Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Dream of Spring

Winter ended almost without notice. One week it was hovering near zero everyday, the ground was still snow-covered, and the sun had yet to warm the chilly winds that are omnipresent in Kitchener-Waterloo. The next week, well, the sun felt warm on my face, I could hear birds chirping, and the damnable Canada geese were more active than they've been in months. Spring has come at last.

Arguably, I should change the name of my blog accordingly, but it shall remain for the time being. In the meantime, I'm in the midst of exams (two down, one to go), and I have ample projects of various sorts to attend to as well. Sigh. This will also mark the first time that I've had a summer academic term: two courses + reseach + TA. I plan to do much of my work at home rather than in the office, so that I might benefit from (a) natural light, (b) fresh air from my window, (c) CBC Radio 2 while it remains (during the day at least) reasonably intact.

Yes, the bafflingly unresponsive and out-of-touch-with-their-listeners radio executives are planning to cut in half the current amount of classical programming on Radio 2, so that we might have more jazz and Joni Mitchell. This will entail, among other things, the cancellation of Disc Drive (a show which has for some two decades provided a mix of classical... and jazz, pop, and folk), along with the demise of Music and Company (what will I wake up to now??), Sound Advice, and the current incarnations of request show Here's To You and the ever intelligent Studio Sparks (which, also, frequently features jazz and other quality music). These changes follow up on the introduction of the syrupy mediocre pop jazz of Tonic from 6-8pm weekdays, the cancellation of the excellent jazz program After Hours, and the removal of In Performance in favour of the concert program Canada Live, the latter of which seems to feature largely torturous world music.

So, no, I'm not happy about these changes one bit. Nor are over 14,000 Facebook users. Oh, and the CBC Radio Orchestra is to be disbanded, with its current funding supposedly going to commissions.

Supposedly, those of us who are against these changes are elitists who cling to music which, though admittedly well-established, is simply old and, certainly, not altogether accessible for the great unwashed, who are assumed to be incapable of appreciating Sibelius and can't take anything more challenging than the best known Beethoven symphonies and Diana Krall. And Feist. Of course, I'm a good example of someone who was only exposed to many less "accessible" pieces via Radio 2, and the question must be asked whether the less "accessible" music which will now be downplayed is less "accessible" primarily because it's not played all that often.

I'll grant that much new "serious" music from the 20th Century and beyond has eschewed melody for abstract atonal structures and, of course, heaps of dissonance, but that doesn't explain why only "the most popular and accessible classical music, including Mozart, Beethoven and other favourites" should be emphasized. This would turn Radio 2 into nothing more than a commercial-free version of Classical 96, a station which plays little more than "classical pops" (and far, far too much Mendelssohn).

Supposedly, "the more challenging classical music — the new composers, etc. — will still be there on The Signal and on the Sunday afternoon program where we're playing pieces live with a lot of discussion". Now, I listen to The Signal, and 95% of it consists of new electroacoustic music and, for lack of a better way to put it, weird stuff. It's good. But it falls far short of exploring new concert music, much less new Canadian concert music. Indeed, will the new 10am-3pm classical show play anything by Christos Hatzis, whose music is arguably more immediate and accessible than any austere Handel symphony? Somehow I have my doubts - the new policy would evidently banish anything "challenging" or new to the abyss of the 10pm-1am slot or, worse, Sunday afternoon. It's bad enough that I can't listen to concert music (or decent jazz!) in the evening - now they'll take it away in the morning and afternoon as well.

Possibly the worst part of these changes (and the previous ones) is that most of the new shows play highly consistent styles and musical genres - Canada Live is particularly bad in this regard, as we may be treated either to an evening of traditional Persian music, Maritime folk, folk-rock/pop from Victoria, or Saint-Saƫns. It really doesn't work. And neither will these new shows. With any luck, the highly grassroots movement against these changes will have some success - at the very least, when Radio 2 suffers another precipitous drop in listenership, the CBC big-wigs might have a change of heart. It's *possible* at least.

3 comments:

Ladyjutea said...

When are they planning on implementing these changes again?

I can understand your frustration. Maybe I should be listening more to the radio before they muck it all up.

Josh Gould said...

After Labour Day. I'm enjoying Disc Drive while it lasts...

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