Alibi V.24 No.22 • May 28-June 3, 2015 

Aural Fixation

Kirk vs. Rock

A brief teleplay

Scene: Bridge of United Federation Starship Enterprise. The crew is arrayed at their customary stations. Uhura sits at the communications panel, forever listening. Spock stands at the science officer’s station eying a viewscreen and juggling an obscene amount of data.

Meanwhile, Scotty paces back and forth upstage drinking from a bottle of Saurian brandy and muttering something about the engines. A diagram representing facets of early 21st-century Earth culture is displayed on the main viewscreen, cascading through scenes of chaos and redemption.

James Tiberius Kirk enters from stage left. He swaggers over to his command chair, sits down abruptly with an air of control and activates the Library Computer. He begins conversing—in a measured, sometimes halting tone—with the disembodied feminine voice floating through the air, all around him:

—Computer.

—Working.

—Who were the great players of that age? Who were the great composers and conductors ... who were the performers and musicians, the instrumental virtuosi that stunned and dazzled?

—Working.

—I want some names, damn it!

—Unable to complete given computation, given Captain's stated parameters.

—Interpretation, Mr. Spock?

—Apparently Captain, the triumph of Postmodernism during the latter half of Earth's 20th century led to a most unfortunate and unforeseen outcome regarding the musical arts. It was replaced by more popular creative formats related to hipsterism that mostly included banjos and mouth-harps. Postmodernism in music utterly vanished by the year 2025.

—The entire avant-garde wiped out over the course of a decade. What brutality, eh Spock?

—If I may resume, sir, the Vulcan intones gravely.

—Fragmentation and, ironically, genre-hopping contributed to the demise. Improperly directed forms of technology, in particular a phenomenon called “autotune,” hastened the inter-dimensional winking out of “high music” as well. The end first became apparent when independent music venues, symphony orchestras and private recording studios disappeared, to be mysteriously replaced with sports pavilions, popular music award broadcasts and faster internet connection speeds.

—Anything else I need to know before we warp away from this dismal decade, Mr. Spock?

—It is fascinating that some complex forms of music from this shadowy era did survive. We have, for example, cataloged a scattering of recordings from a lost art known as rocanrol music, including recordings by artists known as Wiz Khalifa, Katy Perry, Billy Joel and Ween. There is also the entirety of the work of an artist known only to us as Prince Roger Nelson, which somehow survives to this day. It’s quite funky to use the specialized patois of the time period.

—Spock, you have the con. Oh, and pipe some of that rocanrol stuff down to my cabin. I might need to do a little research. Mr. Chekov, get us the hell out of here.

Kirk swaggers to the turbolift, headed for his cabin. Later on that stardate, as he reads through reconstructed versions of Zap Comix and the collected Sonic Reducers of a mysterious, early 21st-century music critic named Michael Henningsen, Yeoman Rand nervously knocks at his door. The captain does not hear this though, as he has Blacc Hollywood cranked up to 11 on his tricorder, yo.