Sunday, February 05, 2012

Hooked on classics

But not reeled in

Credit must be given where credit is due to those seducers at KXPR. They have been giving it their best shot lately, trying to lure me in with the tender strains of my favorite music. I was surprised the other morning to begin my day with Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 1. Okay, perhaps “tender strains” is not an appropriate description, but I love Prokofiev's amusingly goofy, repetitive, and relentless composition. Short, sweet, and hugely entertaining.

My irritation with KXPR was momentarily assuaged. Over breakfast, before I could fully restore my attitude of righteous wrath, the radio station hit me with Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Festival Overture. Damn! I'm happy again. Then Korngold's lushly lyrical violin concerto. Those bastards are really trying to wrestle me into submission.

The onslaught continued. They broadcast Dvořák's Seventh Symphony (as if momentarily forgetting that they usually never air any of Dvořák's work except the Ninth—“From the New World”; it was apparently time for them to make their annual exception).

It couldn't continue indefinitely, of course, given that KXPR is no longer a 24-hour classical-radio station (more on that anon). But damned if they weren't quick to recover after the evening intrusion of jazz, giving me both Prokofiev's First Symphony (“The Classical”) and Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3 (but why not No. 2?). I admit I was impressed that day.

But I'm still brooding.

I have a love-hate relationship with KXPR which has lasted several years. Back when I was a member in good standing, the Sacramento-based public-radio station pulled “Says You” off its schedule. I waxed wroth, because I never missed that delightful word-game show. During KXPR's next pledge drive (gosh, I hate those!), I made a point of not renewing my membership. I did call in a pledge, but I specifically told the person on the other end of the phone line that I was contributing n − 1 dollars, where n dollars was the standard membership level.

The volunteer was dismayed, of course, pointing out that I would not qualify for the many wonderful benefits of membership, including the monthly newsletter. I stood my ground and became one of the station's few contributors who was not also a “member.” Eventually, I sort of forgave them and acquired a full membership again.

Then the bastards switched frequencies between their classical music station and their news/jazz station. KXPR was relegated to the weaker of the two signals provided by Capital Public Radio. Again, I was mightily irritated and let my membership lapse (although my mail-box and CapRadio's fundraising people continue to see each other behind my back quite regularly). Recently, however, I was beginning to weaken. Surely I should show some appreciation for the fact that I lived within the broadcast range of the only 24-hour classical-music public-radio station in northern California. Even San Francisco didn't have one! (Recently, however, KDFC stepped into that breach.)

I should have known. CapRadio announced in January that KXPR would no longer be a 24-hour classical-music station. Nope. Not anymore! They were going to abandon their jazz fans on KXJZ and jam a few remnants of the jazz programming into a four-hour block on KXPR, thus cheesing off both jazz and classical music lovers. KXPR is now a dead zone for me from 7:00 till 11:00 every evening. CapRadio managed to figure out a lose-lose situation.

They don't see it that way, you understand. They're proud of their decision, as they explained to the Sacramento Bee:
Rich Eytcheson, Capital Public Radio general manager and president, feels the station knows what the public wants.

“We get ratings and we can tell–hour by hour–what people are listening to,” Eytcheson said. And what they are listening to most is news radio, he said.
Um, excuse me. “Ratings”? What the hell do ratings have to do with public radio. What the heck is membership for if you're going to treat your broadcast outlet like all the commercial stations out there? Does the “public” part even mean anything anymore. Should the peasants rise up with their pikes and staves and explain things to Eytcheson?

CapRadio provided the same sort of happy talk on its own website:
We feel that these changes best respond to our news and information listeners' requests, while at the same time honor our music listeners by continuing to provide the best jazz and classical service in our communities.
I guess when you're the only jazz and classical service in the greater capital region (extended by a number of repeater stations down the valley), you can lower the bar quite a bit and still be the best. Way to play word games, guys! (So why the hell did you cancel “Says You,” if you like word games so much?)

I'm still simmering, so perhaps I should paw through the stuff stashed in the garage and see if I can find an old pike or staff. And perhaps during the next pledge drive I'll offer my irksome pledge of n − 1.


Ray said...

Or, you could "tune in" to our local classical music station here in up-state New York ( Ummm... not so easy in the car, though.

Kathie said...

Oh Zeno, please believe me, none of this is nearly as bad as what happened in Pittsburgh last July 1, when the new owners of WDUQ-FM -- by far our highest-rated public radio station, and an original NPR affiliate -- abandoned all their music programming save for 2 hours of "Rhythm Sweet and Hot" (big-band) and 4 hours jazz on Saturday evening (plus a sterile streaming online audio, and an HD radio feed that already went off-air for a few months due to equipment problems, but who owns an HD radio anyway?).

So-o-o-o, in addition to "Morning Edition," "Fresh Air," "All Things Considered" and "Marketplace" which were already on the former weekday schedule, there's just talk, talk, and more talk all day long and all evening long, plus 6 hours of BBC news from 11 PM to 5 AM (dammit, I don't live in flipping England!). Needless to say, I just keep the radio off a lot, but I sure do miss the jazz and live-local-announcer company while I'm working. Although the new WESA-FM is garnering slightly less than half their former audience, and during the last pledge period donations were off by 1/3, the new management insists that this is a great improvement for the community, and that their ratings will improve. Bleeping hogwash.

See more details in "WESA-FM listenership declines 50%":

Zeno said...

The geniuses at CapRadio are insisting that they are "expanding" their service to classical music listeners because of a streaming audio feed -- which I don't need when I'm at home and can't use when I'm in the car. And always with the babbling about "ratings" and "audience service" while kicking the membership in the teeth.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Frankly, I'd rather have BBC news than anything generated in this country.

But yes, they're doing their best to put themselves out of business.

Alexander said...

On the other hand, I have nothing but good things to say about what they are doing with the Reno station (KNPR, I think). Up here, we are stuck with KUNR, which plays bad jazz all night, and KNPR, which also used to play bad jass all night. Now, at least, we get BBC World service in the evening.


Eamon Knight said...

I feel your pain. A few years ago, CBC Radio 2, which used to be mostly classical with some jazz (both of which I love) and a sprinkling of Broadway, "updated" themselves to some godawful pop melange (like, just when I hit 50, suddenly they decide to target 30-somethings). Since they were the only classical outlet in the area, we're now stuck with nothing worth listening to in the breakfast and drive-home timeslots.


Kathie said...

Alexander, if you can write or translate while listening to news (i.e., talk), you're a better multi-tasker than I am! I don't know what your notion of "bad" (as opposed to "ggod") jazz is, but I doubt it's as bad as a bunch of yapping on the radio, which just interferes with the ability to think clearly and can lead to a throbbing headache if not turned off ASAP.

Kathie said...

Typo alert: Should read, "...(as opposed to "good") jazz..."

Word verification is "shthous," which is how I feel about my overturned local NPR station now (LOL!).

Karen said...

Well, there's always the alternative of right-wingnut talk radio, depending on how dark your sense of humor is.

The Ridger, FCD said...

PS: Two suggestions: MP3s or Sirius (my sister swears by the latter, especially as she often finds herself up in the hills where there's no radio at all, let alone good radio - she's a rural home health nurse)

Eamon Knight said...

Happy-happy-joy-joy -- CBC has just started an online streaming service called CBC Music -- umpteen channels, each for a different genre. I can listen to Baroque all day, if I like ;-).