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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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By the way, the answer to the OP is: because it is better

I tried to refer to everything said recently on this topic, so pardon me if this is a bit long. I tried to put something here for everyone. (You can skip all or most of this, of course, if you like).

“Reply by Fredrick zinos 22 hours ago: Ondib, Please look at my home page on this Forum for data on De Lasso.”

Thank you Fredrick. I will. I listened to some music by Lasso on youtube, after reading that his name was 77th out of 500 listed composers. I was extremely impressed; he was magnificent, and he was completely unknown to me. It makes me wonder how many other people on this list of 500 have produced astounding works that I have never heard of; how many names of truly great composers are there, which I don’t know? It is both humbling and exciting. More sources of inspiration and delight! And to think: Lasso is only one of those names!

The piece I heard was this one: Orlando di Lasso - Tristis est anima mea

Divine work!

So, regarding the list, I share Michael Dernier’s pleasure at the placement of Debussy and Sibelius so high on the list; though I am not sure I am willing to argue about whether Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven should be ranked 1, 2 and 3, as they were; or slightly differently. I think people would see exactly why they are ranked that way, given the so-called 11 criteria.

Outlined here:

I believe the criteria (assumed by the site host to be “objective”) are not what most people expect. I didn’t expect those to be the criteria. Fredrick zinos asked: “Raw score of what? Popularity?” I liked Greg Bus’ answer:

“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.”
I agree completely with you, Greg, and fully share your doubts about the scientific nature of the study, or at least with the result. I also concur with Mr. Kemp in his skepticism about “musicology,” and “academic” criteria for making such decisions. I feel fortunate that I have never been personally involved with, victimized by, or subject to the often unnecessary dogmatic strictures imposed upon people by our “musical academies.” Frankly, I don’t know what poses for contemporary musicology, since I operate totally independently of the “academic establishments,” such as they have been, and as they exist today. I generally share the skepticism about them. I do differentiate between talking about music on a “composer’s forum,” and “musicology,” whatever that may be.

I think Kristofer’s comments might have been apropos in certain circumstances:

“Reply by Kristofer P.D.Q. Emerig 19 hours ago: “Pachelbel's near the bottom? Wait, don't tell me, nestled between Henry VIII and Lady Gaga, no? Laughable.”

I believe I did tell you, so why ask me NOT to tell you. I said Pachelbel was “nestled” right next to: Martinu, Correlli, Ligeti, Scarlatti (Alessandro), Buxtehude, Meyerbeer, Busoni, Glinka, Orf, Stockhausen, Roderigo, Couperin, and Eliot Carter. That’s not bad company, I think. Lady Gaga is not on the list, and the only Henrys on the list were Henry Cowell and Henry Purcell. So Henry VIII did not make the top 500 either.

Kristofer added, “Obviously, the drafters of this farce have listened to far too many of those cheesy, generic, easy "classical" listening cassettes, the contents of the majority of which must necessarily contain both Pachelbel's singularly famous Canon, as well as Bach's ubiquitous Air, and undoubtedly the Moonlight, thrown in for good measure.”

I think Kristofer will be surprised when (and if) he actually consults the methodology, which is not difficult to understand, but which upsets expectations, since it has nothing to do with “opinion surveys” or with listening to cheesy cassettes. The “raw scores,” are (surprisingly) based on physical objective realities, and cultural facts, which can be measured. [People might suspect that I am trying to build up suspense, by not explaining or actually discussing the methodology here, but that is not the case. The list may be significant apart from its methodology, for reasons I will explain in a few sentences at the end of this post.]

Kristofer says, with total justification, ‘One has to wonder, with ample mistrust, at the metrics involved in these kitsch "rankings".’ Yes, the list should not be “trusted” at all, though not perhaps for the reasons given, since reasons mentioned thus far apply, if at all, indirectly to the eleven criteria. I don’t see how or why the rankings would be seen as “kitsch,” at least in the sense of referring to “unsubstantial or gaudy works or decoration.” After all, the top composers after Bach, Mozart and Beethoven are: Schubert, Brahms, Wagner, Verdi (I might consider him a “bit Kitsch”), Handel, Haydn, etc – what I would call “great composers,” for the most part, whatever my personal preferences, with regard to style and content. (Is Tchaikovsky “kitsch?” I have thought so, at times. But I don’t think Schumann, Ravel, Debussy, Vivaldi, Berlioz and Hindemith are).

