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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #527
Inharmonic Convergence
David Gunn

Dr. Beezer thought he was having a nervous breakdown. Remember Dr. Beezer, director of the Department of Defense's Alien Incursion Response Team? We last heard from him seven years ago when he was trying to learn the intricacies of whiskers six-draw, a card game so confusing that a new system of probability theory had to be devised to explain the rules. For the first two years, Beezer struggled with the basic shuffle and deal, and only figured out how to tally points when he applied the Hypothesis of General Misinterpretation, viz.: "The rate at which anything can be misunderstood increases in direct proportion to the attempt to correct the error." In the end--which was just last July--he threw in the whiskers-covered towel and began to spend way too much time staring at the world through the bottom of a sparkling wine bottle.

He had a bottle with him now and he was swinging it around in a circle above his head. It was empty, and he didn't know what else to do with it. But he felt like he had to do something because the world around him had suddenly changed.

He had been attending a stirring performance of Casserole for Large Orchestra by the Eerie Philharmonic at the orchestra's reverberant outdoor amphitheater. Seated front and center, he was enjoying the waves of fortissimo sound as they washed over him and parted his hair in the middle. But just as the orchestra eased back into a long stretch of mezzo forte, a concession stand operator strode through the audience hawking CD and cassette recordings, his boombox blaring snippets of music incompatible with the live performance. The patron to Beezer's right waved the concessionaire over, and the two of them engaged in a loud negotiation over the value of the popular Etude Bruté recording. When a price was at last agreed upon, the buyer pulled from his pocket a handful of coins. And dropped them. They rolled noisily all over the amphitheater's metal flooring, startling more than a few spectators into consciousness. One of them bent over to retrieve a coin, lost his balance, and began rolling on the floor, too. The amphitheater seating was so steeply raked that he slid all the way to the front of the stage. With an accompanying glissando from the violas, he disappeared down the drain with a yelp. A plume of steam then rose from the grate. Thin at first, it soon grew so thick that it obscured the conductor.

The music, too, picked up steam again as the Casserole reached the Noodle Movement, wherein the offstage bagpipe choir improvised loudly and haphazardly. Two audience members responded by unsheathing their own sets of bagpipes and hurling skirls back at the orchestra. A woman in the balcony was suddenly snatched from her seat by a large condor, and her screams provided a ululating counterpoint to a trill from the piccolo. The Casserole always seemed to invite chaos, and this performance was proving to be no exception.

Then the kettledrums exploded. Beezer instinctively ducked and threw his arms over his head for protection. The blast was formidable, and for a while he couldn't hear anything save for a ringing in his ears.

When the sound at last dissipated, the world for Dr. Beezer had changed. The amphitheater, orchestra and audience were all gone. He was sitting in the middle of a field with no buildings anywhere in sight. Clutched in his hand was a sparkling wine bottle, half empty. He took stock of his surroundings. They seemed normal enough: blue sky, white clouds, green grass, brown mountains, yellow sun, purple wildflowers, red herring, orange river. Orange river? That was enough to disorient him. He tipped back the bottle and polished off its contents in one big gulp.

The world spun a bit and Beezer thought he saw a giant, steaming casserole arise from the ground in front of him. He shut his eyes and shook his head to clear it. Was that the wail of bagpipes in the distance? When he opened his eyes, he looked into a yellow sky with purple clouds and a brown sun. The grass around him was red and the wildflowers were blue, though not a shade of blue he'd ever seen before. The mountains were white, the herring were green and the river was --still orange. The ground shuddered, and, as he glanced down, he saw hundreds of worms, nematodes, spurt from the earth and converge on him. From all directions they came, and Beezer was quickly surrounded. With no other recourse, he began to swing the bottle. And yell.

As he spun around, the padding of his feet on the ground sounded exactly like the shuffling of a deck of cards as all five Queens wriggle out of it--one of the ploys of the whiskers six-draw dealer. Beezer flung the bottle as far as he could, but forgot to let go. The Hypothesis of General Misinterpretation was on its best behavior as it deposited both Beezer and bottle a good half mile away in a heap at the front door of a tiny nondescript cottage that seemed to fade into and out of focus.

His trousers were rumpled but otherwise Beezer was unharmed. A skirl of bagpipes emanated from behind the door, as did the harsh laugh of a condor and a duel between trumpet and bassoon that he recognized as Etude Bruté's B theme. Charily, he pushed the door open. The groan of the rusted hinges, while loud, did not prepare him for the utter cacophony that followed.

Sound, not all of it pleasant, attacked him from all directions. Little rackets nipped at his heels; a pandemonium reared up and pushed him indifferently against a wall; a pair of dins stood in front of him yowling unremittingly; a large, unmannered rumpus circled him, clamoring and smelling of rancid casserole. It was at this point of inharmonic convergence that Beezer thought he was having a nervous breakdown. Roughly pushing a noisy hullabaloo out of the way, he made for the door. One of the dins grabbed his foot and he flailed at it with his bottle. He bumped against the pandemonium and went down in a heap. All of the noises hovered over him then, and he thought he would surely lose his mind. Instinctively, he blew into his bottle. The note that sounded was deep and resonant, like the roll on an unexploded timpani. Suddenly, all of the sounds began to shift into harmonic agreement. Open fifths, perfect fourths and minor thirds abounded, until they all resolved into the Universal Chord of Cherepovets.

Beezer struggled to his feet and out the door. The sky was blue again and the herring were red, but the river was still orange. Well, there didn't seem to be anything he could do about it. And neither is there anything that we can do about this 527th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, an inharmonic convergence in its own right that's about to be remedied by restorative music from our special guest proceeded by potentially therapeutic introductory remarks from Kalvos.