Friday, March 14, 2008

The Schickele Mix

Schickele Mix was a radio program of mostly classical music distributed by Public Radio International. Note the caveat "mostly. Host Peter Schickele was trying to show the musical commonalities between pop music and classical. So while the mainstay of a program might be Strauss and Schubert he will bring it forward in time by relating it to Fats Domino's rendition of Bluebery Hill, and a little Fats Waller.

It seems like a stretch but Peter was so knowledgeable as a musical technician and historian that he milked that theme for 169 episodes over 15 years. He studied under Composer Roy Harris at Swarthmore and was a graduate of Julliard with an MS in composition. he wrote over a hundred works for orchestra, choral and chamber ensemble. He's still active today both writing and touring as a conductor, as part of the trio Open Window and as his alter ego P.D.Q. Bach.

The first episode of Schickele Mix began airing in 1992. If you look at the playlists of these early programs they were mostly classical and post classical artists. But even as early as the second episode he was comparing Chopin to Coltrane. He slowly phased in the modern artists transitioning slowly to pop music through John cage and Phillip Glass eventually into the Beatles by May of that year. Over time his comparisons became more daring comparing Schubert to Spike Jones or showcasing the use of the accordion in an orchestra... it was a show dedicated to truly arcane musical ideas. In 1993 the program won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award and the Gold Award for Programming Excellence from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for Programming Excellence.

but the program was maybe too daring. It lived off of Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPA) funding. The idea of CPA funding is that it be replaced gradually by private grant money. That never happened. Funding crapped out in the mid 1990s. But PRI kept distributing the old programs for years only stopping in June of 2007 after 810 weekly broadcasts. Thought it appears that some stations like KANW have managed to archive the program and have devoutly kept it in reruns.