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Music Writing and Classical Radio

The death of classical music is not only an old topic, but broad as well. Looking at a few recent posts on classical music blogs, the discussion appears to be focusing more on specific aspects of classical music’s supposed morbidity.

Anne Midgette (blogging at the Washington Post’s Classical Beat) wonders whether the classical CD business is dying, and in response British music commentator Norman Lebrecht wrote that ways of communicating about classical music are disappearing.

Here’s what Lebrecht recently wrote on his blog, Slipped Disc:

Music will survive so long as someone is around to tell the public that it exists. But what happens when the last newspaper abolishes classical coverage, or goes to the wall? Where will the credible writing appear? And how will the world hear the music? I’ve never believed it will disappear, but I do think we need to work on communications solutions.

“The Internet!” seems like the obvious and easy answer, but it becomes more tricky when asking “who” and “how” and other pesky questions.  There are a great many classical music blogs out there, but how many are covering classical music in your town?  (If you’re in New York and Chicago, your answer will differ from those of residents of West Virginia’s Charleston or Morgantown).

And this is where we – radio (and our extended presence on the Internet) – can have a part to play.  Lebrecht focuses on the loss of newspaper coverage and doesn’t mention radio. (I wonder if he’s heard the recent good news about classical radio listening in England?)

Every day, classical hosts tell the public about classical music and share it with listeners.  Radio stations produce interviews and feature stories, essays, and commentaries about classical music.  And if you need words on a page or screen to consider it writing, radio stations are posting text versions of stories online along with audio, and producing purely textual content on their Web sites, often in blog form.

NPR’s site features text of many of their stories, and rumor has it that the network will soon start a classical music blog — Marty is scaring up more info on that.  Here are some examples of music writing from NPR: Rob Kapilow’s commentary on Copland, Tom Huizenga’s obituary for Michael Steinberg (nested inside this example is another excellent one: audio of Michael Steinberg talking about the symphony), and Ted Libbey and Fred Child discussing Murray Perahia’s recording of the Goldberg Variations.

Here’s my local example: the Associated Press story about a recent concert in Huntington with a NASCAR tie-in was based on my radio story, not something from a newspaper.

There are other alternatives. These two articles came from classical music blogs, one sponsored by a newspaper and the other a web-based arts content portal.

If public radio news can help to preserve journalism at a time when newspapers are ailing, why can’t classical radio serve a greater role as a “communications solution” for classical music?  We are already an important part of letting people know about classical music; we now have the opportunity to do so in new ways.

How much of your classical music reading and reporting do you get from your classical and/or public radio station, in addition to the music itself?  What are your favorite examples of music writing on radio?

And if you’re at a radio station: Are you filling the gaps where other coverage of classical music has disappeared?  Are you considering any new projects along these lines?

(If you’re interested in more on the prognosis for the classical CD industry, I recommend reading Midgette’s post, and be to sure follow her informative selection of links and read the comments.)

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2 Responses to Music Writing and Classical Radio

  1. Drew McManus August 26, 2009 at 9:36 am #

    Another intriguing question to ask about all of this is who might eventually control which content is promoted. It’s great to see aggregators like those you’ve mentioned but in the end, they decide which articles are or are not relevant (worthwhile?).

    Personally, I would like to see affiliations of authors where the readers decide what is valuable to have more influence over future points of contact than aggregators where a handful of editors decide what people should read.

  2. Richard Mitnick August 27, 2009 at 4:30 pm #

    Sorry, folks, this a non-issue. I do not mean concert going, I understand the problems there.

    But for Classical music and its dissemination, the answers are the same as they were a couple of weeks ago when Terry Teachout set the Jazz weblogs (including, I might add, Latin Jazz) aflame with a new declaration of the death of Jazz.

    Classical music is alive and well, cheaper now at Amazon in .mp3 than ever in any form; all over Public Radio ( ), all over Shoutcast ( ) and really cool stuff at Live365 ( ).

    Are composers and artists making money? Who can tell. But the music will out in this new paradigm of the internet age. Ways to generate income will arise among the creative. They always do.

    You guys do your jobs very well. Every time I mention you or Greg Sandow, Alan Rich, Alex Ross, people know who you are and read you.

    The stations that I listen to are trying hard. We seem to be moving away from the C.P.R.N. stuff. WNYC is going to have decisions to make as it swallows WQXR.

    But, stations need to know that in this internet age they are competing for ears and dollars with stations streaming from Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa.

    I ran a business for thirty years. I learned that those who get put out of business generally did not manage their affairs well. Classical stations need to give the listener a reason to tune in or click in by being unique in their programming and presentation.

    And now, let us pray….

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