a real soundtrack for an imaginary spy film

Episode Forty-One - BEANS

Copyright © 2002 - 2006 Arthur Jarvinen

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It didn't take Scab and the Boogers long to figure out that they had really fucked up at FUBAR's. They managed to escape the clutches of Phez - just barely - by sneaking out through the kitchen and leaving without their equipment, and figuring they had better get far away and undercover, Scab, Lance, and The Baron have come to Germany, where they're playing the regional club circuit as Krappwurk, with an anorexic Austrian bass player they met in Hamburg, named Klaus, and a drum machine.

Their itinerary has taken them to Darmstadt and a club called the Hotel Tango, which is not in fact a hotel at all, just a bar with a stage, that was until recently a tango club but is now under new management and still sort of in transition. But we digress…

Anyway, seated at a table near the stage are a group of young American male composers, in Darmstadt for the summer courses on the "New Complicatedness", because as everyone knows, it would be stupid for any American to try being a serious composer without studying with a bunch of French and British guys - in Germany. But we digress…

Anyway, the serious young American male composers have had their share of alt and are starting to get a bit rowdy. Between songs, one of them gets Scab's attention and advises him strenuously that, having come all the way to Germany, they want to hear some German music, auf Deutsch!

The former Boogers, having considerable club experience by now, pride themselves on being able to accommodate just about any request they're likely to receive – provided the customer doesn't mind that anything they play will still sound like surf music – but they're a bit stuck as to the auf Deutsch clause in the request, particularly because they only play instrumentals. And it doesn't help that Krappwurk has a German-speaking bass player, since Klaus happens to be mute. Fortunately, Lance has picked up just enough Berlitz Book German to order food in restaurants – which would be useful except for the fact that they're never serving food anywhere in Germany when he's hungry since all Germans eat at exactly the same times, and only at those times, whether they're hungry or not - which doesn't bother Scab, who lives mostly on beer, which is available round the clock - so Lance is hungry a lot. But we digress…

Anyway, Lance can fake a few lines in German, and The Baron, recognizing the young Americans as composers by their clothing - conservative tweed sport coats with elbow patches worn no doubt in anticipation of the well-compensated tenured teaching jobs at prestigious universities that they will all surely soon have – suggests that Lance, to impress them, invoke the name of Stockhausen – whom he only knows anything about because he is a Grateful Dead fan and has read that they were into him, employing the German Maestro's concept of "colored silence" when mixing their records – unaware that the Kult of Stockhausen died out years ago with most young American composition students today having never even heard of him, tending to regard Danny Elfman as the greatest composer alive and being hard-pressed to even name another one. But we digress…


No sooner does Krappwurk launch into their improvised request fodder than the American students get up and leave, realizing that they're almost late for the premiere of Orchestral Maneuvers On the Rhine, purportedly the most complicated piece ever written by a non-German, for four different orchestras on the decks of four Naval destroyers, conducted from shore by means of semaphore (purely for its anachronistic charm).

"Und Claude?", you are by now predisposed to ask.

Out of curiosity he had ordered a dunkels – a mistake he will never make again – and having divested himself of that unfortunate beverage and discerned that the only thing harder than getting it when you want it in Germany is getting what you want in the first place, he orders an alt, like everyone else, then returns his attention to The Sirius Mystery: New Scientific Evidence of Alien Contact 5,000 Years Ago, by Robert K.G. Temple.

The sentence "The young Stockhausen was full of beans" occured in an article about contemporary music, in the New York Times, some years ago. I don't recall the author (Tim Page maybe?), but the sentence stayed with me. Somehow I must have known it would become a surf tune, eventually.

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