Be quite, Classic FM!

Serious music snobs will wince, but when I'm driving I quite often tune to Classic FM. Okay they sometimes play opera, in which case I have to switch to another station, and they play far too much Mozart, but their 'bitty excerpts' approach is actually more suited to filling in on a 15 minute drive than Radio 3.

There are three classes of music they play that I genuinely enjoy:
  • My kinda music - Tudorbethan  church music, Bach, Stravinsky, Vaughan Williams... an eclectic enough taste to hit on occasionally
  • Nostalgia music - My father had very different musical tastes to me. I was brought up on a diet of the standard piano concertos, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky Korsakov, Mendelssohn - the romantic greats that were so popular back then. This isn't music I have on my iPod, but it brings all kinds of memories back
  • Genuine discoveries - I admit it's not very often (okay it has been twice), but occasionally they play something I don't know and really want to know. So far it has been Grieg's Holberg suite and the modern composer Eric Whitacre.
I say all this primarily to establish that I'm not one of those whiny people who moan all the time about Classic FM. But one thing about it really irritates me. Their announcers are too loud. Here's the thing. Serious music has much more dynamics - louds and softs - than popular beat combos. You want the louds to be LOUD and to be able to hear the quiet bits. So there I am, steaming up the A419 with Bach's exquisite Toccata and Fugue in D minor blasting out. This, I think, is why I quite like drum and bass. The bass on a good organ playing something with welly like this is stunning. But to play it at a sensible volume, when the announcer came on, he blasted out like a foghorn and deafened me. I had to drastically turn down the volume.

So get with the plot, Classic FM. Real classical music is not all quiet, peaceful and chilled. Sometimes it has to be played BLOODY LOUD. Please adjust the volume of your announcers accordingly.

Want to hear a bit of organ with welly? Turn up your sound for by far the best organist I know personally, John Keys, at work (you can find some recordings of his playing here):

1803. Bach - Toccata in D minor by brianclegg


  1. While you're at it, could you please figure out a way to listen to classical music on an iPod, especially on an airplane? The loud is too loud, the soft too soft, and how can you keep fiddling with the volume control from measure to measure? Drives me nuts. So that's my whinge for today,

  2. I may have an answer, Sue. The settings of a modern iPod have an option called Sound Check. This allegedly (I haven't tried it) irons out sound levels to avoid this problem. See for details.


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