contributionZappa og Modernisme: En udvidet studie af Brown Shoes Can't Make It
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrank Zappa and the And : Key Essays on the contextualization of his legacy
EditorsPaul Carr
Number of pages18
Publication date28 Feb 2013
ISBN (Print)978-1409433378
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2013


  • Frank Zappa
  • modernism
  • avantgarde
  • rock
  • music drama

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