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I don't subscribe to the idea that whether you like a piece or not depends on your emotional disposition or 'preferences for a particular style. Evidently there are pieces out there which are liked by the majority. Why is this so? Well I thought about why is 'La campanella', 'Fur Elise', 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik' and others so famous when there are other equally as beautiful pieces. Well clearly these 'equally as beautiful pieces' aren't as beautiful as the most played pieces of classical music. Why? Well I think, and I could be wrong, that they're all such coherent pieces of music. By that I mean the melodies are very memorable. It's the same with anything beautiful I guess. The more 'refined' and coherent something is, the more beautiful we seem to find it. Everything that constitutes to the design of something has a purpose - it's not something extraneous. Every note has a purpose to produce something that is whole and 'perfect'. If you started removing even one note then the melody would alter dramatically to become unrecognisable. Music like this seems to be very dense and 'interconnected' in an illusive sense and I hear something that is so precise and delicate but has overwhelming meaning to exist. As if there is a three dimensional underpinning that connects the piece by pulling it together and exposing only the notes that are relevant. That's why I think other pieces aren't as popular because they are facets of these more coherent pieces.... Bach's music is so enjoyable to listen to for this reason. Every note has a purpose... It's quite difficult to explain really but imagine I wanted to extract sodium crystals from a saline solution. I'm sure you've probably done this in school. You leave it out to dry so that the liquid evaporates and you're left with the sodium crystals. In this sense, the liquid is the extraneous notes and the sodium crystal the melody. It's a refining process. 

Which kind of begs the question: What do I have to do to become a good composer. You need to ensure your music is coherent, whole and interconnected with an overwhelming reason to exist. This is most important. I am struggling to find words in my vocabulary to explain my point. Ornamentation and such like doesn't detract from a piece being coherent. It's a question of: Does what's written down produce on the whole something that is coherent. It's very difficult to explain! But imagine if I were going to choose a particular chord or sequence. What if I had chosen one with lesser musical effect? Continually doing this would produce nothing of significance. It's all about how musical units are connected with each other.

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I am in complete agreement with your thesis, Vivaldi, or whoever you are. I always think of Mozart when I consider music that approaches near to perfection. Every note in its place, and a place for every note. Every note is the right one for that spot in the musical scaffolding. And it's always on the right instrument, in the right register, at the right dynamic level, tempo, etc. Perfect integrity, coherence, meaning. It's as if he understood the laws of physics. Everthing is in balance. There's never a point where you wonder why a particular note is where it is. It had to be there. Never a sense of something missing, either. Coherence, integrity, yes, these are the ideals to strive for. Great post.

Vivaldi, this is a lot of verbiage to sift through, but I think what you are ultimately asking is what makes a person a good composer, or put another way, what is the difference between a good and a bad composer. Is that a fair assessment of your post?

Well I would not go to such lengths as to call it a thesis but rather an incoherent ramble about something that is coherent. Yes you have definitely got the gist of it. 

michael diemer said:

I am in complete agreement with your thesis, Vivaldi, or whoever you are. I always think of Mozart when I consider music that approaches near to perfection. Every note in its place, and a place for every note. Every note is the right one for that spot in the musical scaffolding. And it's always on the right instrument, in the right register, at the right dynamic level, tempo, etc. Perfect integrity, coherence, meaning. It's as if he understood the laws of physics. Everthing is in balance. There's never a point where you wonder why a particular note is where it is. It had to be there. Never a sense of something missing, either. Coherence, integrity, yes, these are the ideals to strive for. Great post.

Yes I am although Cannon in D major by Pachabel is another overplayed piece of classical music and does this mean that he is up there with the true masters? I think in Pachabel's case, he was 'lucky' to have discovered the ground bass on which he wrote the piece.(It is this same ground bass that is used in a lot of modern 'pop' music today). I think to use the word discovered is important, as opposed to invented, because it helps to see my point of view if you imagine a blank manuscript paper comprising of many, many invisible, illusive permutations of notes. From these permutations, only a few can be truly great and manifest pieces with an overwhelming reason to exist. However, it takes a great composer to discover these pieces, and evidently Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and others did, which is why they are the masters of classical music. 

