We have two old cars. Our small car has a radio cassette (for those unaware, a cassette is a plastic case with a reel of audio tape in it). We have an adapter to play mobile phones/MP3 players through the cassette. This works terribly. Terribly enough to resort to listening to the radio which sadly is an FM radio. This creates further dilemmas for listening pleasure. Radio 1 is for 12 year old’s, Radio 2 is for beige people that think they’re still young, Radio 4 is fine but still perpetuates the myth that The Archers is interesting or entertaining. Which it isn’t. Radio 3 plays classical music written generally by obscure and avant garde composers for one armed blind violinists, well you get the picture. My choices are down to the commercial stations. Capital is annoying rather like Radio 1 and also for 12 year old’s. Local radio is patronising, parochial and dull which realistically leaves Classic FM.
This radio station plays some fabulous popular classical music to an audience seemingly made up of 80 year old residents of Dignitas. It is the Mogadon station, all fluffy and squidgy like a chintz cushion. This presentation style is very disappointing. Being one brought up in a middle class home counties environment where ITV was for common people; adverts were an odious interruption certainly not tolerated on radio. The choice of adverts seems to prepare you for your final years shuffling around a care home in a bewildered state, looking for your bedroom.
This presentation of such a varied and exciting musical genre is all rather depressing. Those of you unfortunate enough to have read previous posts will know of my classical roots. I was raised on Elgar, Handel and Beethoven. I am a huge fan of Gilbert and Sullivan (not to be confused with the poodle haired Irish 70’s crooner O Sullivan). My great uncle played the tenor roles in many of the comic operas. My grandfather was an accomplished organist/pianist/conductor. My mum is also a pianist and sang contralto in choirs. My sister is an opera singer and music teacher. My brother was taught to strangle cats (violin) and I was taught the piano (which I played very badly). I have retained a love of classical music in all its varied forms. As a child I was captivated by the works of Camille Saint Saens in particular Danse Macabre and Carnival of the Animals. I was entranced by Grieg’s Peer Gynt and piano concerto in A minor. I remember enjoying works by Vaughan Williams, Frederick Delius and George Butterworth.
The majesty and drama of Gustav Holst Planets Suite always stirred emotions as much as any track by The Who or Genesis. Why would an 9 year old be so moved by Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite or Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries? The answer is simple. Its brilliant complex emotional music. It has power, depth, majesty and beauty. It was not sensible for a 9 year old to brag about this passion for classical music to his school friends who at the time worshipped Gary Glitter and Sweet (oh dear how misguided).
My appreciation of music stems from my love of classical composition. I was told as I embarked on an illustrious and fulfilling musical career that learning the piano was a sound basis for playing all other instruments. If you can play a piano, the rest should be a doddle. Well sadly for me the piano proved too much. Similarly however, classical music is a good place to start appreciating a wider view of music. Its just that there is a presentation and snobbery problem with it.
Listen to Brahms Symphony No 4 in particular the 3rd movement and tell me you are not moved by such wonderful expansive powerful music? It brings me joy every time I hear it. I listen to pieces such as La Calinda by Delius and there’s not a dry eye in the house. It is more than ‘nice’ or ‘relaxing’. It is playful, joyous, loud, aggressive and seductive. Rimsky Korsakov wrote many playful, exciting pieces including Capriccio Espagnol; so wonderfully capturing the romantic sound and feel of Spain. It along with other great tunes are packaged like a soft furnishing catalogue or tempur mattress for the nearly dead. Do those that perform classical music want to extend this wonderful and diverse colossal body of music to the masses? Well if they do they should work on how to market and promote it. In their day, composers were the rock stars that attracted huge devoted followings, had the royal courts of Europe fighting for their patronage and sold out theatres and concert halls. It became superseded in the 20th century by popular music. It beats me why it became unpopular with the masses?
Maybe what we need is a bit less soft focus comfy presenters talking got you in carpet slippers over a cup of Horlicks and a bit more rock and roll. Sell, promote and play the music on its merits. Opera, organ music, baroque, string quartets, could all be promoted to look and sound more appealing to a mass audience than at present. So please Mr Classic FM try a little harder to sound excited and upbeat about your product or I may be forced to buy a new car stereo.