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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #124
Misplaced Etiquette
David Gunn
Throughout history, new music concerts have often been the venues of simply awful etiquette. When Zanamuse II, disenfranchised ruler of the Early Fractur Empire, attempted to foist plainsong chant onto his subjects in lieu of castration, they revolted and slew his court musicians. At the premiere of Bellini's Norma -- that is, the second premiere, in which unruly food fight scenes were added to an otherwise innocuous opera -- many front row patrons joined in the heated broccoli and bratwurst brouhaha, and seven deaths ensued. Audients attending the first public performance of Stravinsky's Le Rite of Spring became so nettled -- due, in hindsight, to bad wine from the concession stand -- that many of them rushed the stage, ripped the instruments out of the hands of the string section, and angrily sprayed the players with hot wax. More recently, during last year's harp recital at the Zacatecas Gallery in Madrid, a series of tone cluster arpeggios apparently so enraged the nuevo art world attendees that seven of them spontaneously combusted. What are we to make of these responses to new music? Is concert hall civility finally unravelling in the presence of nerve-jangling Chaos Theory henchmen? It sure is, and it's about time, too! For too long has the paying musical public sat placidly in recital halls while interminably foolish new compositions without an ounce of stylistic sensibility bombarded them with derivative chord changes and feckless time signatures. Why? Because our culture has told us to do so. Early in this century, Emily Post and other self-aggrandized etiquerians set down rules of behavior for every conceivable social situation, and the public docilely obeyed. In her magnum porpoise, "The Blue Book of Social Usage," she specifically restricts adverse reactions to musical performances to "gentle sniffs and sighs, accompanied by a rolling of the eyes upward and, if the listener is really steamed, to sedate flatulation." When Miss Post was caught in a compromisingly unsavory situation with a raccoon, her social graces at last fell out of favor, and provoked audients again began to interact violently with new music provocateurs. Alas, a new wave of self-serving defenders of civility picked up her baton and brought it down hard on the noggins of the insurgents, and again we find ourselves cowed by premieres of harmless art songs, insipid salon musique tunes of tedious repose, and PC-dull scratch-n-sniff melodies that would get the goat of less enlightened societies.

This, then, is a call to arms! When Amy Vanderbilt, Miss Manners, Martha Graham Stewart, Hulk Hogan or Flambeau Oriange advises you to stay seated and silent during a performance of unmitigatedly appalling music, we say to you, no. Rather, rise up! Make your displeasure known! Lob a pomegranate at a nettling player. Set fire to a trombone. Spew lava over the music stands. Truss up and ship to Timbuktu via fourth class mail a conductor. Let the dark and suppressed regions of your subconscience be your guide!

Note: The previous incitation to riot does not reflect the opinions of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar nor its assigns, no matter how provoked they occasionally appear, nor anybody else within radiophonic reach of this, the 124th episode, with the possible -- nay, probable -- exception of Kalvos.




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