KUSC-FM, Steve Reich, and the High Holidays

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Modernistfan
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KUSC-FM, Steve Reich, and the High Holidays

Post by Modernistfan » Sun Sep 29, 2019 8:13 pm

I almost hate to start another kerfuffle with KUSC-FM in Los Angeles, but I just sent the following message to the station:
In your "Modern Times" segment of September 28, 2019, I was extremely interested that you were to feature the music of Steve Reich, as I am a big fan of his music. However, I was very disappointed that only three selections by that composer were played, and one of those was a very dubious pop-oriented remix of some of his music. I was even more disappointed that you could not find fit to play one of his Jewish-themed works such as "Tehillim" or "Different Trains" with the Jewish High Holidays approaching. I was even more disappointed that there was nothing relating to the Jewish High Holidays on "Soul Music" on Sunday, September 29, and nothing relating to the High Holidays on the rest of your programming for that day. You must certainly realize that your major listening area, the Los Angeles metropolitan area, has the second-largest Jewish population in the country, behind only New York, and it seems incredible that you have seemingly taken the position that nearly all works with Jewish themes or relating to the Holocaust are deemed unplayable on your station. (Some other examples are the Shostakovich First Violin Concerto, First Cello Concerto, and Second Piano Trio (these works are actually quite popular and have been recorded quite frequently); there are many other works by both Jewish and non-Jewish composers that fall into these categories. You owe your listeners, particularly but not exclusively your Jewish listeners, an apology, an explanation, and a change of your policy if these omissions and exclusions are not merely an oversight and actually represent a policy that is clearly set forth by your station. (Please do not point to playing of works by Gershwin and Copeland as a reply; the former did not write any Jewish-themed works at all, while the latter wrote only one such work, the chamber work "Vitebsk" (titled after the area in Russia (now Belarus) where his family originated); you do not play that work either.)
I shall post any response, but it seems that some explanation is called for here. The best estimate of the Jewish population in the Los Angeles area is about 550,000 to 600,000, with perhaps another 100,000 in neighboring San Diego, and that community is known as a relatively strong supporter of culture and the arts, including classical music.

diegobueno
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Re: KUSC-FM, Steve Reich, and the High Holidays

Post by diegobueno » Thu Oct 03, 2019 1:49 pm

They'll probably ignore you, but it's a fight worth fighting. They should play Tehillim no matter what time of year it is.

Modernistfan
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Re: KUSC-FM, Steve Reich, and the High Holidays

Post by Modernistfan » Thu Oct 03, 2019 8:56 pm

Yes, they should play "Tehillim," but they won't. I have not gotten an answer from the station as yet. On Monday, they did mention Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and did play a couple of very trivial items: "Omer Tantz" by Henri Oppenheim (who?) on an album on Chandos with Kleztory and I Musici de Montreal, presumably some sort of a transcription of a klezmer piece, and a transcription of the traditional Yiddish song "Raisins and Almonds" played by Yitzchak Perlman with the Israel Philharmonic. These two selections lasted all of a total of about 8 minutes. By contrast, Channel 76, the classical channel on Sirius XM, played the Shostakovich Thirteenth Symphony, "Babi Yar," on Monday. That is the kind of stuff that KUSC should be playing. They have not bothered to play the new recording of Weinberg on Deutsche Grammophon with Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, even on Jim Svejda's evening program (that record got rave reviews all around).
If I ever get an answer from the station, I shall post it.
By the way, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla has another record coming out in about a month on Deutsche Grammophon with music by Raminta Šerkšnytė (I cheated and copied all those Lithuanian diacritical marks from a previous post of mine).

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Re: KUSC-FM, Steve Reich, and the High Holidays

Post by Lance » Thu Oct 03, 2019 10:42 pm

There are some wonderful recordings by clarinetist Giora Feidman, one called Yiddish Soul. I featured many of his recordings - exclusively on Fiedman - on my radio broadcasts and had many comments about his music-making. Surely KUSC-FM must have some of his recordings, which are many on Sony, Plane, Koch, Warner Special, Delos, Membran/Intense and World Network. His wife, Ora Bat Chaim, has created lyrics for some of the pieces he has recorded. Wonderful material.
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Modernistfan
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Re: KUSC-FM, Steve Reich, and the High Holidays

Post by Modernistfan » Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:03 pm

Well, I finally got a reply from one Mark Steinmetz, described as VP of Content, USC Radio Group. The reply is as follows:
Dear Mr. [redacted],

Thank you for taking the time to write us with your concerns regarding Alan Chapman’s Modern Times broadcast. Your opinions and concern matter to us.

