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The Essay
Show #337
The Surreal Accommodation of Angst
David Gunn

Tuna harvesters feel it. So do bookmakers. Sophists, students of magnetohydrodynamics, hearty trenchermen, marianberry cross-pollinators, land mine stewards, pachisi strategists--they all, at some point, experience it. Edith Wharton and Jon Hall and nearly 40% of the World War II Navajo code talkers knew it well. On the other hand, cluster flies do not feel it. You know what it is; one of your subordinate neurotransmitters is simply locked in a self-preservation stasis, blocking your primary urge to articulate the word. Here. Let me help. An, ang, angs ... yes, that's right, angst!, a feeling of anxiety or apprehension that's often accompanied by episodes of melancholy, gloom, despondency and depression. Angst is also an abbreviation for angstrom, the carnivorous botfly larvae that burrow under the skin of sleeping children in the southeastern United States and devour them from the inside out, an ingenious parasite-host relationship that's largely misunderstood by squeamish Americans. While both types of angst are typically given a wide berth by most semi-reasoning beings, the first type, at least, is actually sought out by the pariah faction of society known as the contemporary composer. Like the bookmakers and sophists, trenchermen and Edith Wharton, they readily feel angst, but unlike them, these artistic eccentrics truly welcome it into their psyches. Yes, for them it's good to live with their every thought colored by disquietude, because such a state inevitably deteriorates into interminable suffering, a condition highly prized by artists of all ilks. Some progressive music schools--and Hoover College Conservatory naturally springs to mind--include an awareness and appreciation of anxiety in their curricula. Hoover's "The Surreal Accommodation of Angst," an elective undergraduate course, is so popular that it's typically standing room only in the classroom. The first half of the course traces the lives of various 20th and 21st century composers and focuses on that moment when they discover and embrace angst, a time invariably accompanied by a marked improvement in the quality of their music. The remainder of the course is a hands-on laboratory that examines the composer's ability to endure the introduction of botfly larvae into his endocrine system, an event that usually triggers a marked decline in the quantity of the composer's output. Still, the class is never without plenty of eager, young students to volunteer for the parasite-host study. Hoover also offers an ancillary course for the musician who, though angst-suffused, simply can't cut it in the compositional world. "The Necessity of the Angst Merchant" explains how a person who never evolves beyond mere clinical depression can still lead a rewarding life by hanging around others--sooner or later, that festering anxiety is bound to rub off. (It must be acknowledged that "rewarding" in this instance is open to interpretation, because there is never any guaranteed recompense for the anxiety carrier; there is only the prospect of degeneration.) Never an institution to flinch from controversy, Hoover offers a supplementary course called "Interminable Suffering," which begins where the hungry little angstroms leave off. Not specifically geared for either the composition student or the preternaturally squeamish, the wildly popular course lost Hoover its accreditation when the American College Review Board sent two officials to review the class, and they were returned in a state that only a land mine steward could love.

A similar state exists for this 337th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar and itís called Vermont--not the interminably suffering Vermont of December and January, or the anxiety accommodating Vermont of March and April, but rather the pachisi pollinating, tuna talking, surreally sophistic state that imbues the radiophonic ilk of the temporarily anxiety-free Kalvos.