Todd Hildreth.

By Todd Hildreth

"Hi, I'm John Diliberto, and you're hearing 'Echoes.' "

Don't you just hate that stupid show?

If you don't know what I'm talking about, "Echoes" is a program on WFPL that runs from 1-5 a.m., Monday through Thursday. Now WFPL is, in my opinion, the best radio station we have. It is not only the jazz and information station, it is Louisville's only true alternative station, playing blues, bluegrass, Celtic, underground rock and all sorts of great programming. WFPL is also listener-supported, which means if "Echoes" is on there, a lot of people must like it. I'm not one of them.

"Our first guest plays music that's highly atmospheric and deeply spiritual. He plays guitar, twelve-string guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, autoharp, sixteen-string guitar, synthesizer, jaw harp, Celtic harp, celeste, cello, twenty-three string guitar, organ and piano. He's also just learned his third chord, a chord we'll hear extensively on his new recording, "Song for the Otters."

Yes, folks, welcome to the world of New Age music, where enlightenment is just a matter of getting more reverb in the mix.

Now, to be fair, I've stumbled across some music in the New Age/space music movement that I've liked: Brian Eno, Steve Reich, Mickey Hart, Enya, Paul Winter, and even a couple of things by George Winston. The problem is, for every New Age artist with some character there are twelve who sound exactly alike. Are you trying to get back to nature? Well, I hope there's a good music teacher there.

A lot of people like New Age music because it relaxes them; that's cool, but great art should intensify your emotions, not pacify them. Great art compels. It compels you to feel anger, or joy, or sorrow or whatever, but you feel something.

My father, not widely known as a music connoisseur, took to listening to classical music a few years ago. "It relaxes me," he said. While I was happy to witness my father's new-found interest in culture, I couldn't help wondering what Beethoven, a man whose dying gesture was a raised fist toward the heavens, would think if he knew his Ninth Symphony had become the audio equivalent of a dry martini and a back rub.

In college, I gave a recital at a church that included some improvisations that were kind of New Age. A woman came up to me after the concert and said she really liked the improvisations: "It was so beautiful I almost fell asleep." Noting her feminine charms, I replied, "You inspire a pretty big yawn in me yourself, baby. Whaddya say we go back to my place and listen to some John Diliberto?" We snored well into the dawn. It was deeply spiritual.

See you next time.