Sunday, 26 January 2014

'Classical' Music

Not long ago the Greek Government noticed that the latest cuts in numbers of public employees demanded by Angela Merkel ‘happened’ to coincide exactly with the number of people ‘working’ for the state broadcasting service. (Fair enough, some of them did indeed work, but most neither knew nor cared about broadcasting and sat around drinking coffee; they had got their jobs because auntie Eleni was screwing the director of coffee-breaks or whatever.) So in its infinite wisdom the Greek Government simply closed down the entire public broadcasting service, and we had the unprecedented situation of Greece’s becoming just about the only country in the world, including the ‘Third World’, without a state broadcasting service.

I used to listen to Trito Programma, the ‘Classical’ music channel, a lot. I put ‘Classical’ in quotation marks because although we all use the term we would none of us find it easy to define. It certainly doesn’t mean ‘Music of the Classical era’; it runs all the way from pre-Renaissance liturgical chant to the noises, or absences of noise, of Glass and Cage. One definition might be ‘Music that is carefully and accurately written down, and played as carefully and accurately.’ Another might be ‘The stuff that makes most people groan and reach for the knob to find some undemanding audible wallpaper.’ A feature of ‘Classical’ music is that one listens to it. Or not, as the case may be.

Trito Programma had its faults. The mixer operator would simply turn the compression and limiter controls up full and then go out for coffee again, so that double-forte orchestral tuttis actually came out quieter than flute solos, and worst of all the presenters had vast egos and loved the sound of their own voices, so would demonstrate their musical expertise by reading out, with wild mispronunciations, the backs of CD boxes, then perhaps fade in the music a few seconds late as if it were mere background music. But it was nevertheless a lot better than no broadcast ‘serious’ music. Then, suddenly one afternoon at about three, there was no more Trito Programma or any other state channel.

But this morning, having rigged up some sort of external aerial, I trawled through the FM band and heard some late nineteenth century orchestral music which I couldn’t identify. It might have been Tchaikovsky, or perhaps Mahler in one of his vulgar tea-shoppe moods. It might at times have been, God help us, one of the Johann Strausses. I hoped for an explanatory announcement at its end, but got instead the once-familiar Trito Programma call sign, with a list of frequencies, before the announcer, without telling us what we had heard or what we were about to hear, put on a CD of late baroque fortepiano concerti.

Reception of this station here in Alonnisos is not brilliant. You can find it not at the announced frequencies but at 102.9 MHz. You will probably have to press the ‘Mono’ button as the stereo signal, needing more bandwidth, breaks down into distortion and hisses. But it’s great to have Trito Programma again, and an improvement is that they can evidently no longer afford smart-arse presenters but just play the music.  

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