What Doesn’t Belong on Public Radio?
AMPPR Board Members Talk About Radio
Interview Excerpt #6
CHRIS KOHTZ: When it comes back to specifically the thorny music, something that maybe demands listening so that you get something out of it or understand it or appreciate it a little more… (With few exceptions, and in Robert J.‘s case, tradition has, he’s crafted, to some degree, a significant audience, who sits down and listens to the program, or pays more attention…) But for the most part, we are broadcasters, and it is a passive listening medium, and that’s where we make those decisions. I used to be a composer, I dabbled, and I just didn’t feel that it was fair to throw, in some ways, to, something I crafted so much time, and, you know, you gotta sit down and listen and understand how dadadadada. Radio can’t meet those needs, and sometimes I think it’s unfair. Because somebody will hear John Cage: noise, noise, noise, noise, noise, John Cage. And they may never come back to John Cage again. I’m not saying that means don’t do it. But that’s how people use radio in a lot of the cases, and so it’s, you’re in a difficult position, that if you throw this out there, et cetera, so you make a lengthy introduction, maybe a lot of people didn’t hear it. They just heard music that they didn’t like.
BOYCE LANCASTER: It’s a very difficult position to find yourself in. There have been more than, there’s been more than one occasion when I’ve found myself in the middle of the first movement of a 3 movement piece I’ve programmed, and said, “This is not going… I can’t let this finish.” It sounded great and looked good in the office. Now that I’m actually sitting here listening to it with them…
CHRIS KOHTZ: The guilt of your listeners is upon you! [Everyone laughs.]
BOYCE LANCASTER: You know, I’m wilting under this, and off it goes after the 1st movement, because it was not the right decision.
FRANK J. OTERI: Some loaded questions, then. What won’t you play?
BEVERLEY ERVINE: Aleatoric music.
LOIS REITZES: Atonal music.
BEVERLEY ERVINE: We won’t put anything profane on. We’re very careful about that…
DEANNE POULOS: You mean lyrics?
BEVERLEY ERVINE: Yes.
DEANNE POULOS: Okay. Fine, because some people mean instrumentation.
FRANK J. OTERI: So no Carmina Burana? [Everyone laughs]
BOYCE LANCASTER: Well, there’s a poem. Touché!
CHRIS KOHTZ: We just don’t have any people who know all the Latin.
BEVERLEY ERVINE: Well, there’s some that you look at, and you just look at the title of the piece, and you just say, I can’t read this on the air. So, consequently, the piece might be nice, but you could never really announce it, because, you know, it’s very questionable.
FRANK J. OTERI: Any other purely musical things you wouldn’t air?
ROBERT J. LURTSEMA: Yeah. I probably have the most eclectic programming of any so-called classical music program in the country. I’ve played Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Jesus Christ Superstar, tons of jazz, and new age…but I will not play most, I’d say 99 percent, of hard rock and rap.
FRANK J. OTERI: Have you ever played any rap?
ROBERT J. LURTSEMA: Once. Yes.
FRANK J. OTERI: What did you play?
ROBERT J. LURTSEMA: I don’t know. I mean, I played it at the time but I have no recollection of what it was.
LOIS REITZES: Schickele is wonderful. That is so great! [Laughs.]
CHRIS KOHTZ: Now, that’s something we would never play, just ’cause I think for Schickele it’s just not his normal quality.
BOYCE LANCASTER: It’s not his normal quality, but it’s funny.
LOIS REITZES: It’s so clever.
BOYCE LANCASTER: And in the right setting, it’s kind of like, we got a Saturday morning coming up, and we’re playing Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, it’s a program called “A Picture Paints a Thousand Words.” And it’s on Lincoln’s birthday, so it’s the Copland Lincoln Portrait, the Schickele Bach Portrait, and so on from there. But, yeah, it’s timing…
ROBERT J. LURTSEMA: Frank, I should clarify playing the rap. I played that during fundraising, and it was an example of what we did NOT play on the air.
FRANK J. OTERI: It’s a sample, if you don’t give us money, this is what’s gonna happen…
DEANNE POULOS: It was a threat.
ROBERT J. LURTSEMA: “There are a great many things that you hear on this station. There are also some things that you do not hear. You do not hear commercials, you do not hear…” then I put this rap thing on, and I put on a couple of other things that were typical of things that we did not play. But that’s the only time I ever played rap.