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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #171
The First Cybercast
David Gunn

The September 12th cybercast of the AmsterDramm concert on Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar is in many ways groundbreaking, but one way in which it isn't groundbreaking is that it has already been done. Granted, the digital wizardry which makes possible a radio broadcast that includes sentient representations of animatronics and AromaVision -- in stereo, no less -- did not exist ten years ago, or even 25 years ago. But in 1959, expatriate Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu and Yale University economist Tjalling C. Koopmans teamed up to perform an analog version of a radio cybercast, an event that forever changed Koopmans' views on trans-Atlantic telephone charges and, unfortunately, killed Martinu. Having garnered lavish praise and, more importantly, sizable royalties for his "Frescoes of Piero della Francesca," the tunesmith had set out to capitalize on name recognition with a wholly derivative piece, "A Fresh Coat on Pirandello's Franklin Stove." Not only did the title elicit memories of the 1956 composition, but the chord progressions from pages 16 to 42 were also shamelessly similar. Although Bo argued that the Frescoes was an orchestral piece and Fresh Coat was scored for accordion and voice, the music-buying public decried what they saw as compositional thievery. So it was no surprise when Martinu decided to abandon the public eye for a while, and he hastily looked around for a change of pace. He found it in the International Herald Tribune classifieds: "Wanted, accordion player for Connecticut college tavern Happy Hour, Wednesdays through Sundays, good benefits plus apartment. No calls. Apply in person." Within a week, Martinu was sitting in an efficiency walk-up at 110 Bleeker Street in New Haven with only his accordion, a ream of manuscript paper, a Sterno stove, and a cleansingly empty mind.

Koopmans, too, was in search of a new identity. Chased out of the Netherlands by speculators who'd been bamboozled by his economic probability pyramid scheme -- a theory, coincidentally, that would lead to his copping the 1975 Nobel Prize for Economics -- the mid-life crisised quantifier was keeping a low profile as a Yale teaching assistant. One evening, he wandered over to the Target Lounge to take advantage of the Happy Hour 50 All You Can Eat Chicken Wings special, and there he spotted the similarly out-of-the-spotlight Martinu. After a particularly despairing accordion set, Tjalling sidled up to him, bought him a milk, and they began to talk. Almost at once, something clicked -- probably Bohuslav's partial denture. But they continued to talk well into the night. And after the ex-Czecher was dismissed for blowing off the rest of his sets, he accompanied the ex-Hollander to his economical office, where together they dreamed up the unlikely radio cybercast. Swiping a microphone and transmitter from the college radio station, Martinu flew to The Hague. And on September 20, 1959, he phoned Koopmans in New Haven, who patched the call into Yale's telephone switching system. For 15 minutes, Martinu's crazed accordion free improvisation was broadcast throughout southern Connecticut to a dazed listening public, after which the authorities, found, subdued and medicated him.

This is the legendary cybercast that Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, including but not limited to this 171st episode, hopes to better. But it won't come cheaply. We still need an ISDN line to be installed and a handy telephone bridge, plus there are numerous restaurant fees and hidden labor costs to deal with. So please send that taxable donation to the Fund de la Flambeau Oriange in care of ... well, in care of Kalvos.