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On the Road: 7-12 Inductee Spotlight: Frank Zappa & Rock's Avant-Garde



Inductee Spotlight: Frank Zappa & Rock's Avant-Garde

Suggested Grade Level: 7-12

This research guide serves as a resource for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Education Department course, Inductee Spotlight: Frank Zappa & Rock's Avant Garde . For additional information on the course and for more teacher resources, see

Frank Zappa was one of rock and roll’s sharpest musical minds and an astute social critic. He bridged musical styles – rock, jazz, classical, and avant-garde – with masterful ease. This class examines his music by focusing on the moments when these various musical styles merged, sometimes comfortably, sometimes with contention. Students will explore Zappa’s music to hear how he was able to translate his musical ideas into everything from rock and roll to full orchestral scores. We will listen to examples from his rock music (Freak Out!), symphonic pieces (Orchestral Favorites), digitized extravaganzas for the Synclavier keyboard (Francesco Zappa), and satirical musicals (Joe’s Garage). Special interviews with members of the Cleveland based group Red: An Orchestra help students to understand Zappa’s connections to the Western Classical tradition and composers such as Igor Stravinsky and Edgard Varèse.

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For Your Students

Online Resources


These resources, pulled from class discussion and selected from the Library and Archives' collections, will help you to:

  • Compare and contrast varied styles of music as created by Frank Zappa, Howlin' Wolf, Igor Stravinsky, Edgar
 Varèse, and John Coltrane and appropriately use related musical terms such as: melody, harmony, rhythm, lyrics, and instrumentation.
  • Describe the sounds of instruments used in Zappa's compositions, and appropriately use related musical terms such as: brass, percussion, woodwinds, strings, vocalist, and synthesizer.
  • Give examples of how Frank Zappa both influenced and was influenced by society and culture.




Archival Resources

New to Archives? Check out:

Below is a list of links to archival materials related to this course:

YouTube Videos

Frank Zappa playing music on a bicycle, Steve Allen Show, 1963

Frank Zappa, "Cosmik Debris," live in Sweden, 1973

Frank Zappa, "Montana (A Token of his Extreme)"

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow," 1974

Frank Zappa, "Dancin' Fool," live in Paris, June 18, 1980

Good Morning America, September 21, 1982

Edgard Varese, "Ionisation"
Tom Waits, Swordfishtrombones

Stravinsky's Rite of Spring by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, November 14, 2010
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum | Library and Archives
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