But the specific ranking is not nearly so interesting to me as something else. That something else has nothing to do with “musicology” (as a practiced academic field of study) or with “the academy” at all. I think the significance of the list is simply this: One can find on it names of composers that one does NOT know, and then do a search on youtube, and discover great music, perhaps TRULY GREAT music by composers one has never even heard of. Such music may INSPIRE ME, or give me ideas. That makes it worthwhile, to me. I began with example of Di Lasso, and I suspect there are many more. Rankings are a secondary matter. Exact precision in determining a ranking means very little to me: I won’t take seriously the idea that Franz Liszt is greater than Gustav Mahler, simply because the former ranks 12 and the latter ranks 19. Go down to 133 on the list and find the name of the composer “Arrigo Boito.” I don’t know who that is. I have never heard of him. Now that intrigues me. He may be TRULY GREAT. It would be a shame to neglect him entirely, if he is.

Well, Frederick, that's all true. It makes sense, and I agree, at least in theory. However, it takes even more space to say something in Russian than it does in English, and since I take what Russians (and what other Europeans say) more seriously than what is said in English about music, then I don't know if the problem of space is really that substantial, give or take 30%. With all that is written in French, Italian, German and Slovenian, I am sure it all balances out. And it's only one of eleven unweighted criteria. Souza is not on the list at all anyway, and we are talking about now, when the libraries and their holdings are larger than ever, worldwide. (Also, I doubt that in 1900, Souza manuscripts outnumbered Bach manuscripts throughout the whole of the Western World, or even in the US).

I think your last point is the most important. It explains why Bach and Mozart outrank Beethoven, I think.

"What the author of the study has done is to tell us that ability of a book to reach a large audience is based on the number of pages in the book without mentioning content as a factor."

Of course, Telemann should outrank almost everyone, but it's not just how many pages there are, it's how many music librarians have thought it worthwhile to have so many copies of so many works by Composer X. So Telemann does rank 35, which may be too high, but he still doesn't come close to Brahms, Beethoven and Schubert, even though they wrote much less. Quality triumphed in the minds of many music librarians and many authors of music encyclopedias.

The list is flawed, I agree. But it's main purpose might still be to alert us to composers we don't know about, and who may deserve our attention.

For instance, who is "Grétry, André-Ernest-Modeste," who ranks just above that great composer of electronic music, Bruno Maderna, at ranking number 349? It might be worth finding out.

Does everyone here know every name on the list of 500? I certainly do not. For all I know, André-Ernest-Modeste Gretry may be greater than Ponchielli, Jacques Ibert, Delius or Carl Maria von Weber, and I would not be surprised at all if he was.

To me, these kinds of lists are rather uninteresting. Whether you put Mozart, Beethoven or Bach as nr 1  2 or 3 is like ranking oranges, apples or pears. There are periods, where I like one more than the other, but this is not static. The same with music.  After an intensive period of listening and enjoying for example Bach, I may “rediscover” the stupendous beauty of for example Schubert,and I can listen to it for weeks, and forget Bach alltogether for that time.

The middle and bottom part of the list is only interesting for learning more about “unknown” composers (and there I agree with Ondib). The ranking seems to be more of a joke to me. Has anyone heard of Cherubini? What is the reason for him being ranked as nr 164 (why below George Crumb)?  Beethoven had an enormous respect for him and regarded him as one of the top composers of his time. And he had a great influence on him. Just listen to Cherubini´s Medea Overture ( and discover similarities with Beethoven (I would almost be inclined to say: in the style of the Egmont Overture).

But written 1797!  

Johan Roeraade asked: "Has anyone heard of Cherubini? What is the reason for him being ranked as nr 164 (why below George Crumb)? Beethoven had an enormous respect for him and regarded him as one of the top composers of his time."

I have heard of Cherubini, and I have heard Cherubini on the radio numerous times. Personally, I never found his music all that compelling or interesting. If Cherubini writes "in the style" of Beethoven, maybe that is his problem. There does not seem to be much original there, when compared with many others higher up on the list. George Crumb, on the other hand, continues to be viewed as a highly original composer, who has stretched the boundaries of art and produced works that fascinate and interest people in the world of contemporary classical music. The criteria are quite clear, and there are eleven, which George Crumb apparently satisfied more effectively than Cherubini.

[The explanation of the “scores” is provided here: ]

Now I am simply answering the question: "What is the reason for him being ranked as nr 164 (why below George Crumb)?" If the criteria were "composers who are more similar in style to Beethoven, and composers who Beethoven himself ranked as the top composers for his time," then Cherubini would be much higher on the list. I don't think that would be a very valid set of criteria, though, as much as I love Beethoven.

“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.”

It's simply a matter of fulfilling the criteria, that's all. Once you know and understand the criteria, then you can understand why people are where they are on the list. The list is set up "objectively," so the results can only be questioned on subjective grounds. Or you have set up another set of criteria, and explain why this other set would be superior.

