Classical Music as Relics for easy listening

When is classical music art as opposed to easy listening or entertainment? I ask this question because it seems the FM classical music stations almost always claim "for asoothing relaxing time listen to W@#$" I guess this goes hand and hand with the midcult of symphonic fare that the orchestras and the music directors are dishing out. The radio stations play third rate baroque music "to soothe ones nerves on the commute home" (I guess you need something on the rush hour traffic on I-495 in DC) and for the symphonic fare: the same warhorses over and over, relics of dead great composers. Absolutely nothing new. I cannot remember
when the last time I here a modern piece by Part or Schnittke(though he is dead). I only found out Part or Schnittke by reading about them in the New York Times, and
getting a Naxos CD, to hear them. I have to go to Philly to Tower Records to find these composers because neither Borders or B&N have them. No wonder Classical music is dying slowly. Does anybody else have this same kind of frustration or are you just as happy hearing the same recordings over and over? Just asking......
Classical still continues!
Order Schnittke from Russia or from Europe to get either the same price or even less including shipping to your door. Also dig-on Kronos Quartet.

Other modern names are: Leo Brower, Hector Villa Lobos(spanish guitar), Daniel Binelli(tango), Astor Piazzolla...

The pre-Schnittke generation from Russia is Skryabin, Prokofiev, Rubinstain and Rachmaninoff.

Great acoustic and electronic pieces composed by Irmin Schmidt especially in Filmmusik collection.

And at last Jethro Tull is realy influenced by classical music! They're classic!
Sounds like "Easy Classical" is just the format of that particular radio station (WGMS right). I don't agree with your assessment of WGMS, however I do agree they play a lot of chamber music and baroque music.

A commercial station needs to worry a lot more about listener levels than a public station in order to sell advertising. That is probably why most commericial Jazz stations play Cool Jazz, and the hard core Jazz is also on public stations.

Personally being a big fan of chamber music I won't complain. Since Schubert wrote a ton of chamber music in his short life, I'd think you would like the station.

For modern, I don't think Philip Glass would work on the radio. People would think the CD is skipping and call the station. You'd also need one of those street gang subwoofer systems in your trunk to play Christopher Rouse!! (LOL)!

WBJC up in Baltimore (91.5) does a better job of playing a well rounded list of classical. It is an independent non-commerical public station (ie, not PBS).

WETA (90.9) the PBS station plays mostly classical around the full slate of non-music NPR programming.
I think it more insidious than just Borders and B&N. At least they have a classical music section, limited as it maybe; I did get my Naxos CDs of Schnittke and Part at Borders. But it started much earlier than that. It really began when Toscannini became a cult god and his worshippers bowed to his whims. He only conducted the warhorses at the NY Philharmonic. He conducted Beethoven's Fifth or Brahms4th over and over. Until the midcult cult "understood" the work. Time-Life for years and years had the great composers series of records.....the same composers and the same works over and over as if there was only 40 or 50 great works. It was not until the late 50s or early 60s that the midcult could "get" Bruckner, let alone Mahler. The FM radio is the same, 3rd rate baroque or the same warhorses. It is like they do not want to offend the audience. Whether thru the airwaves or in the concert halls. When was the lasttime you heard an Ives symphony or a Piston symphony. Even Schoenberg's Guerrelieder. It is not so overtly dissonant that the audience cannot understand. Do they think we are that stupid or are they that stupid that they themselvesdo not understand. Maybe they cannot afford to be adventuresome in selecting music as to offend the patrons and listeners of the great dead composers.
WGMS only plays parts (one movement) of major works, so they can have a lot of commercial breaks. Again a symptom of being a for-profit commercial station.

You will hear a whole work on WBJC in Baltimore. They also broadcast whole live concerts and operas. WETA is kind of in-between. Listen to the Performance Today program some evening on WETA.
To get more recent classical compositions you need to go to live concerts with an orchestra willing to play these pieces. In NJ, we've been fortunate to have new music played at most concerts by the NJSO, and the Colonial Symphony in Morristown has been very good at scheduling contemporary pieces at its concerts as well; I've been inspired to search out recordings of many of these pieces as a result. Otherwise, it's difficult to hear this stuff on the radio except for college or NPR stations.

