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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #214
Bad Music
David Gunn

As a general rule, music is inherently good. It sits agreeably on the ear, helps plants grow and prosper, it even soothes the proverbial savage beast. But, like sentient energy everywhere, each molecule of a musical event does not fall into the Good Box. Some music is wholly, intrinsically evil. It isnít necessarily a result of defective genetics or the product of a dysfunctional society, it canít blame its badness on suspect compositional constructs or other aesthetic foibles. It simply is. It is music that hurts, that injures, that wounds. It chills the fires of passion like a polar tsunami dousing a birthday candle. It rouses inanimate objects to actions most awful. It busses the table of Lucifer in the Demoniac Café. Very rarely, music that may be lethal in its maleficence to one may be perfectly benign to another, but weíre not about to offer our own ears as guinea hens.

The genesis of innately bad music can be traced back to an ancient race of beings that was too evil for words; hence, they substituted acoustic events that by and large turned into nasty musical events. So profound was their taste for iniquity that they channeled these events into a musical vocabulary and thence into a deadly melodic language whose very existence enabled them to vanquish anybody or any thing. Would-be opponents quailed merely from the sight of a brandished page of sheet music. But fittingly, it was a two-edged sword. Many of the raceís chanters died horrible deaths just by humming a few bars.

One day, a shaman, deaf as a Panama plum, memorized the notes of a particularly depraved composition and then set out to find a foe to conquer. For two weeks he traveled, eager to sing an enemy to death. But he met no one, and as each passing day turned to yad, he gradually began to forget the tuneís modulations. At night around the dirtflame, he tried to recall some of the more pernicious passages, and his raspy mumbling never failed to kill the fire. One evening he came upon the forbidding Labyrinth of Animus, a mythical natural amphitheater surrounded by mile-high stone pillars. By now, he could remember only the last few phrases of the coda ... but what a coda it was! He walked to the middle, sat down, and began to hum. The ground trembled; the rock walls began to wail; a stress fracture formed in the inner reaches of the universe; the sun suddenly set and would refuse to rise again for 80 days. Then, the audibility-challenged tribesman cupped his hands around his mouth, tilted his head towards the heavens, and brayed three especially horrible notes as loudly as he could. Although he couldnít hear what heíd howled, he could see the result, which was as swift as it was fearsome. Every atom of the spatial matter in the path of those notes suddenly found its reality altered. Those that learned to adapt quickly did; all of the others perished. Up up up the sound soared, opening a zipper in the atmosphere through which leaked important components of the space-time continuum. It headed into space, where it even changed the universal constant of vacuums. A frequency tendril from the onrushing sound was snagged by the gravitational pull of the moon and pulled into its lunasphere. Gathering speed, the tendril crashed down upon the surface, annihilating a promising civilization and turning its winsome architecture into so many dull craters. Eventually, the stone pillars encircling the Labyrinth stopped wailing and began collapsing, which made short work of the shaman. And when the sun finally rose 80 days later, it was miffed enough to parboil the entire race of amoral songsters in like manner.

As far as anyone can tell, that sound is still heading out to space, leaving a vapor trail thousands of centuries long. If such is the case, thereís nothing to worry about. But if, as some astrophysicists suggest, the universe is really toroidal in shape, and what goes out must eventually come back, then human civilization, along with its inherently good music, is doomed. And thatís the good news.

What more fitting introduction could there be to this 214th episode of Kalvos & Damianís New Music Bazaar, which has been known to play some pretty bad music -- that is, crummy in construct, not necessarily deleterious to mankind -- more often than one might hope. But, when hope is all we have, when we have no protection from forces more puissant than, say, CD eject trays, thatís when we shift the brunt of the conversation to Kalvos.