Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Radio 3

Some questions regarding BBC Radio 3

And my individual answers

How much do you listen now? Is that less or more than in the past?

An hour a day, perhaps. More now during the night than when I was young, and the station closed at 11pm (with the 'Queen', or a Schubert song). I do not now listen 5pm till 0100hrs for a number of reason (Do not like the presenter, do not like the music, not into Jazz, no idea what is going to come up but experience suggests only 20% chance I shall want to listen. Etc.)

General programme content, distinct from presenter input

Which programme formats (CD-based ‘sequences’, concerts/recitals, magazine/guests, music documentaries/features) do you enjoy and which not? Are there other kinds of programme you would welcome?

I enjoy lunchtime concerts, Composer of the Week, Record Review, Building a Library, Through the Night.
I used to enjoy 'innocent ear' 30 years ago. I enormously benefited from Anthony Hopkins' "Talking about music", and Hans Keller's 3-minute expositions of a work to be heard that evening. I (personally) have my quirks, and so (I suppose) does everyone else. All one can ask of the BBC is that we can navigate round the stuff we do not like, and know how to switch on for (or 'download') the stuff we do like.
I have liked enormously the occasional 'intelligently themed' sequence, and could do with a few more. ( I mean something like: The influence of Corelli; The battle over Equal Temperament; The evolution of Sonata form; The Evolution of the Piano.)
There was a time when the technical team went out to China with the BBC Symphony orchestra to broadcast from there, which was totally daft. More interesting would be to hear a Chinese Orchestra playing in London (if one ever did).
But is Radio 3 only for music? I used to enjoy 'high brow' talk radio on the 3rd programme (scholastic debates as by medieval monks, Greek Plays). I used to find 5 minutes of news on Radio 3 better than 45 minutes on Radio 4 (which is really 5 minutes of news and 40 of puggling.)  [Parenthetically, Radio 4 news is extraordinarily parochial. What is happening in Germany, Finland, Taiwan, Japan, Hawaii, New Zealand? We are expected to be interested in nothing but our own back-yard and media persons.]

What, for you, would be the basic constituents of a satisfying music programme and what might spoil it? What harms good Radio 3 presentation?

The music of an evening concert should be fairly well 'bunched' so that if one piece suits the mood, the rest of the concert will likely suit as well.
What might spoil a morning sequence of recorded music would be interjected talk. Erudite music talk is wonderful  (see 'Hans Keller' comment above), but talking is a separate experience altogether from the experience of listening to music; they do not mix well. I think the experiences and views of individual listeners should be totally absent from the programme (as of no general interest), that of the presenter's experience and personality should be a vanishingly small component, the personality of the performer should be experienced ONLY via their music, not their talking. An interview of a performer or a distinguished novelist is one thing, and could be good; but it is not a concert.

How does the time of day influence the kind of programme you would enjoy? (What kind of presentation do you want at the various times of day: early morning, later morning, lunchtime, afternoon, early evening, mid evening, late night?)

Enormously. I wake to music with a minimum of talk, but breakfast to the news. I am fascinated by Record Review  and Building a Library, on Saturday mornings. And through the night I prefer gentle and distant music.

Do you like the listener ‘interactivity’ (texts, tweets, emails, phone-ins, quizzes, requests)? Does it serve a useful purpose?

No, I do no like it. It may help some folk to feel engaged, but mostly the one interviewed, which is only ONE person!. It worries me that the BBC may think that the 10 tweets it gets about a programme is representative of its audience. It further worries me that the BBC does not seem to have a mechanism of sampling the whole country. It would be wonderful if there were a way of detecting and monitoring the sets getting switched off all over the country (e.g. 10 bars into a certain piece of music).

What do you think about the way the different kinds of programme are scheduled (time of day, day of week)? Do you find the present schedule educative? Diverse enough? Balanced?

