This is what non-partisanship sounds like. The dulcet tones of the new music collection “In the Key of C-SPAN: Great Works as Heard on C-SPAN Television, Volume One” isn’t just music to nerd out to, it’s the soundtrack to neutrality.
The cable network known for capturing every “yea” and “nay” of every congressional session is breaking into the music biz with a compilation, available Tuesday on iTunes, of the kinds of soothing classical jams they often play during long House votes or Senate quorums. And here’s the catch: The music played on the nonprofit, vehemently straight-down-the-middle network must never give the impression of commentary, which is why they steer clear of vocals and eschew anything that could be seen as having a political bent.
“Schubert has a symphony called ‘the Unfinished Symphony,’ which we would never play,” says Rob Kennedy, the C-SPAN co-president who oversees the music project. “People might wonder, were we making a comment that Congress has unfinished business?”
And so there are no funeral dirges or military marches on the 18-track collection, a product of a collaboration with PARMA Recordings, a company that C-SPAN first hired to produce an original theme song for the cable network’s “First Ladies” series.
There’s some Mozart, and some Brahms. And that surprisingly catchy “First Ladies” tune — the kind of stuff that might make you want to break into a filibuster.
Kennedy says the collection was inspired by the many listeners who call in to the network’s switchboard, wondering what they’re hearing. C-SPAN’s musical stylings have “a small but passionate” following, he says. They even have their own Twitter feed — @cspanmusic.
Our colleague, the classical music critic Anne Midgette, says purists might have a few quibbles with the collection (there’s nothing truly groundbreaking in it, she notes, and some works are represented by only one or two movements rather than the whole piece). But overall, she said it might please listeners looking for quality classical background music. “It’s a cut above your standard classics-lite greatest-hits kind of compilation: These are all legitimate recordings of works that aren’t that well-known, played by real musicians (not computer samples!)” she says.
And it’s certainly more convenient than waiting for the next quorum call to catch your favorite tune.