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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #60
The 12-Ton System
David Gunn
Bon radio. In the early part of this century -- though not so early as to be an offshoot of the School of Chaos, which remains unsuitable for discussion on this program -- a Teutonic familial unit consisting of Herr und Frau, gave birth to a soft and tiny bipedal component which squeaked. Flabbergasted at their fecundity -- both vow they had never touched one another below the latissimus dorsi -- they hired themselves out as consultants to Masters and Johnson and are now excused from the story. The residual component, on the other hand, swelled, bulged and grew into a teenager named Arnold, who continued to squeak. Chemical tutors plied the protuberant lad with anti-weight loss coagulants and non-fat palindromains, but still his midriff jutted to abnormally distended proportions. And still he squeaked. Because the sounds had a sing-song, theatrically amelodic quality to them, neighbors referred to him as "ein musikalische Gequiek," or, le flamb ... I mean, a musical Gequiek. A Greek physician in the employ of P.T. Barnum implanted first one, then six additional faulty thyroid glands into Arnold's capacious torso, further causing his girth to increase. Then one day, Arnold had a vision. He was in Paris with Louise Mandrell and Buckminster Fuller 207 years ago attempting to gain an audience with Ossip Zadkine -- whose name at first meant nothing to him. Following one wacky mishap after another, he wound up storming the Bastille Jail with the Aaron Karamazov Brothers. A sneak attack had been planned, but Arnold's incessant squeaking gave them away. In response, the prison employees hurled tons of rocks and drywall down onto the ill-equipped protesters, many of whom abandoned their cause -- which was never clear in the first palace -- on the spot. Arnold, however, was suddenly struck by an idea. Accomplices swear they actually saw a light bulb go on above his head! Mythologists contend it was a fluorescent bulb, especially unusual for the 18th century. His idea was for a new form of musical composition which abandoned traditional scale systems and established instead a series of notes whose order depended upon the relative weight of the attendant chords and performers. Because of his circumstance in front of the Bastille constantly being peppered by heavy debris, he called his method the 12-ton system, or le flambeau oriange. Arnold eventually revised his music system, slimmed down to a svelte 160, and moved to Los Angeles, where he died 45 years ago today of a Sweet & Low overdose.

The skirmish at the Bastille, on the other hand, put a match to the fuse of the French Revolution, the theme on today's 60th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, this portion of which is brought to you by the apparent differences between an aesthetic, such as artistic squalor, and anesthetic, such as sodium nitrate, both of which can be sampled this week during fundraising on Vermont Public Radio, but we'll refrain from doing so at the impending behest of our first caller to 454-7762, where we hope, for the next two hours, anyway, to parlay sound into matter into light into peat ad infinity until it doesn't in and of itself matter any longer, and without which there could be no further Kalvos.