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Cue Sheet – December 2010

HOW I SPENT MY NON-VACATION

Sorry about the paucity of blog entries recently. Besides my usual radio duties, a lot of other distractions have pelted me this month: about 500 reviews and features arrived for me to edit for Fanfare magazine; I'm serving as dramaturge for Arizona Onstage Production's forthcoming version of Master Class, in which Maria Callas, haunted by her past, makes life hell for some vocal students; I'm one of the actors involved in this weekend's Antonio Vivaldi show, written by Harry Clark and presented by Chamber Music Plus (I'm typecast as a know-it-all); and I've had a general technology meltdown this month--dead computer printer (retired), declining audio-video receiver (replaced), unreliable "classic" car (finally replaced with a new hybrid), spontaneously rebooting Kindle (fixed by taking it out of its official Kindle case, which causes the unit to short out).

The next thing I have to do is get ready for a little talk in Green Valley, and then prepare for my next meeting with the participants in Arizona Theatre Company's teen critics program, for which I'm a mentor. On the subject of criticism, blogger Lisa Hirsch offers this interesting item about what separates real criticism from a mere personal essay.

quodlibet,

CLASSICAL MUSIC VS. MARKETING

Please read a fascinating post on Google Trends from the always intelligent blog On an Overgrown Path. If you're short of time in the rush toward Christmas, here's the main point from the bottom of the post:

Could it be that classical music does not respond to mass marketing techniques? Could it be that because classical music predates the mass media it speaks a language that does not translate into the argot of today's social media? Could it be that, to borrow a term from economics, classical music is mass marketing inelastic? - meaning it only shows a very limited response to mass marketing techniques?
Classical Music,

ACCURACY?

While I'm on the subject of how we could get along without NPR, here's a reason I wouldn't miss its top-of-the-hour newscasts: sloppy short-hand reporting. The current example is how it is repeatedly claimed, by sources and newscasters alike, that the Democrats' tax relief plan would retain tax cuts only for people who make up to $250,000. The truth is that the cuts would affect the first $250,000 of everyone's income, including people who make millions a year. So it isn't that the wealthy would be denied tax relief; they'd merely get exactly what everybody else gets. Reporting it otherwise is sloppy and misleading.

radio-life,

DEATHKNELLS AGAIN

Every time a minority of Congressional reactionaries begins to demand defunding of public broadcasting (or the NEA, or whatever other culturally uplifting organization has offended them), gloomy articles like this appear throughout the media. Hand-wringing ensues. After more posturing than debate, funding is eventually maintained at or near the previous level.

But, speaking as someone involved in both public broadcasting and nonprofit arts groups, I think it might be a good idea for Congress to end its annual appropriations for these endeavors.

First of all, when the government provides money for news and arts programs on a continuing basis, and then takes away (or threatens to take away) that money specifically because some news or arts programming has offended somebody in power, that's a form of censorship. On the other hand, the government has every right to manipulate its own budget as it sees fit. So wouldn't we all feel a little more secure if the government weren't involved at all in broadcasting and the arts? If there were no government funding, there would be no government pressure to produce (or avoid) certain kinds of programming, short of throwing dissident artists and crusading journalists in jail--and we haven't quite reached that point yet, although Julian Assange may have a differing opinion.

In the arts world, funding from the NEA or state and local agencies like the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Tucson Pima Arts Council has declined to the point that, for many groups, the time wasted on writing grant applications that result in little or no money would be better spent fundraising elsewhere. As for dollars that reach local public stations from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is what Congress actually funds (money does not go directly from Congress to NPR or PBS), yes, that does certainly help with program acquisition and equipment upgrades, but I doubt that any stations would go off the air if the CPB vanished. Local funding sources have, wisely, been diversified over the years; at Arizona Public Media, money comes from the state (via the University of Arizona), business underwriters, personal bequests, and people like you who participate in the periodic pledge drives. Losing CPB funding would hurt, but it would not be fatal.

But what if Congress managed to choke out not just the CPB, but by extension the networks PBS and NPR? That wouldn't make one bit of difference to KUAT-FM, because all we take from NPR are a few newscasts that we could replace with content from the BBC World Service (which we used in the past) or elsewhere. It would be a significant hit to KUAZ, which devotes big chunks of the day to NPR programs like Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation and All Things Considered. On the other hand, a lot of KUAZ's other programming comes from other sources. So while it might lose its two flagship shows, it could obtain replacement content from elsewhere (and you know that syndicators would rush to offer replacement programs if Morning Edition and ATC went away, probably even hiring a lot of those shows' staffers).

Losing PBS would have been the death knell for KUAT-TV a few years ago, and even today it would be a severe blow, but not a fatal one. Our TV folks are working on plans to develop a solid schedule of local programming coupled with material from other sources just in case PBS does go away, either because it is defunded or because it sheds its local stations and becomes a cable-only channel.

Without federal funding, my employer and, to a much lesser extent my two arts organizations might hurt for awhile, but they would soon recover--and, perhaps, be better for the lack of federal interference.

radio-life,

DRESS

One of the winners of this week's ballet ticket give-aways asked me something I haven't thought about for a long time: How do people dress to go to the ballet?

I told her: However they want, and however they feel comfortable. It's been so long since there was any sort of dress code for arts events--if there ever was one in Tucson--that I never give any thought to the diversity of dress in the typical audience at the TCC Music Hall or Leo Rich Theater or Centennial Hall. Occasionally you'll see a guy in a tux, but that's usually some board members on his way to or from the organization's fancy private event. Fewer and fewer men dress as I do, in jacket and tie for most things at the bigger venues (but not at the little come-as-you-are theaters); most of them show up in what they wear to work, and Tucson is not a necktie town. Women tend to take greater advantage of opportunities to dress up, and my wife, for one, will happily overdress for anything. But there's no real standard.

Interestingly, I've never seen young people (basically, college-age) dressed at all inappropriately for a performance. It's only a few middle-aged and older guys who on occasion dare to go to the ballet in outfits more appropriate for the homeless shelter or the "before" photos for a weight-loss program. That's a problem either with too little self-esteem, or so much self-esteem that they feel free to gross out everyone around them.

So, whether it's The Nutcracker (where the little girls tend to wear much fancier dresses than their moms or grandmothers) or the opera or symphony or Arizona Theatre Company, you can wear whatever makes you feel comfortable in public. There's no such thing as not having the right clothes for these events. The important thing is that you just go out and get cultured.

tucson-arts,

About Cue Sheet

James Reel's cranky consideration of the fine arts and public radio in Tucson and beyond.