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The Essay
Show #208
David Gunn

There's no getting around it -- we live in a world of pain and suffering, pestilence and strife, wretchedness and ice hockey. Woe abounds. Sentience begets anxiety; company breeds misery. And nowhere is this more evident than in the dismal life of the modern day music composer. Far too often has the contemporary tunemonger been on the wrong end of a grant award. Musicians demonstrate the greatest tendency to self-loathe after only sociopaths and sycophants of all known income-generating species. Consumer Reports consistently rates music composition at the very bottom of intelligent career path choices, citing a rate of recidivism among those in the industry that is second only to nuns. And scientific research has revealed numerous deleterious side effects to the act of composition, including mange, dementia, alien abduction and bankruptcy. With so many strikes against it, why would anybody opt to take up the cudgels of musicmaking?

But someone, or something, has. A support group has stepped forward to stem the admittedly deserved tide of disfavor towards the musical community. With more than six hundred members, People for the Ethical Treatment of Composers, or PETCom, is the largest musician rights organization in the nation. Founded nine years ago today, PETCom is dedicated to protecting the rights of all composers, save those who are clearly beyond help. PETCom's basic philosophy is that composers ought not to be debased, experimented on or used for entertainment without their consent or a really good reason.

PETCom focuses its attention on three areas in which most composers suffer the most intensely for the longest period of time: awaiting financial assistance, in laboratories and public pillorying in the entertainment industry. The organization works through the time-honored traditions of deceit and chicanery, with the occasional foray into composer rescue, cruelty investigation and celebrity involvement.

For example, in a largely self-aggrandizing exposé, PETCom demonstrated that the Fiat Corporation had, for more than a decade, conducted crash tests on serial technique composers. In another highly publicized case, PETCom released investigators' photographs taken inside Flambeau Oriange Ltd., a biological supply house, that documented composers being removed from rehearsal halls and injected with formaldehyde without being checked for vital signs, as well as minimalist and new age musicians struggling during embalming procedures. PETCom distributed an undercover video showing Las Vegas entertainer Lloyd Chambers beating acoustoelectricians with a snow blower as part of his lounge act. The U.S. Department of the Interior revoked Chambers' captive-bred musician permit, making it illegal for him to abuse composers without a third party present. In another precedent-setting case, a California arts collective administrator was charged with cruelty after a PETCom investigator filmed him electrocuting Harry Partch by clipping wires to the composer's genitals. Mills College faculty denounced the dubious depilatory method, saying it caused Partch's eyelashes to fall out while he was fully conscious. In another undercover exposé, PETCom videotaped Carnegie Hall ushers injecting members of the contemporary music group, Parnassus, with weedkiller, causing their sight-reading abilities to rapidly deteriorate. The ushers were eventually transferred to rock concert venues. PETCom's undercover investigation of a harmony laboratory in upstate New York found incidence of lobotomies on one-time cutting edge composers Enya and Julio Iglesias that diluted their earlier spiky creations. Unfortunately, the highly irregular experimentation could not be reversed, but luckily both have been able to scratch out meager existences anyway.

In the Balkans, PETCom rescued scores of musicians who were the targets of ethnomusical cleansing and relocated them to the ASCAP building in Vlona, the Clean City of Albania.

PETCom staff have written a how-to book for composer rights activists, "Save the Wretched Bastards," which is available today only on the 208th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar in exchange for a nominal tax-deferred contribution to this radiophonic station. Just call the number that now appears on your radio dial and ask for Kalvos.