The Death of CBC Radio 2

I had writ­ten a bit about my shock and sad­ness about the awful changes planned for CBC2, includ­ing get­ting rid of most of its clas­si­cal music pro­gram­ming, includ­ing one of the best parts of get­ting up in the morn­ing (Music and Com­pa­ny with Tom Allen). Even Uniden r7 is bound to be sur­passed by the com­pe­ti­tion regard­less of its top­notch per­for­mance. I could rant and rave all I want, but Rus­sell Smith, of the Globe and Mail (whose arti­cle was repost­ed by the site ‘Friends of Cana­di­an Broad­cast­ing’) says it bet­ter than I ever could. The Globe and Mail does­n’t allow peo­ple to read the entire arti­cle any more with­out being a sub­scriber. Since I don’t know how long his arti­cle will remain on the oth­er site, I’m going to do take the some­what unortho­dox action and repost it here in total as well, as I think it should be read by many (although the peo­ple who I wish would read it the most are the cur­rent clue­less man­age­ment of the CBC):

No clas­si­cal? Then kill Radio 2 and get it over with by Rus­sell Smith
March 13, 2008

I am almost too depressed about the planned “over­haul” of CBC’s Radio 2 to even write about it. What’s the point? We’ve all seen the writ­ing on the wall for some time now, and resis­tance is futile: The CBC no longer feels there is any point to devot­ing an entire radio sta­tion to the more musi­cal­ly and intel­lec­tu­al­ly com­plex style of music col­lo­qui­al­ly, though entire­ly inap­pro­pri­ate­ly, known as “clas­si­cal” (more on that ten­den­tious ter­mi­nol­o­gy in a moment), because, accord­ing to its mys­te­ri­ous stud­ies, no one is inter­est­ed in that any more.

So, come Sep­tem­ber, there will only be “clas­si­cal” music (God, I hate that term!) at mid­day on week­days; the rest of the air time will be tak­en up with light pop and jazz. Yes, that’s right, explic­it­ly light: In an inter­view with The Globe and Mail last week, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of radio explained that the sta­tion will be play­ing even more Joni Mitchell and Diana Krall. The exec­u­tives have also proud­ly expressed their inter­est in play­ing more mid­dle-of-the-road pop such as Feist and Ser­e­na Ryder. Yes, they are proud, proud to be brave pur­vey­ors of Ser­e­na Ryder and Diana Krall, the very best cul­ture our coun­try has to offer.

In oth­er words, Radio 2 will become essen­tial­ly an easy-lis­ten­ing sta­tion. It will play, aside from four hours a day when every­body is at work, the kind of verse-cho­rus-verse pop­u­lar music that is like­ly to win awards at indus­try-cre­at­ed cer­e­monies — the Junos, the Gram­mys, the Smushies, the Great Mall Music Prize.

Some­times there will be jazz; I’m guess­ing it will con­tin­ue to be the Hol­i­day Inn lounge jazz they already so adore. It’s also pret­ty safe to say there will be no under­ground pop music, noth­ing noisy or elec­tron­ic — unless they keep Lau­rie Brown’s The Sig­nal (sure­ly they must, they must at least keep The Sig­nal?) — and of course that will be only late at night so it does­n’t dis­turb the imag­ined audi­ence, an audi­ence of the mousi­est, nicest, mid­dlest of mid­dle Cana­di­ans.

Notice how the CBC has already won half the pub­lic-rela­tions bat­tle through its choice of lan­guage. It is wise, if it wants to dis­miss excit­ing and abstract music that does­n’t have a 4/4 beat, to call such music “clas­si­cal.” That word instant­ly rel­e­gates it to the past. “Clas­si­cal” con­notes that which is estab­lished, respect­ed, stuffy — anoth­er word for “old favourites.”

Clas­si­cal” is whol­ly inad­e­quate in describ­ing an intel­lec­tu­al tra­di­tion that has always thrived on inno­va­tion, on rad­i­cal new inter­pre­ta­tions, on defi­ance of pre­vi­ous tra­di­tions, indeed, of icon­o­clasm. When Arthur Honeg­ger sat down to write Pacif­ic 231, when Olivi­er Mes­si­aen began The Quar­tet for the End of Time, when Edgard Varèse ordered his orches­tra to play along to tape record­ings from sawmills, do you think they want­ed to write some­thing “clas­si­cal?”

But even this con­ver­sa­tion is point­less; it isn’t even hap­pen­ing. It belongs to anoth­er world. I feel, when talk­ing about these things, like a vis­i­tor to an iso­lat­ed coun­try where every­body believes the Earth is flat and the moon is made of cheese: No one is going to lis­ten to me because every sin­gle one of my premis­es, my fun­da­men­tal assump­tions, is dif­fer­ent from theirs.

