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Bookish and I drove up the 400 in the Professor's chauffeur driven Lincoln Continental. There was new snow on the ground and everything looked virgin pure as if from a long time ago. And the tyres sang.
I studied Bookish. The badge, the crossed dollar on the Professor's lapel, teased me. "Are you working for the Company?" I asked.
was taken aback. "No. Not significantly," he answered quickly. "'Why do you ask?"
"Oh, nothing." I turned away. I had great misgivings
about the social and spiritual atrophy which seemed so often to afflict academicians.
I myself am a retired bird brain surgeon, having in my youth taken baby chick
brains to pieces to see what made them twit. When a baby chick is happy it calls
an ascending tone. When it is unhappy it cries a descending note. Dr. Pashanski
called this phenomenon the Twitter-Peep Continuum. It upset me that the world
"What use is it all?" my wife had asked.
"Well... er... it's good
to know things," I had answered, but she had failed to recognise me for the genius
I was. "Poor little chicks," she said wading through the sea of discarded graphs
and draughts that littered the floor, she found the door, and left.
"Ah, Terra del Fuego," I marxed. "I remember it well."
been there. You've heard this actually performed." said Bookish in awe.
The question startled Beamish. He sat
bolt upright and, throwing an apprehensive glance at the chauffeur, he answered
hesitantly. "Those matters which the Company consults with me upon touch on this,
hum, area. I can say no more."
Beamish scowled. "That's
so. I see that's so," he muttered napponishly. "Well, as you know, there are certain
associations between themes, a heritance, as it were, like you get with languages,
the Indo-European languages all tracing back to the Sanskrit, so with music there
is a similar kinship: that is to say, we can run a genealogy of certain elements
in the music and find the family connections, and we find a close kinship existing
on many obfuse levels between, for instance, Celtic music and European church
music. And then we find the same themes, expressed in different modalities, in
classical Greek and in African musics. And again we pick up similar themes in
other folk music in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, in the apparently
most dissimilar of musics, and the incidence of occurrence of these themes correlates
with the migrations of the Jewish peoples in the Diaspora. It all seems to focus
back on ancient Egypt and..."
was taking me out for a tour of the U of T's Holland Marsh SoundEculture Project,
of which Bookish was very proud, for here the pure theory and rhetorics of musical
obscura was producing practical results: feeding bellies, earning dollars.
Bookish and I walked up the narrow metal grated pathway between the plots. On our right a bed of OM chanting.
"This field, which we are culturing on the holy Sanskrit OM, has the same distribution of species as the control or silent field, only all the plants are much heartier here."
"So the Holy OM is like the sound of the wind and the earth and the ethers," I speculated. "Hey, all this must mean that birds' songs encourage the growth of different plants; the little birds are actually singing for their supper."
"Augh, quite possibly, quite possibly," the Professor coughed dismissively as an aircraft passed drowning them with its thunder.
"How do they respond to that?" I yelled amidst the roar.
"They sort of groan," the Professor shouted in reply. I laughed.
"It's just up here a way. Just here," burbled Beamish. And there it was. Prof. Beamish Bookish's purple cabbage patch. Giant five foot cabbages lullabied by Charles Trendy singing La Mer. "It stops them bolting and running to seed."
in the green-house complex walking through the warren of glass cubicles, double
glazed: fat gutted wires running back to the central computer control: technicians,
white coated, shoed in white sneakers with green felt silent soles, setting up
experiments which will then be left to grow untouched by human hands, though riddled
with electrodes. A half-dissected apple tree, bark carefully teased away along
random meridians, pin cushioned with microelectrodes and canniculi, needles sucking
phlow and zylem: they are studying its habituation to the noise of tractors.
"Yes," I interupted, "but I think it's more like,
music goes straight to the dink." I spiralled my thumb to my heart. "Pull out
the plug, and faaa..." my hands fountained over me.