Recently SiriuxXM cancelled its over-the-air Pops channel that I listened to in my car. That channel played a steady, commercial-free selection of terrific popular classical music selections. That decision sucks in more ways than one.
I listened to the Pops channel regularly. In fact, it was my favorite SiriusXM channel, and part of the crucial classical music rotation that I could quickly shift through to find something I really liked. That included SiriusXM 74 (Met Opera Radio), 75 (Pops), and 76 (Symphony Hall), as well as WOSU-FM, the local classical music outlet. Sure, the Pops channel self-promotions were kind of mindless and irritating (“Bassoons and oboes and cymbals, oh my!”), but it was a reliable refuge that could be counted on to play some baroque or Strauss when Symphony Hall was playing an interminable Brahms piece or Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue when I felt like listening to something other than the theme music for a United Air Lines commercial.
It’s pathetic that SiriusXM has only one real classical music channel, as well as the Met channel. After all, this is a satellite radio service that has dozens of pop and rock stations, each specifically devoted to a particular kind of music — say, music from the ’60s, or acoustic stuff, or heavy metal. They’ve even had a station devoted to Billy Joel. Billy Joel! I think Piano Man is a perfectly good pop song, but how about some actual piano music from Beethoven or Mozart?
Can it really be that there are so few classical music fans out there that classical music is less in demand than Billy Joel? My God! What does that tell you about the state of our country?
This morning, when I awoke, the Billy Joel song Honesty was firmly lodged in my brain — so firmly lodged that it kept playing and playing until I put on the iPod headphones and focused my brain instead on Television’s Marquee Moon.
Why did I wake up to Billy Joel’s plaintive anthem to forthright relationships? I don’t have the slightest idea. It’s not one of my all-time favorite songs. I wasn’t humming it when I went to bed last night. My best guess is that I heard it at some point over the last week or so, and while I slept my brain was simply shuffling through its catalog of recent stimuli, trying to figure out what to remember and what to discard. It was just my good fortune to awaken when it was The Piano Man’s turn on the recently heard playlist.
I know my brain works hard while I sleep. When I wake up, there often is a song, thought, or image at the forefront of my mind. It’s not unusual for my overnight brain to help me with work issues. If I am wrestling with how to structure an argument, I may hit the sack with the issue in mind and wake up with a carefully considered approach, down to the point of specific phrases or fully formed sentences that I can jot down and use. On other occasions, I’ll open my eyes and immediately be confronted by a list of reminders and to-do items. It’s as if the slumber of my conscious self frees my inner brain to grind away undisturbed, like a conscientious employee who is constantly distracted by a talkative boss and becomes truly productive only when the boss blessedly returns to his office.
I like the fact that my brain continues to work while I sleep. I wouldn’t necessarily choose Billy Joel as my wake-up music, but it’s a small price to pay.