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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #162
Adopt-a-Composer
David Gunn

Motoring down through the Adipose Mountains of Connecticut earlier this week, I was startled to notice a blue road sign that read "Adopt-a-Composer: next two compositions sponsored by Garwunnel's Radioactive Seed Corp." A dozen miles later I spotted another sign, "Adopt-a-Composer: next two compositions sponsored by Hanson's Febrile Lawn Care Service." I'd never heard of such a program, so when I got to Hartworm, the capital, I detoured from my appointment with whiskers six-draw administrative kingpin Julius Momus long enough to check in with the Shellac County Arts Alliance, the organization that oversaw the program. Connie Copland, marketing coordinator for the Alliance, explained it to me over a cup of cool maniac tea. Using the highly successful "Adopt-a-Highway" road grooming program as a paradigm, they had convinced Hypotenuse State legislators to launch a similar campaign to fund local musical artisans. Initially slow to garner support, it caught on like gangbusters after the overwhelming success of the first candidate. That person was Brian Eno.

Once renowned as an eclectic rocker with ties to John Cale, Alan Hovhannes and Hendrik Henk Badings, Eno faded from the popular music scene as his compositions became increasingly gloomy, ambiguous and odoriferous. Nearly destitute, he moved in 1989 from Hollywood, California to Ralston, Connecticut where he found limited work playing keyboards in a senior citizen samba band. Copland's predecessor, whose name she cannot remember, heard the scruffy lad playing his heart out one night and was impressed at his flair for improvisation. He learned that Eno had been living in his car, an unheated 1954 Mercury Mercurochrome, eating food snatched from the Double D Diner's dumpster on Asylum Street, and wearing cloth tatters not fit for Goodwill charities. Knowing nothing of Eno's former compositional and performance triumphs, the unnamed arts administrator determined to help him anyway. Using negatives from a set of compromising photographs as collateral, he persuaded the city's board of selectmen to sponsor the first ever "Adopt-a-composer" program. In addition, he got the local food bank to donate leisurewear and the city's sanitation workers to contribute an espresso machine. The Sadnap Motel offered him a room, but Eno chose to continue to sleep in his car. This was nothing if not serendipitous. Because the Mercury's starter motor solenoid tended to short out, it made an odd sound when firing up ... sort of like (Eno). We think now that the sound pervaded Eno's subconsciousness, because when he realized he had to produce some music in exchange for the food, fabrics and funding, he wrote what later came to be know as The Microwarehouse Sound (Windows), or le flambeau oriange. Bill "Pearly" Gates himself negotiated the rights to the tune, which can often be heard as computer start-up aftersounds in PC-equipped houses around the world.

Even though the Adopt-a-composer program became a thriving cultural institution in Connecticut concert halls, it never caught on here in the Green Mountain breadbasket of contemporary music. To that end, we hope that you, our listening audient, will write your congressperson and ask him to support HR 660, the Adopt-a-composer constitutional amendment currently under advisement by an unnamed legislative subcommittee. And perhaps one day soon one or both of your hosts of this 162nd episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar will no longer be forced to live in substandard housing and eat carrion scraped from the highway in order to have cash enough for pencils and manuscript paper on which to scrawl our tunes, but can instead receive a small honorarium for our musical services ... he said, grasping at fiduciary straws, as he passed the mangled metaphor to Kalvos.