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The Essay
Show #430
The Acousticophibians
David Gunn

They came from space. They came in a great starship shaped like a newt that was larger on the inside than the outside, thanks to advanced curvilinear geometry. The front of the vessel was obscured by a weather front that had attached itself to the ship as it passed through a vast astral storm. They were exactly two meters tall, all of them, and their skins glowed with a greenish gray hue. Their torsos were humanoid, but their heads and arms were froglike. When agitated, they made a ruckus that was so loud as to be deleterious to humans; when calm, they were sometimes even noisier. They were the acousticophibians.

They arrived on Earth on a Saturday afternoon during halftime of a college football game in a major television market. One minute, the Goodyear Blimp was serenely circling the stadium, photographing the antics of inane spectators; the next, the airship was being eaten alive by a shimmeringly sleek metal newt a thousand times its size, a sight that pinned the needles on Nielsen ratingometers throughout the country. But the loyalty the onlookers had to the game was not easily dismissed--coincident with the second half kick-off, the ortherworldly interloper was either forgotten or ignored.

During the night, the huge ship took up position over the northeastern sector of the city where an enclave of religious shoppes was clustered. And while each mosqueminder, churchcurator and templetantrum incorporated its sudden appearance into his or her daily homily, no one else paid it any apparent heed. Sunday night, the ship moved again, and stopped directly over the city's Media Centre. This finally got somebody's attention because, by morning, the building and its environs were crawling with armed forces. By one estimate the ship was in the sighting crosshairs of 5,000 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, a hundred Bradley fighting vehicles, eighteen Sitka trackless tanks, four F-14 Tomcat jet fighters, and one geezer with a harmonica. A general with a bullhorn addressed the spacecraft, demanding that it identify itself as friend or foe. An uneasy silence settled over the area, broken only by the old man with the harmonica who played a steady G natural drone, interrupted by an F sharp when he inhaled. When there was no response after ten minutes, an aide suggested he try "ami ou ennemi," then "Freund oder Feind." But neither phrase had any impact. The general was about to try "amigo o enemigo" when he abruptly vanished. Now a deadly Mercurochrome bomb lobber was added to the RPGs, Bradleys, Sitkas and Tomcats that were aimed at the spacecraft. A backup officer was about to order the thousands of itchy trigger fingers to squeeze thousands of release mechanisms when the general just as suddenly rematerialized. The coordinates of his return differed by nearly a kilometer and he wasn't at first observed. He was, however, heard, for he reappeared as a mass of pure noise.

Noise is, of course, a relative term. One person's loud and unpleasant sound is another's sweet lullaby. And the general's inherent racket, while deemed unpleasant by four out of five of the assembled troops coherent enough to offer an opinion, was embraced as "cool new music" by a cadre of electroacousticians who happened to be performing in the Media Centre at the time.

Gradually, the general's noisiness abated and he reverted to his normal curmudgeonly military nature. He was then able to relate his evidently benign abduction aboard the starship and convince the weaponmongers to holster their armaments.

Shortly thereafter, a dozen aliens descended from the newt-nosed vessel. Their frighteningly froggy facades were initially overshadowed by the distressingly loud ruckus that accompanied them. One soldier was so discombobulated by the commotion that he impulsively fired an RPG at the extraterrestrials. However, the noise was so dense that it formed a protective shield around them, sort of like sonic Gleem. The missile fizzled harmlessly, and a catastrophic interplanetary squabble was averted. Eventually, the noise abated, Esperanto was discovered to be a common language, and species-to-species introductions commenced. (Human: "Saluton. Mi vidas ke vi estas verda kaj deveni de steloj." Greetings. I see that you are green and come from the stars. Acousticophibian: "Jes." Yep.)

Scientists who clamored to be "abducted" into the spaceship got to see technology that was decades, if not centuries, ahead of their own. However, the process of returning to Earth in the initial form of pure noise always seemed to temper their interest in what they had witnessed. Ultimately, each one abandoned the sciences and took up the performing arts. Noisy ones.

Oh, there were plenty of people who feared the big green frogmen. Acousticophobia became big business for psychotherapists. But instead of addressing the fear, many therapists minimized its deleteriousness. Those who experienced the abduction-and-pure-noise recontextualization process additionally urged that excessive noise become a permanent component of contemporary culture. And so, civilized society became stentorian, strident and tiel laûta kiel beba bombo.

We'd like to believe that there are no acousticophobes on Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, at least not on this 430th episode. We welcome noise. We celebrate it! We make it, and we now gladly offer nearly two hours more of it to you, our listening audients, continuing with the volubly vociferous vocalizations of Kalvos.