It's A Matter Of Opinion

The Editors

Monday, January 27, 2014 - 10:00 AM

From the September 1944 WQXR Program Guide:

On a certain afternoon in June, WQXR broadcast about eight minutes of the 30-minute 'Lyric Suite' by Alban Berg. As this is an ultra- modern work, we asked the audience to write and tell us what they thought of it and whether they wanted us to play it in full at some future time.

Apparently a radio station cannot please all of the audience all of the time, as you may see for yourself from the following excerpts from letters which we received:

PRO: "You cowards! Go on and play the rest of the Alban Berg Quartet...We can take it, but can you dish it out? I doubt it. There's been altogether too much Tchaikowsky coming from your spot on the dial lately."

CON: "Brr...I prefer the music of the cats on the back fence to that!"

PRO: "Very original, new musical  ideas The composer must be very talented in a new direction."

CON:" I do not wish to hear more of it. It fitted between Wagner and Mozart like a big square peg into a small round hole."

PRO: "I certainly enjoyed hearing the first two sections of Berg's Lyric Suite, and would appreciate hearing the work in its entirety."

CON: "The Lyric Suite by Alvin Baer (?) was like a lot of squeaks and squawks. There wasn't even rhythm. Please do not play any more of it. I am sorry if music has come to such a pass. Is the idea like 'cubism' or something?"

PRO:"I haven't learned to hear such music, but it took long exposure to teach me to hear Mozart. I am willing to listen to any quantity of any kind of music so long as it isn't false or vulgar."

CON: " a musician, I must say that the divine music of Tristan which was played before, gave the best answer, the author of which, Richard Wagner, said: 'Music without melody is no music!' "

PRO: "I should like very much to hear Alban Berg's Lyric Suite in its entirety."

CON: "Awful! Ear Insulting! Nerve Torturing!...The more WQXR broadcasts this crime against the good name of music, the less I listen to the station's programs."

There is no need to give further examples to illustrate the point. Actually, the replies were divided almost equally between those for and those against.

Although this is a striking illustration of how people's tastes differ, it is not exceptional. A similar divergence of opinion is to be found whether the music be modern or conservative. We get letters from people who say in effect, "Who wants to listen to such old fogies as Beethoven or Mozart?" Or "Why don't you play more Victor Herbert?" Or, "As far as I am concerned, you needn't play anything except Bach."

So if we do not always suit your particular taste, remember that many other people are listening to what you dislike and want more of it. What the management of WQXR strives for is a reasonable balance of all kinds of good music. We never expect to attain that blissful state where we please everybody all of the time. But we do try, and, from what we hear, we are coming along pretty well.

Maybe you have some thoughts on this subject. If so, let us hear from you. We welcome your reaction to our programs. We cannot promise to answer all the letters, but we shall give them careful consideration, and they will help guide us in giving you the kind of music you want to hear over WQXR.


Andy Lanset


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Comments [2]

Les from Miami, Florida

I don't think any classical musio radio station would put on only several minutes of a work today, but I feel a resonance with today in reading the selected listeners' comments. They could have been written today, it seems to me. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

May. 01 2015 09:25 AM
Michael Kartuz from Vista, CA

It seems that I do remember WQXR programming Stravinsky's Firebird and Sacre back then. I was about to graduate from high school and was an avid listener when I lived in NYC. Now I listen to Q2 and WQXR on my computer via iTunes.

Jan. 27 2014 11:24 AM

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