Mar 24, 2016

Charlie Rose – Are You Listening?

Public television host and interviewer par excellence, Charlie Rose, has been a favorite of mine since his first broadcasts in the early 1990’s on WNET. There are so many things about his show to love. . .where to start?

Since music is the ‘be all – end all’ of my life, let’s begin with the show’s theme music. Wonderful, edgy jazz by David Lowe and David Shapiro, I enjoy the contours of this music and it’s electronic timbres immensely, and I never tire of listening to it. This mood-setter is also the perfect complement for the ‘get down to business’ atmosphere and the set of the show.

Charlie Rose and his guests sit at a beautiful wooden table surrounded by. . .nothing – nothing but black! The lighting design allows the viewer to focus completely on Charlie and his guests – their attire, physical features, body language and facial expressions. Their words are pristinely framed by the darkness.

Then there is Charlie’s disarmingly gentle, Henderson, North Carolina accent. Guests are almost lulled into a false sense of security by the timbre of his voice, perhaps not realizing that a tough question is already coming their way.

There is no fluff in these interviews. With his razor sharp incisive mind, Charlie always goes right for the jugular. Thank goodness for public television! Interviews on commercial networks and cable channels never allow a topic to be more than superficially explored and are relentlessly interrupted by ‘commercial breaks.’ On Charlie Rose, there is nothing to impede the flow of thoughts or line of questioning.

Then, there are Charlie Rose’s guests themselves. A virtual ‘who’s who’ of practitioners of the political, scientific, artistic, medical – you name the field – they’ve all been there! If you really want to find out what’s going on in the Middle East, Sloan Kettering, or at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, skip NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and go straight to Charlie Rose.

Recently it was a great treat for me to watch Charlie Rose’s February 10, 2016 one-hour interview with Alan Gilbert, outgoing Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. As always, the interview was wide-ranging, in this instance covering topics from ‘new music’ (that is, music newly composed for the classical concert hall) to Alan Gilbert’s personal crusade to make professional symphony orchestras more socially relevant and a force for good in these challenging times.

The show stopper for me occurred about 44 minutes into the program when Charlie Rose suddenly said: “I saw the other day in print, in The New York Times, in the last ten days, a recognition of the fact that Leonard Bernstein’s – whatever he did for the young people, those concerts he did explaining music, you can get them all on YouTube. Do we need more of that to somehow heighten the experience and the appetite for classical music?”

Mr. Rose, if your producers and their assistants are listening in on the Internet, I would love to have you pose that question to me, especially in light of The Discovery Orchestra’s new 8-part series for American Public Television, Fall in Love with Music, which begins national distribution in April and premieres locally on NJTV on Wednesday, March 30th at 8:30 PM. At The Discovery Orchestra we’ve dedicated much thought, resources and action to your question!