Friday, December 26, 2003


I have always enjoyed listening to voices, their qualities, affectations, accents. Which makes me sometimes a great fan of radio.

But I've never been much of a listener of commercial radio, despite having worked it during a period of about four years a long time ago.

I gave partner a satellite radio for Christmas, and we have been listening to it off and on since yesterday.

Popular culture critic Stephen Holden, writing in today's New York Times, has this article, High-Tech Quirkiness Restores Radio's Magic, about the two American satellite radio producers. Each service has around 100 streams or channels, with more than half of them musical, but unlike satellite television, they are not just providing music, they are selecting specific songs, putting them in a context.

Holden finds that these two radio producers are providing niche music with thoughtful choices, representing specific points-of-view by the programmers, and that as a result, the magic of interesting radio has returned for him. He contrasts this with commercial American radio, that has lost almost all of its quirkiness and distinctiveness. Like Budweiser beer, or any number of chain restaurants, the public at large is choosing the comfort of sameness over the possibilities of variety.

So what have we been listening to? Well of course, the Broadway channel. The chamber music channel. The pure jazz channel. And a semi-cabaret channel called Fantasty Ballroom. The jazz channel, I sneak into when it's just me and the dog and cats.

I wish there was a channel of sacred choral music or even choral music. Our service does have a channel of vocal classical music that includes both opera and choral music.

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