Postclassic: Music of the Evolved

After a short hiatus, I’ ve finally gotten back to working on Postclassic Radio, and there are new pieces up by Linda Catlin Smith, Nicolas Collins, Molly Thompson, Paul Bailey, Joseph Koykkar, Dave Smith, Paul Dresher, and others. There was an article in the Los Angeles Times last Sunday, Nov. 7, about my station and Robin Cox’s Iridian Radio, due to our both winning the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. I couldn’t access the article without subscribing, but author Chris Pasles kindly sent me a PDF of it, and Cox e-mailed me the text. It quotes us as follows:

For Cox, the reason to start a station was simple: He couldn’t find
the music he wanted to hear on the radio.

“For all the possibilities that the Internet may provide, what was
actually out there was still very much what you would hear over the
airwaves much of the time,” he said. “The best you could hope for was
a John Adams piece squashed between early 20th century works.

“I’m putting what I consider the essentials out there. It’s been a
good exercise going through all the music I love and picking out the
desert island discs I feel most strongly about.”

Cox plays music by not only Adams but the Kronos Quartet, Bang on a
Can, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson. He bills it as “music that’s smart
but still warm to the ears,” and he has a playlist of more than 100

For Gann, the issue is more serious.

“When I was younger, classical radio was the way I discovered a lot of
new music,” he said. “It was extremely important. Today, you can’t turn
on the radio and hear any of this stuff.”

What he and Cox do, he said, “points out the utter emptiness of most
radio and most classical radio. Certainly, it points out how much
better a job can be done on anything when commercial considerations are
taken out of the picture.”

Long Beach composer Carolyn Bremer agrees. She considers both stations
“extraordinarily important because they are giving voice to a niche in
music that generally requires a lot of work to find. If this
multiplied, it would be the best thing that ever happened.”

Well, I guess there are some even better things that I can imagine happening – world peace, perhaps – but I appreciate the sentiment. A friend commented that what he likes about the stations is that they are curated. There are ways to get on the internet and hear music by a hundred random self-promoting composers, and that’s great too – but sometimes, to get a more contextual and less splintered sense of the scene, you need to hear someone’s personal vision of the best of what’s going on.

Meanwhile, it’s been difficult to write about music or even think about it. In classes, for the first post-election week, I would start to teach, and end up just standing there, wondering if the guys in the class would be trudging through the deserts of Iraq carrying rifles in a year’s time; or if in 20 years they’d be living in caves somewhere, trying to escape the disasters of out-of-control climate changes that happened because the U.S. did nothing. What good would it do them to know how many ways Wagner came up with to resolve the Tristan chord? But I also think of the woman Alfred Brendel (I believe) wrote about, who survived the German concentration camps because she had all the Beethoven string quartets memorized and kept running through them in her head. Music is a survival mechanism, and we’ll need all the mechanisms we can get.

You’ve all seen it by now, but I’ve been kind of mesmerized by the Sorry web site, all those thousands of people speaking for the six billion willing to stand up against the 59 million American bigots and Jesus freaks who want to keep spreading hate in the world. (The Christian Right doesn’t want to be called the Christian Right anymore, so the old term Jesus freaks, which seems more appropriate than ever, should do just fine.) I like to think that Postclassic Radio is somewhat of a musical analog to Sorry Everybody, a survey of people who don’t want to cling anymore to the bad old ways of thinking, who’ve evolved beyond the need for pissing contests, musical, military, religious, and otherwise. No wonder the Jesus freaks don’t want evolution taught in the schools: as the man says, if evolution is outlawed, only outlaws will evolve. At Sorry you can see thousands of the people who’ve evolved, and at Postclassic Radio and Iridian Radio, you can hear some of them.