Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I'm not surprised...

You know those delightful contrafactual things people like to say sometimes? Like "what if they gave a war and nobody came?" or "Imagine if your local school district was well-funded and the Pentagon had to hold a bake sale?" I'm having a moment: what if a radio station stopped playing all the recent pop music? What if they only played music from before 1946? They'd lose a lot of listeners, right? But what if their listeners increased by 20%? Never happen, right? But it did! And not only one radio station, but all the radio stations in a whole country. Here is the story from the New York Times:
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Because of a recent copyright dispute, Bulgarian National Radio, the public broadcaster for the country, has been limited to airing music recorded before 1946. And so far, their listeners seem to have no problem with it.
The station had a 20 percent increase in listenership in January, the first month in which the change was in effect, over December’s numbers, said Bulgarian National Radio’s chief, Alexander Velev. He cited an audience report conducted by the consumer research company Ipsos.
Bulgarian National Radio has only been playing old music — classical music, early-20th-century jazz and concert recordings of traditional folk music, drawn from the organization’s archives — since the beginning of the year.
The reason for this policy was not a sudden burst of sanity on the part of the broadcasters, but a huge increase in fees from the local copyright organization from a little over a quarter million dollars a year to nearly a million dollars a year. I guess they will be rethinking that policy!

How cool would it be if some other countries adopted a similar policy? It might be safe to venture into restaurants and coffee shops again without having to fear being belabored about the head and ears by the latest musical unpleasantness.

Since I'm Canadian I'm imagining the CBC with no Justin Bieber! That alone might increase listeners by five or ten percent.

Apparently I'm not the only mossback reactionary in the world. You ever hear of the phenomenon called "preference falsification"? That's when everyone pretends to like something because they think everyone else likes it? Similar to the Emperor's New Clothes? What if the reality were that a lot of people really don't care for recent pop music, but just pretend they do? Seems to be the case in Bulgaria. We really need to try it out in some other countries, don't you think? Just for the science...

Our inevitable envoi just has to be some Glenn Miller who went missing over the English Channel in December 1944. This is Chattanooga Choo Choo from 1941:


9 comments:

Marc Puckett said...

It would be interesting to see what we could listen to, of classical music, if we had available only pre-'46 recordings. Hmm. And think of who we wouldn't have to listen!

Marc Puckett said...

Hmm. I didn't proof that as I ought to done. And think of who we wouldn't have to listen to!

Bryan Townsend said...

The radio stations are apparently not restricted to recordings before 1946, just works copyright before then. There are two different kinds of rights, authorial and mechanical? I may be forgetting the terms. But wow, if I could only listen to pre 46 recordings that would eliminate virtually everything except some Arthur Rubinstein and Andres Segovia!

Mind you, there are worse fates!

Marc Puckett said...

I take your point (and I did fail to notice the distinction between copyright & recordings); while am adamantly refusing to go off on one of my snipe hunts there are evidently e.g. "the pre-war Polydor" recordings of Furtwaengler and the Berlin Philharmonic on three discs. [https://goo.gl/m4BEKw]

There's at least one CD reissue on Spotify of pre-war 78 rpm recordings of pieces conducted by Carl Schuricht, that includes a bit of Bach, Offenbach, Tchaikovsky, Smetana, Grieg's Peer Gynt, first suite, and then 'Music for Orchestra' (1912) by a Rudi Stephan.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Bulgarian folk music the one with quite odd metres?

One is reminded of Bhutan, a country which banned television even into the last decade of the twentieth century. Now they have it, local languages and cultures are facing extinction. The imperialism of popular culture in action. No wonder people find a return to older forms of culture more satisfying than much of the charmless popular stuff we have now. It's like finding something you didn't know you lost.

Christine Lacroix said...

Just saw this and it made me think of you...According to science...

https://www.simplemost.com/bassists-important-member-band-according-science/

A friend of mine always often uses the expression 'it's like bashing down an open door' (translation from the French) Maybe this will seem like that to you?

Bryan Townsend said...

There are a lot of fine pre-1946 recordings out there. When I mentioned Arthur Rubinstein and Segovia, that was just referencing the only ones I have on my CD shelf.

Yes, Bulgarian folk music was investigated by Bartók and its use of unusual meters like 7 and 9 (divided asymmetrically as I recall) was influential on him. Capitalism has many positive benefits, not the least of which is its ability to lift billions of people out of the abject poverty that is the norm in human history. But capitalism and fine art always seem to have a troubled relationship. I guess it is a case of economics and aesthetics having entirely different value systems.

Thanks for the link, Christine! I started out as a bass player, but even then I suspected that I wasn't the most important member of the band. That is, obviously, the singer. But that is an interesting little article and I wish I had put it in this week's miscellanea. However, despite the ineffable penumbra of "science", the real reason the bass is important was discovered around 300 years ago. It is important because of its role in harmony. The bass is the note the harmony is oriented around (or over).

Will Wilkin said...

I've got a great box set of Mahler 78's recorded 1910 to 1940, plus a disc of his original playing recorded in 1905 (on, of course, Nov 9!) on "Welte-Mignon piano rolls." Also I think I've seen some really cheap box sets offered on Amazon of collections of recordings by certain conductors, as if they are being manufactured by basement outfits using commercial recordings now beyond copyright date. And in general I agree radio would be much better if limited to works composed before 1946.

Bryan Townsend said...

As Marc says, just think of all the music we wouldn't have to listen to!