April 3, 2023
So these last few months I’ve become a pretty exclusive listener to LA’s only classical music outlet, KUSC 91.5FM — even sent the listener-supported station some money during a recent pledge drive. The genre is always something I’ve enjoyed but never with the frequency as I’ve been listening since around last September, coinciding with my starting as an Angels Flight operator, thanks to a fellow operator Rebecca who played it on the station house radio. Fact is, I’m just way out of touch with today’s contemporary music scene (you know you’re too old when the “Saturday Night Live” host announces the musical guest and you’ve never heard of them), so it’s nice to discover “new” music from way old artists with whom I am familiar.
Anyway, back in January I submitted a request for their morning show, and I was notified Friday that it would be airing today, April 3, 2023. I would usually be biking to work, but drove this morning in order to record it as it was broadcast (hence the dashboard video above). And while I might be accused of ingratitude, I’m kinda bummed that the show’s host super abbreviated what I had submitted, which I just so happen to have saved verbatim for posterity from the online form before I clicked the submit button, and in the interest of sharing the full story, copy and paste it below:
Name of piece:
4th Movement, “Symphony No. 9 (From The New World)”
Tell us a bit why you want to hear this piece. Let us know what it means to you, if it reminds you of any special memories, or anything else at all:
In 1978 I played second trombone under both the baton and mostly disappointed gaze of the beloved Frank Desby who taught and conducted the orchestra at Hollywood’s Le Conte Junior High School. Despite my distinct ability to mostly displease Mr. Desby, he invited me to play in a Los Angeles Unified School District all-junior high orchestra as part of a districtwide concert and performance event at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. To be able to say that I’ve performed at the Dorothy Chandler is indeed an opportunity I forever cherish, one that ultimately allowed me to discover what is one of my favorite works, albeit by recognizing its similarity to a more contemporary (and terrifying) one with which I was far more familiar.
During dress rehearsals at the Pavilion before the big day, the all-high school orchestra came on after we had labored one last time through the “Triumphal March” from Verdi’s “Aida” and I had taken a seat in the near-empty auditorium. From the high schoolers’ instantly recognizable and totally chilling first notes I stood up from my seat because I was certain they were playing John Williams’ famous theme from the movie “Jaws.” Hurriedly thumbing through a copy of the show’s program I found that I was listening to the fourth movement from Antonin Dvorak’s “9th Symphony (From The New World),” and it literally blew my young mind to consider that the famed contemporary theme that Williams had forever chomped into our collective psyche and popular culture could actually trace its far less frightening origins to Dvorak’s masterpiece crafted in the late 19th century, one which never fails to transport every time I listen.
Is this a dedication? Let us know for who and why:
Though Frank Desby is no longer with us (he passed in 1992 at the age of 70), I would like to dedicate this request to him. Link: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/85866052/frank-desby
Let us know what you do while you listen to Classical KUSC:
Typically I listen to KUSC via your smartphone app playing through a bluetooth speaker on my backpack while bike commuting back and forth between home in Silver Lake and work in Jefferson Park.
I can certainly understand time constraints necessitating such severe editing, and I’d imagine it’s become a cliche among classical music professionals to note the similarities to the opening notes of Dvorak’s finale with those of John Williams’ “Jaws” theme, but still this was dedicated to the orchestra’s leader Frank Desby and it’s a shame a bit of my remembrances of him couldn’t have made it on air.
And oh yeah: don’t call it a “band,” Jennifer Miller Hammel. It was an ORCHESTRA and yes, there is a difference.