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Radio music for mood

By Ian Nance - posted Friday, 17 August 2012


Apart from the immediacy of its news reportage, I enjoy radio for the music it offers. For me it gives the novelty of a new, unexpected repertoire, rather than the routine replay of familiar works from my own collection.

Were I to amass a collection large enough to satisfy all of my music interests, it would have to be giant. I walk very wide musical pathways, from Mozart to Madonna, from Bach to Beatles, from Verdi to Vangelis. My trend is towards classic, but that is just a reflection of the liking of intricate structure mixed with subtlety of style plus a swig of history.

My preferred genres change as the mood moves me, from jazz, to rock, to classic, to country, to electronic; from the massive power of a lusty symphonic work to the delicate subtlety of a string quartet; from the moving inspirational power of a panoramic piece; to the reflective reverberation of a Gregorian chant; from the plaintive emotive melody from a solo girl’s voice; to the raucous roar of a massed choir.

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For me, music generates a frame of mind - contemplation, motivation, exhilaration, peace, pace, perfection, promise – the mirror of my present feelings, or the creator of new ones.

I count among my friends, a very long-time radio professional who would understand intimately the thinking behind presenting a musical work on air; the number of factors affecting not only what is played, but when, and often where. He is someone who really understands the subtle art of programming, unlike many persons claiming that skill, and puts that art into a practical form. Even though he does seem locked into jazz!

Breakfast is not the time when most people want to hear opera, nor does a summer day’s ending with the glowing red sun settling peacefully below the sheen of a wide lake lend itself to heavy metal rock or grunge.

This is why I shudder when, while enjoying a pleasant weekend morning’s sunlit sparkle on the leaves, my mood choice of classic instrumental performances playing on the radio, sometimes accompanied by the twittering of birds, a principal offender - NSW ABC’s Classic FM - unleashes what I term its “Saturday Morning Sopranos”.

The mood of tranquil, apposite music is shattered by the pretentious performances of a shrilling soprano, or the finicky formality of a tremulous tenor!

I suspect some collaboration within the Sydney radio classical programming fraternity, for when I switch to another classic FM station, seeking some music more appropriate to the time of day, up comes almost a replica record!  Is there something that seems to get into the psyche of programmers and presenters that forces them to play some music at the wrong time of the day? Or is this just my musical taste of the moment coming to bear?

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There is a time and a place for every piece – the trick is to know what, and when, and more importantly, when not.

Would you perform Gilbert and Sullivan at a funeral? Would you mix Verdi’s Ring Cycle with your breakfast coffee? Would you have a bagpiper play background music to a surf carnival?

This is one factor that makes film scoring such a demanding, yet rewarding process - the music just has to be right for the job.

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About the Author

Ian Nance's media career began in radio drama production and news. He took up TV direction of news/current affairs, thence freelance television and film producing, directing and writing. He operated a program and commercial production company, later moving into advertising and marketing.

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