The Ambiguity of Excerpting

A Programming Dilemma

Monday, August 29, 2011

As we take all the generous musical suggestions you've provided and strive to channel them into a cohesive, fluid stream of music for the 9/11 weekend, we acknowledge a complicated, but inevitable, decision. We have an idea how to proceed; however, we want to hear your thoughts as to the most appropriate, respectful course of action.

Every day, as programmers for Q2, we're forced to make uneasy decisions when it comes to excerpting pieces. From epic oratorios to multiple CD song cycles, we take the integrity of a composer's vision, no matter how ambitious in length, seriously — and ideally, we wouldn’t interfere. At the same time, we work within our understanding of the realities of the medium: internet radio. We know that not every vibrant, innovative piece (or passage therein) is radio-friendly; that, over the course of one piece, musical texture can shift dramatically; that listener time is precious.

Normally, we side in favor of keeping the piece intact. On the other hand, The Requiem Project presents an exception. Here the emphasis could be not as much on the individual pieces themselves, but on the quiet communion that exists when the specifics of tradition, nationality, era and religion co-mingle and overlap. Seen from afar, you'd have an almost pointillistic array of voices that address mourning and consolation.

This leads us to our dilemma: to excerpt or not to excerpt. Is it better to play the whole piece, even if more rarely, than to excerpt a portion, where it will get more overall spins?

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Comments [3]

Lynn Merklinger from Little Neck

I think that excerpting will allow for greater flexibility in executing this monumental project. I think the more frequent spins will also be appreciated, as a selection may be missed the first time around. The listenener response has been tremendous. Thank-you WQXR for helping New Yorkers get through this difficult time.

Sep. 02 2011 11:24 AM

I'm with Roz in London on this, although in almost any other setting I'd hold the line. Not only are the occasion and intent quite exquisitely unique, but Q2 simply has nothing to prove in terms of respect for its music and our artists. If excerpting can create what Alex so eloquently describes as "an almost pointillistic array of voices that address mourning and consolation," then surely this is the time to endorse it. And to say thank you for bringing it to the New Music Army so graciously.
Permission granted. :-)

Sep. 01 2011 08:43 PM
Roz Morris from London, UK

I approve of your policy to keep pieces as the composer intended, but think that on such an occasion you could be forgived for excerpting. The day's programming is more like a memorial service, where pieces would be chosen for an overall purpose, than about the pieces themselves.

Sep. 01 2011 08:22 PM

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