I am trying to wrap my brain around the latest American Public Media venture: YourClassical.org. The press release we received for this “Classical Lifestyle” online radio service boasts the following channels:
- Relax: Classical music to help you keep calm and carry on. Perfect for yoga, meditation or a frustrating commute.
- Energy: Lively classical masterworks that will get the heart pumping on the treadmill or while mopping the kitchen floor.
- Lullabies: Lovely and tranquil tunes to hush babies and tame toddlers.
- Wedding: Traditional favorites to less well-known music for ceremonies and romantic dinners for two.
- Movies: Sounds from yesterday’s and today’s silver screen.
- Choral: The genre’s best masterpieces from the Renaissance to today.
- Radio: 24 x 7, live and hosted classical music.
I was feeling a bit toddleresque, so I tuned into the “Lullabies” channel, and there was that overplayed standby, Pachelbel’s Canon. Next I opted for the “Energy” stream, and sure as taxes there was the Scherzo from Litolff’s famously bouncy Concerto Symphonique #4 (trust me, you’ve heard it; it’s the only piece the poor guy is remembered for). Finally I figured what the hell, let’s check out the “Relax” channel. Shocker: first thing I got was Satie’s Gymonopedie No. 1.
Sigh; it’s an exercise in futility at this point, but I suppose I should refer you to composer Patrick Castillo’s excellent essay titled “Beethoven didn’t write the Eroica Symphony for your yoga class.” To wit:
“When we engender, particularly among newcomers to the art form, the expectation that classical music be relaxing, what chance do Schulhoff, Shostakovich, and Messiaen stand? Or, for that matter, what chance do Haydn and Beethoven stand to really penetrate the listener’s senses, when all she’s after is some white noise while doing her taxes?”
Amen Patrick, but apparently it’s too late. The masters of public media are totally determined to convert classical music into background streams for pec workouts, wedding receptions, and Excel chart sessions. But here’s the bad news for conventional classical public FM radio stations that have bought into this strategy whole hog. Services like YourClassical.org are slowly but surely going to take a big chunk of your EZ listening audience away. At that point, you’ll have to come up with some kind of strategy for being interesting again. So why put this challenge off until later? As they say during station marathons: act now!
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