Gav Brown said:

Vivaldi, this is a lot of verbiage to sift through, but I think what you are ultimately asking is what makes a person a good composer, or put another way, what is the difference between a good and a bad composer. Is that a fair assessment of your post?

Well my post was an attempt to explain why we find pieces satisfying. This includes both emotional and intellectually satisfying. I don't necessary agree that Luck determines the popularity of a piece of music simpilfy because of 'time'. It has been 300/400 years since Vivaldi or Bach composed their music and wouldn't we, in this great length of time, been able to separate the greater pieces from the not so great pieces? Even if one piece of music would have been popular in between 1823 and 1830 because it happened to conform to the Zeitgeist movement of that time. Now whether or not it would remain surfaced and played would in the end, depend on its quality. And my post explains how this quality manifests.

Fredrick zinos said:

maybe music that is "liked" or at least most frequently played is a result of 1) It is emotionally satisfying 2) It is intellectually satisfying 3) Luck.

Of these three, luck is probably the most important factor. It is hard to imagine that we know all of the great music that has ever been composed. In fact its an even bet (IMHO) that we don't even know the names of the greatest composers who ever live. Its luck. Some composers were born in circumstances where their music got performed and other did not. For example, Bizet's wonderful little symphony in C was written in the 1870 ( I think) but didn't get performed until the 1930s. The reason? No one performed it because no one else performed it. Similar with the Schubert "unfinished" symphony prox 1827.. but not performed until 60 years later.  

The pieces that get played frequently are likely to be played frequently in the future, not because of emotional or intellectual satisfaction, they will be played more often because the are played more often. Its a case of everybody wants what everybody wants.
What do you have to do to become a good composer? I sure has hell don't know but I'd venture a guess that it has to do with not thinking so much about what will make you a good composer and thinking more about what will make the piece you are now writing a good composition. Concentrate on the notes, not the "audience".

Fur Elise is obviously not better than most of the movements of the late Beethoven Sonatas.

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is not better than any of the late Mozart Symphonies or Divertimenti.

The inferior pieces, even by renowned composers like Mozart and Beethoven, are "preferred" simply because they are easier to listen to, and so they are played more often on classical music stations, and at certain public concerts.

It's an objective fact that the Egmont Overture by Beethoven is better than any overture by Franz Von Suppe (even the celebrated "Light Cavalry Overture"), assuming we are judging in terms of quality of composition, dramatic intensity, and aesthetic value.

Beethoven, we should remember, was occasionally jealous of Rossini's ability to compose opera.

Thus, as far as being a composer is concerned, what is "liked" is not as important as who is doing the "liking."

What Arturo Toscanini likes is more important than what Casey Kasem-- or what most any other host of "America's Top 40"-- likes.

To be a "good composer," I think it is fair to say, that for YOU to be the best composer you can be, you must work as hard and often as you can, and examine all the aspects of your work, including not only melody, but harmony, dynamics, orchestration, instrumental timbres, form, content, rhythm, tempo, total musical texture (density) and inspiration and purpose. Without "imitating" others, one must find inspiration from the Masters that you mention, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and others who you feel can help you improve the quality of your work.

Hadyn and Mozart both have their good points, I suppose.

Taste may be an issue, but aesthetic judgment is not the same as taste.

You can say, someone who enjoys a Quartet by Ravel or Debussy has "taste," but someone who can genuinely appreciate a Bartok Quartet has "aesthetic judgment."

Of course, we live in a modern age, so we must not neglect modern and contemporary composers, like Stravinsky, Ravel, Milhaud, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, Varese, Messiaen, Nancarrow, Boulez, Penderecki, Xenakis, Stockhausen, Cage, Scelsi, to name only a few.

They also can provide inspiration and serve as guideposts.

Unfortunately, his pictures are in black and white. Where Mozart's are in color. Or you can use the mono to stereo metaphor.  Whichever, the emotional range in Mozart is so much greater. But don't take my word for it. Haydn himself concluded that Mozart was the greater composer. 
 
Fredrick zinos said:

Haydn not only paints the picture, he constructs the wall upon which to hang it.

 

Further grist for the conversation:

Here is a list entitled:

“The 500 Composers, ranked by raw score.”

