Alaska has put songs from the Grammy award-winning band Portugal. The Man and four other artists with the state ties on hold.
A project to replace the sleepy hold music for state office lines with songs by Alaska artists drew widespread attention when it was announced in November. But Matt Shuckerow, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Dunleavy, said it was paused shortly thereafter when members of the public raised concerns about some of the music.
Shuckerow said the intent is to revive the project and periodically switch out the music. He said the Department of Administration is waiting for an updated list of music suggestions from the Alaska State Council on the Arts, a partner on the project.
“The emphasis here is the desire is to change the music out to feature Alaska artists on a more regular basis,” Shuckerow said.
The council’s executive director, Andrea Noble-Pelant, said lyrics of the initial five songs were being reviewed and new tracks weren’t being added, though she said a desire for more tracks was a positive.
Ben Brown, chairman of the council’s board of trustees, said he told the department’s commissioner, Kelly Tshibaka, who was appointed earlier this year, he hoped to expand the scope of music to include more genres and she reacted favorably. Brown said he hasn’t had any additional artists confirm songs.
Some partners in the project noted criticism from conservative blogger Suzanne Downing, who in November took issue with lyrics in a song by the band Harm, one of the bands highlighted by the project. Downing described the song as having a “discordant” message that “might just drive a distressed caller over the edge.”
Downing said Tuesday she did not talk to anyone in the Dunleavy administration about it, and Shuckerow said he was not aware of her article.
Emails shared by Nancy DeCherney of the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, a project partner, indicated that only part of the song was included in the file for the hold music.
But Downing, who said she found the lyrics online, questioned the inclusion of the song. An email seeking comment was sent to the band, which on Facebook describes itself as blending “psych-folk and hip-hop with classical themes.”
Downing said some of the music selected is “probably OK. Some of it is like, you don’t really want to listen to it on hold. It’s not even pretty or melodic in any way.”
The project came together during former Gov. Bill Walker’s administration. Walker left office in December.
Brown said he did not know specifics surrounding what prompted the Dunleavy administration to push pause. But he said he wants to make sure that whatever music is played is appropriate for hold music.
“I think it was just wanting to make sure that everything that was going to be on that platform belonged on that platform,” he said.