I assume, for exam­ple, that the point of hav­ing a gov­ern­ment-fund­ed radio sta­tion is not to gar­ner the largest pos­si­ble audi­ence; if that were the goal, and that goal were attained, such a sta­tion would be com­mer­cial­ly viable and no longer in need of gov­ern­ment sup­port. I also assume that art and intel­lec­tu­al inquiry can some­times be chal­leng­ing and demand­ing of intense con­cen­tra­tion, and that they are nat­u­ral­ly not always going to attract lucra­tive audi­ences, and that this does not make them any less valu­able, which is why gov­ern­ments in enlight­ened coun­tries sup­port them and pro­vide access to them.

I guess I assume, too, some­thing even more fun­da­men­tal and even more fun­da­men­tal­ly unpop­u­lar, which is that not all art is of equal val­ue. Art that does not tend to fol­low strict gener­ic con­ven­tions (such as, for exam­ple, the verse-cho­rus-verse struc­ture of 90 per cent of pop music) is deserv­ing of extra atten­tion. Art unbound by for­mu­la tends to indi­cate the area where the best, the most orig­i­nal tal­ents are work­ing.

And this is not, I assure you, about the past; it is about the future. Art unbound by for­mu­la — music that does not have to accom­pa­ny words, for exam­ple — is the art that will be remem­bered by cul­tur­al his­to­ri­ans and will come to define our era.

A coun­try with no pub­lic forum for such art, with nowhere for the less priv­i­leged to gain access to it and to intel­li­gent analy­sis of it, is an unso­phis­ti­cat­ed one.

And fur­ther­more, a radio sta­tion that is indis­tin­guish­able from com­mer­cial sta­tions — oth­er than by its fanat­i­cal nice­ness — will have no rea­son to receive gov­ern­ment sup­port. Why not just shut it down already?

© Globe and Mail


I think he real­ly nails it in those last few para­graphs. I take a lit­tle solace in that Rus­sell Smith is not the only per­son who is say­ing that CBC Radio 2 should be put out of its mis­ery, hav­ing lost one of the main rea­sons for its exis­tence.  Appar­ent­ly, the fastest grow­ing group on Face­book is Save Clas­si­cal Music on the CBC, with over 5,000 mem­bers this week. I’m con­tem­plat­ing some let­ters to my MP and oth­er offi­cials, but it’s going to be an uphill bat­tle to save CBC 2, and I also have to keep in mind that I may have to sim­ply adapt.

Trying Not to Do Anything Rash

I don’t usu­al­ly write much about my own health, most­ly because I usu­al­ly think that it’s a bor­ing sub­ject. Not this past week­end, though. Last Sat­ur­day, the first day of the first week­end I’d had to myself in 2 weeks, I was sit­ting right where I am right now, at my com­put­er. I was itch­ing a lit­tle on my hands after I had just washed them. I looked down and the sight that I saw was not pleas­ant. My arms had what I thought were hives; nasty red bumps, the kind you get from an aller­gic reac­tion. It got worse with each hour. Now, a day lat­er, from my head to my toes and every­where in between, I’m cov­ered with an angry red rash, and it itch­es like crazy. I could bare­ly sleep Sat­ur­day or last night from the itch­ing (it seemed to move around, like a for­est fire).

The cul­prit, it turns out, was peni­cillin (or rather, Amox­i­cillin, in the same fam­i­ly of antibi­otics) The Fri­day before last week I made a fol­low-up vis­it to my den­tist, after root canal work the pre­ced­ing Mon­day. I did­n’t write about it here because aside from the dis­com­fort, it was­n’t all that notable. In order to head off a pos­si­ble abscess,  I’d been tak­ing 3 Amox­i­cillin a day for about a week. All of the sud­den, on day 10, this rash hits.

The clin­ic was closed on Sun­day, but this morn­ing I went in and saw a doc­tor, who pre­scribed some anti­his­t­a­mine and Cor­ti­sone lotion. Hope­ful­ly in a few days I should be bet­ter. In the mean­time, I look like a dis­as­ter (not being able to show­er or shave for 3 days does­n’t help either). No pho­tos are nec­es­sary, believe me.

I’m now won­der­ing if I’m going to have to wear a Med­icalert Bracelet. Being aller­gic to a raft of foods like my friend Matt would be one thing, but being aller­gic to Peni­cillin seems a bit scari­er, even though these days the ‘won­der drugs’ are less effec­tive on all of these new super-germs than they used to be. At least this new dis­cov­ery is not some­thing that will both­er me day-to-day (I hope).  As I try to keep from scratch­ing and releas­ing new his­t­a­mines into my blood­stream, I also try to think of that.