Bach, Mozart and Beethoven are ranked as the three greatest composers. Under this system, Bach has a “raw score,” of 1.583, the highest, followed by Mozart with a raw score of 1.704 and Beethoven, with 3.186.

Toward the bottom of the one hundred greatest in this list are: Martinu, Correlli, Ligeti, Scarlatti (Alessandro), Buxtehude, Meyerbeer, Busoni, Glinka, Orf, Stockhausen, Roderigo, Couperin, Eliot Carter and –yes, PACHELBEL. (with raw scores ranging between 102.030 and 113.924)

Near the very bottom of the 500 greatests are composers like Eduard Tubin and William Alwyn (I like both of these) and quite a few I have never heard of. Their raw scores range between 389 and 402.

You can view the full list here:

http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/music/images/stats6.pdf

The explanation of the “scores” is provided here:

http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/music/images/stats6.pdf

and in more detail, here:

http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/music/stats1.htm

We are told,

“The information provided at this site was statistically arrived at; i.e., decisions as to which composers and which of their works should be included were based on objective criteria, not subjective preferences.”

I think many will be surprised at the methodology, which is not one I would have chosen. Nevertheless, it may be more sound and logical than other ways of ranking composers with regard to “greatness.”

It's an interesting list to look at.

Personally, I cannot endorse the notion that Chopin should be ranked as the number 10 composer, while Bartok, Shostakovich and Prokofiev are numbers 25, 27 and 28 respectively.

But that's just me.

I find it worthwhile simply to peruse the list, to see which composers I have heard of, listened to and enjoyed, and which draw a blank in my own mind.

[For instance, I have never heard of Orlando di Lasso, who comes up as the 77th greatest composer of all time].

Glad to see that Debussy is in the top 15, and Sibelius in the top 30. I would rearrange the top 3, putting Mozart first, Bach second and LVB third. This is after many decades of listening to classical music. Yes, Mozart was influenced by Haydn, as Fred points out. But I think he was more influenced by his father. Many times I have heard a piece on the radio and said "That's Mozart," and it turned out to be Leopold, not Wolfgang! Their music sounds exactly alike. I have nothing against Haydn, his London Symphony is one of my 10 favorite symphnonies. I just think he is a little on the dry side. Beethoven too, for that matter. I am perfectly happy listening to either of them, but if they play Mozart next, the only way to describe it is that I suddenly feel like the world has brightened, or the sun has come out, or someone gave me a happy pill. He just has that effect on me. Of course it's subjective, I would never argue otherwise. But I do stand by my statement that Mozart's music is the closest to perfection, and for the reasons Vivaldi has stated: coherence, integrity, inevitability. Perhaps other composers have those qualities in equal dgree, espeically the top three; I guess the combination of that perefection, along with the way his music makes me feel sensually and emotionally, makes me put Mozart at the very top.

Ray, I don't think this study rises to the level of science, therefore it doesn't need to be rigorous. I put it in the category of mildly interesting artsy-fartsy musicana, not to be taken seriously, just enjoyed, ridiculed, or ignored as one sees fit.
 
Fredrick zinos said:

I looked at the "500 composers ranked by raw score"

Raw score of what? Popularity? if so, this is an opinion poll, which if taken the next day or with a different group of subjects would likely yield a different result.

The usual consensus is that a study has merit when those conducting the study can demonstrate that the probability that the study result is wrong is 0.005% or less.

Another criteria that validates a "study" is repeatability, i.e., the study was done at least one other time by a different research group that used the same protocols and got the same result.

OOPS! I put Ray's name, I meant Fred, obviously. Sorry, friend!
 
Fredrick zinos said:

Michael, I don't take it seriously either  these are matters of taste and not of objective science was apparently the proposition from  Ondib, above

I suspect this question could be answered by clicking the links Ondib provided and reading what's there. The author gives quite a detailed explanation on the data used. Heck, he even points out some of the flaws, who would've thought...

Not saying whether this "study" is scientific enough or not, but well, even if it happened to fall into the category, exactly what would the label change? It is what it is.

Fredrick zinos said:

Raw score of what? Popularity?

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