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The Essay
Show #286
Veterinarians Day
David Gunn

Arch Ludlow was not the first American composer to write a piece to commemorate November 11th, the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, but he was probably the first to slightly misspell the holiday and so get its tenor all wrong. His massive Symphony for Veterinarian's Day, premiered just last year, took the Latin root of the word veterinae -- or, beasts of burden -- figuratively. Ludlow packed his piece with so many musical allegories of elephants, oxen, hippopotami, woolly mammoths and one of the more corpulent members of the World Wrestling Federation, that the tune's ponderousness was exceeded only by its eighteen pages of liner notes.

But what it may have lacked in levity, "V-Day" more than made up for in sheer decibel level. A survivor of the premiere reported that if ever music seemed to explode from an orchestra, that was the occasion. While it was all very exciting to the audients, the blast leveled part of the brass section and vaporized the strings on the third chair violas. The ensuing crater in the floor was supposed to allow a parade of donkeys laden with kettledrummers access to the stage, but again, the magnitude of the explosion only caused a lawsuit from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Alarmed listeners, unaccustomed to such clamorous music, tried to cover their ears; some even stuffed anechoic gauze into their otic cavities. But still the sound intuitively located and seeped into the body's other unprotected hear pores, oozing into sensitive intercranial listening ports where it promptly broke down barriers between coherence and insanity. Many a brain turned to synaptic mush, with their attendant audients reduced to gibbering in argumentative meters. The music even had a deleterious effect on the printed score. Single notes that weren’t tied to others melted into glutinous tone clusters. Bar lines collapsed. Time signatures caved in. Appoggiaturas were torn from their root notes and hurled right off the page, splattering the faces of stunned front row spectators like spandex squeezed through a garlic press. The conductor, a Mr. Stevens, sensing things were getting a bit out of control, set down his baton and waved at the orchestra. The musicians didn't respond, but the baton did. It writhed like an animatronic caduceus and lunged at Stevens. Startled, he backed away, clutching at the podium rail for support. However, the aberrant musical sounds had compromised its structural integrity, and the rail disintegrated the moment Stevens nudged it. Witnesses claim the conductor plunged into the front row seats, but his whereabouts thereafter remain a mystery. He simply disappeared.

Most orchestra members stopped playing then, but it was too late. The music had begun to cascade back upon itself like feedback from a bank of overloaded Marshall amplifiers. The very air in which the tones were suspended deliquesced, turning the concert hall into a real-time Salvador Dali sound-and-landscape. Gravity grew a subatomic-level mustache. Ludlow, who was sitting in mute pleasure at the rear of the auditorium, was seized by a gang of indignant veterinarians, and he, too, was never heard from again.

So let that be a lesson to those of you who would make a mockery of veterans, veterinarians, bar lines, garlic presses or Adrian Wormington, a veteran of numerous merchandising price wars who seems to have gotten short shrift in this 286th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, but keep in mind that there's barely enough time today -- what with all of the other incidental musical nuggets on the show -- for the typically eccentric allegories of Kalvos.