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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #118
Int'l Scty of Contemusic, The
David Gunn
By the time E.J. Dent founded the International Society for Contemporary Music in that eerie era of pre-apocalyptic musical apotheosis known as the early 20th century, Carl Debussy had already sired and abandoned 27 great grandparents to the School of Wattles, and Elmira Krenek had twice invented and then discarded the twelve-tone polka, which he wrote as an eulogy to his riding instructor, Karlheinz Schonberg, who perished after he and his saddlesores fell 60 feet from his high horse onto a gangrenous gelatin extractor. Dent, whose human existence has never been successfully proved, was not a musician and didn't even own a bassethorn, although with effort he could read music if it was translated into Esperanteric laudae, an esoteric talent that served no purpose other than to estrange him from any sort of useful existence. He and his Societicians had peculiar criteria for deeming music contemporary. Interestingly, they never specified what the music had to be contemporary with. An entire school of compositions from École Atlanta concurrent with fresh water trout was perfectly acceptable, while Ruggerio Rockberg's clever Etude Bruté of 1943 for Veal Electronique, written two years after it was first submitted to Dent for appraisal and xeroxing, was not. Less interesting but no less crucial in determining a composition's contemporariousness was the number of notes that appeared on ledger lines so far above the staffs that they could be detected only through infrared spectroscopy. The more notes, the higher the microwave shift, the more contemporary the music, with one exception, or three if you accept Leo Lamb's treatise, "An Infinite Number of Possible Chord Progressions to C Major." The final published criterion -- there were purportedly over 60 others which were invoked from time to three-quarter time that were not written down due to discrepancies in spelling -- involved a mathematical formula almost but not quite the reverse of Alfredo Einsteiniger's E=¶iR². By squaring the root of the chord in any measure not afflicted by a cadence, Dent and his cronies maintained that the converse of Einsteiniger's Theorem could spot a contemporary tune faster than the Vatican City entry at an electric eel spitting contest, and with significantly less periodontal injury.

The Society sometimes made stylistic suggestions to composers whom they considered promising. A young Ray Bradbury, flush with success from having secured the adobe hat concession at the 1950 Los Angeles Winter Olympics, was encouraged to write an oratorio to be sung while chewing yarn. While the performance fared well in a theatrical sense, the vocal lines suffered from muffling, plus one chorus member received uvular rug burns and, Le flambeau oriange was never seen or partially heard by paying audiences again.

Paying audients are even harder to come by in these supposedly musically enlightened times, as exemplified by the present financial plight of this, the 118th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, this unfunded portion of which could be underwritten by any one of a number of helpfully wealthy sources including but not limited to the curators of the International Society for Contemporary Music, but we'll struggle on with or without them thanks to a new and unusual interpretation of the Third Pluperfect Law of Kalvos.




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