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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: Longer broadcasts

December 12, 2005

Dear Michael:
Could you increase Pipe Dreams to 2 hours each week? 1 1/2 hours a week of organ music just isn’t enough.

There is a 1/2 hour program following Pipe Dreams on my PBS station (WSKG Binhghamaton NY) that is hosted by you, but another 1/2 hour of organ music in its place would be much better.
Paul E. Haiges
Brackney, Pennsylvania


Dear Paul:
For some folks, there can never be enough. For others, even a little is too much. As you scan the airwaves (radio and television), you’ll note a marked lack of organ music in the programming mix. It just isn’t there. Why? Because some people think that other people (a lot of other people?) don’t want to hear organ music. Why? I can’t find any really good scientific evidence, but that’s the state of the broadcast media. Organ music is a terrifying commodity.

So, the fact that PIPEDREAMS exists at all, has persisted against the odds since 1982, and continues to do well on the stations which carry it, is itself a miracle and a blessing. Industry trends being what they are (heading away from classical music of any sort), the fact that PIPEDREAMS has been able to maintain its 90-minute format for all these years is, simply, an amazing reality.

Some years ago, we had been encouraged to cut the show back to an hour’s duration. The expectation was that this would entice stations (for whom 90 minutes of organ music seemed beyond their imagining) to risk carrying the show. Also, it was thought that a 60-minute program might be more easily fit into a station’s blocked format where most programs are hour-long. This streamlining would also allow for easier automation, since many stations automate their weekend schedules.

Instead, we decided to add the optional non-organ 30-minute module.
Not all stations use this, though I wish they did, as it is really fine music. This was a compromise which did not press the ‘organ, organ all the time’ button and also made an easily-used, automation-friendly 2-hour package. This seems to have worked, as PIPEDREAMS carriage has held steady while some other classical programming has lost stations.

So, though it would be no problem for me to produce two hours of organ music (hey, I could do a two-hour daily program of organ music, there is that much material worth hearing), the likelihood is small that I will. It’s kind of a matter of not rocking the boat. But you never know.



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