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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #203
Ethnic Musicmongering
David Gunn

Unlike the thought-provoking but otherwise mostly harmless cutting edge tune you are listening to now, the name of which, as usual, escapes me, most radiophonic audients these days are deluged with pipe-wrenching tales about atrocities being committed day after day in the Kosovoburbs in the quixotic name of ethnical cleanliness: entire villages being razed by serbian warlards to make room for highway bypasses; captured American soldiers compelled to air their dirty boxers in public, and to explain why, if they were a National Park Service backcountry patrol from Canyonlands that got hopelessly lost, as they claim, their GPS location devices had thermonuclear capability; extraterrestrials forced to strip their spacecraft for parts for the Yugo auto factory; or Serbo-Portuguese being adopted as the official language of area chambers of commerce. But there is an important converse to the clannic spatting: despite the bombs, the privation, the ghoulish goulash made from the entrails of abducted out-of-favor bureaucrats, a healthy music commission industry has sprung up. It seems like there's nothing like a little suffering or fresh infusion of auto parts to bring the mercenary musicmongers out of the woodwork. Many slavic people with money to burn but no matches to light it with seem happy to part with a little cash if it'll lead to a new tune that reflects their homeland's tumultuous state of affairs. Why, in the last week alone, sources tell us that no fewer than five Yugoslav light operas have been commissioned, written, rehearsed, argued over, revised and performed, often to big, well-armed crowds of appreciative audients. A growing sign of tolerance is the fact that only two of the conductors were subsequently executed.

One might expect the bulk of these tunes to be oppressively gloomy, but such is not the case. A critic who attended nine premieres in the past two weeks reports in the Belgrade Belo-Bugle that "the melodies of Le Flambeau Oriange were bright, airy and full of pfzaft (translation unavailable), and the jagged harmonies reminded [this reviewer] of happier times fishing for spawning pfzanderflotts in the third branch of the Zelezny River."

Much like Richard Addinsell's "Warsaw Concerto" reflected the popular angst of the day -- and it's instructive to note that the warsaw the composer alluded to was not the Polish city with the big shoe industry, but rather the pfzanderflottlike Caribbean grouper that became a favorite with sushi chefs during the 1980s -- cutting edge Slavic music mirrors the preponderance of gum merchants in the urban centers of this strife-rent countryside. Why gum? Well-funded studies show that when music and geopolitics get together, the result is often a viscous substance exuded by certain trees which, when dried into water-soluble, noncrystalline brittle solids, people like to chew -- hence, the recent large influx of bubble and spirit gum vendors, registered and unregistered, hanging around the local operatoriums.

One might further expect the ethnicity or gum or even Warsaw Concerto to form a more logical tie-in to the theme of this 203rd episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, but with our own research junta unpaid and working without a contract for the past year and unwilling to grant us one more investigative project for old time's sake, such is not the case. In lieu of a happy segue, not to mention the presence of any remotely useful them with which to work, we give you the slightly beleaguered Kalvos.