Auditory assaults

Image of man with hands over ears The CBC has long been criticized as having a liberal, if not Liberal, bias in its content. In fact, one online source has gone so far as to suggest that: "at CBC even the frickin' weather has a left-wing bias!". Since I've never actually heard Ian Black say "It's so hot out, Stephen Harper's starting to look cool" or "It's 44 and hazy... just like Tim Hudak", I don't happen to share that particular view.

Adopting a pro-choice position on abortion, favouring the non-criminalization of marijuana, advocating for the rights of same-sex couples and opposing Canada's involvement in Afghanistan suggests a position of rationality, not one of commie-pinko Liberalism. Similarly, holding the view that Canada's implementation of the long-gun registry was a giant canard intended to placate paranoid soccer-Moms and pander to the misguided ravings of over-zealous femiNazis suggests a standpoint of rationality... not one of self-righteous fundamentalist Conservatism. If the CBC is biased, perhaps it's towards a position of rationality as opposed to any particular political persuasion.

The kitchen radio's digital tuner seldom strays off 91.5 FM: Ottawa's CBC Radio One. In my view, CBC offers well-balanced news, broad and rational coverage of current affairs, comprehensive Environment Canada weather updates and, mercifully, only modest sports coverage. (Only puckheads need to know if Sidney Crosby develops a severe case of jock-itch.) There are two key characteristics, however, which distinguish CBC from other broadcasters.

The first distinction is the noticeable absence of advertising in the public broadcaster's programming. There's no hard sell, no soft sell, no fast talking pitches, exclusions, exemptions, limitations, restrictions, caveats, testimonials or puffing of any sort. The only product pimped on CBC are other CBC programs. The second distinction is the rather eclectic selection of music that CBC listeners are regularly exposed to. In all likelihood, you'd never be exposed to Washboard Hank or Luther Wright and the Wrongs if your radio's dial is on a commercial broadcaster's regurgitation station.

This is not, however, to suggest that CBC's programming is not deserving of criticism. The problem, in my less than humble view, is not the breadth or variety of their musical content. The problem is what they actually choose to call music. Take, for instance, their inclusion of Colin Stetson as Studio Q's July 16th musical guest. Studio Q host Jian Ghomeshi described Stetson's contribution to music as "refreshingly original". Stetson, apparently a Polaris Prize nominee, performed two tracks from his 2011New History Warfare Volume 2: Judges album: The Righteous Wrath of an Honorable Man and, the title track, Judges.

Stetson's performance, at least to my untrained ears incapable of discerning what passes as artistic these days, is nothing short of noise. On second thought, it's worse than noise. Noise is a garbage truck backing up. Noise is the squealing brakes on a city bus. Noise is the neighbour's dog barking at a squirrel scampering along a fence. Stetson's contribution is an auditory assault. It is annoyingly chaotic, unmelodic and grating. Provocative is the most gracious adjective that could be afforded Stetson's work. It certainly provoked me into turning the radio off and muttering a few superlatives before the second song ended. For those brave enough to endure a sampling, you might want to have some cotton batting handy as you'll need it when your ears start to bleed from this dirge.

Aspiring musicians needn't be overly concerned with such meagre details as quality. If your ambition in life is to be a recording artist, you need only three things... a recording device, a set of bagpipes and a flight of stairs. Let gravity do the rest. Finally, rather than focusing on whether or not Stetson's work actually constitutes music, I can't help but wonder: what sort of person actually goes out and buys this hackneyed cacophony? As I picture some tofu-munching, latte' sipping, SUV driving hipster, it frightens me to think that these same people actually vote.

Submitted by Jeff Dubois, 25 July 2012