There’s a big controversy brewing in the UK. BBC Radio 3, which is their classical music channel, will start a weekly Top 20 countdown of the country’s top-selling classical releases. The charts will be compiled using both CD sales and downloads, so it will accurately reflect buying trends, but that’s not the controversy. The larger question is simply whether or not there’s any point to having classical music ape the trappings of popular music in order to attract listeners.
As Rupert Christiansen wrote in his Telegraph article, Radio 3’s Classical Top 20 will be very dull indeed,
Why must classical music jump up and down and pretend to be what it isn’t?
What depresses me is the way that classical music is constantly chasing after techniques of the pop sector, and ending up, like a paunchy middle-aged man squeezing himself into a pair of tight blue jeans, looking a bit silly and terminally uncool. The interesting kids I know today with open musical minds aren’t the slightest bit interested in the charts: they have the confidence to listen to what they like and explore without reference to such crude and naff indicators as “the Top 20.”
Why can’t [classical music] stand aside from hype and ephemera and the silly business of judging success by numbers, and instead focus on its deepest strength – feeding a deep and serious appetite for art in which quality isn’t judged by its place in a weekly sales list?
Well, we agree. And that’s why WTJU plays the kind of classical music it does. Granted, for some people it can be tough listening. We don’t program our classical music to be an upscale substitute for Muzak — lots of lush, orchestral music with a smattering of pleasing piano renderings for your background listening pleasure..
I doubt most of what we air would show up on a Top 20 chart, but that’s OK. Safe to say all of our announcers have “a deep and serious appetite for art” and program their shows accordingly. Do you have the confidence to listen to what you like and explore outside the tried-and-true? (although we do play a fair amount of that as well)