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SCOTT MACLARTY’S REsponse (The Mail, 3/24) to Washington City Paper‘s support for the Gingrich-ization of public radio (“Real Things Considered,” The District Line, 3/17) says almost all that is needed. But one footnote. Commercial radio WGMS actually used to be a decent classical music station, in spite of its penchant for the highbrow version of Top 40, and of the related fact that its politics are even further to the right than your paper’s.
Of course the point of programming what your article thinks is “the best of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries” is to ritualize the culture of the dead white male. But at one time, WGMS’s schedule was ameliorated by delayed broadcasts of world-class live concerts by ensembles like the Chicago Symphony. A typical program not only offered an interpretation which could remind you that Beethoven was after all a revolutionary. It would regularly include at least one nonstandard as well, often a cutting-edge piece by a contemporary composer like Ned Rorem or William Bolcom.
However, these days you hear very little “live” (really live or delayed broadcast) music on either WGMS or public station WETA. Evidently, the corporations that used to underwrite such programming have decided to stop, which does not sound auspicious for the theory that public radio can still prosper if privatized.