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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #59
The Otto Lummer Show
David Gunn
The first trained musicians to reach Vermont were Scottish conquistadors. They were taught by seminomadic Abenaki minnesingers in 1540, who hunted, foraged and played gigs on the forest floor north of Brattleboro. More sedentary drummers and accordionists performed south of what is now Bristol, but what was then Atlanta, Georgia.

The oldest human instruments found thus far in Vermont are miniature saxophones fashioned from split willow twigs. They were left in caves high above Mount Mansfield between 100 and 31,000 years ago, probably by tone deaf hunters and gatherers of the Aleatory Culture. Similar instrumental carvings with primitive working keyboards have been found here on the grounds of Goddard College. Presumably the people who made them -- if not space aliens from an advanced harmonic culture -- lived and played in small bands and subsisted largely on hunting, foraging and studio work, the social structure and economic characteristics of hunter-gatherer musicians the world over, excluding Iowa and France. Perhaps they lived elsewhere during the winter but moved into Vermont after mud season. Or perhaps Vermont was but one of the concert venues visited from home bases in Philadelphia. In any case, the Mansfield caves in which the split-willow saxophones were found showed no signs of prolonged practice techniques -- broken reeds, bent mouthpieces and the like. Why, then, did these otherwise innocuous musicianeers make the instruments? What did they have against kazoos? And why did they deposit them in remote concert arenas of difficult access devoid of Ticketron outlets?

Several small, artfully woven likenesses of kettledrums are pierced by what clearly seems to be representations of spears, suggesting that at least some of the percussive performances were held in less than high esteem. The hunters may have symbolically killed the kettledrum and its kettler as a way of magically putting an end to what the Abenaki call a cacophony of paradiddling ... or, le flambeau oriange.

Whatever their reasons and methods, the kettlers and saxophiles predate the next known occupants of Vermont by about 2,500 years. Precisely what happened to these hunter- gatherer musicianeers is unknown, though they may have donned anti-gravity boots and floated en masse into space, as an Abenaki legend maintains. Or, they may have evolved into some of the composers who have been and will be featured here on Kalvos & Damian's New Music SesquiBazaar. Maybe today!

How ironic, even for maestros of metaphor such as ourselves, that this weekend, the 59th in the K∓D series, features the birthal anniversaries of Raffles of Singapore, P.T. Barnum, and Down in Hogan's Alley. And that those three anniversarial units can be anagrammatically represented by -- ready? -- No banana fish wrestles a muffin dog nor gallery pop. No, not ironic. Not serendipitous, either. Just makes you think.

This portion of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar ... oh never mind.

Today's program is in part devoted to the memory of Otto Lummer yes the Otto Lummer -- who cashed in his mortal chips 71 years ago last night. Good night, Otto. Thanks for whatever it was you did.

And thanks to Kalvos here for whatever it is he did. Or does. Or will do. Or how doo.