Recently, a radio station in Calgary announced plans to broadcast what they called “twice the music,” which meant edited, significantly shorter versions of pop songs (around 2 minutes), enabling them to play more tunes per hour. You can listen to the NPR story about this here.
As many were quick to point out, this isn’t twice the music, it’s half! Reaction has been largely hostile to the idea, thank goodness. When the NPR host suggested that musicians might not like having their work chopped up, the station’s representative pointed out that for decades, the length of the average pop song has been limited by the 45 (or even 78) rpm records they were originally distributed on, and that this limitation forced musicians to edit their songs for length even as they wrote them.
He’s right, but musicians know that limitation up front! I object, as I suspect many do, to the cuts being made by someone other than the person who wrote the song, and for reasons that have nothing to do with music! Also, as someone who wants to bring new listeners to concert pieces that are often far longer than the average pop song, this certainly doesn’t help!
The representative of the radio station also suggested that people listening on their iPods routinely click from song to song without finishing them – I have certainly seen this in action. The station, he went on, was trying to stay connected to these kinds of listeners. My question to him is, why stop at 2 minute versions of a song? Why not 1 minute, or 30 seconds? Where does it stop?
A good pop song usually includes an introduction, at least two verses, two (or more) shots at the chorus, and (if you’re lucky) a bridge, and three or four minutes doesn’t seem like too much to ask of people to give to a song. On the other hand, many great Beatles songs are 2:30 or less. “Blackbird” clocks in at 2:18, “Eleanor Rigby” at 2:08. Even “We Can Work It Out,” with not one but two passes through one of the greatest bridges of all time, is 2:15.
So, here’s today’s question – what is your favorite really short piece of music? Could be a pop song, or a movement by Anton Webern that might only last 30 seconds! I’ve started a playlist on Spotify of pieces that take care of business quickly (unfortunately, the Beatles songs I mentioned aren’t on there). The playlist is collaborative – please add your favorites! What I find interesting is that the classical pieces I thought of are shorter than the pop songs – the opposite of what I expected! Please share your thoughts and comments!