Friday, September 18, 2009

The CE Classical Challange

I've written a lot about classical music programming on public radio stations.

Recently, one of my Twitter colleagues challenged some of my assumptions. He gently pointed out that not every station only plays European orchestral music written 350-100 years ago (and also provided some examples).

Fair enough.

So I've decided to do a somewhat scientific survey of what stations are playing. Ideally, I'd like to look at playlists for an entire month from each station airing classical music, cross reference each work, and do some serious number-crunching.

The reality is, though, that I'll be doing this survey in my spare time, so the scope will be much more limited. So the results won't be definitive, but I think they'll be representative.

Each week I'll take a different station's posted classical playlist for the day. I'll be looking at several factors: style periods, composer demographic, musical forces. Here's the breakdown:

Style Period (dates are approximate)
- Medieval (up to 1300)
- Renaissance (1300 to 1600)
[I may end up lumping these together as "Early Music"]

- Baroque (1600 to 1750)
- Classical (1750 - 1820)
- Romantic (1820 - 1910)
- 20th Century (1910 - 2000)
- 21st Century (or Modern) (2000 - )
- Crossover (this would include show tunes, movie scores, Beatles songs for brass choir, etc.; the 20th and 21st century categories are reserved for mainstream classical works. John Corigliano's symphony would go under "20th Century"; his music for the movie "Coma" would go under "Crossover")

Musical Forces
- Orchestral (includes concertos)
- Chamber (generally nine instruments or less - chamber orchestra would be "orchestral")
- Solo Instrument (includes works which has one solo instrument and one accompanying instrument, such as a violin sonata w/piano accompaniment)
- Choral (either a cappella, or choir plus instruments where the choir has the lead role, such as an oratorio)
- Solo Voice (either voice and piano (lieder), or solo voice with orchestra, such as an opera aria)

Composer Demographic
- Male/Female
- Living/Dead
- European/American/Other (this would include Latin and South America, Asia and Africa)

So every week I'll look at a different radio station's playlist, tabulate and post the results. And I'll also provide an updated PDF report with all the stations and their playlists, so you can check my work.

Should be an interesting experiment. If there's a station you'd like me to look at, just leave a suggestion in the comment field. Otherwise, next week we'll start close to home (well, my home anyway) with a survey of WVTF, Roanoke, VA.

- Ralph

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