Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sublime -> Ridiculous

I'm on the mailing list of KDFC, the nation's most embarrassing excuse for a classical radio station. In reality, they're an easy-listening station, and I hear from friends that they've recently devolved from playing single movements of multimovement works to playing excerpts from movements of multimovement works. But...they make a lot of money! So they can laugh all the way to the bank.

In any event, a day or so ago, I received email with a link to their favorite recordings of the past year. Not the best, mind you; their favorites. Because it would be a problem if they recommended anything dissonant or anything written before 1710 or anything with a singer in it.

At least they've posted their list at ArkivMusic, so if their listeners buy directly, the money goes to a good classical music source. And if they navigate from that page, they might find Arkiv's much more interesting recommendations. If the list were at Amazon, you never know what a listener might buy instead: luggage, a stand mixer, a personal lubricant. Or a book!

The KDFC list contains about what you'd expect: some guitar music, a little Lang Lang, the required Vivaldi Four Seasons, other violin light classics played by a second-tier violinist, some Tchaikowsky, an Einaudi disk. Nothing too challenging - say, the Brahms piano quintet - or atonal - say, the Carter quartets.

There are a couple of surprises in there. Since they like Hilary Hahn's Sibelius violin concerto, they have to mention the devil himself Schoenberg. And the Anne-Sophie Mutter disk comes with a Gubaidulina work.


Kyle said...

A reference of Bell as *gasp* second tier! Scandal! ;-)

Hmmm... There's a surprising amount of classical guitar on that list. And yes, there is a lot of forgettable material on that list. You didn't even mention the "Elton John in the style of Bach" cd. But I'm inexplicably drawn to the oboe concerto disc. Donizetti, Bellini, Hasse & Domenico Scarlatti?! I want it.

Celeste Winant said...

What? No soundtrack to Pirates of the Carribean?

on a more forgiving note, the other day, I met the ad-buyer for KDFC. I gave her an earful, but quickly changed my tone when she started describing how tough her job was, having to compete with KOIT and ALICE for the same ads. It's an uphill battle, and forces KDFC to cater to the lowest common denominator. It allowed me to clearly see why KDFC sucks as much as it does, (and YES, it does)

As I said before KDFC is to classical music as Pizza Hut is to Italian food. I am happiest when I take it for what it is. God bless streaming radio on the web.

Lisa Hirsch said...

No, no, no, the second-rate violinist is David Russell, playing Air on a G String, er THE G string, oh is there any way to keep this from sounding obscene??

The oboe concerto disk did catch my eye as KDFC-worthy, yet slightly oddball.

KDFC is in the particular bind of needing to earn a lot of money for its corporate parent. There was so much less pressure on classical stations when they were owned by individuals or families rather than conglomerates. (x-ref the sad fate of the Tribune Co.)

And now for some Cesky Rozslas, speaking of Internet radio.

Anonymous said...

Sure, I take Pizza Hut for what it is: nauseating inedible crap. So is KDFC.

Defenders of its practices miss the point: Would the sponsors refuse to sell ads to the station if they played complete half-hour works more often than twice a day, or hired announcers with more brains than a hutch-raised rabbit? Surely there are ways of appealing to a broader audience without insulting the intelligence and tastes of the people who should be already there but whom you're driving away.

Kyle said...

Oh, I thought the Josh Bell disc somehow didn't fit that description. But the David Russell disc is one of the many, many classical guitarists on the list (No word yet if Russell is a second-rate guitarist or not). Really, there is a lot of guitar: 3 other albums including an "ultimate" 5-disc box set.

I have nothing against classical guitar, but it's surprising seeing how there are no vocal albums in any form (opera or art songs). But I think I remember reading in a study that a female operatic voice is one of the least appealing things to hear on the radio. Somehow. So I suppose it fits with a station like KDFC.

The classical station in my area is attached to NPR and the local university. I listened to it frequently for the first year or two when I became interested in classical music. But I rarely listen to it anymore. It's just too tame for my tastes.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Oh, haha, I thought David Russell was the violinist who fell on his fiddle last year! Bad me.

KDFC does highly prejudiced listener surveys every year and they've consistently found that 30% - THIRTY PERCENT, WOW - dislike vocal music. This means that 70% like it, but hey! It gives them an excuse never to play any vocal music.

Like Celeste, I love Internet radio. For the non-tame, try OperaCast and Classical DJ, which are both linked in my sidebar.

Celeste Winant said...

More kvetching about KDFC. I have recently been pummeling local outlets with press releases for an upcoming AVE show. I e-mailed KDFC the PR + offers of unlimited promotional tickets.

Imagine my shock when I received a reply from Diane Niccolini! Before I launch into my complaint, let me first say that this is the only time in all the 5+ years that I have been serving as ad hoc publicist for various groups that I have ever heard anything from them.

She kindly replied that while KDFC would love to support local groups, they only engaged in promotions with paying advertisers.

I thought that I had remembered that KDFC used to have a weekly program showcasing music from local groups. They would try to air music from groups with upcoming concerts, which is fabulous publicity. Looking online, this show no longer seems to exist.

So, it appears that KDFC has completely abandoned their commitment to supporting local classical music, unless, of course, the group already has international acclaim (SFS, SFOpera... mayeb Chanticleer, PBO) or pays them money.

Totally sucks.

On the other hand, they recently outsourced management of their online events calendar to InstantEncore, a free online classical music community. In the past, KDFC would never list my events (you had to fax listings to some nonexistent person in the office... and then, they still only listed the Big Groups). Now, its easy to post local events through their online calendar.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Very belatedly responding. Celeste, that is horrifying. So much for KDFC's involvement in the community.

Can I move your comments into a main posting?

KMEL listener said...