Saturday, August 13, 2005

Uncovered - classical music orgies

Following on from the discovery of the Arnold Schoenberg jukebox comes news from Overgrown Path reader Rodney Lister at Harvard of classical music orgies on the internet.

'I was just looking over your list of classical music on the web and noticed that you don't include WHRB, the Harvard radio station, which is streamed on the web. Not only is this the best classical music on radio in Boston (which I guess is like being world famous in Poland), at the end of each term, for about a month, they do "orgies" long series of complete or almost complete recordings or all kinds of things. In years past these have not only included complete Beethoven, Haydn, Handel, Sibelius, etc., but complete Duke Ellington and Cecil Taylor. The station does lots of other things, too--jazz, hip-hop, country music, and Harvard hockey, but the classical music part is definitely worth noticing.'

WHRB can be found on the web via this link. Here is more information on the 'orgies' (the next one won't be until the fall) from their web site, they make BBC Radio 3's recent Beethoven fest look quite tame.........

Legend has it that the WHRB Orgy® tradition began over fifty-five years ago, in the Spring of 1943. At that time, it is said that one Harvard student, then a staff member of WHRB, returned to the station after a particularly difficult exam and played all of Beethoven's nine symphonies consecutively to celebrate the end of a long, hard term of studying. The idea caught on, and soon the orgy concept was expanded to include live Jazz and Rock Orgies, as well as a wide variety of recorded music. The Orgy® tradition lives on even today at WHRB. Each January and May, during the Reading and Exam Periods of Harvard College, WHRB presents marathon-style musical programs devoted to a single composer, performer, genre, or subject. The New York Times calls them "idealistic and interesting," adding, "the WHRB Orgies represent a triumph of musical research, imagination, and passion."WHRB's Orgy® season this January featured the entire musical output of Johann Sebastian Bach in a broadcast uninterrupted for ten straight days.

That last information about WHRB's JSB marathon is interesting. The BBC has already announced they will be following their Beethoven Experience with a Bach Experience the week before Christmas. The BBC spin-doctors will already be working up the story of how they introduced Bach to millions of listeners, and I am bracing myself for the zillion file downloads of the Passions. Interesting that a very good student station in Boston seems to have beaten them to it by a year.

And that mention of JSB takes me to Millenium of Music. Another reader writes telling me..."this was a Washington DC nationally syndicated radio program every Sunday night at 10 PM. The producer, Robert Aubry Davis, collaborated on the show with radio producers from England and the EU. The show was prized by many many listeners and ran from 1980 until just this year when the public station, WETA-FM, committed intellectual suicide by switching to an almost completely 24/7 news and analysis programming."

Millenium of Music is an exploration into the sources and mainstreams of European music for the thousand years before the birth of Bach and has featured such noted performers as Anonymous Four, The Clerks Group, Tallis Scholars, Jordi Saval, Hesperus and many others. The good news is you can still listen to it via WCLV in North-East Ohio via this link. There is a lot of very worthwhile early music in the programme schedule - definitely well worth exploring.

Meanwhile Dave, another Overgrown Path reader, writes with details of an interesting sounding 'on demand' web radio station which may be worth a try......

I run a streaming classical station called Classical Junk. I call it that since I try to play a lot of the not-so-common music that your typical person wouldn't really care for. I also do my best to fulfill listener requests, although sometimes it takes me a few weeks to track down the obscure ones.To get a wide variety of music, I manually create playlists instead of loading a bunch of music and hitting "random". You will always hear a complete work played (versus just one movement of it). The playlists repeat every two days or so, but I'm constantly changing them. You may end up hearing the same work two or three times before it's removed in the next playlist update, giving you a chance to become familiar with it and like it (or hate it) more.

Although quite well known across the US blogs it is also worth giving a 'heads-up' for our many international readers to the very worthwhile Art of the States service run by WGBH Boston (who also offer some worthwhile classical programming). Art of the States offers on-demand web streaming of classical music by US performers, with a heavy emphasis on modern and lesser known repertoire. There is a lot of added value here. The works are all streamed complete, the sound quality is very good, and many are not available in commercial recordings. A bonus are comprehensive programme notes and some good links. The range of composers is very impressive on this serious music 'juke-box' - from Adams to Zorn. Currently there is a 19th-Century south feature running majoring on musical life of the southern United States during the mid-19th century with lots of music files to support it. If you haven't visited Art of the States you are missing out on one of the most useful serious music resources on the internet.

All these stations have been added to the side-bar listing, any other news of 'lateral thinking' web music stations gratefully received via the comments facility at the end of this post.

If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Elgar's other Enigma

6 comments:

Clive said...

Classical Junk is excellent. Thanks for pointing it out.

sogaltino said...

you may be interested to know that Mr. Davis has landed at the XM Satellite Radio VOX station as the programmer and i think everything else for that channel.. and excellent choices he makes.

Anonymous said...

Dave said...
On the Classical Junk web stream, I program works of Howard Hanson quite often. I try to play the complete cycle of his symphonies at least twice a year. Hopefully a listener or two will take notice of this grossly underrated composer.

John D said...

Though you're quite right to direct people's attention to the WHRB "orgies", I'm not sure that they can be of the same standard as the BBC's recent Ludwigathon. Certainly when I lived in the Boston area back in the early 1990s, the WHRB marathons were a welcome change from the other classical-music radio offerings in the area (and Boston was better than almost anywhere else in the US), but they weren't enough to assuage my longing for good old Radio 3. First of all, the orgies weren't all classical music -- sometimes they would be obscure East Coast punk bands or something; second, the continuity announcements consisted of little but a recitation (often mispronounced) of the about-to-be-played work's title and performers -- nothing enlightening like R3's readings from Beethoven's letters, or comments from Peter Cropper on quartet performance; and third ... Oh never mind, this posting has gone on quite long enough. (But I'm enjoying your blog, which I got to via Alex Ross's one)

Alex Ross said...

The glories of WHRB's orgies are no secret at www.therestisnoise.com and vilainefille.blogs.com, both curated by former WHRB DJs. I wouldn't be a music critic if it weren't for WHRB. Other station veterans include the late Dale Harris, NY Times critic John Rockwell, and opera maven John Francis. I'll grant John D's criticism that some of the station's DJs aren't always up to snuff, but, hey, it's college kids, what do you expect. I once spent 25 minutes talking about Britten's "Paul Bunyan," and that was before an official recording existed. I'm sure some listeners wished I'd just read the names.

Alex Ross

Pliable said...

Playing the alma mater game is fun. I bet I'm the only one on an overgrown path who graduated from University of Reading, UK. My slightly more illustrious predecessors there included Gustav Holst and Edmund Rubbra.

The Great Hall Reading University was also the scene of my one and only operatic appearance - in a fully staged Glinka A Life for the Czar. With London only an hour's train ride away our Op Soc specialised in (then)rarely performed works by great masters to pull the audiences from the big city. We also did Wagner's Rienzi (a justly forgotten masterpiece) and Bizet's Pearl Fishers. Those were the days!