“work hard to find your voice”

If you haven’t seen the King’s Speech yet – go, and soon. It’s proof that true stories beat fiction anytime.

Granted, George VI (or Bertie) was born into a life of privilege, he was the son and brother of a King. That life allowed him success and wealth in spite of a speech impediment that would have left a common man with a grave disadvantage in gaining either. It’s hard to pity a rich man, right?

Yet, George VI knew a thing or two about duty. The King and Queen never left London during the German Blitz, even after Buckingham Palace was bombed. In fact, it was reported that Queen Elizabeth (the current Queen’s mum) said: “I’m glad we got bombed. Now I can stare east London in the face.”

The King and Queen survey bomb damage, Buckingham Palace, London, WWII, 1940.

But this is not a post about the royal family (I’m not a huge fan of the idea of royal families).

It’s about the brilliant use of music in this film, particularly the scene when George VI gives a radio address to the British Commonwealth on the eve of WWII. David Stabler wrote a great piece in the Oregonian about it last month, and I think he’s right on.

I’d like to add another thread to the conversation.

By the summer of 1811, Beethoven could barely hear. Eventually, he couldn’t play concerts anymore, which was personally and financially devastating. Yet, he managed to write brilliant music, including his seventh symphony, in spite of the most crushing disability a composer and musician could have.

In the pivotal scene of the King’s Speech, Bertie steps up to the mic to address millions of people on the eve of war. He’s scared as hell. And then, the opening chords of the allegretto movement of the seventh symphony come in.

In my head, when I watch this scene, I imagine Beethoven saying to the man who never wanted to be King “I’ve got your back, old boy, you can do this.”

It inspired me so much that I found the original speech and layered it over the music, just for fun (and to learn Hindenburg, a new audio editing software package). You can listen to it here. It’s still a little rough – I need to clean it up in Audition, where I’m more comfortable. Call this my first draft.

Last week, I wrote a couple of posts about classical music and relevance. One typical argument in the classical music radio world would be that it’s practically sacrilegious to play anything less than an entire symphony on the air.

Here’s the thing, people don’t sit in front of their radios, waiting for an entire symphony to play. It’s just not how radio is used. The phone calls one receives from 3 or 4 music experts are not representative of the audience. They are but a sliver of it, and very vocal. It’s a mistake to let those voices dictate programming.

Here’s an idea. Many classical music shifts happen right before news programming begins. At about 10 minutes before the post, a producer cues up the allegretto movement, along with a well-constructed break summary of the story. ¬†Maybe, they even play the original speech layered over the music.

It’s right before the news, when the music/talk transition begins, so some of the folks tuning in for the news, hear this and start tuning in a little earlier, because, maybe this classical music has something that will add value to their lives, presented in a way that’s relevant to them.

If you’ve really done your homework, you do this the day before or after the Academy Awards, when perhaps said news program is doing a segment on the nominees/winners. The segment I just mentioned then becomes a forward-promote opportunity for the news.

As a PD, that’s how you build your AQH (average quarter hour) audience. Which leads to a bigger cume, which leads to better numbers for the station. Which leads to more underwriting and pledge drive contributions.

And, it’s just good radio.

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Posted in audio pieces, Music

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