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The Enemy Within

Posted by acdtest on November 12, 2003

The Enemy Within

propos two recent entries on this weblog (here and here) concerning the sorry state of classical music in our present culture, and a suggestion as to how it might be righted, I found this piece by print classical music critic and weblogger Greg Sandow of the ArtsJournal weblog Sandow commenting on this editorial in the Boston Globe on the recent bequest of $200 million to NPR by the estate of Joan Kroc, wife of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc.

Wrote the Globe:

Bring back music and culture programming. NPR’s news reports are thoughtful and compelling. Its talk shows are topical and a nice way to bring listeners into conversations. And “Car Talk” is great entertainment. But occasionally all this talk is wearying. Balance could be provided by music shows and radio documentaries.

Concerning which Mr. Sandow had this to say:

But as anyone who’s actually studied this subject knows, public radio listeners overwhelmingly don’t want music. They want talk. The Globe’s editors are free to have their own desires, but it’s just silly for them to lecture public radio, as if their own opinion had to be right.

The Globe editorial continued,

What’s going on outside the often overwhelmingly adolescent world of popular music? Who are the up-and-comers in jazz and classical music? NPR should take more time and programming space to offer answers.

To which Mr. Sandow replied,

Sure, why not? But “the often overwhelmingly adolescent world of popular music” — serious people just have to stop talking like that. As anyone who knows anything about popular music will tell you, there’s a lot of serious work that may well have even more trouble getting on the radio than classical music does. Think about it. Classical radio stations still exist. But how many stations — apart from college radio — play the kind of pop music that doesn’t get on any pop charts?

What’s wrong with this picture?

That’s right. Just about everything that could be wrong. Mr. Sandow, astonishingly, seems oblivious of the plain fact that NPR is not there to give listeners what they want. It’s there to give listeners what they can’t get on commercial radio, which exists solely to give, and for the express purpose of giving, listeners exactly what they want. If that were not the case NPR’s very raison d’Ítre would be nothing short of a total sham, and its funding an act of outright larceny.

And Mr. Sandow’s comments on popular music? Totally outrageous and thoroughly inappropriate coming from a professional classical music critic whose weblog is billed as, “Greg Sandow on the future of classical music.” And his above quoted comments on pop music are not merely a one-time aberration. Mr. Sandow not infrequently makes a case on his weblog, directly or by indirection, for pop trash (yes, I know that’s a bit of a tautology). See his recent weblog entry on Vanity Fair‘s annual music issue for egregious example.

I’ve never read Mr. Sandow in print, and in fact didn’t even know of his existence before he began his weblog, but I’m willing to bet, giving odds, that the man is a (stereotypic) product of the ’60s; one who probably began his career interning at journals such as Rolling Stone Magazine or some such.

Is it any wonder classical music is in such direful straits in this country?

Not a bit of it.

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