Um! I do not find the schedule particularly 'educative', though some of the programmes might be educational. Being rather elderly, I find the changes to the schedule too frequent; just when I learn to expect "Composer of the week" at a certain time it changes to another. The schedules probably are diverse enough. Let us guard against narrowing the repertoire to encompass only the most popular; but allowing enthusiast to force unpopular material onto the schedules will not work either. Porpora, Hummel, Spohr are not over-exposed in the way the 'Pearl Fishers duet' is, but nor are they unpleasant, in the way Stockhausen is.
I think the BBC has had a tendency to fall into a groove (a cliquey laziness); the "only trumpeter" is Håkan Hardenberger, the "only flautist" Jean-Pierre Rampal.

Online presentation: do you find online material (programme information, playlists) presented satisfactorily? How important is it to have playlists posted in advance?

I think the growing provision of online access to the music itself is wonderful. It will completely remove the problems of scheduling discussed above. But I think it has a long way to go. In general I find the BBC websites chaotic; different fonts shout at you from every corner of the screen, different heuristic media are jumbled, (pictures, words, fonts, colours, etc); too many pictures (What are they for? It is not a beauty competition. Beethoven's violin concerto is explained only to an idiot by means of a picture of a violin.)
Think of 95% of your audience as beginners. What is a 'playlist'? what is a 'track'?  What does it mean 'to export' ?  Why does one need to register? Having registered, selected some 'tracks' that one would like to listen to later, how does one find one's own 'playlist'? It is not on one's profile page. If one wants to listen to those works (or 'tracks') when away from internet access, where is ones playlist stored then?
The compressed versions of e.g. "Composer of the week" are very disappointing, for I usually want the music as much as the talking.

What do you feel about on-air promotion (programme trails)? Which kind is useful and which not?

I pay no attention to the 'trails'. The merely spoken ones are (for me) pointless, for they bear no relation to the way I choose to listen to the radio. (I do not think to myself "Hmm, Saint-Saëns' animals on in an hour's time; must stick around till I hear that.") If I am busy, or do not like the broadcast, I switch off.
I am even more strongly against the 10-second blast of music that follows the words "Elgar's cello concerto". It is like the mixing of pictures and words (above); it is a an actual strain to switch back and forth between different parts of the brain.
I am strongly in favour of the online publication of detailed schedules. (The online Radio Times is/was useless, as it does not have the requisite data — opus number of the works, when each begins, who is playing etc. The BBC website schedules are much better.) (Even better if/when we can click and download to our device for later listening.)

Radio 3 Facebook, blog, Twitter: do you use/follow any of them?

No. I have explained already that I think that one or two single opinions must give a very distorted opinion of the audience reaction; especially when self selected.

Presenters’ input/role

In what ways is the presenter important to a programme?

The words can be helpful. But the attitude and personality of the presenter is essentially a distraction.
I rather liked the high-brow-French-music-programme-presenter-style of some years ago; a beautiful but almost robotically neutral voice announced the next work as though reading the large font stuff off a record sleeve.

How much specialist knowledge do you expect a presenter to have? Does it depend on the type of programme? What would you regard as minimum qualifications for a  Radio 3 presenter?

They should know how to pronounce the standard alphabets of the relevant European languages: German, Italian, French, Russian, Spanish. (Für Elise is German; Pour Elise would be French, We usually get stuck halfway between.) And know how to pronounce the names of composers.

How important is the voice? In what way would you think some presenters are ‘better’ than others? Name three whom you think particularly good.

I find the quality of the voice far less important than the content. I like/Iiked David Mellor, and John Julius Norwich (but were both to be found on Classic FM). Of the BBC ones perhaps Donald McLeod, and Andrew McGregor; the others whom I remember liking are probably all dead, (Patricia Hughes, Alvar Lidell)

Is general tone and style important? If so, in what way (good or bad!)?

A certain amount of genuine (not contrived or pretended) interest in the music and the text must surely be good. None (please) of the grinning and giggling deliveries we hear on Classic FM and occasionally now on Radio 3; or the brash and booming (bass-enhanced) voices of Radio 1; or the fake 'rise and fall' of the voice that the BBC favoured some years ago, which often puts great emphasis on irrelevant words. Dead-pan robotic speech is better than such monkeying around.

What would improve presenter performance?

Intelligence, training, experience, a music degree, experience of playing music?

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