Saturday, August 1, 2009

Trusty Terms

Tuesday, September 16, 2008
12:08:31 AM EDT

Trusty Terms

One lesson you can learn from composing music is that no matter what the problem is in life the solution already exists.

DB - The Vagabond


I was working for a big, important classical radio station in a large city. One evening a week there was a special program heavily sponsored by a multinational corporation. As a result the music was carefully chosen to be the best performance of the best music possible and the show was scripted. It was usually hosted by the chief announcer. But one evening he was unable to be there and the announcing of the program fell to me.

I carefully checked over the script ahead of time and made sure the record album was in the control room. There was one piece scheduled for the show, a long symphony lasting about 45 minutes. The program began, right after a 5 minute newscast, with brief recorded theme music, followed by a live introduction That was followed by a 20 second recorded commercial. After that came the script, written by the music department. Then came the music. After it came a one minute live commercial read by me, the closing theme and a word about next weeks program.

For some reason I will never understand I told the engineer that I would reverse the commercials, do the one minute live commercial at the beginning and the recorded commercial at the end. This was not the way it was scripted but I felt it was best to do it that way.

So the program began. I opened it, did the introduction, read the one minute commercial, read the script, signaled the engineer to start the music and settled back to listen and read my book. But disaster struck!

At about 15 minutes before the hour the engineer called into me that the piece was about to end. I said "When?" He said "Right now." Sure enough I was hearing the final cadences of the symphony. Somebody, either the record company or the music department, had mistimed the piece, the one thing I didn't check on. It was going to bring the program up to be almost 15 minutes short. But I had no time to think about that. The engineer was saying "What should I do?"

I told him to give me the microphone when the piece was over and then go to the 20 second recorded commercial. I announced the end of the piece in a calm and dignified manner and as soon as the recorded commercial was on I dashed down to the music library, want right to a specific shelf and pulled out an album. I didn't know where I was or what I was doing. I never spent any time in the music library. But the album I pulled had a ten minute piece on it that was just perfect for the program. I ran back to the control room, gave the record to the engineer, told him what to cue up, took the album cover and ran back to the studio. I sat down just as the 20 second commercial was ending and, again with the proper dignity and sophistication, announced the second piece. The program ended smoothly. The amazing thing was that if I hadn't reversed those commercials I wouldn't have had the time to solve the problem.

There was another announcer there, Frank, who was busy preparing the next newscast. He saw the whole thing happening and after the second piece was playing he came to my studio, opened the door and, with an awestruck look on his face, said "How did you do that?"

I just laughed and said "I don't know."


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