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The Essay
Show #122
The Transformation of Chulkalongkorn to Chuck Longhorn
David Gunn
Chulkalongkorn, son of Mongkut, was one of the most misunderstood and least appreciated of early 20th century Native American composers. Born into a Siamesian family of political importance -- both his father and his son ruled Siam simultaneously, while he oversaw the country's burgeoning Department of Poultry -- Chulkalongkorn had little musical heritage and displayed even less interest in the polislapringhorn, the traditional instrument of the ruling class. A loud and uncompromisingly obnoxious wind instrument also favored by mendicants -- people would frequently donate alms just to get the beggar to stop playing -- the polislapringhorn was eventually banned by the World Musicology Federation as an affront to common decency in the concert hall. In the 1950s, the instrument was rediscovered by Spike Jones and enjoyed a brief renaissance, but even Mr. Jones was said to have grown weary of "its noisome botherment and intransigent spit valves," and the polislapringhorn again exited the concert hall.

In 1901, Chulkalongkorn traveled to India, presumably on a mission of good will, but secretly to beta-test a new product which his Poultry Department had engineered: a disease-resistant, pre-cooked capon. Chulkalongkorn sailed into Calcutta with one aide and 1,000 ready-to-eat chickenettes, determined to stake a claim in this potentially huge market. After parking his boat, he hauled his feathered entourage to the Gypsy Palace Hotel which, though located far from the infamous Calcutta Commerce Plaza where he planned to conduct business, had a liberal pets in rooms policy. As Chulkalongkorn waited at the front desk for the bellman to help lug his 250 squawking boxes up to his 4th floor suite, he noticed a crowd across the street gathered around what appeared to be a hole. The hole was of indeterminate dimensions, and seemed to flow into and out of focus. His curiosity piqued, Chulkalongkorn strolled over for a closer look. The hole was utterly black, and he could see nothing in it. It seemed to have no context, no supporting environment that would give it a reason to exist. The crowd stared into it as if transfixed. Someone threw a burning rag into it, and it instantly vanished. And then a low frequency hum began to emanate from the hole, and the crowd backed away in palpable fear. Chulkalongkorn's aide, still toting the crated capons, ambled up to his employer, and was suddenly sucked soundlessly, together with his clucking wares, into the hole. The crowd panicked, and ran away pell-mell, shrieking and crying. Chulkalongkorn was too stunned to move, but at last he did ... but not of his own volition. He, too, was sucked into the black hole, where time and space collided with Cleveland and he briefly saw his future overtake his past and then give way to the present, where he was spat out half a world away. While never actually losing consciousness, Chulkalongkorn did lose his grasp of reality for a while. When he was again able to multiply four by two and wind up with an integer that didn't look like a subset of a fluid velocity experiment, he figured out that he was no longer within spitting distance of the Bay of Bengal. In fact, he was in Gallup, New Mexico, having been transported there by an Algonquin Hole which had lived for six peaceful years in Calcutta before being roused to action. His aide was nowhere to be seen, but 75 of his disoriented but still beta-testable product were arranged around him in a perfect semi-circle. At that moment, an entourage of Navajo Indians on horseback rode up to him. As he stood to greet them, he found that he was covered with a sticky yellow substance. The Indians recognized it at once as bee pollen, the fundamental ingredient of their sacred rituals, and immediately proclaimed Chulkalongkorn to be their mythical hero, Algonquin Slayer. Within a week, Chulkalongkorn had adapted to the local customs and become a fully-fledged Native American. His product testing, however, did not go according to plan. The Navajos refused to eat the capons. Instead, they clamped them around the strings of their guitars to change pitch, making the instruments easy to play in the odd keys favored by their culture. Eventually, Chulkalongkorn changed his business strategy by retargeting his market, focusing on consumer demand, shortening the product name, and even Native-americanizing his own name to Chuck Longhorn. The plan worked, because today you won't find any Native American story chanter, Greenwich Village folk singer, or Bohemian banjo band without a capo in his or her guitar case.

And a case is what we'll try to make for today's installment, the 122nd in a continuing series, of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, this portion of which should feature the only mention, in or out of context, of Le flambeau oriange.

Given the peculiarities of featured holes as a whole, I am relieved to contribute the remainder of today's invisible radio storage to the wherewithal of Kalvos.




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