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Public Radio Hip

Life is great, no doubt, but let me take this one opportunity to complain (yes, I am always complaining)

I confess that I am a die-hard MPR listener of the classical music variety, not the news station. We have three MPR stations here in the Twin Cities, and up until recently two were devoted to classical music, one being owned and operated by St. Olaf College. I loved the St. Olaf station (89.3) because it played much more sacred music as well as pieces that dated from before the mid-nineteenth century. The "classical" 99.5 frequency focuses a lot on Benjamin Britten, Tchaikovksy, Wagner and more modern "classical music," as though it was designed to appease the sensibilities of Scandinavian and German Lutherans who love to get in touch with the myths of those nations' pre-Christian past (Ride of the Valkyries). OK, maybe those are the people that predominantly do listen to MPR. Additionally, there is a daily dose of "Night on Bald Mountain," which is sort of excessive and creepy.

However, St. Olaf decided it needed to free up some cash and sold the station to the big MPR affiliate here in St. Paul (just after a fundraiser of course). Well, MPR decided to shut down the little station of goodness and in its place establish "89.3: The Current." What a puke title. Just what I needed, more crap to ensure I am a child of the age. How this is "public" radio in the sense of a public service, I do not know. The station allegedly focuses on indie rock and other alternative music that won't be played by those mean corporate stations. Yesterday, they were playing some downtracks from an old "Verve" album as well as some bad rap that could be played only because there was no swearing in it. How can this be justified as a public service? Playing pop and rock songs that aren't good enough to go mainstream (forget the stupid talk about the populace not being cultured enough to appreciate them, because the tunes by-and-large lack any degree of sophistication to appreciate, so are not "cultured" in a refined sense of the term -- ooh, how about that for snotty) instead of classical music that on all accounts is OBJECTIVELY good on a number of levels does not connote a public service.

Furthermore, what segment of the populace is so tragically hip as to actually appreciate what is going on at 89.3? Star Tribune writer Chris Riemenschneider asks the same question, although he is looking for other "hip" folks to help him sustain this great experiment in preserving the commercial-free environment where the cesspool of underground hits can flourish. Forget real diversity in radio, we need another station playing junk like all of the others.

Eventually, we will all have satellite radio in some form (like cable TV), so this will be a moot point and no one will bother to support that great public resource known as MPR.


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Comments (1)


You know, you are right on. I loved 89.3 for the same reasons you mentioned; they also played a great deal of interesting early Baroque, which is my particular favorite. And the announcers (I've hated the term "DJ" ever since high school)were so uncool. They just quietly announced. You would rarely hear openers like "When I was a little girl growing up in New Zealand..." (An actual quote from the 99.5 station)

Don't you remember when Cities 97 started here? (Oops, this dates me, doesn't it?) The whole idea was exactly the same; we were going to have local, hip music -- not generic three-note schmaltz, not sold-my-soul soft rock. And yet, surprise: It became what it is today, generic three-note schmaltzy sold-my-soul-Sheryl-Crow-Sting-2-minute-58-second yawnfest music.

Why? Because the market for true indie trash isn't very big, even here in this indie mecca. No matter what City Pages says.

And just to complete this rant, I really dislike the only other classical station because the talk on it is so horrid.

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