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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #278
Nanomusique
David Gunn

Nanotechnology, the au courant darling of the science industry, is the process by which itty-bitty structural systems -- sometimes called nanodes, other times called itty-bitty structural systems -- are applied in such a way so as to realize extremely large profit margins. Case in point: the congenitally fickle world of music. The wardrobe mistress for the Southwest Texas Amateur Wind Band, visiting relatives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, drops a bag of stale Chitos into a Monandnock Refuse Company dumpster. Abruptly, she recalls that specially marked bags contain subliminal advertisements which may be redeemed for free merchandise, and she dives into the slimy, fetid bin to retrieve the bag. Oblivious to the numerous cartilaginous facial appendages originally from the Crab Nebula that are already in the bin -- a fact that only a few extraterrestrial otorhinolaryngologists would be privy to, anyway -- she digs out the bag, notes the "Sorry, please try again" statement under the five-inch long list of ingredients, and is about to step back out when a discarded newspaper article catches her eye. (In reality, the newspaper had been placed under house, or rather dumpster, arrest by the noses from a previous story, and it was making a mad bid for freedom by affixing itself to the womanís eye socket midway between the canal of Schlemm and the zonule of Zinn.) She pulls it off and is about to cast it aside when she notes the page 3 lead article, "MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) The Word!" She pauses to read the article; later, she tells a few colleagues about it, and by the time she gets back to El Paso, experimental composers by the thousands are rushing to employ teensy new instruments in their opi: in are centispoons, milliwhistles, microfifes and nanotheramins; out are magnaphones, enormolodions, gargantuhorns and immensofagottos. Suddenly, conventional musical wisdom decrees: the smaller, the de rigueurer. Even better for the listening audients, the length of their attendant compositions follows the trend. One of the most popular examples of this style, Jacobsen's Nanosymphony, is frequently over before most spectators have settled into their seats. The piece's notes -- nanoquavers separated by minirests -- are so small and go by so fast that, so far, only genetically altered dogs have been capable of hearing them. But the tune really owes its success to the attendant teeny-technology: each concert program is saturated with zillions of sensory microtendrils. As soon as Mr. or Mrs. John Q. Audient touches the paper, the tiny threads leap onto the hand and burrow into the first unobstructed duct they locate. After dodging or, if necessary, incapacitating the bodyís antibody system, they head for the nervous system, where they lay their telemetric computer chips before dissolving into a benign, mint-scented mucoid solution. As the symphony is performed, the chips are activated -- or, in layman's terms, "wake up" -- allowing the audient to experience a full spectrum of neural stimuli. In a perfect world, the audient would be fulfilled and appreciative, even to the extent of suddenly changing the beneficiary in his or her will to a reputable compositional consortium, such as Jacobsen's. But, just because the chips sometimes malfunction and repeat the symphonic experience over and over again for weeks on end, some naysayers rush to judgment and denounce this temporary "glitch in the system" as a nefarious plot to, say, exert mind control over once well-to-do concert-goers.

In the end, it is up to the musical cognoscenti -- yes, you, Kalvos & Damianís New Music Bazaar's listening audients, this 278th episode notwithstanding -- to accept the occasional performance imperfection and resultant reduction in audience participation, because the sooner we embrace the miniaturization of compositional exposition, the sooner we can get a heapin' helpin' of ancillary blatherskite from our own Magnum Kalvos.