Saturday, May 19, 2012

Radio Rant

I got a fund-raising letter from the public radio station that plays classical music here in Miami. I wrote them back.

Dear Classical South Florida:

Thanks for the “Action Needed!” donation reminder. I listen to the station all day at work (6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) and in the car. I have donated in the past. But when finances got tight, I had to give it up. Now I could probably contribute a small amount, but I have made the decision not to based on the following points:

1. You play the same pieces over and over. I have heard “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks” more times in the last year than I’d heard in all my life up until then. I love Gershwin’s music, too, but I’m actually getting tired of “Rhapsody in Blue” and “An American in Paris,” which means you’ve basically taken the joy out of hearing them. It’s gotten to the point that when I hear a DJ announce a piece by a certain composer – Wagner, Richard Strauss, Copland, Gershwin, or Beethoven – I can bet what that piece will be, and if I had a dollar for every time I was right, I’d give it all to you. You’re a classical music source with hundreds of years and hundreds of pieces to choose from. Please use those vast resources and stop playing the Top 40. And don’t get me started on “Bolero.”

2. There’s a propensity for your playlist to include music from the Baroque era that specializes in screechy and high-pitched strings, usually in concert with each other that actually puts my teeth on edge. I realize Georg Philipp Telemann wrote a lot of music, but do you have to play all of it… ?

3. You moved Performance Today from noon to 7:00 p.m. Why? That program provides variety, information, and insight that made me pay attention. Instead, you replaced it with another two hours of jukebox classical music seemingly chosen at random to fit into the constraints.

4. Speaking of constraints, I realize that Classical South Florida is an outlet of Classical 24 and you have no more choice over what comes out from the network than the local TV station has over what comes to them during primetime; Classical South Florida hears the same music as Classical Sun Valley. I also realize that you have to meet time constraints such as finding enough music to fit in 54 minutes each hour, which would explain why you go with the shorter pieces. But they don’t have to be the same pieces over and over again.

5. As you know, South Florida went through the drought of no classical music on the radio when WTMI went off the air in 2001. We welcomed you to our area with open arms and I am very glad you’re here. But I also think you have squandered the opportunity to make an impact on both the music and educational world here. As a public station, you have an obligation to be more than just a repeater station for a network.

6. I’ve lived all over this country and listened to classical stations from Denver to Petoskey, Michigan; from commercial stations like the legendary KVOD to WQXR in New York. I grew up on Karl Haas’s “Adventures in Good Music” through the speakers of an AM radio on WJR in Detroit, and participated in the raucous pledge drives at Interlochen Public Radio where they actually had fun and made me want to listen to them beg for money. Each of those stations forged a personality that differentiated it from the other. Classical South Florida is trying desperately to forge an audience by acting as if it’s a local outlet when we know it is not. I realize there’s nothing to be done about that; you can’t forge a South Florida personality when your hosts are in Minneapolis. But you can do better than be just a Muzak feed that has all the variety of the buffet line at Golden Corral.

I’ll keep listening, and I’ll keep hoping to hear something new. But until I do, you’re not getting any financial support from me.

I will say this in their favor: I have yet to hear one of their hosts introduce “The Grand Canyon Suite” by “Fred Groff.”