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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #235
Initus non abeat
David Gunn

Music, regardless of what the industry's manipulative public relations machine would have you believe, can be very dangerous indeed. In the right hands, it can be an instrument of immeasurable disaster. It has caused war, pestilence and really bad hair days. A simple fire song chanted out of context in the late 13th century caused a dozen Eurasian nation states to wage terrible war amongst themselves. A convoluted plainchant, performed backwards by a Middle-Aged religious zealot, caused ten years of worldwide famine. Other music has regularly induced great meteorological upheavals: drought in Greenland, flooding in the Gobi Desert, cyclones in Tucson, the year-long cold snap in Ouagadougou. Music also affects the physical well-being of individuals. It can bring about infertility, appetite loss, scabies and broken ankles. Listened to without the proper protective gear, it can poke out your eyes. Music without recognizable tonal centers has fused the arteries in lab rats and engendered insanity in the pre-teen crowd.

But this music is typically hit or miss. Sometimes it works its mischief; sometimes it's perfectly harmless. There is one ilk of music, however, that is unrelentingly sinister. No one knows its origin or the source of its power or even how itís perpetuated. They only know that it works. It is called Initus non abeat, which means "once in, you can't get out." It seems to shut down the listener's central cognitive system, sending him packing on a mental holiday. And, once there, like the name says, he can't get back, at least not easily. According to a noted authority, who did successfully escape, it's like being trapped in a time-space vortex in which lunatic saxophone mouthpieces keen unappetizingly in parallel fifths while whole tone demons rip chunks out of your memory reflex synapses.

In spite of the intrinsic danger of this music, or perhaps because of it, it has been heartily embraced by a band of musical anarchists from Québec, "le cimetière des ailerons." Their symbol is a graveyard of whale fins, whose relationship to their own twisted cause goes like this: When whales reach antiquity, around the age of 70 in dog years, their dorsal fins atrophy, turn to ivory, and fall off. Borne by some as yet unknown force, these discarded bits migrate to a central underwater repository called the graveyard of whale fins, or le cimetière des ailerons de baleine. Here, mysterious magnetic forces emanating from the Earth's core break them down into the building blocks of krill and plankton, which will one day mature into the whale's favorite intra-oceanic hors d'oeuvre. Critics have frequently likened the music of le cimetière to plankton and other floating algae, and their performance demeanor to small marine crustaceans like krill, so it was a no-brainer for them to identify with the whale discards. But exactly why they then adopted the antithetically aggressive Initus non abeat music has never been satisfactorily explained. Perhaps it had a better cachet than, say, "flukes, flippers, 'n fins," a style of similarly nihilistic music.

I don't know and I don't care, because I have my own non abeat problem now, having started this 235th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar with this cockamamie and largely undocumentable musical anecdote and being unable now to get out of it ... other than to simply hand the thematic baton, dangerously atrophied krill and all, over to Kalvos.