The absolute greatest composer of all time is - unknowable, of course. But there's near universal agreement it's one of the following: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven. It's a nobrainer that each was the greatest of their respective period, and it is these three periods that constitute the golden age of Western Music. Before Bach, most of us are too ignorant to even hazard a guess. After LBV, it's so wide-open that it's impossible to say - the ponies have jumped the fence, and are scattered far and wide. I agree that Schubert should rank very high, in the top five easy. After all, he died at 31, having composed more music than Brahms would. His 9th symphony is better than several of LVB's. It is mind-boggling to contemplate what he might have accomplished had antibiotics been invented. We might well be arguing about whether Schubert or Bach or Mozart was number one. To round out the top five, I think Haydn is another nobrainer. Incredible output, and as Fred pointed out, he practically invented the very forms that would be used for the next 175 years or so.

Someone (I think Ondib) mentioned that Tchaikovsky was a bit on the kitschy side. I think this comes from his ballets, and the piano concerto, undoubtedly the most overplayed piece of all time. But his symphonies are monumental. Also, he was an absolute master of every form - opera, ballet, chamber, symphonic, etc. So I have no problem with him being ranked so high. I've always thought he should be in the top 10 or at least 15. He is arguably the greatest of the Russian composers. And after Germany, it is Russia that has produced the most great composers.

OK, let 'er rip, tell me why the above is a bunch of pure unfiltered bovine droppings.

Everything Michael Dernier said is more or less correct, even what he said about Tchaikovsky. (Though I think, even in his symphonies, Tchaikovsky has problems with the development of thematic material).

Still, I don't see what is wrong with the set of criteria spelled out for the list of the greatest 500.

I quote it here, for those who have not read it yet:

The particular 500 composers now included scored highest on a combination of eleven (unweighted) variables; these were: (1) length of composer entry in the Schwann Opus catalog (2) length of composer entry in the Grove's Dictionary of Music (3) length of composer entry in the (British) RED Classical Catalogue (4) for each composer's existing published sheet music, the number of libraries in the OCLC WorldCat database (covering the sum holdings of over 50,000 libraries in the U. S. and worldwide) holding his/r 20th-ranking work in his/r overall list (5) from the same source, the total number of sheet music publications for each composer over the past five years only (6) from the same source, the total number of Library of Congress subject headings referring to each composer’s name (name authority record) (7) same as #6, but taking the total over the past five years only (8) from the same source, the total number of recordings referring to each composer (9) same as #8, but taking the total over the past five years only (10) as for #4, the number of libraries holding his/r 25th-ranking recording (11) combining data from the Opus and RED catalogs, the mean length of record for all the works by each composer.

On this sound scientific basis we have every reason to be sure that Stravinsky's Rite of Spring is greater than Percy Granger's piano arrangement of Pop Goes the Weasel.

Those who really want to know why George Crumb is aesthetically superior to Cherubini can listen to Lux Aeterna:

Sir, I schlapp you across zhe maul vhis zhe vhite glove off dishonour.

Christopher Shaver said:

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik sucks.

I think the OP is asking the wrong question when they ask "what do I have to do to become a good composer?"

That's like asking what does one have to do to become a good singer, musician, writer, artist or whatever. It's like asking how can I become a good athlete or great business person. We all have certain gifts that we inherit. One needs to discover what these are and develop them and not try to develop skills that you know you have little or marginal abilities for if you are seeking real success.

Creativity also is a gift that all people possess but not to the same degree. Studies show that most people possess some creative talent. Then there is a smaller percentage of people who have an above normal amount of creative ability. Lastly a small percentage of the general population possess a high amount of creative talent.

Other studies show that for these above average and the highly creative people, which are more easily observed, some people's creative output comes mostly in early adulthood, a small percentage produce later in life and the majority of them display a fairly even creative output throughout their life. Of course some people die at a relatively early age which can skew the numbers a little.

Fredrick says, 'I have no idea why Ondib insists saying the list of most popular composers have a "sound scientific basis."' I don't think I ever said the list of 500 was a "list of the most popular composers." I checked the source, and the expert who compiled the list never said that either. He merely called it a "ranking of composers." That the list has "a sound scientific basis" cannot be doubted by anyone who has carefully read all eleven criteria, the description of the methodology and the credentials of compiler of the list. Of course, I am not saying it was “the only scientific basis,” or even the “best scientific basis.” The criteria and methodology could arguably be refined. We do have a suggestion. Bob Porter says, “How often someone chooses to listen to a composers work would be a better measure.” But can such a metric be better, empirically speaking? It is admitted, “there is no way to measure that.” A scientific study must use methods that can be employed, from a practical standpoint. An even better measure, theoretically, might also be to gather together an extraordinary committee (consisting of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Orpheus and the Nine Muses) to evaluate each piece of music ever written, vote, and then include that result as the twelfth criterion for the final list. But I don’t think there is any way to do that, either.

