Dog Breath Variations/Uncle Meat

The Yellow Shark, An Appreciation. Merry Zappadan.

At the time they were interviewed for the Yellow Shark liner notes, Ensemble Modern Director Peter Rundel was not aware that the “Dog Breath” set had words.


Primer mi carucha, chevy 39
Going to el monte legion stadium
Pick up on my weesa, she is so divine
Helps me stealing hubcaps, wasted all the time

Fuzzy dice, bongos in the back
My ship of love is ready to attack

“It’s interesting what you say about it having text, the words,” Rundel said. “Very often you really have the impression of a speaking quality of his music, even if there are no words. The music speaks very much.”

The Dog Breath theme is fairly universal in the project/object. Frank Zappa albums on which it has appeared include: Uncle Meat, Electric Aunt Jemima, Disconnected Synapses, Just Another Band From L.A., Swiss Cheese/Fire!, Live In Melbourne, You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 2, Bubble Cream Cheese in Dog Meat, The Dub Room Special, and, of course, The Yellow Shark.

I love this arrangement. People say Zappa strikes them as a Stravinsky. In this arrangement, I hear Berlioz; I hear the start of Symphonie Fantastique, which also starts out as a ride on a swamp boat but then shoots a flare into the sky it brightens so dramatically. This may very well be the most bright, beautiful arrangement in this collection.

It might of course be helpful to listen to the source material. That is one nice thing about spending some time with The Yellow Shark if you never have. It can be tangential, causing you to need to listen to many other parts of the object. For instance, before 2011, I am ashamed to say, I was not much familiar with Uncle Meat. But to listen to and appreciate The Yellow Shark, Uncle Meat was certainly a necessity.

Here’s a really nice recording from 1973, which starts with Exercise 4, which, yes, we will be considering later. This is gorgeous, though:

It is also interesting how similar the arrangement is to the one some 20 years later. It is nearly the same performance, but with different instrumentation.

By the way. When these kids these days are looking for a bit of a challenge, guess what they seem to pick? Lookit these youngsters nail this piece. I love this.

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