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CLASSICAL  February 2005

CLASSICAL February 2005

Subject:

Re: Another Classical Station to Bite the Dust?

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 11 Feb 2005 09:37:07 -0600

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Edward Janusz wrote:

>Karl Miller:
>
>>acclaimed news, but...on the other hand, I wonder if the British listen
>>to NPR news...I certainly listen to the news on the BBC.
>
>Do you find that BBC is dumbing down?  I started noticing a change ten
>years ago or more, when my shortwave was still plugged in every day.  I
>still hear them on the infamous WBUR, and it seems that they are gradually
>dropping more "news from obscure places" in favor of football standings
>and Spice Girl misadventures.

Yes I do find the BBC dumbing down.

Just yesterday I was doing some research in the backfiles of the New
York Times, now online in our library.  I was looking at some of the
broadcast listings of the late 1930s...I realize that radio lost revenue
to television, but I also know, from personal experience, that radio is
less expensive.

>Karl -- and John, and anybody who has been in classical radio from the
>other side of the soundboard -- one thing I'm very interested in, and
>don't have a lot of information about, is what kind of feedback you get
>if you try to alter anything in your presentation.  If you try to mix
>in some more contemporary or "threatening" music, do you hear about it?
>Or do you get complaints for being too "easy listening" if you program
>an extra Vivaldi?  I always had the idea that the heaviest part of the
>classical radio game was not the small audiences, but being unable to
>do anything without aggravating 30% of that already small audience.  I'd
>dig hearing war stories about that.

 From my own 20+ plus years of having but a 6 hour shift...it varies...I
would have calls on a Saturday morning requesting Henze...mainly because
they knew I was the only person at the station who would broadcast it.
My evening program on modern music...yes I would even broadcast things
like Berio's Visage, would get negative calls, but when it was stopped,
the station got quite a few letters of complaint.

I think it comes down to the notion of expectation.  There was a wonderful
story I read some years ago about a station that had a prohibition on
vocal music during the day.  Their morning announcer decided to break
the rule and would play some Schubert lieder every morning.  Not
surprisingly, the station had many complaints, but they allowed him to
continue with the Schubert.  When he stopped playing the Schubert, they
got calls from listeners who missed hearing the Schubert.

As for that dreaded modern music...one Saturday morning I was airing
something by Amy Beach.  I had one outraged caller complaining that I
was playing horrible avant garde music!  I thought to myself, how our
station had failed if that listener thought that was avant garde.

One last story, which I have probably told before...our station was one
of those that used to have a prohibition on vocal music during the day.
I was filling in during a weekday morning shift and played that suite
from Rachmaninoff's opera Aleko.  The recording featured a short vocal
solo.  Well the phone lines lit up.  I asked one caller why he was
upset...his response was..."well I keep the radio on in the background
in my office and when there is vocal music, the words make it difficult
for me to concentrate, since it forces me to listen." I asked him who
his favorite composer was..."Beethoven." I asked him if he knew much
about Beethoven and he replied, "I have read several biographies and
some of his letters." I then said, since you know about Beethoven, how
do you think he would feel if you were using his music as a background
to your work.  He replied, "I get your point.  I think I need to think
about this."

I am not suggesting that all art music was intended for "listening,"
but I believe that if one programs to the lowest (a relative concept)
demoninator, it can become wallpaper...and, for me, I see a danger
that we tend to take wallpaper for granted.  It seems to me that
classical music should be like the news, and tell you the good and
the bad of what is happening.  Do you want your news station to
tell you only the happy news?  Well, these days, there are times
when I don't want to watch or listen to the news.  However, I think
something has been lost when art music should only been seen as
serving the purpose of telling you the good news.

Karl

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