As far as programming goes, in NY we had WNCN for a while which switched its traditional classical format programming to Classical Lite (no Mahler, large choral works or anything past the classical period, it seemed) after having problems catching listeners with more varied fare; it's now long gone, replaced by a classic rock format. I too despair of formulaic programming like that; back in the 60s I could get R&B, Motown, West Coast rock, English rock, folk rock, everything on the same station in the same hour, now you need to go to the specialty stations for each type of music. We at least have WQXR in NY, and while it's not perfect it does offer a large variety of music compared to what you're describing.

But your complaint, both about the programming of orchestras and radio stations, unfortunately flies in the face of economic reality. Radio stations, save NPR, are commercial ventures driven by advertizing dollars, and these formats we've seen develop and take over are designed to give program directors a better chance to sell advertizing slots. More and more broadcasters are larger entities, afraid to go against the flow of formats that are established. Orchestras are already in deep financial peril (in NJ, the governor, not without good reasons, has initially eliminated all arts funding in the budget), and have to give the people who support them what they want. Wasn't Slatkin sort of shown the door in St. Louis in part at least because of his insistence on programming new pieces in his concerts? The best orchestras mix new pieces in with the warhorses to educate their audiences without alienating them, but I can tell you even that is not without a lot of complaints from the audiences. Unless the younger concertgoers who want to hear contemporary pieces come back and start supporting their local orchestras with their money as well as their presence, it is likely that it will be difficult to get what you're looking for, I fear.

Sugarbrie, love the comment on Philip Glass! There's a knock-knock joke about him, where you keep repeating Knock-Knock, Who's There, Philip Glass over and over again! My friend Mr. McDuffie is a big fan of his work, having recorded the Glass concerto for Telarc, and he's been getting me a little more interested in his work (although I'll take the Adams and Rosza over the Glass anytime)--his feeling is that Glass appeals to people used to the repetitiveness of rock music, and I can see the point.
Here is a link that might interest you:
Art music,because of its complexity,has never been and will never be as widely commercially successfull as music manufacured to sell consumer goods. It seems that every generation decries the decline of art music but the players,composers,and listeners continue to push forward the medium.
I would not presume to second guess the programming decisions of commercial radio stations but I can vote with the on/off control.
It seems to me that one person's sensual plain listening might be another persons musical plane listening. I'm not qualified to draw the line between those musical functions.
At the risk of sounding glib,if there is something you want to hear that your fm station does not play,play your own cd of it.
Taking the glibness risk one step forward, practice or teach someone an instrument,write something,or attend a concert.
Try XMRadio (satillite radio). It has 3 classical channels, one plays complete works, one is all vocal and one plays excerpts, kind of like classical-lite radio. Sound is like MP3 but there are no, I repeat, NO commercials. They also have special programming, live tapes, etc. that nobody else has outside of New York.
Try the german mail order house JPC you will find it on the net use Google.Reliable outfit I have ordered thousands of $ worth of cds,sacd,dvd -A and dvd music video.They take credit cards.They have a huge classical selections way beyond what we can find at home.Good luck.
Didn't PDQ Bach have a joke about a classical station that promised "All Pachelbel, All theTime"?
BTW Schubertmaniac...There is a Tower Records in DC (actually on the border with Alexandria, VA). It is right off the Duke Street exit of I-395.

There are also DC beltway area stores in Rockville, Fairfax, and Vienna/Tysons

There is also a Tower Records in Annapolis on the south side of Rte 2 (south of the mall) in the shopping center that has the movie theater.

The few I have been in had the typical Tower large separate classical rooms.

To me the finest living "symphonic" composer is John Williams. John gets no respect from the classical crowd because he composes for motion pictures. This overlooks that the opera was once the main "theater"; and those operas were composed because the money was good. Look how many classical concerts begin with an overture, which is after all just an old show tune. 100 years from now they'll play the bicycle flying sequence from ET, the Love Theme from Superman, and the Empire March from Star Wars. Like all the others, John will have to be dead for 50 years before they notice how good he is/was.
There are LOTS of good modern composers!!! I listen to modern music all the time and love it. I would forget the radio and start with a contemporary music history text as a source for directions in 20th century composition. I've never had any trouble finding cd's when I knew what I was looking for. Try some or all of the following: Luciano Berio, Thomas Ades, John Adams, John Corigliano, Richard Danielpour, Witold Lutoslawski, H. Dutilleaux, H.W. Henze, Henryk Gorecki, John Tavener, Giya Kancheli, E. Rautavaara, John Rutter, Toru Takemitsu, E.S. Tuur, Pierre Boulez, Peter Vasks.
I generally find the internet to be a much better way to locate classical music, especially modern, than searching locally. The Tower and Amazon URL's are pretty decent, and if you look, you can find a number of British and German internet sources that will have anything you can't find here (e.g. BOL). Also, review mags like Gramophone are great sources of commentary on modern recordings.
Rats, I left out Gyorgy Ligeti, speaking of chamber music.
While I basically agree with your list Flex, most of the modern composers you list compose music that is pretty small scale and simplistic in comparison with the masters.

