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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #431
Banned Music
David Gunn

As a sixth grader, Beano Bengaze's shamanic leanings were nil. Rather, he was interested in what attracted other typical twelve-year olds on the Navajo Reservation: prosthesiology, gravitational anomalies, octothorpes, and the Valve of Hasner, that cute little fold of mucous membrane that guards the lower opening of the nasolacrimal duct. He also was very much intrigued by a certain Gladys Shimmeringsong, a comely trumpet player in the school band. He often fantasized about turning himself into her instrument's brass mouthpiece. (Ten years later, when his mystical powers were peaking, he could do this, no problem. But by then, he had lost track of Gladys, and interest in the feat.) Save for a drum made out of the skins of old coelacanths, Beano had no musical instrument of his own. So when his uncle, the famous Navajo bandleader Bix Bengazebecke, swung through the Big Rez on a nationwide tour, the future heldenshaman implored his uncle to loan him an instrument. Bix instantly sensed a latent talent in the lad. No matter it was--like that of his cousin, Pantaloom--mixology, he forthwith presented Beano with a brand-new Yu-Conn cornet.

Beano took to it like bauxite to aluminum siding--which is to say, with hydroxide radicals. It seemed to his parents as if he practiced on it endlessly, till long after the cows came home, which they sometimes wouldn't because of the cacophony emanating from his hayloft practice room. Not content to merely practice scales and other platelike integuments, he tweaked the workings of the instrument, too. He changed the piston-to-valve relationship and increased the instrument's range by a full hemidemisemiquaver; he designed and built a mute made out of the desiccated head of a mime, to great acclaim; and he developed his own unique tongue choreography on the inside of the mouthpiece--which later led to a cameo in an erotic movie, but that's another story. Soon, he was good enough to join the school band, and Fate continued to smile on him by seating him next to Gladys.

That smile, however, was short-lived, because Gladys straightaway spurned Beano's advances. Even after he flashed some exotic mouth organ moves, Gladys claimed that she didn't care if his tongue could fandango in his mouthpiece for eight hours nonstop; she preferred her romantic interests to be of "an abattoirian nature."

Gladys never specified what constituted "an abattoirian nature," but her home did abut the Kayenta District Slaughterhouse where, each day, strapping young workmen with arms honed to razor sharpness paraded past.

Beano was not strapping, but neither was he deterred. He just looked for some other way to impress her. And since Gladys was a dedicated trumpet player, he decided to simply hone his own instrumental prowess.

And so he practiced even more than before, much to the dismay of the increasingly not-at-home cows. When his Uncle Bix visited again, he was genuinely impressed at the progress his nephew had made. And while he still sensed enormous undeveloped mixology skills in him, Bix gave Beano another cornet.

This instrument was pure white; his first cornet was more of a delicate saffron hue that tended to fade into and out of focus when played in the highest register. Beano couldn't decide which one he liked better, so he tried to play both at the same time. By distorting his lips, wiggling his tongue from side to side, and inhaling lungfuls of corn pollen, he pioneered and eventually perfected the dual-mouthpiece technique that is still widely used today.

Figuring he could now make an impact on Gladys, he took his cornets to her house. But she wasn't home. Her oafish brother, a mime wanna-be whose head Beano had designs on, pointed to the slaughterhouse, then pretended to walk against the wind as he lumbered back into his house.

The abattoir, Beano thought, wasn't the most appealing venue in which to impress a young girl. But he was resolute. Involuntarily augmenting his temperament with traces of manganese, tungsten and carbon, he steeled himself--cradling his cornets, he walked through the heavy, padded door.

Steel wasn't good enough to counteract the sights and smells that assaulted his senses. The walls, floor and ceiling of the chamber were spattered with animal viscera from which arose a nauseatingly noisome stench. In the far corner, three workmen disemboweled a goat with their bare but razor-sharp hands. And Gladys was sitting in the middle of the room atop a heap of cow entrails. She was smiling ... alluringly. Well, not that alluringly. And when she waved mockingly at him with bloody hands, he tossed his instruments at her in revulsion and fled. Just before he closed the abattoir door behind him, he gazed upon the unsettling tableau that would color his dreams for years to come: kine hearts and cornets.

The young Bengaze summarily lost interest in brass instruments, but, fortunately, others did not. In fact, this 431st episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar features a copper and zinc aficionado whose name anagrammatizes to Peg's technical rhyme, gentle shrimpy cache and, most meaningfully, cling rhythm escapee, and who will trundle out some tunes that are wholly unlike, say, geysermusic after some preparatory words from our own bale bandsman, Kalvos.