WGBH is currently airing self-congratulatory spots, playing clips of an address Aaron Copland gave on its inaugural broadcast. To paraphrase, Copland says that 'GBH should particularly focus on music of our own time and place, to the point that contemporary American music is as well known as that of the classical masters. It's great talk, and I absolutely agree with the sentiment, but it made me consider: does WGBH actually do that?
The live BSO broadcasts certainly help, as they have first crack at many BSO commissions and other contemporary pieces selected by Levine. On Thanksgiving and July 4, they focus on American music. There's also the year-end "eulogy" program dedicated to musicians and composers who passed away that always includes a lot of contemporary music.
However, over the course of the week, it doesn't seem that they play all that much in the way of truly contemporary music. (Don't get me wrong; their programing is certainly far superior to WCRB's small, confined box.) For a very obvious example, last Wednesday was the birthday of Worcester's own John Adams. Adams seems to perfectly fit the mold that Copland described, as a composer of this time and place. However, WGBH chose not to play any of his music. (It's certainly not for lack of available recordings.) WHRB, on the other hand, has two pieces by Adams programmed for this past month, in addition to many other contemporary composers, equally famous and obscure.
In fairness, I should point out their wonderful site devoted to American music, Art of the States. And, again, I do think WGBH has good programming on the balance. However, instead of highlighting WGBH's good qualities, Aaron Copland reminds us that surely WGBH could do more.