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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #210
Concatenation of the Species
David Gunn

I was in my office typing up the day's colic orders and ganister reports when I heard the swell of an untunable melodium from downstairs: the choir had broken into the parlor and was rehearsing for the Habit Feast again. Individual lines filtered up through the mossy floor like cyanide fumes into a gas chamber, and I gagged as much from the analogy as for the unevenly crooned parts that suggested the tune's tonal center was at odds with itself, and a serious intermelodic skirmish was imminent. One line in particular that lay in the crack between tenor and antitenor caught my ear and dragged it towards an unwelcome cadence. Every couple of measures, the tune broke another rule of harmony and replaced it with some new musical dictum that only its mother could love. The song itself -- or whatever it was; it also smacked of the subvocalized growl that apprehensive electronic dogs make when their feeding circuits are compromised -- seemed to be steadily reinventing itself, the patent for which could only exist in the pluperfect. The melody shifted abruptly into reverse, bumped into itself coming the other way, and collapsed into a pile of tone clusters that quickly dispersed like lava lamp hunters at a yard sale. The singers, many of them unused to chordal patterns that fragmented fractally from top to bottom, breathed a sigh of relief in a distant cousin of A minor.

Somewhere deep in the oubliette of my mind a little used left hemisphere-dominant circuit clicked on and ventriloquized a similar sound pattern that evoked a long-forgotten yearning for a wall hanging in a Truth or Consequences, New Mexico motel room. What at first blush looked like a simple clowns on velvet motif transmogrified, with the aid of abuse of an unregulated substance, into annihilation of the universe by vacuum decay. Entitled "Concatenation of the Cosmos," it, too, had a song to sing, a kind of hum, a drone, an incessant buzzing that seemed to emanate from a painful clam sore on my lowing back.

The clowns regrouped and turned into smart dogs playing poker. Then the buzz sounded again, this time accompanied by an attention-getting 50 gigawatt electric shock. I awoke suddenly from a troubled reverie to find that Mr. Chiropractor, my interactive CD-ROM therapy game, was signaling that it was time to remove the electrodes from my latissimus dorsi. I did so and, like a first year piano student who drew as his proficiency exam 4'33", was rewarded with instant relief. A block of shapeshifting data flashed across the monitor screen that instructed me to reattach the wires to the smart dogs, which I interpreted to mean my feet. The two big toes vaguely resembled a pooch muzzle, so I clipped the wires thereto and pressed the Enter button on the keyboard. I watched calmly as the phalanges began to vibrate, shake and then smoke, but when they burst into a painfully unrehearsed rendition of "The Concatenation Song" I reckoned that something was amiss.

The collateral chiropractic illusion dissolved into a great caterwauling, again issuing from the parlor below as the choir had another go at the Habit Feast tune. This time, helped largely by the absence of the melodium, it seemed to make sense. The tune lurched from one improbable cadence to another. Time slowed. I felt my reality gradually convert to energy, then matter, which it didn't, really, because it was all part of a concatenation to this 210th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, whose context would, if I had the patience to follow the data string to its logical conclusion, loop back to the ventriloquistic caterwauling of Kalvos.