Saturday, November 18, 2006

Classical Radio Lives To Tell The Tale

We are pleased and relieved to note that the expected demise of round-the-clock classical radio here in Boston has been averted, at least for the time being. On December 1st, WCRB will begin to broadcast from 99.5 FM, because its present 102.5 will undergo a remarkable personality change into a country music station.

(These days we have to specify that’s “terrestrial” radio, although that’s a misnomer, since you don’t pick up broadcast radio waves by sticking an antenna in the ground, right? Their medium is usually referred to as the “airwaves.”)
Classical stations around the country have been falling like so many decrescendi in these past years, presumably as the generations that were more attuned to it have moved on. Over and over, classical stations have been sold to fill the gaping need for more pop/rock/dance music on the dial.

The reason this is such a big deal to me (besides the fact that I spent a few years as a weekly and frequent pinch-hit announcer on Miami’s former classical station, WTMI, since dance-popped,) is that WCRB is the only consistently quieter, more relaxed sound that’s always available on the public airwaves around here.

Concerned about road rage? As thousands of monitored plants from dozens of studies will tell you, classical music is soothing, calming, gently supportive, and all those similar qualities so frighteningly missing from Storrow Drive, Route 128, et al, for at least six hours each weekday.

We must duly note that public radio WGBH (89.7) programs classical weekdays from 9-4, after and before the invisible talking heads take over with their “All Things Confounded” and so on.

‘GBH has always played a much wider selection of music and composers, with the relative freedom of a listener supported, not-very-commercial station, while WCRB has always seemed to have a three-composer rotation: Mozart, Beethoven, then one of the others. (And there were only a handful of the others; but now it’s clear that they were fishing in a slowly drying pond, and were feeling considerable pressure to popularize.)
This blogger at Perfect Fifths, for “violin, viola, and cello players and fans,” reports that the signal on Lowell-based 99.5 is “much worse.” “I tested out the signal tonight from my home in Watertown, and unless they boost the signal, it’s pretty bad.”
= = =
UPDATE December 4th:
We're pleased to report that WCRB's signal is coming in loud and clear at 99.5 FM, at least up here on Boston's North Shore.


Anonymous said...

WCRB's signal is much, much worse. I used to get it fine on 102.5 in my office in Newton. I can't get it at all on 99.5. Admittedly I'm in a steel frame building, but to go from 5x5 to nothing is really bad.

Anonymous said...

I second that. I live in West Newton and used to listen to WCRB on 102.5 with no problems, but I can't get it at all on 99.5. They did start streaming audio again so I can listen from my computer, but it is low quality 40kbps stream.