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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #72
Name Drop Soup
David Gunn
The date is 1948; the time, 2pm; the place, Paris. It's Saturday, and the cafés are busy with agoraphobic refugees from Belgium, Spain and Fiji, whose countries have recently been overrun by armies of aspertame ants, those voracious cousins of sugar daddies. The Belgians and Spaniards are content to scan the French funnies while knocking down sauvignon spritzers, but the Fijicians, who are easily identified by their wacky adobe hats, are huddled around a crystal radio tuned to WPAR, the 68,000 watt experimental radio station located in the lobby of the Hotel du Algonquin, which is itself nestled in the east nave of the Notre Dame Cathedral near the shrine of St. Bilious, the patron saint of crustaceans. They -- i.e. the Fijicians, not the crustaceans -- are listening to "The Pierre Schaeffer Show," a smorgasbord of eclectic musical snippets eponymously hosted by an inventive Parisian radio engineer and broadcaster. Unlike most other European DJs of the day, whose playlists were directly linked to commercial subsidies, Pierre favored post-World War 2 techno-musique. His program's theme music was a recording of the componium, a late 19th century electronic music instrument constructed of 8,000 feet of #3 aluvium wire tapped into a Tesla coil. He also often played the only extant recording of the 200-ton Dynamophone, which collapsed and broke the stage midway into its first and only live performance at the Theatre L'Avion Offenbach in 1906. Constructed entirely of sand, gravel, cement and water, the Dynamophone's sudden demise spelled the end of performances of musique concrete until Pierre rediscovered its electrically lilting qualities in the late 1940s. One day while visiting his fishmongerer, he discovered the Trautonium, a 20-year old electronic music instrument which produced sounds by infusing fish-laden aquaria with AC current. His friend and whiskers six-draw partner, Paul Hindemith, was so impressed that he employed the device in his "Symphonic Metamorphoses on the Baltic Fish Consortium."

But meanwhile, back to 2 pm Saturday in 1948 Paris where 300 Fijicians are listening to Pierre's show, a show not unlike that to which you are tuned this instant, 48 years and five time zones later, i.e. the 72nd episode of Kalvos & Damianís New Music Bazaar, brought to you in part by the forwardthinkingness of Pierre Schaeffer, without whose insight we would be but voluntary radiophonicians struggling to achieve musical enlightenment without historical subsidy, and to whom I apologize for digressing a second time from what at first seemed like a great musical link but now is lost in the quagmire of my having forgotten in what direction I was going anyway, though Iím sure it wasnít north.

Anyway, 2 pm, Paris, 1948, Pierre Schaeffer broadcasts five etudes which he himself has composed. They consist of mechanical and natural sounds to which he has applied tape manipulation. They are the sounds of railroads, cattle falling off roofs, empty salt cans, smoke signals, carbon, infusing fish-laden aquaria with AC current, and weevil dreams. The French newspaper Le Figaro -- literally, the little fig -- calls it "the concert of noises," or le flambeau oriange. It is a big hit, and is followed soon by the concert of noses, which commemorates facial protuberances the world over and which we will celebrate on the Bazaar today just because weíre low on material.

That said, which is plenty enough, here is the Bazaarís schmoozing schnoz, Kalnose.