Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Needless to Say, I'm Not Quoted

KDFC releases the results of a listener survey, and I have my head in my hands.


Empiricus said...

Not only did I have my head in my hands, my eyes became slightly moist.

Then I thought to myself (a composer), "why bother with audiences at all?" I mean, it works for Milton Babbitt, right?

Besides, the fee market can't seem to find a solution for this ongoing diminishing-revenue-despite-great-
economic-revitalization-efforts situation (here's a link to a fun article in the Oregonian):

Department of D'oh


Lisa Hirsch said...

I'd rather listen to Babbitt than most of the crap played on KDFC. I particular wanted to weep over the listener who said that if performing arts orgs followed KDFC's lead, they'd be in better financial shape. Hello! Timid programming and the endless recycling of 18th and 19th music helped get them INTO their problems.

Celeste Winant said...

KDFC is to classical music as Taco Bell is to tacos. It's something entirely different. On top of that, most people out there have not been exposed to the real thing, so they are happy consuming the prevalent brand.

I have always suspected that KDFC's mission was not educational. They dont care about bringing an informed mix of classical music to the masses. They are putting together a soundtrack that is appropriate for local service-oriented businesses to play. Its a win-win situation. Businesses dont have to pay for music. KDFC and its advertisers get widespread exposure. KDFC is an elevator music station. Why hold it to be anything more?

I look to the SFSymphony and to SFOpera to bring music to the masses in an informative way. Its our job to make sure that our friends go to the Opera simulcasts and to those highly entertaining symphony concerts where MTT breaks it down for the audience (whats that series called?).

The real problem, as one of the commentators put it, is that this timid, watered down format makes people think that classical music is boring. Whats worst? For it to be too complicated or too boring?

Michael Walsh said...

Boring is way worse. If it's too complicated but not boring your mind will gnaw at it and continue to be engaged by it. (Of course, there is complicated music that is boring, but that falls through to the first case.)

There isn't anything more useless than asking the listeners if they're "satisfied". If they weren't, they wouldn't be listening.

Michael Walsh said...

But, hey, more Český rozhlas for me.

Today, they're having a Shakespeare day. Four straight works on Othello, and then at least three works based on Romeo and Juliet. Very cool.

Screw the elevator music. I ain't in no elevator.

Empiricus said...

RE: Lisa

Hello! indeed.

By the way, I've been trying to get my colleagues in the Bay Area to call KDFC the "Island of Flute Playing Invertebrates." Hasn't caught on yet, but I'm hopeful.

RE: Celeste

I hear what you're saying, but can't accept the notion that KDFC doesn't have any responsibility to educate its listeners. One, it's the ethical thing to do. Two, I DO understand that profit is their goal, in which case, it makes business sense to create an environment more suitable to the propagation of their consumers, i.e., educate them, entice them, challenge them to support new music and the local music community. And three, SF Symphony/Opera tix are just too expensive for many listeners. Besides, even MTT waters down his pre-concert talks.

What I'm saying, and I agree with Lisa, is that KDFC (and for that matter, the concert hall)is a museum that lacks room for newer, different masterpieces--and that's the problem. When our consumable pallet of music is as narrow as it is on KDFC, the music and, thus, the market becomes stagnant to the point of boredom AND bankruptcy.

As far as "too complicated," that's a myth. You don't have to have an advanced music theory degree to listen to Babbitt or Schoenberg. Just an open ear (you might like it, but you are free to despise it, too). In other words, the complicated theory is merely a technique, like Times New Roman is a font. So, I think it is a far more worse crime to be boring.

And don't forget, those evil little programs on KDFC, the Islands of Sanity, are there specifically to bore you.

Celeste Winant said...

Just to clarify, I don't agree that a more purist classical music format is "too complicated". I was just trying to imagine the silly crossroads that the KDFC producers are at, and of course, they always go for the simpler route. This was also reflected in the survey feedback- a fear of complication (or atonality)- a yearning for "accessibility". Unfortunately, this often translates into blandness. We know that classical music can be made simple and accessible w/out dilution.

But, I am pretty sure that whether or not they are justified, KDFC picks "bland music" so that it can serve as elevator music for places of business.

I agree that it is a worse crime to be boring.

If I wanted KDFC to do _one_thing_ , it would be to champion local performing groups. I am always pleased when I hear them rebroadcast SFSymphony or play a PBO recording. What else do they do? They could be so powerful in getting their listeners out of their cars and offices and into not only the major concert halls, but the churches, school auditoriums, and cafes where live classical music happens everyday, in a down to earth forum, at affordable prices. I guess that this would be in conflict with the whole mistaken ethos that classical music is a luxury item that only the elite can afford (which we are subconsciously reminded of everytime KDFC airs a BMW, Persian Rug, or European SleepWorks ad). No wonder why "the people" refuse to believe that classical music is "theirs". It belongs to the rich who can afford these items.

rant rant rant

Empiricus said...

Agreed. Added rant rant rant. You forgot, however, to mention the fine jewelry ads.

Anonymous said...

I would have signed myself as dissatisfied, but then, because I am dissatisfied, I don't listen to KDFC often enough to have learned about the survey. There is always a danger in measuring satisfaction with your work by querying your satisfied customers.

On the other hand, I will say that KDFC has improved slightly in the last year or two over the days when they first re-invented themselves as the Taco Bell of classics. The programming is somewhat meatier, and the announcers rather less fatuous. I would almost say they've climbed out of the sub-sub-basement into the sub-basement occupied by KKHI in the 70s when I was first listening to this stuff, with an actual advantage in that KDFC, unlike KKHI in those days, doesn't have the execrable Doug Pledger.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Celeste, of course KDFC's mission isn't educational. It's a for-profit station owned by a big conglomerate. Their mission is to provide soothing music for harried people, not interesting or challenging music, and especially not vocal music.

I can't believe I missed most of Cesky's Shakespeare day, though I heard Berlioz's Romeo. (Mike and I have the same favorite Internet radio station. Highly recommended!)

"Island of Flute-Playing Invertebrates"!!!!!

I had an interesting talk over dinner tonight with a friend about the modern music problem; too long to wedge in here, but I do think most listeners, without some help, give up pretty fast on complicated and/or atonal music.

KDFC does do things to try to get people to performances. They give away tickets, and their web site mentions at least some local concerts.

David, I learned about the survey because I'm on KDFC's mailing list. Know thy enemy, etc.