We’re now at Story #6, entitled Calamity In A Cornfield, from my book, Go West or Go Weird. Today’s installment is Part 1 of 2.
We humans love to nitpick at each other, and stir up controversy. And all over nothing, most of the time. One of the “nothing” issues we often fight about is music choice.
When I was a teenager I got into rock ‘n roll. But I had a stepfather who disapproved, and who would mock the tunes I rocked to. He liked putting people down, so you’d better believe he seized upon my choice of music for his uninvited criticisms.
But then I got into country music. And since he was a redneck, he had to give up on that line of critique. Nonetheless, others criticized. And that’s because they thought I was a redneck, too.
So I just did what any old redneck is expected to do, when criticized. I doubled down. I bought a cowboy hat, blue jeans, and pair of boots. And I started a career as a country music deejay.
But my tastes changed again. When I hit my late-20’s I discovered classical music. The vibes of the symphony orchestra. By this time I was in the military. I shared a barracks dorm with a guy who liked to judge people based on their choice of music. And when he’d see me listening to Beethoven, or Tchaikovsky, or Rachmaninoff, he’d just shake his head, cluck his tongue, and warn me that I was going to grow bugs in my ears if I kept listening to that stuff.
But I kept listening anyway, and bugs never did grow in my ears. I know. I checked.
Of all the musical genres, it seems classical takes the most heat from critics. Those who are fans of any other kind of music, seem to regard the classics with disdain. And they seem amused and befuddled when they encounter ordinary folks who are fans of this genre. They assume that classical music is only for octogenarians and white shoe society types.
And yet I submit to you that classical music serves many useful functions that we all enjoy. For instance, it provides the juice that makes our elevators go up and down. It enhances the effects of Novocaine, at the dentist’s office. And it cues our mood when watching movies, so that we know which emotion to feel. Consider how sterile and bland the cinema would be, without classical music.
And there’s one other thing. Classical music grows houseplants. Scientific study has proven that plants grow better when vibrating to concertos.
And that’s what inspired me to write this modern Western (or perhaps, Midwestern) about music, criticism, and conflict over what we listen to. So put on your overalls and join me in my cornfield. This is a tale where I imagine I’m a redneck farmer who has discovered the agricultural advantages of classical music.
Calamity In A Cornfield (Beginning)
I hired a violin player for my cornfield. I was tired of fertilizers, tired of so-called “miracle” seeds, and tired of hearing my neighbor, Rutherford Abercrombie, brag about how his corn crops were always riper, fuller, and much more abundant than mine.
Then I read a magazine article about how plants exposed to classical music, in a laboratory experiment, grew greener, stronger and taller than similar vegetation exposed to nothing but silence. I threw away my fertilizer bags. I tossed the pesticide. And I called the Omaha Musicians Guild and asked for an out-of-work violin player. I figured live music was more natural, and would have a better effect than something coming out of a speaker.
Two days later my inch-high stands of corn played audience to concertos in B-Minor, Fifths and Sixths of Beethoven, and other compositions from guys like Bach and Obendorf. Not being a fan of classical music myself, I closed all the windows of my farmhouse and turned on the country on my radio.
But my corn loved it. Every day for an hour it bathed in resplendent tunes of Old Europe. And it feathered more leaves. It shot out stalks. It pierced the air, pushing for the sky. It was as if each corn stalk was trying to get higher than the other so it could better enjoy the daily aria of concerto music. The violinist sang with his bow. And as the corn grew with the music, it seemed to crackle with applause.
One day, while Faith Hill sang on the radio, Chopin was outside fertilizing the crops. And a staccato drumroll reverberated on my front door. It was Rutherford Abercrombie. He was nervous. He was upset. He was angry. He demanded that I stop that infernal violin music outside. He claimed that it bothered him. Interfered with his Rascal Flatts when he was up in his tractor.
“Bull!” I told him. I said my music was meant for corn, not people. And since the cab of his tractor was one of them environmentally controlled, sealed up, air-conditioned, dehumidified contraptions, he could barely hear a single wailing string with the wind going in his direction.
But I knew Abercrombie didn’t mind the music. Rutherford Abercrombie was a highly competitive man. The envious type. He knew what I was doing. And he knew I was succeeding too, at growing a better corn crop than him. And he didn’t like that. Didn’t say so, but he did storm out of my house tossing a threat over his shoulder about how two could play at my game of “noise pollution.”
The next day he carried his threat out. My dignified, $90-dollar-a-day corn entertainer strutted into the field. He arched his back. He gripped the violin with his chin. He poised the bow straight up into the air. Then, closing his eyes, he daintily lowered the bow and applied it to the strings. The instant the very first feathery soft note lifted from the delicate wood frame and sought out the attentive ears of my five-hundred-acre audience, a heavy thud smashed the reverie.
Then another thud. Then a skull-piercing scream. It was Abercrombie. He had lined up large speakers and amplifiers along the edge of his farm, facing my jungle of bumper crop. And behind the speakers and amplifiers was a rock ‘n roll band. Heavy metal to be exact. And while my feeble violinist chortled out “Swan Lake,” they belted him hard with a tune that could have been called “The Mad, Skreeking Cat Fight From Hell.”
The violinist couldn’t take it. I had to give him earplugs to continue on. But the corn was doing worse, and there was no way I could plug those ears. Already it seemed the leaves were turning brown along the edges. Finally the heavy metalists took an intermission and I stole upon the silent scene to call a truce.
Talking to the band leader, who had a scar running across his forehead and down a cheek, and whose chest was as thin as a pencil, and who was wearing greasy Levis held up by a motorcycle chain, I got to the bottom of the story. It seemed he was having no luck in finding a place to rehearse. Until his generous Uncle Rutherford offered him the use of the farm. As long, of course, as the speakers faced away into my cornfield, and the band played as loudly as possible. Especially during the violin concertos.
That damned Rutherford Abercrombie! What a low-down, slimy salamander, son-of-a-skunk puddle of horse piss he was. And he was beating me! There was no way in hell I could stop his war of noise pollution. At least nothing I could think of at the moment.
End of Part 1. Come on back tomorrow for Part 2, and the conclusion to this tall tale.