Each week Alan programs a mix of contemporary music and sometimes uses a particular date as a hook for that programming. In the case of September 28th, Alan curated a program to celebrate Steve Reich’s birthday. That was the focus. I’m sorry you felt that three pieces weren’t enough and the pieces chosen weren’t the pieces you felt were appropriate. It’s hard for Alan’s programming, or any of our host’s programming choices, to please each and every listener. Alan has programmed Different Trains in other programs.

Your point around reflecting music for Jewish High Holidays is well taken. While John Van Driel did acknowledge Yom Kippur on the morning show, and a piece of music was programmed in the afternoon drive with acknowledgement, we could have done better. Normally, we reflect some music on the High Holidays. Brian Lauritzen, for example, will play psalm settings by Salamone Rossi and Judith Shatin (sung in Hebrew). I will circle back with the programmers and hosts to make sure these holidays are reflected better moving forward.

Thank you again for sharing your concerns.
Well, this is about what I expected. Some additional facts are worth noting: Firstly, Mr. Lauritzen did not play anything related to Yom Kippur, including anything by Salamone Rossi or Judith Shatin, on the "Soul Music" program on Sunday, October 6. Secondly, Mr. Van Driel did not acknowledge Yom Kippur on today's morning show, and played nothing relevant to the holiday, not even Max Bruch's "Kol Nidre," a work for cello and orchestra (also performed by cello and piano), which has been recorded by just about every major cellist over the last century (Arkiv Music lists 79 recorded versions of the work). Up to now (about 6:00 p.m. on the west coast), nothing relevant has been played. The station has what they call "Car Tunes" between about 5:00 p.m. and 5:20 p.m. on weekdays, where they play what is described as calming, reflective music. That would have been a great spot for "Kol Nidre," but no dice. The answer did not even address the issue of the failure to play works such as the Shostakovich Jewish-themed works (the original email mentioned the First Violin Concerto, the First Cello Concerto, and the Second Piano Trio, and there are many others, including the Thirteenth Symphony ("Babi Yar")).
Also, it is true that, some years ago, the work by Steve Reich, "Different Trains," had been played on the station, this has not happened in years. If anything relevant is played today or tomorrow, I shall provide further updates (for those who religiously observe the holiday, it ends at sunset tomorrow), but I am not optimistic. If there is no acknowledgement or relevant program, I shall provide a reply to Mr. Steinmetz.

Modernistfan
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Re: KUSC-FM, Steve Reich, and the High Holidays

Post by Modernistfan » Tue Oct 08, 2019 10:04 pm

Well, they did play a very brief selection (about 3 minutes) by the Italian Jewish early baroque composer Salamone Rossi entitled "Adon Olam," a prayer that normally closes the service, at roughly 6:30 p.m. Rossi wrote Jewish liturgical music basically in the style of Monteverdi. Better than nothing, but there is still the issue of what happened to more recent Jewish-themed music, such as the Shostakovich pieces I referred to in my original email to the station; there is no sign that those works are to be played.

Modernistfan
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Re: KUSC-FM, Steve Reich, and the High Holidays

Post by Modernistfan » Wed Oct 09, 2019 5:27 pm

Well, they did mention the holiday today and did play a few additional selections, namely: another short work by Salamone Rossi entitled "Al Naharot Bavel' (By the Waters of Babylon), one movement of Ernest Bloch's work "From Jewish Life," and a brief choral work by the contemporary American composer Judith Shatin, "Adonai Roi" (The Lord is My Shepherd), from Psalm 23. I do have to give them some credit, though, for seemingly responding to criticism.

