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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #263
Mineral-Based Music
David Gunn

Twenty-seven weeks ago, as Iím sure many of you will recall, I made a reference to mineral-based music as it pertained to a certain Central American character in a potentially apocryphal story, and I'm sure many more of you probably thought I was making it up. In fact -- or at least in my interpretation of fact -- I wasn't making it up, any more than I wasn't making up any other essay that had as its premise the collective unconscious of a hundred animatronic ducks as they squeeze en masse through the auxiliary manifold of a cartoon tokamak. The ducks, by the way, eventually get the better of the tokamak, but must then spend the better part of 12,796 years darning the rift in the space-time continuum which their web-footed peregrinations wrought.

Anyway, mineral-based music was discovered in northwesternmost Canada, not far from the Tundraland Open Air Mall, by a language salesman named Oscar. Originally, Oscar had been a member of an Antarctic cuisine taste-testing party, but an appalling sense of direction had spirited him 137 latitudinal degrees northward, where he was seized by a band of grammatical anarchists who sought to begin each English sentence with a semicolon. These otherwise courteous syntax fiends placed him under igloo arrest, where he shared close quarters with small outcroppings of stone, sand, salt and coal. Oscar attempted to engage them in conversation but, aside from the perfunctory introductions, they remained wholly taciturn. However, as he slept fitfully the first night, he was aware of some remarkable acoustic events emanating from them. The sounds had a definite structure and seemed to be arranged in time so as to produce unified sonic phenomena. Although Oscar discerned no melody, harmony, rhythm or timber, he was nonetheless convinced that the events constituted music -- mineral-based music. Different organic patterns seemed to emanate from different inorganic outcroppings. The stone "sound" was cool and calculating; that of the sand felt as granular and sedentary as the Baroness Dudevant herself; the salt formation evoked memories of dispassionate osculations from crystalline deer lips; and the sensation that was coal suggested a stocking draped over the Christmas fireplace in an aerosol cabin that floated six feet off the ground deep in the New Hampshire desert. As the quiescently cacophonous process continued, Oscar detected a film of viscous liquid oozing from the rocks, and he had to suppress an overpowering urge to evacuate his bowels. Mineral oil, he surmised. The quixotic liquid abruptly evanesced into fogdogian vapors silently baying a tar baby lullaby, and he easily slipped into a sleep rife with ambiguously gritty dreams.

The next day his hosts were nowhere to be found -- indeed, they had been called to testify before a parliamentary subcommittee on the designation of "eh?" as an official Canadian part of speech, but that's another story with a cheap joke premise -- so Oscar dug up the outcroppings, gingerly packed them into a large Tundraland shopping bag, and took them to the Algonquin Hills Language Laboratory in Saskatoon (and the serpentine route he employed to get there need not be dwelt on). There rigorous tests utilizing the very latest in harmonic distillation procedures were performed on the four specimens, but the minerals remained aggravatingly reticent. It wasn't until Oscar's igloo conditions were precisely reproduced that the strange, acoustic events recurred, even to the extent of the laxativelike effects of the liquid seepage on the experimenters.

Some indeterminate number of days later, the laboratory petitioned ASCAP, BMI and the League of Recidivist Acoustoelectricians to have the new musical style suitably represented in concert performances. Sadly, no response was immediately forthcoming. To this day, the annual Grammy Awards fails to recognize mineral-based music as anything other than an inexplicable acoustic event ... which leaves it to the egalitarian precepts of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar -- this 263rd episode in particular -- to wave the banner for mineral-based music, much as, after getting a whiff of the fluidic seepage from the coal, the Charmin is waved by Kalvos.