It occurred to me while listening to Bay Area classical radio, and again while listening to Los Angeles classical radio, and once again with Austin classical radio: the world of Classical Radio needs a new sales representative.
I have long been fighting the war between classical music and its self-inflicted perception of being soft and boring, and they (the powers that control Classical Radio) are certainly not helping me any. You see, it’s not that KUSC (Los Angeles) and KMFA (Austin) play boring music – they actually have a pretty good selection – it’s that even when they play exciting music, they preface it by telling you how it will relax you into your day or wind down your evening into pleasant reverie.
In reality, serene, peaceful classical music accounts for probably around 5%* of all classical music, but if you only listen to classical radio sales pitches, you would never know. It is true that I listen to classical music occasionally for its serenity and peace, but for the most part, I listen to it for the same reasons anyone else listens to whatever it is they listen to: pounding rhythms, driving bass lines, catchy melodies, and interesting subject matter.
And while we’re on the topic of subject matter in music, I insist (perhaps with a partisan bias) that classical music provides the greatest variation of subject matter compared to all other genres: from the light-hearted pastoral to the heavy drama of gun-slinging gang warfare about which people who work out in gyms or go clubbing seem to get so excited. After wondering whether classical music does in fact have a lack of badassery, I decided to contrast and compare via Venn Diagram classical music with arguably the most badass of all the mainstream genres: Gangsta Rap.
Needless to say, I was shocked by my findings:
Of course this graph underwent a process of intense rigor and epochs of research, and there were absolutely no prejudices or gaps in knowledge during its creation. But regardless, I couldn’t think of one subject covered in Gangsta Rap that was not also covered in Classical Music.
What am I trying to prove here? Simply that Classical Radio is misrepresenting its art, and by doing so, it might be driving away a prospective audience that is otherwise titillated by the ills of society.
So this is my proposal: we change the image of classical radio from this…
I see it now! –
“Pounding fury into your morning commute.”
“Relaxing you with the sweet sounds of revenge killings and existential agony.”
“A movement of orchestrated orgasm for your evening drive home.”
* This statistic is made up.