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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #224
Waltz Supremacism
David Gunn

As nice as composers often appear towards one another, occasionally going so far as to pretend to like each other's acoustic events, the World of Music has unfortunately not been spared the hate groups and malevolence-mongers that have cast so dour a pallor over much of the rest of the advertised world. In almost any milieu musical you can find lurking prejudice, intolerance and discrimination. Public radio snobs who don't know which side of an inverted tritone is up will tell you they donít like the chord just because. Toadies from the Bruckner Fawning Society haughtily claim they'd rather stick their noses in a meat grinder than sit through even half of John Cageís 4:33. A band of anti-serialist fanatics recently sampled snippets of Alban Berg, Anton Webern and Reinhold Gliere and, after carefully recontextualizing them into a grotesque labyrinth of C major arpeggios, produced successfully subliminal sound tracks for the Home Shopping Network, whose synergy sometimes boosts the buying rate by 50%. But by far the worst of the lot are the singularly bigoted Waltz Supremacists. With no love for any meter other than three-quarter, these dogmatic triple-timers espouse a rigid system of musical segregation based on the theological premise of the Trinity: that "three is half again better than two." A strict interpretation of their compositional ideology produces what they proudly termed the "oom-pah-pah paradigm." The origin of these "Straussniks," as they call themselves, forever sullying the name of the avant-garde 19th century Waltz King and Vienna Sausage entrepreneur, can be traced to 1902, the year that Johann Junior's brother, Ed, sensing that audiences were wearying of six evenly accented dance steps accompanied by endlessly repeated turns, shut down the band that had for 77 years played all the best cafés and Abendessentheater in Vienna. He was, of course, right. Suddenly, the waltz was yesterday's news; it was passé, old hat and hackneyed. Audiences clamored for more cutting edge fin-de-siécle tunes, music that didn't seem to skimp on a melody by 25%. Desperately, the Waltz Supremacists fought back. They organized into secret societies that swore to uphold the policy of separate musicological development. Its members wore white robes, pointy hats and three-quarter length trousers and adopted the burning treble clef as their symbol. They terrorized local composers whose tunes violated old ideas of duple meter subordination by loudly and arrhythmically tapping their feet during concerts. Gradually, even ballroom dance ideologues agreed that they had gotten out of control, and their actions, their music and especially their hats were repudiated.

Today, though few in numbers, Waltz Supremacists can still cause the unsuspecting avant-gardener headaches by, say, threatening legal action based on inaccurate readings of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or bullying Internet-savvy radio programs -- and this 224th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar is certainly no exception -- that post fully licensed and authorized copyrighted recordings on their URLs into fretting about apocryphal infringement liability. But, composers have in the past ridden out similar teapot tempests from squeaky musical totalitarians, so maybe the seventy-five percent despot is a necessary niggling scourge on the bottom of the shoe of the Trout City Symphony harp player during the 400-measure tacit section of the Berg/Webern/Gliere C major recontextualization as she subliminally taps her foot to the accompaniment of 4:33, which by an odd coincidence is the number of syllables in a recontextualized spelling of Kalvos.