Going With the Flowophiles

September 01, 2016
 

Don’t let anyone mislead you. There are indeed dozens of studios that host all of the orchestras, ensembles and soloists whose music you hear each day on WILL-FM. The players are constantly arriving on highway coaches or on shuttle busses from the airport. Each morning when I arrive, I hear some of the players warming up as I pass by the studios. There’s excitement in the air even before we’re on the air!

Not only is it a task to get all of those performers here for each day’s program. The real trick is getting all of those musicians into your radios – home, car and otherwise.  We have quite a crew here that assists with that. It’s not exactly like people stuffing themselves into what used to be known as phone booths. There’s a bit more magic involved.

Yes, of course that’s how it all happens. That’s the way I once described it to a touring group of students. At my invitation, they had squeezed into an admittedly small Studio D while we weren’t on the air.  Just as I had anticipated, they reacted to my explanation of our classical music service as if I had lost touch with reality. Not really, I assured them. The reality of radio is that it takes place with one foot in the world of fantasy.

Do I not suggest each morning that various composers, orchestras and players are a part of each day’s program and indeed with us? There are musicians in your radio.  We do have hundreds and hundreds of players here with us performing the music. You believe all of that, don’t you?

Whether or not you do, let me admit that I’m having trouble believing how much the technical end of radio broadcasting – i.e. all the stuff behind the curtain -  has changed. I was reminded of that with just a simple phrase.

I recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of the acquisition of a recording of Chopin’s music featuring pianist Murray Perahia (Sony 39708). On the back cover of the CD there’s a note: “also available on conventional disc and cassette.”

That may have been the case once upon a time and not so very long ago, but not anymore. The company isn’t required to send an updated message that reads something like: Good luck finding this in its earlier formats.  And hold on tightly to this copy, for it too will soon be a collector’s item!

Over the past couple of years, we’ve begun to acquire a trickle of new recordings as audio files. (Don’t confuse them with audiophiles, who are music listeners that are rather particular about the sound of recorded music and will go to great lengths and expense to satisfy their tastes. Rather than go with the technoflow, some tend to hold on to “conventional recordings.”) The musical material on audio files is the same as that which is available on a compact disc, except that we do not receive the disc, just the files. The files are as good as the CDs in terms of audio quality.

If anything is missing, it’s just the physical CD and the booklet. That too is sent as a separate file. I’m sure that at some point I’ll get used to just clicking on files in order to play them, rather than starting CD players. In the meantime, I find myself reaching for a CD at times and then remembering that the particular selection is not on a CD. That’s going to take time.

Music radio hosts traditionally have been known as DJs (disc jockeys). That label may become awkward when there are no discs involved, just like “a stack of records” or a “pile of CDs.” Soon it’ll be “a flurry of files”  or “a flock of files” perhaps. We still use expressions like “roll tape” around here.  That now refers to clicking on the start button of the computer hardware that begins to record voices, sounds or music.  But nobody actually has used a tape machine in quite a while either.  With all of the computer based operations, suddenly we’re visiting more screens in the studio than you’ll find at a cinema multiplex.

In the end, none of that really makes that much difference. We still have the finest orchestras and soloists from around the world who make their way in and out of our studios each day. And they get transported to your radios – or computers or phones. And you still can picture them performing here in the studios and behind the grill of your radio or the screen on your phone, right?  Believe me. I wouldn’t lead you astray – in the interest of what radio always has been about.


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