Fredrick said, “In the case that Ondib cites, I would be willing to bet that any other 'researcher", even using the same 11 criteria, would come up with a substantially different list.” I am afraid you would lose that bet, because I can list several researchers who definitely WOULD NOT come up with a substantially different list. They would not and they cannot. They would not because they don’t do that kind of research; and they CAN NOT because they were grievously injured in accidents and have become comatose, with irreversible brain damage. In fact, they cannot make any kind of list at all. So you might be ill advised to bet that “any other ‘researcher’” would make a substantially different list. (See Tchaikovsky’s opera, the “Queen of Spades,” and Prokofiev’s “The Gambler,” on the perils of wagering). [More seriously, though, anyone who used the same methodology and the same criteria, would come up with the exact same result. Have you carefully read the methodology and criteria?]

I believe the list of 500 was compiled not only on a sound scientific basis, but also on the basis of the six requirements or research laid out by Fredrick, insofar as this was possible in an investigation of this sort. Of course, we are talking about social science here, which yields results that are subject to more varied interpretations. Nevertheless, does anyone doubt Ludwig von Beethoven should rank higher than Leo Delibes or Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov? Or that Bach should rank higher than Satie? The list may seem unsatisfactory. But is this merely because it rankles a few of our own purely personal judgments? Still, if anyone can find a superior list, or suggest a method for constructing one, I think it would be worth considering. As it stands, I am perfectly happy to trust the objective methodology of the list compiler, when he tells me that Felix Mendelssohn ranks higher than Karl Amadeus Hartmann (even though I have no idea who Hartmann is, or what his music sounds like). But please don’t tell me that judgments about music are entirely subjective, and that no objective rankings are possible. If you don’t like words like “objective” and “objectivity,” used in this context, then we can substitute a more viable term: we can use Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological construct of “inter-subjectivity” as a compromise. But that would be another discussion.

[For those interested, Karl Amadeus Hartmann is number 475 on the list. Satie is 70. Leo Delibes is 139. Ippolitov-Ivanov is 474. See: ]


I just looked on your page for the information about "De Lasso."



Others can see it, at:

Fredrick zinos said:


Please look at my home page on this Forum for data on De Lasso.

When I was young I thought I didn't like classical... Wellllll, there was that ONE thing I liked... I hummed it and the adult identified it as toccata and fugue in d minor. Wellllll.... And that other one? Bum bum bum BAHHHHHHHHHM. Beethoven's fifth.... And oh yeah, that frantic piece... Hall of the mountain king they said when I hummed it.

So I liked some, I knew.

They were BIG pieces. They had the energy of my heavy metal I liked then. And... Some had parts that were so delicate and beautiful, like sunlight glistening on a fine spiders thread with gumdrops of dew... Then BAM it just HIT you with the energy came roaring back.

I don't know much.. I learned just enough to know that I do not know much, lmao... But...

Counterpoint is a common element of many pieces from the beautiful delicate intricate parts to the big heavy energy parts. Counterpoint allows several music lines to work on their own... And.. To work TOGETHER even better than separately.

Then... If one line of counterpoint is in ONE key, and the other line is in another key? The difference between those keys "draws out" many different sounds as you change both. Some are happier some more sad... Some triumphant. Some scary or tension laden..... Counter point and key changes adds lots of OPTIONS to make it more interesting. You can pick delicate and pretty parts out to use... And pick out big scary parts... And weave it all together.

Binary or Sonota form guides you, as a kind of outline or template... To get started lengthening and keeping it coherent at the same time.

You make yourself little exercises in all these techniques you teach yourself... And periodically you try to use ALL your tricks in one big piece to see where you are at... Then you go back to learning always yet another technique or trick.

Its all very personal, but, me personally I liked pentatonic minor best... and i found i liked the sonata and binary forms best...

it all takes a lot of time and frustration and reading and learning and doing.... its a hobby you spend more energy and time on than any job in real life when you are doing it. eventually it starts to bear fruit... just a little... and after a while, you learn more and more, and it starts to pik up steam and your speed of learning increases.

eventually it all starts coming together for you personally. if you get disheartened every time a friend pokes fun of you, or, when you get on here and some "professional" POO POO-S  you for being a rank amateur? if this BOTHERS you? then you dont have what it takes... whih of course what it takes is the ability to laugh it of take it on the hin, and go RIGHT BACK to learning more and use the negative energy you take in for constructive energy to keep doing it.

eventually, you sit back... and you have actually dome SOME SMALL THING THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY YOUMADE IT... then you are HOOKED.after that moment? its in your blood and it drives you.

i never understood "ART" before getting into music as a hobby. i was a math and science guy... i'm glad i did, its very personally satisfying to have some art in your life to go along with the math and science. Its a different world art is... its a little bit of YIN to go with my YANG.

hope this is clearer tan mud

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