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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #211
Illegal Allities
David Gunn

You hear it all the time at rock concerts, it's present in the florid passages of opera's most forgiving arias, it's never long absent from Mrs. Farnsworth's Piano School Saturday afternoon recitals, it more often than not crops up in the bassoon parts of modern orchestral suites, it even is occasionally sighted on this very radio program. What is it? It is simultaneously bigger than a breadbox and smaller than the bread inside. It can often be found lurking under a rock, behind a grimalkin shoetree, between the interstices of an old titanium sweater, on the top shelf in a dark closet on the outskirts of Peabody, North Carolina, and in Dr. Frank Baxter's bathysphere at the bottom of the Great Pemmican Lake. Still don't know? That's not surprising, because it tends to keep a low profile. Or did until today, because this 211th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar is about to blow the cover off of Illegal Music. Not to be confused with music that is merely illegible, though there is unquestionably some degree of illicitness associated with indecipherability, illegal music is to the auditory arts what its bastard cousin, Clowns on Velvet, is to the visual arts. Pilfering from an harmonic repertoire that includes Paul Anka jingles, sampled harp glissandos and dozens of variants on the D major triad, illegal musicians are simply doing what the criminal element in our society has done for thousands of years. In fact, many sociologists, some of whom have parlayed one-time research grants on a related subject into long-term tenures at major midwestern universities, maintain that illicit music is a necessary part of human existence. Without it, we'd be content with tunes no more threatening than the greatest hits from the Hormel Foods Wiener Band.

Most music gets to be illegal via the time-honored method of hard work, but a certain species of music is innately illegal -- it's that way right out of the box. Still other music is perfectly licit until the corrupting hands of special interest groups get ahold of it. Lady Cadaver of Baltimore, one of the great music swindlers of her time, was reported to have taken immense pleasure in illegitimatizing music. Just by being in the same room with her, a piece of music, no matter its pedigree, would thereafter be branded a melodic pariah. Then there is music that is simply immoral. Not wanting to appear in any way judgmental, we won't go into detail here. But just imagine the musical equivalent of floral scented potpourri.

Given the choice of either conforming to established norms or pandering to the compositionally criminal, illegal music will opt for the latter every time. It's not ashamed of its numerous run-ins with the law, nor is it afraid to flaunt the fundamental precepts of contrapuntal construct -- it's simply out there to have a good time. And that's what we, and we hope you, too, are about to experience on the already mentioned episode of this show, because we have in our studio today one of the few bona fide authorities on illegal music in the northeastern United States. A product not of Mrs. Farnsworth's Piano School or outlawed bassoon solos or research grants or even of wiener bands, our guest is one of those plug 'n play right out of the box type illegal artistes, and he's prepared to divulge that which you may already know, play what you might have already heard, but not before we get a lesson in semantics from the normally legitimate Kalvos.