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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #227
Violence/Violins In Music
David Gunn

Tumults in Timor, brawls in Brazil, mayhem in Mauritania, pandemonium in Panama, riots on the Rio Grande, donnybrooks at Donner Pass, uproars in Upper Volta, hubbubs aboard the Hwang Ho, fracases (or is that fricassee?) in Frankfurt, squabbles in Squirrelland, clamoring at Clackamas Community College -- they're all indicative of an upsurge in violence around the world, an annoyance to which the World of Music is, alas, not immune. From staid European concert halls to Upper West Side street musicians, performers and audients alike are becoming less and less civil to one another. A less than hearty round of applause or what is perceived as inadequate funding for a musical presentation can result in the performers assaulting the audients. Politeness is going the way of the orchestral health plan. Courtesy is out; rampant impertinence is in. Often, bodyguards outnumber musicians at venues that don't cater to the artistic sycophant. It gets worse. Reacting -- or, more to the point, overreacting -- to the recent spate of violence involving handguns in contemporary music, several US orchestras have temporarily banned the use of firearms from symphonic programs. That means that cutting edge composers who rely on the uniquely satisfying clicks, bangs and ricochet shots which these percussion instruments offer will either have to employ less vibrant sampled sounds, or use a different musical tool altogether. Already a black market has sprung up to manufacture weaponry in the guise of other standard percussion instruments -- 30-millimeter handguns that resemble brake drums, for example, or large tactical field cannon, a must for any authentic rendering of Britten's War Requiem or Cage's 4:33, masquerading as an extended set of heldentimpani. Just because a few audients were in the wrong place, i.e. the line of fire, at the wrong time, i.e. the moment in The Rite of Spring when the starter's pistol heralds the Dance of the Misogynists, resulting in a novel if unfortunate loss of life, a bunch of congressional mossbacks has tried, so far unsuccessfully, to cut off all governmental subsidies to the lethal arts. Next we'll be in danger of having every piece of extracurricular weaponry excised from contemporary music. No more torpedoes, knives, or thermonuclear scimitars, no mortars, land mines or smiley-faced truncheons. Performance art will become as boring and predictable as interactive Ivory Snow adverts. One orthographically-challenged senator even tried to prohibit the use of violins in musical performances in his congressional district. Before the homonymic blunder was pointed out by thwacking him over the head with a titanium Amati taped to a 2x4, he’d been able to cancel performances of eight string quartets plus one extended version of 4:33.

Nevertheless, violence seems to be here to stay. And no matter the consequences, we here at Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, and this 227th episode is no exception, are proud to be part of it. When the latest unsolicited CD explodes upon attempting to play Track 4, we look for the value in the artist’s crabby statement. If our telephone callers are so incensed that sparks fly out of the receiver, we try to turn the other ear. If formerly scheduled guests threaten the future of our humble program with impotent lawsuits and doctrinaire tantrums, we shrug our scapulas and send out the hit squad. The point is ... well, at this point, there is no point; there is only the mildly agitated Kalvos.