Frank Zappa's musical language
Frank Zappa's musical language
A study of the music of Frank Zappa

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Around 2011 I got into conflict with Brett Clement from the University of Cincinatti, who published a dissertation on Zappa's instrumental music in 2009. The discussion deals with copyright, an alleged preference for the Lydian scale and the validity of a Lydian System theory, based upon this preference. Since it is my conclusion that Zappa's music follows no systems, this theory is in conflict with my findings.

I included an argument against this theory in the 2012 4th pdf version of my study, downloadable via this site. In the synopsis and introduction of the pdf file below you'll find my reasons for extending this argument to a larger downloadable file.

My argument re-stated as a seperate pdf file:

Refutation of the Lydian theory by Brett Clement

In July 2015 Brett Clement wrote me to inform me that he has written a counterargument. It's a pdf of 11 MB, being my argument with a lot of comment from his side added in. At that point he wished to distribute it himself via e-mail with the following text (but made it directly downloadable later on):

"Brett Clement has written a response to the document above. If you are interested in reading it, please contact him at and he will reply with an email attachment."

In my opinion much of this is toying with words, definitions and interpretations. At this point I feel no urge to react, nor do I have any problems with people getting a copy and referring to it. Much of what Clement says gets dealt with elsewhere in the pdf or my main study, so commenting would get repetitive. Some of Clement's remarks are inconsistent with what he wrote earlier. In the meantime some comments have been posted at, which made Clement decide to make his counterargument directly downloadable:

Response by Brett Clement

Below a screenshot from Yetanother is Martin Herraiz, whose study draws upon the one by Clement. Michael Pierry I don't know of. Both seem to find that my work is inferior because I've "failed" to form a theory about Zappa. If that's the criterion, then they are right. In case you want to publish something on Zappa I would appreciate it if you contact both me and Clement. My e-mail address is If you don't fully understand what this is about, then stay neutral and refer to both studies. Once you've published something there's no way of setting it back. By not withdrawing anything, referring to the Clement argument and including the screenshot below, my point of view may be clear by implication.

Screenshot from Zappateers

Two issues of a technical nature:
- The dominant 7th chord (Mm7).
Clement has written two arguments against the Mm7 chord. In 2009 he objects to its presence within a Lydian system, because its resolving tendencies would challenge the supremacy of the Lydian tonic. An example in Ionian from Holiday in Berlin is presented as not belonging to a Lydian system. A resolving Mm7 can happen in any diatonic scale. In 2014 Clements presented a rule for the Mm7 chord for his Mixolydian table. These two versions are different, but don't exclude each other. I'm referring to both. In his response Clement now states that he only objects to the Mm7 in Mixolydian, but does not withdraw his 2009 statements. You can't have it both ways. I didn't expect Clement to try something like this, otherwise I would have been more specific about these two versions. But suppose Clement would retrospectively be allowed to limit his objections to Mixolydian only, what then becomes of his Holiday in Berlin example? At first an example of something not belonging to a Lydian system and now it would be okay, because it's in Ionian.
- Dorian and/or Minor pentatonic.
The discussion Clement is trying to raise if such a distinction should be made isn't real. In 2009 Clement himself concluded that pentatonic passages in case of Zappa normally evolve into a complete scale. Moreover one should follow one method for identifying scales, that is one listens to the whole. If a melody is pentatonic, but the chords and bass line complete it to a diatonic scale, then the melody can be called pentatonic, but the piece is diatonic.
The neutral description of what Clement is addressing himself to is Dorian with minor pentatonic passages, a subcategory of Dorian if you like. There's hardly an argument needed here. Clement can point at pentatonic bars, but that doesn't mean that these compositions aren't Dorian. It's not about "or" but about "both".

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