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Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Farewell Magma Verandah

Perhaps a year ago, I reported how enjoyable it was to listen to ABC radio, Classic FM in particular. This station is not to be compared with the UK station of the same name. Everything here is preferable: there are no jingles and the commercials are only for musical items and events. Further, the broadcast is hardly compressed at all. As a consequence, there is an excellent dynamic range.

The station has a very relaxed feel to it - like Radio Three on a very casual day. They give interesting bits of information about the music played. For example, after a piece by William Herschel (yes, the astronomer chap), the announcer explained that he had gone to live in Slough. She then spoilt it by telling us that Oscar Wilde wrote a rather critical poem about Slough. It wasn't Wilde at all; it was, in fact, John Betjeman ('Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough...'). Tut tut.

Oz Classic FM has a delightfully amateurish air about it; the CD and DAT players give constant trouble (although an engineer tells me that I should say ‘The announcers have constant trouble with the CD and DAT machines’) and the schedule is delightfully vague. Frequently, the wrong record is played. I’m sure that this is not an attempt to keep the knowledgeable listener attentive.

A recent development has been the introduction of the 'Analytical' Concert: looking into a piece of music and how it works. Graham Abbott with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra does these concerts and I remember a riveting examination of the second movement of Haydn's 'Surprise' symphony. Recently, I was listening to a similar examination of Oedipus Rex, when the Magma Verandah's stereo system started to give trouble; it got progressively worse over the next few days.

Having been so rude about the Magma, one thing I really appreciated, apart from the air conditioning, was the stereo system. As it happened, the vehicle maintenance light came on so I was forced to part company with the whole package. By this stage, the stereo would only emit a ghastly, distorted raspberry noise on all channels. The noise was independent of the volume control. I suspect that the whole system is up the creek without a paddle in a barbed-wire canoe. I now have a replacement vehicle and I can continue to travel, seeing the many sights of Oz while listening to the delights of ABC Classic FM. There is a useful website: and I’ll be telling you more about it, Mrs T., in about ten days. I understand that you can listen to recent programmes on line but I haven’t tried it yet.

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