Top Menu

Six ways to make classical radio cool again

Here’s some encouraging news for classical music radio lovers. The Telegraph has an interview with renowned Welsh harpist Catrin Finch, who says she’s seeing lots of children turning their parents on to classical music.

“Quite often it is the kids will come home and introduce classical music to their parents,” Finch noted. “It is something the parents would never think of listening to.” The latter fear that the genre is elitist and focus instead on popular formats, Finch thinks. She recommends keeping the dial tuned to BBC Radio 3 (it should be noted that BBC 2 has a nice classical list for youth).

There’s a lot of cool stuff happening everywhere in classical radio. When I was in Hawaii over the summer I was blown away by the quality of Hawaii Public Radio’s classical content: local, original, live, interesting, fun. Meanwhile NPR Classical is going out of its way to tweet recommendations for albums. And do you know about the Alexander Street Library free Classical Download of the Week?

I have some random thoughts on classical radio becoming even cooler. First, let’s see less passive emphasis on famous composers and more active focus on performers. There are so many dynamic musicians out there like Lang Lang and Valentina Lisitsa. WQXR’s Q2 channel is good at this. Let’s see more focus on people who make the music come alive through their personalities as well as their virtuousity.

Second, we need better classical music social networking applications. SoundCloud could make a huge difference, but its algorithm for classical music is a jumbled mess. Imagine how many more classics lovers there would be if SoundCloud’s classical channel cascaded hours of indie artists playing their hearts out.

Third, why aren’t there more Asian-Americans deejaying at United States based classical radio stations? I take piano lessons at a local community music center in my city, and it’s obvious that classical music has a huge Asian-American constituency. Why aren’t more of their voices on the host end of the radio?

Fourth, keep it hybrid, as per Sir-Mix-A-Lot with the Seattle Symphony!

Finally, two recommended thou-shalt-nots. Number one: let’s stop talking about how people have to be “educated” to appreciate classical music. Imagine we are having a conversation and you say that you don’t like carrots. “Well,” I reply, “we have to educate you to feel otherwise.” The suggestion implies that you lack some sort of knowledge, but that this deficit can be corrected by a formal or semi-formal process. The whole matter is starting to feel very boring and a bit condescending, about the way people feel when they hear that they need to be “educated” to appreciate classical music.

The bottom line is that classical music exists in a huge market of competing genres, many of equal sophistication and depth. The problem isn’t that the public lacks education, it is that the advocates of classical music have always relied on this stance as a substitute for creative thinking about how to win audiences.

Number two: hands off college radio please. The cause of classical music is not served by cannibalizing community based college radio signals. Coolness is all about making your own scene, not stealing someone else’s. In the immortal words of Ludwig van Beethoven: “Only the pure of heart can make good soup.”


, , ,

2 Responses to Six ways to make classical radio cool again

  1. Brad Hill October 1, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

    Outstanding post.

  2. jonthebru October 1, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

    Hawaii Public Radio is very good. The Asian American Community gets their kids to train classically for the brain power it creates. The parents are very smart about having their children do better than they have. If only every community did that, it would be fantastic! (Like the Childrens program in Venezuela, think of what it does for those children raised in a slum.) I listen to Q2 several hours a week, very stimulating sounds.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes