Friday, January 23, 2015

Your ABC and the dreaded Cucumber Sandwiches Brigade

I've been listening to a lot of ABC Classic FM lately. (Though perhaps 'listening' is the wrong word; no single word seems to encompass the rich diapason of experience that is 'turning on the radio to perhaps listen to a piece or two, and then forgetting about it, and then doing other things and remembering the radio is on, and then not bothering to turn it off).

Anyway, each radio station has their own presentation style, as I learnt to my frequent annoyance during my seven and a bit years at the place of old employ. Some stations have as few presenters as possible, and will probably replace their existing staff with digital voices as soon as the artifical voice technology is up to scratch (thus making the experience of listening to them indistinguishable from the experience of dialing up a multinational company and being put on hold for three hours). Some stations have the newsreader read a few cursory announcements about road accidents, and such, over a persistent 'doof doof doof' beat, which can't be good for the anxiety levels of those listening to it. At the ABC's sister station, Triple J, the newsreaders persistently and insistently colloquialise the normal newsreading style - abbreviating every word they can, throwing in lazy youth culture phrases, so: "The Prime Minister's said he's not cool with that" - in a manner that is more irritatingly formal than any old-school BBC-style newsreader. In short, each have their own ways of infuriating the listener (if they are actually listening, and they may not be - see my first parenthesis, above).

But ABC Classic FM would have to be the most bizarre of them all. Announcements are made in the manner of regretful sighs and languid coos; orchestral harpists are given the afternoon shows and when they speak they actually sound like harps. (Walter Pater said "All art aspires to the condition of music" but this is ridiculous.) I remember there was actually one point when they started playing bird song in the morning; could the point where they discover whale song actually be far off? Occasionally they have an 'ABC is your emergency services broadcaster' announcement, and when they do this they have lovely piano arpeggios over soothing homophonies: I know it would be wrong for them to try out the Lance-Corporal Jack Jones' line "Don't panic! DON'T PANIC!", but honestly, this way they make imminent catastrophe sound like a garden party.

I suppose at some point in the distant past, some ABC Classic FM programmer made the fatal decision that this is what the station would all be about: niceness, somnolence, calm, the aural equivalent of cucumber sandwiches and Pimms. Which, you know, isn't that bad a thing, but when it comes to a musical tradition that contains duellists, murderers, and revolutionaries, doesn't seem entirely appropriate.

So I suppose that means I should turn the radio off then.... and I will.... in a bit....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I concur with your thoughts good sir, and find the 'cucumber sandwichisation'
of ABC Classic FM pretty self evident. On my native shores of Albion I have found the same sorts of cucumber sandwichisation of BBC Radio 3, where once there was sagacious silence with a most Pateresque I found words, blasted words. Too much talk. I do however enjoy 3 MBS in Melbourne - a station of sturdy souls who are not afraid to make many an entertaining gaffe.

yours wonderingly,

Piebald Thwaite-Thwingston

Email: timhtrain - at -

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