by: Elizabeth Ware

Unless this is your first time visiting, you hopefully noticed that things look a little different here this month.  After three years, it was time for a little face-lift, and I decided to go for a more minimalist approach. 

Since publishing our last edition, four smooth jazz radio stations went off-air; four in a string of stations shutting down, with no end in sight.  But in the midst of the site redesign, and while we ponder the upheaval on the airwaves in earnest elsewhere in this issue, I had an epiphany...  Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) would call it "your moment of Zen."  Here it is.

Minimalism is great.  At its best, it is like a great set of Bose headphones; it reduces a lot of noise.  It eliminates a lot of superfluous fluff and takes away distractions.  We all need more minimalism in our lives.

Wikipedia defines minimalism as movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is stripped down to its most fundamental features.

Hmmm.  "…stripped down to its most fundamental features"?  Maybe the smooth jazz radio format is just going minimalist!  That doesn't seem so bad, does it?  Surely, 30-year-old pop vocals would be part of that stripping down, wouldn't it?  It's hard to think of radio stations in major markets like NYC and Denver being superfluous fluff, but, hey… who knows?

I guess the question might be, how minimalist can it go?  It's one thing to strip something down to its most fundamental features, but it's a whole other thing to be stripped bare and become a blank white canvass, or in radio-speak, dead air.  I mean, have you ever been to a modern art gallery and seen what looks like, for all the world, a blank white canvass hanging on the wall?  I usually have two reactions to that.  First, I think, that's art?  I wish I could make a living marketing blank canvasses as art!  I mean, it worked for the graphic artist that designed the Beattles' White Album.  But my next reaction is this overwhelming desire to grab some paint and fling it on there!

So, at what point does smooth jazz, the radio format, become so minimalist that it becomes one station with nothing but dead air?  And if most of the stations are broadcasting nationally syndicated segments all day long, and the vast majority of tunes on the playlist are just musical wallpaper, or ambient background noise, is dead air really that much worse? 

There is a bright side to this.  I'm certain that I'm not the only one who is standing around looking at that blank canvass with an overwhelming desire to put something on it.

Here's your moment of Zen… grab some paint.