Anyway, back to the show. And what follows is nothing especially substation -- just another one of my occasional personal bugaboo tales --
Between 7-8 in the morning, which is generally when I get up, the station started two features about 10-15 years ago. The first of these features, which comes on at 7:15 is the "Off to School" request selection. I wrote about it here at great length, so I will spare you and not repeat it all again. The very short version is that it's a perfectly fine idea in theory -- letting kids request a classical music selection in the morning -- but is dismal in practice. Not only because they eventually realized that not enough kids were requesting classical music, so they've had to expand the "Off to School" concept to the point of meaningless, by now allowing requests from just about anyone in the world who has children regardless of age or has grandchildren or students, or who knows someone who may have once been a child -- but also because when an actual child does request something, it's almost always a movie theme (which isn't classical music) and usually the theme from Harry Potter.
The other feature comes along around 7:45 in the morning, the Great Composer Quiz. Again, in theory it's a perfectly nice idea. The host who created the idea at least put in the time to come up with thoughtful clues before playing a piece of music by the Great Composer who you were supposed to guess. He was a bit overly-pedantic in presenting the quiz, making it seem Oh-So-Important ("...and so...who IS...today's -- GREAT...COMPOSER??!") but it was handled fine, and an okay guessing game.
When a new host came in, though, his heart was never in it. And worse, he didn't want to risk any listening not possibly missing the right answer, so it came across like he didn't try to come up with clues until five minutes before, and his clues would be things like, "Okay, today's Great Composer was German, and famous for writing operas like The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro, and a movie was made about his life that won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and he was considered a child prodigy who had a rival name Antonio Salieri and his name rhymed with "oat-zart." And here's a piece of music he wrote -- and would then play "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik." But what made it worst of all is that after all these clues, he'd say, "Okay, I think after all of that you should really be able to get it now!!" which not only is not the point of a quiz, but it only served to make listeners feel really terrible if after all those easy clues they couldn't guess it.
I only bring this up today because this morning they went from the ridiculous to the sublime There was a new host today -- I don't know if this is temporary or permanent, though she did a nice job -- and it doesn't seem like she has quite grasped the best way to handle the Great Composer Quiz yet. It was actually sort of funny. From "You will probably be able to guess this even if you have never listened to classical music in your life and accidentally just landed on this station today", we now are at "You probably won't be able to guess this unless you have a PhD in musical composition and a Ouija board."
I am not exaggerating today's Great Composer Quiz. The clues were basically -- "Today's composer was born in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. He only ate fish. He was a bachelor. And he was part of a group known as 'The Five.' So, who is today's Great Composer?" Okay, on three, all together, one -- two...wait, the looks on your faces suggest that those clues didn't help much. Not to worry, I'm not too big to admit I didn't have a clue either. But then I thought, well, maybe, the piece of music will ring a bell with me. No, it didn't. Not the slightest idea.
So, I waited to hear who the Great Composer was. I know there are a lot of well-regarded classical composers whose names I recognize, but don't know all that well. People like Scriabin, Monteverdi, Purcell, Donizetti, Messiaen, and such, composers I've heard of but know very little about and would have a hard time recognizing their music. Though I know that experts would know them well.
And so, who was today's Great Composer who likes fish, is a bachelor and was born in Nizhny Novgorod? It was none other than -- Mily Balakirev!!
And I hear the collective "Ahhhhhhhhh, of course!! It was Balakirev!" from all of you.
I suppose that KUSC will continue to run these features for a while -- probably a long while. And that's okay. At heart, the idea behind them is fine. And I am certain that there are many many who loooove the. Fair enough. (And fair enough, too, that there are those who don't.) It is just my fondest wish that if the station is going to have Fun Features that they actually figure out how to make them fun. And make them work properly. And not just be time fillers to seem clever and audience-involving when instead they handle them like afterthoughts.
Handel. Now, if that was the Great Composer, I might have been able to guess it...