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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #199
Danger Music
David Gunn

The alley was dark and foreboding. It was short -- only a couple hundred feet long -- and too narrow to permit anything but two-dimensional Klondike street hockey games. The buildings which marked its breadth were old and dilapidated. A playbill affixed to one wall still touted the National Beehair Convergence of 1954. Cracked titanium shingles that had pried themselves loose from the roof were gathered in several sentient piles below. Their unbidden glow illuminated a kennel of lugubrious fogdogs, who romped in slow motion through a mist of unidentified effluent that seemed to waver in and out of focus. Three men stood back to back to back in the most tenebrous corner of the alley nervously smoking weaselettes. Two of the men shook their fingers vigorously, as if they wore rings coated with irked fire ants. The other man stood stock still, affecting the measured calm of the Cult of the Pluperfect. If not for the tattered cuffs of the bell-bottom trousers each sported, then the stench of insecticide used in three dollar a night flophouses that emanated from them would have clearly identified them as musicians.

They had assembled in this alley as physically far as possible from the upholstery stall at the Lubumbashi Bazaar a half hour preceding the crack of dawn to deal what was to them a terrible drug. They were exchanging musical scores ... but not just any scores. Fearful of discovery and its attendant consequences, they covertly swapped their lyrical contraband behind their backs. They did it so expertly that any witness would think he saw only quavery fingered men in dated apparel, when in reality, they were trafficking in Danger Music.

They don't teach it at any music school. They say you need a special permit to even glance at the score. There are reputed cases of people who listen to it going instantly mad. Some who have played even the briefest excerpt of it have subsequently vanished without a trace. It has brought down governments and institutionalized the unwary. It is simultaneously both bigger and smaller than a breadbox. It rhymes with orange. It walks on three appendages in the evening, two appendages in the afternoon, and four in the morning. It is Danger Music. While there are no set guidelines establishing exactly what constitutes Danger Music, the vaults of recording studios and playlists from radio programs, notably absent this one, of course, are packed with examples of what it isn't. It isn't, for instance, Bolcom or Badings, Moog or Mumma, Carter or Kagel, Andriessen or Ashley. It isn't even Raymond Scott, though some of his music is certainly plenty risky. The danger in Danger Music only becomes apparent once it's too late, after it has already made insidious contact with human senses. And then, all one can do is await the consequences.

The producers and assigns of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, and this 199th episode in particular, hereby issue a red alert to our listeners as well as the three alleyway musicians that we intend to play some Danger Music on today's show. We won't spoil the fun by announcing it ahead of time, so just enjoy the anticipation and remember who first to phone in a medical emergency. To prepare you for what musical diabolicality is to come, here is the ever-dangerous Kalvos.