E pluribus unum refers to thirteen colonies peacefully becoming a single nation. But it applies to Philadelphia in a different sense. Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods.
Art in Philadelphia
The history of art, particularly painting and sculpture, has been a long and distinguished one. If you add in the art schools, the Philadelphia national influence on artists has been a dominant one.
Quakers never cared much for music, but the city has nonetheless musically flourished into international fame. At the same time, quarrels and internal battles have also been world class.
The Philadelphia Media
The Philadelphia Media
Culture and Traditions (2)
Right Angle Club 2008
A report, to the year 2008 shareholders of the Right Angle Club of Philadelphia, by the outgoing president, Neale Bringhurst...
George IV and Computers(1)
I got him into computers around 1960. He soon far surpassed me.
Susan Lewis recently entertained the Right Angle Club with a description of her life as the scriptwriter for WRTI, the local classical music station. WRTI could be described as one of three local affiliates of National Public Radio, the network content provider headquartered in Washington DC. The other two are WHYY, a talk station, and WXPN, the University of Pennsylvania station devoted to folk, rock, blues and root music. Another way of describing WRTI is that it took over the role formerly served by WFLN before it was sold, incorporating it into Temple University's jazz station. It plays classical music from 6AM to 6PM, and then plays jazz in the evening. Philadelphia thus really only has half a classical music station, when most cities who are home to a major orchestra have at least two. It is not clear whether this anomaly is a comment on the local radio climate or the future of its musical one.
|Philadelphia Opera House|
The question came up as to just what is classical music since there are turf boundaries for the affiliates of National Public Radio. Susan Lewis, who has the surprising background of being a former corporate lawyer has apparently given this some thought. She offers the opinion that classical music overwhelmingly consists of music with multiple performers. Orchestras, opera, chorales, and chamber music characterize the topic more than pre-contemporary origins. A brand new symphony would naturally fall into the classical music category, while songs by Frank Sinatra would not, even though excited announcers might call his songs classics. Following this theme, classical music seems to fit with jazz, which consists of several soloists working on variants of a common theme. The sad question thus comes up whether Philadelphia's declining interest in classical music might in some way reflect social fragmentation within a metropolitan community which historically has highly valued cooperation and consensus. One hopes that's not the case.
Playing a succession of recorded musical selections sounds as though it would be a low-budget operation, but WRTI costs $3.6 million to run, annually. The scriptwriter gets up early, reads the day's artistic news and events, and some auto traffic reports, and records one-minute vocal interludes between the pieces of music. About once a week, a special seven-minute segment is assembled from excerpts from interviews or interludes relating to a theme in the artistic world. One taped recording of carillon music and commentary proved to be quite charming and entertaining, including the news that the carillon in Holy Trinity Church is the oldest in America. Since a bell is a variant of a tuning fork, the bells of a carillon chime with a very long period of decay, creating a problem for both composer and performer to avoid successive notes which conflict unless there is a long pause. These magazine-like pieces of hers are always organized around a main emotional "hook" of some sort, and Susan finds they are very time-consuming to assemble. That leads to a constant succession of inflexible deadlines, just like lawyers' briefs before a legal deadline, generating an excitement strangely exhilarating to the participant, and highly mystifying to outsiders.
As the central focus for dozens of emails and text messages about the goings-on of the local artistic world, the job of town gossip for the art world is an ego trip only suitable for a person who revels, with affection, in the endless wealth of art and anecdote in Philadelphia. As bloggers also know, this job constantly surfaces interesting news tidbits that surprise and please many people. Like the fact that William Penn's hat on top of City Hall is filled with graffiti. Or that a secret colony of Lenni Lenape Indians still exists in town. Or that the forthcoming HP radio standard produces outstandingly high quality.
Ms. Lewis is an asset to our town.
Originally published: Friday, October 03, 2008; most-recently modified: Wednesday, August 07, 2019