Classic Mornings

It Must Be a Car Radio!


One of the traditional curiosities of radio listening is the appearance (and disappearance) of faraway stations.

 I’ve always enjoyed “going the distance,” as it were, especially when going a distance – in the car.  For one thing, it seems like car radios come equipped with bigger nets to haul in signals that otherwise might get away. So why not put them to the test? On more than one occasion, I’ve shared with those here at Illinois Public Media the excitement of having heard WILL-AM 580 across 2 state borders!

Yes, I’m aware of the down side of distant listening. How many times have I come upon the broadcast of a late night ballgame in the bottom of the 9th with bases loaded, only to have the signal fade for a little while? It’s times like that when I actually applaud the pitcher for taking forever to get back on the mound or the hitter to step back into the batter’s box.  But even after all that, the station may be gone – like the ball that may have been hit out of the park, though I’m left to imagine what happened until baseball scores drift in on another station at some point. As a sort of consolation, I’ve tried to place those situations in the context of a “theatre of radio,” remembering films or stage works with characters that seemingly enter and exit randomly or endings that leave you guessing as to what might have happened or what might have been said had the story or the dialogue continued.

I’ve had some thoughts about the down side of listening to classical music on a long trip too. I imagine the Beethoven Violin Concerto being interrupted by tunes from drifting stations and recall the stories that are told about the first performance of the Beethoven Concerto in which violinist Franz Clement played his own music and engaged in violin acrobatics in between the movements of the famous work.  I’ve tried to imagine interruptions during a radio broadcast of the Beethoven Concerto as a modern day re-enactment of the historic premiere. Or I’ll think about the mystery surrounding the famous 8th Symphony by Franz Schubert – the “Unfinished” as it’s known (Did he really intend to write only 2 movements, or is it unfinished?) and simply extend the designation “unfinished” to all of Schubert’s symphonies when they’re heard on a long trip. It doesn’t have to stop there. It can include Schubert’s piano and chamber works and the works of other composers.

It’s in the spirit of the old-fashioned joy of listening to distant stations that I received the news that a Classic Mornings listener from central Illinois is currently a Classic Mornings listener in Kampala, Uganda! Yes, of course it’s via our website. But my first thought was indeed: “It must be a car radio!” (Sometimes it’s hard to step out of the analog cabin of my well-established radio listening thoughts.) I had wondered in my first blog entry about where those outside central Illinois were listening. Now I know where one of them is listening.  And given that listening in Uganda means Classic Mornings is on during the evening (they’re 9 hours ahead of us), I thought about amending my daily closing line to:  “Now that you’ve had a Classic Morning, have a great day – and a good night!” I haven’t figured out what I might say if someone gets up in the middle of the night to listen and then goes back to sleep. I’ll wait until I hear from such a listener before I decide how I might deal with that situation. (By the way, this is the first time I have mentioned our listener in Kampala. I haven’t yet said anything on the air. In all fairness, I wanted to break the news via the medium that made it all possible.)

Thanks to all of you who continue to make it possible for us to bring you classical music on the radio in central Illinois (as well as online), especially those who contributed during our recent pledge drive.  We very much appreciate your support. The theme of the drive was “tools to get the job done.” I couldn’t resist the temptation to play some selections of “music with tools” on the Friday Classic Morning Prelude. I played the little march known as Two Jolly Village Blacksmiths (Zwei lustige Dorfschmiede)  by Czech composer Julius Fučík ( who wrote “Entry of the Gladiators,” which has become famous as a circus march over the years). The two smiths (who go unnamed – making them even more common than two Smiths) engage in a bit of rhythmic anvil hammering while whistling. It’s in the same spirit as Verdi’s “Anvil Chorus” from the opera Il trovatore, which I played during Classic Mornings that day. I also played Leroy Anderson’s Sandpaper Ballet and The Typewriter, a couple of light music classics. I’ve had a lot of thoughts about The Typewriter over the years. Musically speaking, it would seem you can’t call the soloist a typist. In the tradition of naming players for their instruments, you might be tempted to say ”typewriterist,” though that sounds awful. You can always get away with the generic “keyboard artist”. “Typewriter soloist” would do – given that we say “recorder soloist” or “recorder player” and not “recorderist.” “Typewriter player” doesn’t work either. But we’re spared from having to go any further, because it’s a percussionist in the orchestra that would actually “play” the typewriter (Still I wonder whether in times past, a “secretary of the year” or newspaper columnist wasn’t invited to be a guest soloist in The Typewriter in the tradition of pops concert celebrity appearances). In classical music we sometimes listen to music written centuries ago performed on instruments or replicas of instruments which were used at the time the music was written. We call those period instruments. The Anderson piece uses an instrument – the typewriter – that by now would be considered a period instrument. You might say that it’s a comma, semi-colon and hyphen instrument as well. (I couldn’t resist that either.)  All of those pieces with tools remind me of listeners who hum, tap, scrub or hammer along to the music on WILL-FM.  You helped provide us with the tools to provide you with tools of a different sort, to accompany you in whatever work you do.

Thanks for checking out the Classic Mornings blog. Be sure to join me for Classic Mornings Monday through Friday from 9 to noon, with the Classic Morning Prelude at 8:50 on FM 90.9 and streaming online at And tune in early each day so you get to hear more of the classical music, stories and  celebrations on the program!