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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #350
la musique corpulante
David Gunn

According to Chinese astrology, 2002 is the Year of the Black Horse. But according to David Satcher, 16th Surgeon General of the United States, 2002 is the Year of the Hog. The former Supreme Advocate Defender for the nation's health promotion programs--he absquatulated from the job at the beginning of this month--wasn't trying to add a new animal to the branch sequence order of Chinese astrological symbols. Rather, he was commenting on the increasingly popular but, in his view, deleterious trend towards hyperobesity in America. It all started with a farcical advertisement last year by the League of Colorado Health Spas: "abs are out; flabs are in!" It facetiously encouraged people to discard their lean and trim physiques and adopt a self-indulgent, gluttonous lifestyle. Extra pounds meant extra protection from disease. "Farewell fitness; hello fatness!" The ad campaign initially generated the anticipated chuckles and attention to the League's legitimate wellness clinics. But it unexpectedly was taken to heart by and became a battle cry of a small but vocal anti-fasting crowd, some of whom held powerful positions in government. They labeled dieting and vegetarianism anti-American plots concocted by members of the Axis of Evil, and linked a person's patriotism to a Body Mass Index (that is, weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) of 60 or greater, twice the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company standard. Soon Satcher received a directive from the then-President--who, by reason of Homeland Security Directive C-309.C, will go nameless--to promote and encourage excessive weight gain. Suddenly, corpulence--and we're talking a minimum of 470 pounds of flesh--was "in." Soybean protein went the way of the aluminum cow; butter, cream, bacon, cheddar cheese, ice cream, eggs, frankfurters, peanut butter, ham, pound cake, and the oil from canned artificial tuna product became the cuisine de rigueur.

Music was not far behind. Till now, many new tunes had stubbornly held on to the lean and mean compositional structures that were a holdover from the minimalist sensibilities of a generation earlier. But composers, always a self-indulgent and gluttonous lot, eagerly succumbed to the inducement of portliness. Their post-minimality/new tonalism music took on a kind of saturated fatness. Notes became swollen, greasy, overweight. Harmony turned ponderously pudgy. Even vocal lyrics waxed plump and chubby. Music written for Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, was elevated to a special status in contemporary performing arts. And, thanks to his oh-so-timely name, music written by Han-Cho Fat, a previously unknown Chinese astrological songsmith, gained worldwide notoriety.

But, as Newton's third law of motion points out, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, except in the magnetic oceans of Zombocartumia. And to counter the output of these hoggish composers, a group of anti-fat fanatics began to produce "soy music." As its counterpoint in the faux meat industry was skeletal-muscle-of-animal- carcass-free, so soy music was devoid of fatty excess. Corpulent tendencies were excised. Melodies stopped after two notes. Tempeh replaced tempo in metronome markings. Ephemeral compositions, lasting only a few moments, were the rule.

The gluttonous composers the music was lambasting, though, accurately argued that soy music had no taste--not that it was vulgar or uncouth, but rather that it was insipid, flavorless. The anti-fatties countered that that didn't matter because it was good for you. Two bitterly opposing schools of contemporary composition had reached another stalemate.

The controversy continues today--not just today as a vague new millennium time frame, but today as in the 350th episode of Kalvos & Damianís New Music Bazaar. For today's program features compositions both obese and skinny--meaty music versus tofu tunes--and we shall let you, our listening audients, be the final arbiter in deciding which is the more appropriate for today, a day typical in every other respect other than those promulgated by Kalvos.