28 June 2005

Sarah Vowell, NPR, and Coldplay

Some items from Sarah Vowell's book Radio On: A Listener's Diary [Amazon] concerning "good" music and whether public broadcasting should exist, and from the more recent critical discussions on Coldplay (smoothly continued from a recent entry/argument).

We picked up Vowell's book during our Destin trip while we were rummaging through one of the best small book stores I've ever been in (rivaling the selection of most large book stores) in Seaside. I'm picking through the selections in between sleuthing with Holmes. It was written in 1995 (published in 1997) and hasn't been nearly as engaging as The Partly-cloudy Patriot [Amazon], but has it's moments. As a point of synchronicity, here she is in a discussion of Gingrich's attempt to get rid of public broadcasting:

Today's edition of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle contains an editorial by local columnist Marjorie Smith, identified as a Bozeman arts advocate and a former member of the Foreign Service, titled "Public TV, Radio, the Antithesis of Elitism." She claims to only watch public television and, given a choice, to listen only to public radio. She has a problem with the accusation that public broadcasting has been called elitist, arguing that the commercialization of public broadcasting would lead to audience-supported satellite superstitons only available to those who can afford a satellite dish. She may be right, but she also claims, According to my dictionary, the first definition of 'elite' is 'the best or most skilled members of a given social group.' If we take the 'given social group' to be music lovers, this definition of elite would fit my understanding of classical music and jazz. They are my favorite forms of music because they are the most difficult for the performers and the most challenging for the listeners. (She has obviously never sat through the deafening noise, disgusting film backdrops, and blinding light of a Butthold Suffers show, the very essence of challenging.) this music stretches people as well as entertaining them, she continues.

Wow. Things haven't changed much in the past 10 years.

Much of the classical music on public radio satisfies the blue hairs who love Johann Strauss and think Richard is that bastard libertine who ruined music. And forget about Ligeti. Those types are almost too easy a target, but as I too often have to turn off the classical station because they're playing some sappy Grofe [Wikipedia] or that theme from Masterpiece Theatre [Wikipedia] yet again (I-shit-you-not, it's almost like they're trying to fulfill their own stereotype), Vowell's not too far off the mark. You don't need to play Stockhausen, but please get a lineup that's a little more relevant.

Finally listened to the Soundcheck show on WNYC [RadioWave] discussing Coldpaly [WNYC] (a recording of the show will be here for a week or so, WNYC podcasts but they don't make Soundcheck available). The guests were a pro critic (Newsday music critic Glenn Gamboa) and a con critic (New York Times music critic Jon Pareles). The critical assessment against Coldplay was basically that they are predictable both lyrically and musically. A caller compared them to the mere pop competance of Matchbox 20: pleasant to listen to, but not much else. A lot of time was also spent on chastising Coldplay for ripping off U2, contrasting that when U2 came out they didn't sound like anybody else but when Coldplay came out and they sound like U2. And, of course, the bad and badly predictable lyrics. The pro critic praised them because they're selling millions of albums. Sounds more like an observation than criticism. And a caller correctly called bullshit on the con critic who complained of the lead singer's voice--not that it was bad, just that he didn't like it.

The WNYC link contains references to the two critics' reviews.

[ posted by sstrader on 28 June 2005 at 12:42:58 PM in Music ]