Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dominique-René de Lerma: A Note to NPR Producers and Other DJs

Dorothy Rudd Moore

Alvin Singleton

William Levi Dawson

Primous Fountain

George Walker

Carman Moore

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

T. J. Anderson
(Clyde May, New York Times)

Adolphus C. Hailstork

Ulysses Kay

Dominique-René de Lerma:


A half-century ago, while spending time in New York, I came across the  monthly program guide for WQXR and was astonished by the vast repertoire then available to the area's radio listeners.  As a test, I looked to see if a work I then thought as obscure, would be getting a hearing (it might have been the oboe concerto by Richard Strauß) and yes, it was programmed.  This was in the days when those of us in the provinces had to rely on our own collection of 78rpms or a score to become familiar with most works beyond the old chestnuts (all of which  are now even more ubiquitous).  I had gone for a decade avoiding the Beethoven symphonies which, when my fasting was over, I found had improved enormously meanwhile.
This was during a period of the advent of the LP and the anniversary of Bach's death, when we were encountering the world of the Baroque -- and finding the old man really was as great as we had believed all along.  But "Baroque" has become the magic word with the  radio programmers, who still believe that Vivaldi was an equal rival, never noticing, but for a few works (which Bach knew), this music consists almost totally of embarrassing ritornellos and predictable sequences, with very little real music. 
Well before my time, even before recordings, only those in the major cities of the West  could hear any music not being performed at that moment.  Even in New York, Boston, Paris, St. Louis, or Berlin could any specific symphony of Haydn or Mozart be heard, and only when it was scheduled for performance; it was not a matter of choice.  The listener might never have known one of Schubert's completed symphonies, most of the late piano concertos of Mozart, the works of Berlioz or Handel (other than Messiah), maybe not Otello and hardly Tristan.   That applied to organ works, chamber music, songs, and opera perhaps to an even greater extent.
Now, with no traffic, admission charges, or tuxedos (is this having an effect on live music?), we night easily run into two broadcasts of Dvořák's last symphony on consecutive days (also heard the previous weekend in concert) --and that could the same situation with  Peer Gynt, Finlandia, Egmont, Romeo and Juliet, Blue Danube, Rhapsody in blue, the Schumann and Grieg piano concertos ...
Of course, these are among the works one must hear for the first time, and we should not prevent the new listener from that introduction, but why must these be repeated again and again, and then once more when the station is having a fund drive?  (As a diversion, my local PBS channel suspects Lawrence Welk would generate contributions!)
What a pleasure it is to become acquainted with a new voice or to hear a previously unexposed  work!  And that inevitably would bring forth music from Cuba, Brazil, Ghana, Ukraine, Canada, Israel, Japan, Egypt.  Our horizons of aesthetics, regional pride, and perspectives would be enriched.
American music -- and more than Copland and Gershwin! -- has been the basis for thematic concerts and festivals, and February has been the time to confess there really have been Black composers.  Yet even here we have too many voices unheard: Dorothy Rudd Moore, Alvin Singleton, Primous Fountain, William Dawson, George Walker, Julia Perry, Carman Moore, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, José White Lafitte, T. J. Anderson, Moses Hogan, José Mauricio Nunes Garcia, Hale Smith, Adolphus Hailstork, Wendell Logan, Amadeo Roldán y Gardes, Michael Abels, Undine Moore, Harry Burleigh, Jonathan Holland, Robert Morris, John Work, even Ulysses Kay ... these are just a few figures whose music has never been broadcast in my own daily experience with the "good music" stations.
Familiarity breeds contempt.  That adage is well-earned by TV commercials (and they don't seem to know it).  It would be a shame were this to happen to Beethoven.

Dominique-René de Lerma

Comment by email:
Thank you, Bill.  Hope all is well.  Best wishes,  Alvin  [Alvin Singleton]

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