Monday, May 17, 2010

* Long Live Lurtsema's Heresy

Robert J. Lurtsema, 1931-2000

A Heart Attacked

After 25 years of listening daily to All Things Considered on National Public Radio, I stopped listening, cold turkey about two years ago. The daily drone of news got to be irritating, as if the world, like the tree falling in the forest, needed to be OBSERVED (REPORTED) in order to rotate, fornicate, populate, expostulate, and degenerate.

In fact, the world kept doing all those things without the help of my verifying eyes (or ears, in the case of radio).

The news didn't need me, and, I found, I didn't need it.

In fact, I came to realize that All Things Considered existed in exact proportion to the amount of time alotted to it. If there was more news that day, it got hacked off at exactly the 2 hour point, whereupon a taperecording of the first two hours was re-played to latecomers. If there was less news, than many dubious "features" suddenly reared their head to be admired by the listening public.

One of the refreshing moments in the history of electronic news happened on a classical music program 25 years ago called Morning Pro-Musica (1971-2000) hosted by the golden throated Robert J. Lurtsema, who knew a great deal about classical music, which he loved, and also knew how to shape words into relaxing sentences, graceful verbal preludes and exeunts, if you will.

Lurtsema, whose calm and elegant voice garnered a vast following in the tumultuous and cacophonous 70's and 80's, had refused to interrupt his program (and a classical piece of music) on "the hour" in order to accommodate National Public Radio's hourly news "spot".

Instead he read the A.P. Wire Service reports himself, when whatever piece of classical music he was offering to the public had finshed its natural performance time.

One morning Lurtsema committed Radio Heresy (it would have been Televsion Heresy too, if it had been viewed as well as heard): He read the A.P. Wire Service report this way:

"Everything coming across the wires today seems to be a rehash of yesterday's news, so we'll skip the news and go directly to music."

National Public Broadcasting was not amused, and thus began a campaign to strip Lurtsema of his programming prerogatives which ultimately ended the syndication of his program when Lurtsema refused categorically to interrupt a piece of music to broadcast the news.

Morning Pro-Musica thus reduced to its original audience, Boston Public Radio, and later, from weekdays to weekends only.

"Robert J." as he was known, soldiered on, without his army.

A few years later, at age 69, he suddenly died, a heart attacked, mourning pro-musica.

No comments: