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Briefly explain why artists like Zappa and Chicago were so impressed with Varese.

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The composer Edgard Varese was a powerful influence on thoughtful Rock musicians, such as Frank Zappa and the group, Chicago. Before beginning this discussion, read each of the following tributes to Varese by the aforementioned artists.

Edgard Varese: The Idol of My Youth, by Frank Zappa

One Track Mind: Chicago – A Hit by Varese

You should also listen to A Hit by Varese (Time: 4:52, Transcript), paying close attention to the lyrics, as well as how the song itself seeks to mirror the ideas of Varese.

Based on what you’ve learned in this module, address each of the following prompts:

  • Briefly explain why artists like Zappa and Chicago were so impressed with Varese.
  • Do you share in common with them their enthusiasm for Varese? Explain.
  • Even though they paid a major tribute to the non-mainstream style of Varese, Chicago, like many other bands, went on to record several commercial hits that catered to what fans expected from them at the time. In your opinion, does this type of “selling out” betray an artist’s commitment to freer forms of music, or is it possible to both conform to and push the limits of mainstream musical form?

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