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On Good Music

In my radio days, I not only arranged the daily music programs, deciding when to play whose recording of what, but I also typed up the program guide that went out to subscribers, KLEF's more devoted listeners. And as I typed up the programs, my logorrheic muse would inspire occasional tropes, usually no longer than a paragraph but every so often quite a bit longer. In the noonday sun of my youth, I could write these things off the top of my head, with only the rarest revision - on a typewriter, I hasten to note; word processing lay in the future. But if the writing seemed easy, I didn't fully grasp the tremendous advantage that I had in writing about music that would be played on the radio at a certain time. Anyone interested in what I had to say could hear what I was writing about simply by turning on the radio at the appointed time. I didn't have to try to persuade someone to make the effort to track down a recording of the music that had caught my fancy. I didn't have to recommend any purchases. Which certainly made the writing easier, and lighthearted, too.

Who knows what the future will bring in the way of good music on the Web? I don't know much about what's out there now. (Hints are always welcome.) For the moment, I'm going to presume that the gentle reader needs no more persuading to check out the works underlying my commentary than it takes to turn on the radio. Because turning on the radio is less likely to fill the room with good music than at any time in the medium's history, this is a whopping presumption. I make it only for the sake of convenience.

Most of the Good Music that I'm going to write about is of the kind generally called 'Classical.' I dislike this term intensely, partly because it has unpleasant connotations for people unfamiliar with the music that it's meant to describe, but mostly because its meaning has become entirely negative. 'Classical music' is an exhausted concept that no longer pays its own way. If there's an application for the term 'classical' in music, it's a very narrow one, limited to compositions by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert (and a handful of lesser contemporaries) written in the fifty years between Mozart's Paris tour (1778) and Schubert's death (1828). As it is, 'the Viennese Classical Style' (the title of a fine book by Charles Rosen) does the job much better. Let's forget about 'classical music.'

Now, where to begin?

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