The Black Page
"The Black Page" is a piece by American composer Frank Zappa known for being extraordinarily difficult to play. Originally written for the drum kit and melodic percussion, the piece was later rearranged in several versions, including the disco "easy teenage New York version" and a so-called new-age version.
Drummer Terry Bozzio said of the piece:
He wrote it, because we had done this 40-piece orchestra gig together and he was always hearing the studio musicians in LA, that he was musing on that, talking about the fear of going into sessions some morning and being faced with 'the black page'. So he decided to write his "Black Page". Then he gave it to me, and I could play parts of it right away. But it wasn't a pressure thing, it just sat on my music stand and for about 15 minutes every day for 2 weeks, before we would rehearse, I would work on it. And after 2 weeks I had it together and I played it for him. And he said, "Great!", took it home, wrote the melody and the chord changes, brought it back in. And we all started playing it.
On the double live album Zappa in New York (recorded 12/1976, released 3/1978), Zappa noted the "statistical density" of the piece. It is written in common time with extensive use of tuplets, including tuplets inside tuplets. At several points there is a crotchet triplet (sixth notes) in which each beat is counted with its own tuplet of 5, 5 and 6; at another is a minim triplet (third notes) in which the second beat is a rubato quintuplet (actually a tuplet of 7), and the third beat is divided into tuplets of 4 and 5. The song ends with a crotchet triplet composed of tuplets of 5, 5, and 6, followed by two tuplets of 11 in the space of one.
One of Zappa's complex, percussion-based compositions featured on Zappa in New York.
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Australian drummer Chris Quinlan explained and demonstrated the polyrhythms, nested polyrhythms (quintuplets and sextuplets played within a 3:2 polyrhythm), polymeters (5/4 phrases played over 4/4 time signature) and structure of "The Black Page" on "Melbourne Musos" TV Show, episode 122, aired in 1999 on Australian Community TV station, C31 Melbourne.
In 2001, Terry Bozzio and Chad Wackerman released the video "Solos and Duets" which features "The Black Page" played as a duet between the two ex-Zappa drummers with a transcription of the piece scrolling along the bottom of the screen as it is being played .
In 2006, "The Black Page" was featured on Zappa Plays Zappa - Tour de Frank, an ambitious effort by Dweezil Zappa to bring Zappa music to the stage again, played by himself and a new band. The 2006 tour also included, as special guests, Zappa alumni singer & woodwind player Napoleon Murphy Brock, drummer Bozzio, and guitarist Steve Vai. In the 2006 shows, "The Black Page" was played first as a drum solo by Bozzio and then a second time as a guitar duet with Steve Vai.
- Analysis of Zappa's unusual rhythms, including some transcriptions and MIDI recordings of "The Black Page"
- Interview by Vinnie Colaiuta for Modern Drummer, including a description of Vinnie's audition for Zappa
- The Black Page on YouTube, a sample from the 'Zappa Plays Zappa' tour
-  Australian drummer Chris Quinlan played and explained "The Black Page" on "Melbourne Musos" TV Show, episode 122, aired in 1999.