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The Essay
Show #515
The Day of the Collisions
David Gunn

It was le jour des collisions, the Day of the Collisions. On an otherwise ordinary Saturday during a year that has since been expunged by historical revisionists, the entire earth was rocked by things crashing into one another. Animal, vegetable, mineral--anything that could potentially be guessed in twenty questions was fair game for a brief dynamic event in which something that closely approached something else triggered an abrupt change of momentum.

It started with minerals. Far below Kansas, in an area undergroundologists called the Mohorovicic discontinuity, argumentative geophysical forces were hard at work crafting a vast network of intersecting fault lines. All six major slices of planetary crust on which plate tectonics theory was based had shifted just enough to put them on one massive subterranean collision course. On that day, el día de las colisiones, earthquakes ruled the world and the ground sundered. No place was spared. And, for reasons no sane theorist could explain, the collisions extended far beyond the lithosphere.

An Arctic Ocean baleen whale fit to krill slammed into a basket of hot naan from a Calcutta café. A Buffalo mime attempting to walk against the wind was hit by a massive cold front that had its roots in Gondwanaland. The last remaining calf of the iceberg that brought the Titanic to its knees ninety-some Aprils ago struck the head of Lincoln at Mount Rushmore, however it was the adjacent noggin of Roosevelt that sank. Two dendrochronologically-challenged bristlecone pines normally rooted fast to cryptogamic soil in a remote Utah arroyo simultaneously sideswiped a solar panel truck double-parked in front of Wrigley Field. A corollary from Heisenberg's uncertainty principle ran into a healthy does of skepticism from a team of dark matter phenomenologists at the University of Hummock-on-Smythe in southwesternmost Lincolnshire. In turn, the phenomenologists rear-ended a wayward piece of the Calcutta naan so forcefully that it registered on collide-o-scopes the world over. But most noteworthy to the loyal band of audients who call 91.1 FM home--even if they rarely call us to confirm it--was the near chaos that resulted from an innumerable number of musical collisions.

No matter the ground beneath them was doing the seismological equivalent of a fandango, musicians the world over continued to do what they did best, which was to avoid working at real jobs.

That's not fair. Sure, they worked, but to the beat of a drummer wholly different from most typical wage earners.

Unlike most other earth-bound entities, music-mongers as a whole remained free from inter-instrumental collisions. Oh sure, the occasional brass player crashed headlong into the percussion section, but such an event was routine during the course of any musical season. However, never before had the music itself found itself on so many collision courses. Notes that previously had hung elegantly in the air over an orchestra's final chord now sought out targets with abandon. Half notes hammered hemidemisemiquavers, breves bashed barcaroles, concertos clobbered cantatas, symphonies smashed into song cycles, obbligatos overwhelmed ottava, Wozzeck whacked Die Walküre. Such a panoply of aural chaos might have nonplused even John Cage! At the Central Cacoëthes School of Double Reeds in Chicago, all ninety-one bassoonists suddenly felt compelled to simultaneously chuff away on low B flats. The resultant bassoonami created disharmonious wavelengths that devastated the city and partly inverted nearby Lake Michigan.

Fortunately, the tectonic upheaval lasted but a day. No matter the earth's surface was a shambles when the sun rose the following morning, seismologically, things were back to normal. Unable to account for the quick recovery, scientists turned to the historical revisionists to reinvent the day. But the two main factions of the Guild of Revampers were equally divided. The amelioraticians maintained it was merely a planetwide hiccup that was essentially good for the Earth; the deterioratists said it was the result of an altercation with a giant space badger, which would be back with its querulous sister. Each camp was so unyielding in its conviction that at last both positions were discarded and the day was simply removed from history.

The earth recovered, though, like a boxer who had stood in the ring too long, it now had a ringing in its eras. Chicago was rebuilt, its destruction re-remembered as having been caused by Patrick O'Leary's cow. Bassoonists, as soon as they were old enough to play in tune--typically concurrent with their mid-life crises--were taught to shun low B flats when congregating in large groups. Trombone and tuba players still ran into kettledrummers and triangulationists, but extended their abrupt changes of momentum to the woodwind section. Dark matter phenomenologists traded colluding for colliding and dramatically increased their net worth.

A few people still linked some vague catastrophic event to the number eleven. Was that a date? An o'clock? A reference to a ruinous football team? No one knew. Gradually, the initial syllable was forgotten. Which left "leven." Or, more to the point on today's 515th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, Levin, as in Johann, an in-studio compositional guest whose tales of calamity, catastrophe and collision surpass even the unrelentingly lambasted lives of Damian and Kalvos.