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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Meaningless music…?”

December 8, 2014

Dear Michael,

What happened to the Sunday Pipe Dream program?
Where are those magnificent classical works for a magnificent musical instrument? I only hear superficial and meaningless works. I am disappointed almost every Sunday. There must be a following for that "music" Good luck with them.


Peter Beste


I'm not sure how best to respond to you, as you do not specify which magnificent classical works you find lacking.  The pipe organ, with its immense history (repertoire reaching from the 15th century to tomorrow) is more interesting than just the 'magnificent classical' repertoire (though I do not deny the excellence of the music of Bach or Franck).  PIPEDREAMS has always tried to 'do it all'…and I expect that the composers whose music you seem not much interested in…such as Langlais, Wagner, Walther, Walcha, Sowerby, Sierra, Phillips, Paulus, Strauss, Tunder, Olsson, Rameau, Guilmant, etc.) would be saddened by your description of them as 'superficial and meaningless'.

Meaning in music does not exist without an attentive listener.  There is no more, or less, meaning in a Bach fugue than in a march by Eric Coates or a partita by (Bach's cousin) Johann Gottfried Walther.  Some composers/styles may trigger more or less response in us as individuals, but I guarantee you that 99.9% of the music that is included on PIPEDREAMS passes the 'sniff test' for quality.  The four Thanksgiving & Harvest hymn-preludes by Norberto Guinaldo are composed with the same thoughtful care as the chorale-preludes of Bach and can be appreciated as 'quality goods' even if they stand in his shadow.

I'd encourage you to be patient…the coming week's program of Advent Music includes a healthy dose of Bach at the end of the first hour, and the audio for this should be live online by midday:  http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/listings/2014/1449

Use the search-bar in the PIPEDREAMS website to take advantage of the PIPEDREAMS archive to go back and listen to programs with more 'magnificent classical works':

Buxtehude:  http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/listings/2014/1433
Bach:  http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/listings/2014/1429
Franck:  http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/listings/1996/9602

But thanks for your patience…tuning in every week, despite your disappointments.  I expect that eventually, you'll find some music that suites you, and perhaps becomes more patient with and interested in that which, as present, doesn't.

Best wishes,




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