I rarely listen to the radio these days. But in one of the neighborhood supermarkets I occasionally shop at, they’re always listening to one of the so-called light music stations. Most of the time it’s mildly annoying since I rarely find this sort of fare intellectually stimulating, and although the radio format is designed to be easily ignored, it’s virtually impossible for me to ignore any kind of music. But of course I still realize that all of this has nothing to do with the music and everything to do with me.
So it was all the more perplexing to me when, in between the peregrinations for blue corn chips and paper towels the other day, I heard the following proclamation from one of the radio station’s DJs: “We don’t play the tired old songs.” What exactly makes a song tired or old? Can any song get tired if it’s played too frequently? Won’t all songs eventually get old? And, since that is true, how long does a song stay young? Given that such a proclamation is emanated from a station that principally broadcasts music from the ’80s and ’90s, is it fair to assume that the life cycle of a song is approximately 30 years?
Now, imagine if such rules were applied to classical music. Don’t play anything written before 1980. There are a some variations on this idea but they are few and far between. ASCAP awards adventurous programming awards to ensembles and venues based on how much music they program which has been composed in the past 25 years. The Locrian Chamber Players will only perform music composed in the last decade.
Of course, ideally there’s a balance between having a clear understanding of history and keeping up with what’s current, even though it frequently feels like these two impulses are somehow at cross purposes.