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Anyone who knows me will tell you that of all the cultural
institutions I love, including my alma mater (boola-boola),
the absolute closest to my heart is WFMT.
I think it is simply the best classical music station in the
United States. I'd almost go as far as saying that given
today's cultural climate, it's the best possible classical
radio station. It's one of the glories of Chicago and a
real gift from the heartland to the cultural capitals of
America on the Coasts.
The New York Philharmonic is syndicated nationally
thanks to WFMT. Same with the Los Angeles Opera
and the San Francisco Opera. It plays a very
generous selection of vocal music - a form of music
banned from most classical stations in this country
apart from the weekly Metropolitan Opera Broadcast
on some stations - and FMT plays more opera than
anyone else, at least two complete operas per week.
The station plays contemporary music with a fearlessness
otherwise unknown in the halls of classical music. I'm
certain when I finally get to hear the music of Natasha
Bogojevich, America's most underrated composer, on
the radio, it will be at 98.7 here in Chicago.
If you've never heard the station, I urge to start listening
now. Still when fundraising time rolls around, I can
barely endure the endless stream of self-congratulatory
talk which is evidently necessary to keep WFMT on the
air at the high standard to which we listeners have
My point is not to criticize FMT but to bemoan the
culture which makes it necessary to wallow in verbal
self-admiration in order to survive. I recognize all
this verbiage is necessary, and I do give; but the better
part of my nature wishes the station could at least
acknowledge the corrupting influence such necessary
self-promotion subtly but inevitably exerts.
Don't let me overstate the case. It's not that in fund
raising, as in war, the first casualty is the truth; it's
instead the loss of a balanced view. The announcers
can't admit there are times the same music gets played
too much or that certain local symphonies which they
play don't really merit the attention.
We can no longer talk of ourselves as we really are,
because we are taught that if we don't promote ourselves,
who else can we expect to do it. Self-doubt doesn't sell,
and selling has become the business of life.
The question is do we really want our relationships with
others to be reduced to constant selling in which each
tries to get the other to buy. For the sake of having a
buyer for ourselves, we agree to play the buyer for the
other. It's a diminished world we live in, but it's our
world, so start promoting - just realize the price extracted.