Thursday, 10 April 2008

A lament for National Public Radio.

If music be the food of love - play something unusual dammit!

My local National Public Radio (NPR) station, broadcasting out of Tampa, and a source of classical music is in a rut.

It’s the rut of Baroque music and Mozart, with a bit of Haydn and Beethoven throw in, and a constant repetition of two pieces by Vaughan Williams ( “The Lark Ascending” and “Variations on a theme by Thomas Tallis“ ), introduced each time with the bogus enthusiasm which to suggest “hey folks, here is something you’ve never heard before”.

In the Baroque department we are overfed with Vivaldi, and especially with his “Four Seasons” - (the most widely overplayed bit of classical music in the WORLD - truly!) , and Bach, with his “Brandenburg Concertos” being repeated ad infinitum and ad nauseam.

We almost never hear Choral music, or music for the Organ. And I have never ever heard a bit of Lieder.

I e-mailed the music director of the radio station, and complained about his constant repetition of Bach’s Six Brandenburgs.

I suggested that the station should play each of them as arranged for Kazoo, and then vow to play not a one of them for two years.

He sent me a good natured and jovial reply, but the diet of Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Vaughan Williams is still our staple food, with the same repetitious diet for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

So I rarely listen to music on NPR from Tampa these days. The Ft. Myers station (with a “dicey” signal this far north) is much more adventurous. I tune in at home where most times I can get a decent signal.

Here I move into my “old fart mood”. I long for the days of Boston based “Morning Pro-Musica” with its idiosyncratic host Robert J. Lurtsema.

Robert J was a self taught musicologist, whose program (seven mornings a week from 7:00 a.m. - Noon, (later scaled back to Saturdays and Sundays), would either infuriate or excite the listeners.

Here is his obituary, which tells you more than I know about Mr. Lurtsema.

For a while he had an obsession with Sitar Music, and the work of Ravi Shankar. This drove many of us “nuts”.

But, on the other hand, I would heard of the Sitar and Ravi Shankar without Robert J.

And it was the same Robert J who introduced me to Leid, and especially to Schubert. I can never forget his series on Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin. Sadly, I’ll never again hear that wonderful music on NPR.

Today’s NPR is a wasteland of news, comment and, “call in shows”. Its programs are tired and weary with the now terminally dull “A Prairie Home Companion”; and the tiresome “Car Talk” as staples. Gone are the days when NPR could be counted on to expand one’s horizons.

It is now “ mainstream” radio, with a contrived balance between right and left; and with a decided preference for the old and tested.

But NPR doesn’t seem to understand that its programming is also old and wearisome.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michael,

    Have you ever come across recordings of Robert J. Lurtsema's Morning Pro Musica show?

    Tim (