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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #501
Melophobia
David Gunn

At precisely six p.m., the bus pulled into the larger of the two handicapped parking spaces in front of the Kontiki Concert Hall, the one marked For Melophobiacs Only. The air brakes hissed, the outer skin of the bus briefly turned a dazzling shade of chartreuse and then the door opened, peeling back like the lid of a musical sardine tin. Thirty men and women in various modes of evening dress slowly and silently piled out and congregated on the curb. They milled about uneasily, as if unsure of what next to do. Last to be disgorged from the bus was a lanky man wearing a white lab coat and adobe hat. He gestured emphatically towards the concert hall, but only one woman among them immediately moved in that direction. Another lady who was dressed in a voluminous eggroll smock began to chirrup hysterically, yanking scraps of bean sprout padding from her clothing. The man reached into a slot in his hat and pulled out a bright red bandana. He waved it in front of her, and she gradually calmed down. Then he held it over his head and shouted "ha'a viti viti!" Slowly, the rest of the crowd shuffled towards the building. At the ornate entryway directly beneath the stylized piñata of George Szell, they stopped again, clearly looking uncomfortable. The man sprang to the front of the line and waved his bandana again. "Ha'a viti viti!" he repeated. The Tahitian command formed a curious counterpoint to events four thousand feet overhead, where a felonious monk pilot had just begun to serve his plea bargained sentence by skywriting "I must not steal the wafers" five hundred times. When he missed crossing the third "t", he circled around to append it. But at that altitude, his perspective of the letters was skewed and, instead, he crossed out the "f." Why this so affected the thirty men and women below may never be known, but when one of them looked up and noticed the skywriting blunder, he shrieked, precipitating a stampede past the adobe hatted man and into the concert hall.

A nametag on the lapel of the man in the lab coat identified him as Dr. Hijiki Koramasu, which was odd because Dr. Koramasu was a leading proponent of skywritten Rorschach tests, and the lab-coated man was not. Rather, he was Warbler Hadley Blackmoor, professor of Calamitology at the University of Hummock-on-Smythe in southwesternmost Lincolnshire. But instead of meticulously creating the conditions for consummate catastrophe, as was his wont, he was this time babysitting a score and a half of melophobiacs.

Melophobia is the pathological fear of music. Symptoms can include heart palpitations, the inability to think clearly, a feeling of anxiety or nausea, and an inordinate craving for Eucharistic wafers. The manic reaction to the skywriting was unexpected, but it suited Blackmoor just fine in that it got his charges into the concert hall. Ostensibly, he was there to help them overcome their dread of organized sound. His stated objective was to expose them to a single five-minute piece of musical fluff performed by the milquetoasty Prudist Pops Orchestra in a carefully controlled auditory environment. If the experiment was successful, the melophobiacs would endure the performance and leave the concert hall unscathed. But it's difficult to change the core values of a catastrophologist, and Blackmoor had a more nefarious outcome in mind. He had conspired to send the Prudist Pops to the other side of the county to open a trailer park this evening. The ensemble playing the Kontiki Concert Hall was the Ricochet Provincial Symphony of Greenland, the loudest orchestra in the world.

"Loud" didn't properly describe the Ricochet's forte. "Cacophonous" came closer, and "stridently insufferable" closer still. After the last performance of their signature piece, the 200-decibel strong Symphony of Sirens, impaired the hearing of ninety percent of the audience, their manager begrudgingly agreed to include earplugs and antidepressants with subsequent concert programs.

Blackmoor had discovered that melophobiacs reacted particularly badly to loud music. In a recent control group, six of ten of them who were exposed to 100-decibel sounds exploded; two others developed irreversibly debauched personas. What, wondered the ever inquisitive calamitologist, would a double dose of discordance produce?

Blackmoor found his melophobiacs crowded around the concession stand where a SWAT team of ushers had corralled them. With gentle swipes from his electroshock prod, he shepherded them to their seats. He sat two rows behind them enclosed in a neoprene bubble to protect himself from any flying body parts. His charges looked especially anxious when the curtain opened, revealing twelve sirens, eight cannons, four bass drums, three massive steel plates, a cacophonium, plus numerous other noise-producing devices. The woman in the eggroll smock wanted desperately to leave, but the leg shackles kept her firmly affixed to her seat.

Abruptly, the members of the RPS of G filed onto stage. They, too, were clad in neoprene wraps to ward off excessive sonic amplitudes. They took their seats to the accompaniment of the hum from sixty powerful amplifiers. Then the conductor strode to the podium, bowed to the audience, and turned to face the orchestra. He alone in the entire concert hall was without protective headgear, for he reveled in extreme to the point of deleterious loudnesses.

As he raised his baton, the feedback generator began to pulse quietly. But wait, that wasn't in the score! The conductor shot a withering glance at the percussionist, who gestured that he hadn't yet turned on his machine. The pulsing increased in volume, and it soon became apparent that the noise was coming from outside. Now it sounded less like a feedback generator and more like the throaty roar of a Whittle W-1 gas turbine, the engine of choice of skywriting aircraft pilots.

Still trying to cross that elusive third "t", Dr. Hijiki Koramasu--and not a felonious monk as previously thought--steered his Piper Cub in the direction of the drifting alphabetic vapors. But in doing so, he clipped the top of the Kontiki Concert Hall, peeling back its retractable roof as if it were the lid of a musical sardine tin. The audience recoiled in revulsion as a deluge of herring rained down upon them. Strangely, the melophobiacs were notably unaffected by the mayhem and remained calmly in their seats. Blackmoor made a mental note of their wholly unexpected behavior before he was flattened by a thousand rancid sardines.

You, our listeners, may equate some of the music heard on this 501st episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar with a thousand rancid sardines, but we assure you that it has all been composed in good faith, or at least in good humor, whose eponymous ice cream company has yet to create a sardine flavor, much to the relief of Damian, if not Kalvos.