There has been literally hundreds upon hundreds of "classical" composers over the last few centuries. Most have been long forgotten for the same reason.
Hey, DC-area radio pretty well sucks all the way around the dial, not just classical. Only a small number of decent shows on WPFW and WAMU, no really good rock or r&b stations, no college music-oriented stations of any kind, no all-jazz stations since WDCU folded. WRNR's version of the old-HFS "Homegrown Radio" is for the most part hugely disappointing. If you can get 91.5 from Baltimore, it's a better classical station. Or just record Jeff Esworthy's "Music Through The Night" on WETA latenights. Even AM lost "The Music of Your Life" WWDC of yore. Every major city I travel to reminds me that DC is the most boring and impoverished radio town imaginable. I know radio has gone way downhill everywhere, but most cities still manage to retain more regional radio identity than does DC. We're culturally aware here - what did we do to deserve this fate? I usually just listen to NPR and WAMU talk in addition to WTEM sportstalk.
Shubertmaniac, I take your thoughtful question very seriously and have no answers. Here nevertheless a couple of strewn remarks:

While I see Sugarbrie's point regarding "small scale" -- to Flex's list I would also add Krzysztof Penderecki and György Kurtág (say, String Quartets) --, I would suggest that some of the temporally short works, or even "studies", for ex., those of Anton Webern, Alban Berg, are the antithesis of much of (bad) pop music (all repetition, no information, little of interest going on, except reiteration of some groove with a hook): compression, concentration, difficulty. To be sure, many of these short works are, initially, not melodic, but that is not the point; they create their own rythmic and tonal structures against our natural expectations.*

Rather than the commercial purveyors of music -- or even radio --, I check in from time to time into the best-stocked university-town library I can find, or, better yet, a department of musicology (with literally archival tons of vinyl). Usually I arrive with some hand-scribbled notes which have been gathering dust over time on the proverbial back-burner and leave with even more freshly scribbled notes which I then use, among other things, to guide music acquisition. The process of discovery is a bit of a trial --one has to "make time" and be a bit systematic (however) -- but is invariably highly rewarding.
Although the Canadian wing of the Republican Party, called up here in Canada the Canadian Alliance, since the Refoooorm Party and its nasal leader did not fare too well in uniting the right (there is a God!) would rather see the American Way triumph and no public money ever going to culture, we can still rely on the CBC. Both the English and the French services actually produce radio worth listening to, although the French is far ahead insofar as serious music is concerned. Another reason to bask in Canadian culture. At least part of our tax dollars are well spent, I believe. Better than spending on WMDs and such... Maybe globalization will put an end to that damn socialist radio and all the great US hucksters will be able to invade the Canadian market and bring us sanitized everything... $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
What all of you are saying is correct, but my point, and maybe I did not state properly, is other than dedicated music companies that produce living composers music, how can
one hear and appreciate modern music, if the radio stations nor the symphonic orchestras will not play modern classical music? It is like going to a Museum of Music. It was not until Mendelsohnn (or was it Beethoven?) looked at the scores of Bach that composers seriously looked at past musical performances. And the cult of the conductor that developed from Mendelsohnn and after, created a situation in which the conductor only specialized in a certain dead composer. And perhaps on a societal-historical plane the decline of the subsidized artist to a free lance composer caused the decline of new music. Brahms catagorically stated he wrote for the masses, not for fine art, though I would beg to differ on the assessment of his work. Perhaps when the middle class, the conductors and the musical directors looked towards the past and not the hear and now, let alone the future, did classical music become a museum of the performing arts. And to the modern composers, they are subsidized again, either as professors at music schools or grants from the government. The exceptional few, are free lance. Just look at any textbook for Music 101. Three quarters of the book takes you to 1910. A few pages on modern classical music, the rest on jazz, blues, musicals, pop, and rock. Maybe that is what it should be, but then again maybe not. I guess it depends on your perspective of what you consider music as art. Of course what is a good definition of art?
The best solution for that is to move to NYC area with pretty good tuner and catch college radio stations such as WFMU(from Jersey City), WFUV, WBGO(Jazz88 from Newark).
Again, Shubie, your critique applies to a lot more than just classical. In fact, I would say it applies even more to rock than it does to classical, because I think rock has historically been more dependent on radio, and is the more radio-centric art form. As a result of the stifling national formatting and ownership situation in modern radio, as well as MTV and the like, rock has largely been deprived of the regionalism and independent label heritage that helped make it vital in the first place, and now industry execs wonder why sales are declining when their product is clearly homogenized and stagnant. Of course classical, including newer classical, has its own set of difficulties extending beyond radio and what applies to rock which uniquely handicap its continued viability and expansion compared to pop forms, but I'm not so sure that the radio situations are fundamentally very different between the two.
Shubertmaniac, you are right in many ways. But one reason modern classical has tanked so badly has been its excessively non-melodic intellectualized nature. Composition gets trapped in styles for periods of time and has to re-emerge in a form people enjoy listening to, not just analyzing. I think this has been correcting itself with composers like Adams, Rautavaara, Tavener, Ades, among others whose works actually do get a fair amount of performance in their respective countries.

