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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #427
David Gunn

Last month, music the world over began to explode. The first observed case was at 8 p.m. on the 18th. Operetta diva Trixie Trockenmilch was performing in a revival of Dinner With Yapok at the Boolean Theater. One moment, she was ululating a high C sharp trill over plummeting viola glissandos; an instant later, the stage was thick with black smoke from exploding fa-la-las. Fortunately, except for some temporary psychological scarring, Trixie was undamaged. The only casualty was the music itself, which was utterly destroyed. The audience remained remarkably cool, unaware that the incident was out of the ordinary. Even a theater critic in attendance attributed it to "just one of those things." But the very next day, disc jockey Bambi in the Morning was spinning an old Peter, Paul and Hindemith LP over KNBQ-AM when that music exploded. Listeners initially thought it was another of her peak drive time pranks, but when a news bulletin reported a nearly simultaneous explosion of Sheherazade during a New York Philharmonica rehearsal, people began to wonder what was happening. Reports of similar blasts soon followed: from center stage at Zoodji, Myanmar's most popular karaoke bar, to a tinny overhead Muzak speaker on the fourteenth floor of the Chrysler Building; from a studio recording session overdub by the New Troglodytes to Alphonse The Aluminum Man humming through his nose on the New Orleans airport shuttle bus--no musical genre anywhere on earth seemed to be safe from sudden detonation. Initially, the musical phenomena were blamed on terrorists, but no group or individual had claimed responsibility for the blasts. Weatherologists tried to hold unusual meteorological conditions responsible; however, aside from a spike in carbonated allotropes in the atmosphere coincident with the exploding event, no correlation could be proven. Also, no one had thus far been harmed. No person or even musical instrument had blown up--only the music had suffered.

Within a week, inexplicable explosions were occurring with frightening frequency. On Thursday, the 24th, no fewer than 38 exploding incidents were reported. By now, performers had become increasingly leery of incorporating music into their acts. For symphony orchestras, rock bands and didgeridooers, this was no less than a death knell. What could they do?

In a small, cluttered garage on the corner of Salvos and Damietta in a nondescript northeastern city, a team of three physicists familiar with musical singularities had been studying the phenomenon since long before Trixie's Yapok ululation blew up. They were convinced that the source of the "problem" was a two-year old performance of Joachim Henkmann's "Sargasso Séance," a concerto for chamber orchestra and "spoils of war." The spoils of war was an instrument of collected percussive effects built in 1950 by Harry Partch. Comprised of woodblocks, guiro, two cloud-chamber bowls, three whang guns, seven brass artillery casings and a raspador, the instrument from its inaugural implementation drilled wormholes into the time-space continuum. During the Séance's thunderous finale, the spoils of war accurately evoked the explosive sounds of annihilative warfare. The three physicists believed that the sounds exited this universe through a macrocosmic fissure and entered a parallel universe, where their properties were modified. Now, two years later, they were coming home, glomming onto random acts of music, and blowing them up.

Taking a cue from Ghostbusters, a 1984 documentary that tracked three Columbia University doctors of parapsychology as they dispatched the ancient Sumerian deity, Gozer the Destructor, with state-of-the-art proton packs, the musical singularity physicists quickly incorporated as a for-profit business called "Blastbusters." Decked out in sexy white lab coats and toting psi particle timbre sensors and reverse polarity tritone stream scramblers, they descended on The Tubercle of Darwin, a Greenwich Village jazz club where The Fugs were engaged in their penultimate farewell tour. When co-founding Fug Tuli Kupferberg began to sing, physicist number 1--for some unknown raison d'être, they all eschewed individually distinguishing monikers--activated his triaxial harmonic stabilizer. Tuli had blithely experienced some weird goings-on during his 38-year on-stage career, but when the first tune out of his mouth suddenly exploded, he was for the first time totally nonplussed. But Physicist No. 1 aimed the stabilizer at the time-space where the music had been, adjusted one of the controls, and gradually, the music began to reappear. It hung in the air six feet off of the stage floor, pulsing with rhythm. Physicist No. 2 unholstered his psi particle timbre sensor, drew a bead at the musical entity, and fired.

Sparks coruscated across Tuli's face as the melody tried to dive back inside his mouth. But Physicist No. 3 leapt onto the stage with his tritone stream scrambler and blasted the music before it could reach that safe haven. The Blastbusters then emptied their weapons on the overmatched melody. At the same time all over the earth, comparably volatile melodic snatches were stopped in mid-burst and reconfigured as soothing background music. Later, repairing to the concert hall venue of the infamous Sargasso Séance performance, they sealed the crack to the parallel universe with J.P. Sartre's brand "Being And Nothingness" Superguano Caulk.

Music continues to blow up, sure, but the incidences are so infrequent that the Blastbusters are rarely summoned. The explosions are seen more as a bonus to an otherwise predictable musical performance. Case in point: today's 427th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar--we're not expecting it to blow up, at least not the non-musical bits, but if it does, remember to address all cards of condolence to Kalvos.