The real issue, though, is the more recent works with Jewish (or even seemingly Jewish) themes that I had mentioned. Unbelievably, one of the works that is off the playlist is the suite from Rimsky-Korsakov's opera "Zolotoy Petushok" (The Golden Cockerel"). As I have stated previously, there are sections in this that definitely sound like they were influenced by klezmer music, not all that surprising, given that Rimsky-Korsakov, despite his aristocratic Russian background, absolutely loathed Russian anti-Semitism, took all possible measures to thwart it, strongly encouraged Jewish composers, and had a significant number of Jewish composition students at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, many of whom, I am sure, had at least some acquaintance with klezmer music (I would include the Gnessins and Maximilian Steinberg in this category). In fact, Rimsky-Korsakov himself, in his memoirs, stated that he had, as a youth, heard what he described as a traveling Jewish troupe of musicians, and that they had made quite an impression on him. Although, of course, he did not use the term "klezmer," given the location and the period (probably the 1850's), those musicians had to have been klezmer musicians.

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Re: KUSC-FM, Steve Reich, and the High Holidays

Post by Lance » Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:56 am

Congratulations! You seem to be making some headway. I hope it continues. The wheel that squeaks the most - gets the grease! Very interesting comments about Rimsky-Korsakov.
Modernistfan wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 5:27 pm
Well, they did mention the holiday today and did play a few additional selections, namely: another short work by Salamone Rossi entitled "Al Naharot Bavel' (By the Waters of Babylon), one movement of Ernest Bloch's work "From Jewish Life," and a brief choral work by the contemporary American composer Judith Shatin, "Adonai Roi" (The Lord is My Shepherd), from Psalm 23. I do have to give them some credit, though, for seemingly responding to criticism.

The real issue, though, is the more recent works with Jewish (or even seemingly Jewish) themes that I had mentioned. Unbelievably, one of the works that is off the playlist is the suite from Rimsky-Korsakov's opera "Zolotoy Petushok" (The Golden Cockerel"). As I have stated previously, there are sections in this that definitely sound like they were influenced by klezmer music, not all that surprising, given that Rimsky-Korsakov, despite his aristocratic Russian background, absolutely loathed Russian anti-Semitism, took all possible measures to thwart it, strongly encouraged Jewish composers, and had a significant number of Jewish composition students at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, many of whom, I am sure, had at least some acquaintance with klezmer music (I would include the Gnessins and Maximilian Steinberg in this category). In fact, Rimsky-Korsakov himself, in his memoirs, stated that he had, as a youth, heard what he described as a traveling Jewish troupe of musicians, and that they had made quite an impression on him. Although, of course, he did not use the term "klezmer," given the location and the period (probably the 1850's), those musicians had to have been klezmer musicians.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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barney
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Re: KUSC-FM, Steve Reich, and the High Holidays

Post by barney » Thu Oct 10, 2019 4:39 pm

Lance wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:56 am
Congratulations! You seem to be making some headway. I hope it continues. The wheel that squeaks the most - gets the grease! Very interesting comments about Rimsky-Korsakov.
Modernistfan wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 5:27 pm
Well, they did mention the holiday today and did play a few additional selections, namely: another short work by Salamone Rossi entitled "Al Naharot Bavel' (By the Waters of Babylon), one movement of Ernest Bloch's work "From Jewish Life," and a brief choral work by the contemporary American composer Judith Shatin, "Adonai Roi" (The Lord is My Shepherd), from Psalm 23. I do have to give them some credit, though, for seemingly responding to criticism.

The real issue, though, is the more recent works with Jewish (or even seemingly Jewish) themes that I had mentioned. Unbelievably, one of the works that is off the playlist is the suite from Rimsky-Korsakov's opera "Zolotoy Petushok" (The Golden Cockerel"). As I have stated previously, there are sections in this that definitely sound like they were influenced by klezmer music, not all that surprising, given that Rimsky-Korsakov, despite his aristocratic Russian background, absolutely loathed Russian anti-Semitism, took all possible measures to thwart it, strongly encouraged Jewish composers, and had a significant number of Jewish composition students at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, many of whom, I am sure, had at least some acquaintance with klezmer music (I would include the Gnessins and Maximilian Steinberg in this category). In fact, Rimsky-Korsakov himself, in his memoirs, stated that he had, as a youth, heard what he described as a traveling Jewish troupe of musicians, and that they had made quite an impression on him. Although, of course, he did not use the term "klezmer," given the location and the period (probably the 1850's), those musicians had to have been klezmer musicians.
Yes, I too did not know that about Rimsky-Korsakov. I'd like to know more.

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