Also, don't underestimate the lowly CD. It is a form of music distribution that has never existed before and it greatly improves the lot of struggling composers.
Soothing (schmutzy?) renditions of light classical music is probably good for your DC trafic situation. Imagine what it would be like if everyone, were listening to agitated, atonal, dissonant, non-melodic modern compositions as they swerve from lane to lane!
A question which emerges from your discussion: has the homogenization and stagnancy occurred because radio and public performance are no longer the ways in which music is heard? Is it possible that music via the cd has become the dominant form of music distribution?
To reiterate... buy or just borrow at the library all of John Williams' film soundtracks and you will discover hours upon hours of complex, melodic, and well orchestrated symphonic classical music. It is right there for anyone to listen to. Many in the classical crowd snub John solely because it was composed for movies.

John Williams has composed some straight classical that has been recorded. There is a cello concerto and other cello suites with Yo-Yo Ma that I've seen in the stores. I guess I should put my money where my mouth is and buy it.

Remember.. most of Leonard Berstein's music that is played regularly is concert versions of his show music. His "classical" music is mostly forgotten.

I highly recommend Christopher Rouse Symphony No.2 on Telarc (1994) Houston Symphony/Eschenbach. Also has a flute concerto and a small piece.

The list we have made of other modern composers is made up mostly of people connected with Universities, or groups that pay them whether they produce anything worth listening to or not. This is one reason most of it is bad. If they all had to compose music that would sell commerically or they'd starve to death, we would have more to listen to.

The most recent "dead" composer worth buying is Shostakovich who died in 1975. Now yes, he was in a socialist country, but he was under pressure to compose stuff Stalin liked, or lose his family and go to a work camp Siberia. Now that's motivation.
With any luck as hardware improves, bandwidth increases/becomes cheaper, more internat'l web radio stations will emerge better serving specialist niches, *,+,^ - doubtless, others will know of better sources
Rock died when Kurt Cobain died, he took the spirit of rock with him; JUST MY OPINION.

News: There have been nine Symphony orchestras that closed their doors this season. The lastest is the South Florida Symphony. The Average age of someone who subscribes to a
season for a symphony orchestra has risen from 52 in 1982 to 59 in 2002. Unless something dramatic happens within 25 years there will be only a dozen or so professional orchestras left. I do not think it is pricing, because it costs just as much to go see the Rolling Stones as it does
the Philadelphia Orchestra. In fact the local Newark,DE Symphony puts on a very reasonable production for very little cost. The kids are no longer exposed to classical music , old or otherwise. Music is no longer required in high school(because of budgets) or college (because of the de-emphasis of a liberal arts education). Maybe I should be thankful there is ANY classical music on the radio, bad or otherwise.

BTW: I just picked up two new CDs: Bechara El-Khoury, a Naxos production from their new series: 21st century composers. And Gyorgy Ligeti's string quartets, freely chromatic in the Bartok style.(Sony production).