The Culture Wars

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Listen to the Podcast:

[audio: https://www.kevincarrelfooter.com/podcasts/podcast-14NOV2010.mp3]

The first sign that something was up was the arrival of a flotilla of pianos on the eastern shore of the city. Each was manned by a tuxedoed pianist who stood with his baton at the ready.

Most people assimilated the news as they sipped their morning coffee then hurried off to work. The morning radio DJs talked about it in every possible way. They interviewed experts – but how many piano flotilla experts are there anyway? – so they opened the phone lines and had lively conversations with people who didn’t have anything better to do.

All the while the pianos waited with their grim-faced commanders standing by. No one knew what to think, so – as is their custom – people made wild conjectures and then went about their business as normal. Life goes on – until it doesn’t any more.

Since the weather was nice, many people went to promenade along the shore and drink mate on the construction refuse that marks the outer edge of the city at the ecological reserve. They waved to the pianists.

Around sunset, at the time when theater plays and concerts usually start, the grimmest of all the pianists – a sort of Piano Admiral — gave the order to launch the opening salvo. In odes, this would be known as the first shot in the Culture Wars. The pianists flipped up their tails, sat stiffly down and played the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth.

This was the signal the insurgents were waiting for because on the fourth chord, guitarists (both classical and electric) with camouflage paint emerged from their hiding places all over the city and began to strum and pick. A rapid-deployment force of piccolo players made a sweeping maneuver and joined a phalanx of bandoneonists making for the heart of the city. Meanwhile an irregular force of harmonica players (mostly bluesmen but some who played tango on chromatic harps) used guerilla tactics to demoralize the counter-revolutionary forces and quash any attempt to mount a counter-attack.

Armies of mimes and actors and painters were deployed and charged with keeping the peace in the different sectors of the city. Playwrights and novelists with quivers of sharpened pencils were sent to vantage points to control strategic locations with mighty words. Dancers were ordered to set up checkpoints.

(No one knew what to do with the poets, so they were sent on reconnaissance missions into the countryside where they were unlikely to do any harm.)

By dawn the next day, the city was owned by the forces of Art. Decrees were issued to create the new revolutionary order that would restore the proper balance in the world. Bankers and merchants and politicians would no longer be permitted to think of themselves as the masters of the universe. (We all knew this was self-deluded balderdash anyway – but somebody had to tell THEM!). From now on, no one would be allowed to talk in a loud voice while a musician was performing. File sharers would be sent to music conservatories where they would learn to make their own music. A special edict was issued about the blood-sucking scum who run most clubs and theaters. Celebrity painters were ordered to teach classes to other artists sharing the secrets on negotiating and extorting large sums from New York auction houses.

It was just the beginning, but artists everywhere celebrated that night.

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