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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #161
The Whole Mouse
David Gunn

News item: a writer for the Boston Globe was forced to resign yesterday after admitting she fabricated people and quotations in her newspaper columns. She did so, she whined, "to create the desired impact or slam home a salient point." One of her more egregious fictions was the following quote from an apocryphal cancer patient: "Hell, if I could get my hands on it, I'd swallow the whole mouse."

In a demonstration of life imitating art, "The Whole Mouse" is the name of a 1968 opera written by Arturo Targolotti that explores the life of a cancer patient who, after injesting an experimental drug, gradually assumes rodentine characteristics, including a debilitating dread of barn owls. The music, a cross pollination of serialism and lugubrious whole tone scales, is all the more remarkable because it doesn't really exist in the natural world. It, like the Globe columnist's quotations, was fabricated by Targolotti, a contemporary composer who likewise is a fiction of an anonymous imagination.

If this were but a single incident, the modern music world could afford to accept it for what it is, or isn't, and go about its business of alienating the rest of cultural society. But it isn't. Too many of today's tunes rely on contrived scalar passages, fake chord progressions, and fabricated time signatures that simply cannot exist in the present space time continuum. And yet composers continue to employ these musical sleights of hand to create desired impacts or slam home salient points. But do we, the listening consumer, voice our objections, and demand a return to honest music whose repercussions on our psyches are comfortably predictable? No! So let that be a lesson.

In a related irony, the story of "The Whole Mouse" was lifted without attribution from an unpublished manuscript of Carlos Castaneda, whose April death was recently revealed by an entertainment attorney. The soon to be major motion picture, tentatively entitled "A Separate Rodentity: Further Conversations with Don Juan Oriange," follows the lively adventures of a cancer patient who travels to Mexico in search of a cure for his disease. In a cantina near the proposed Zacatecas-Ciudad Yaquiville border, he discovers a shaman who has taken the earthly form of a 260-pound flying rat named Targolotti. The patient is soon under the spell of the shaman, who commands him to injest a hundred acres of peyote buttons. He does so, and abruptly the cancer goes into remission. Alas, the happy ending is short-lived, as a fungus on some of the peyote resists digestion. It backs up in the duodenum, which eventually causes an untimely death by anal asphyxiation. The Spirit of Targolotti -- itself an insignificant opera about Charles Lindberg's little known aborted first attempt to fly across the Bay of Fundy -- immediately left the earthly plain, but returned to live on in the middle buttons of computer mouses around the world.

No such unpleasantness looms for Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, especially this 161st episode, as, unlike the computer clock industry, we have taken steps 18 months early to make a seamless transition to the 21st century. As the millennial milestone approaches, we will instruct you, our listening audient, how to follow suit. And suits are the operative attire of choice here in the summer radiophonic abattoir of fabricated music, and here dressed comfortably in a leisure suit of chenille and carnage is Kalvos.