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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  • 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.

    Why are some pieces of music more liked than others?
    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. Evid…
  • 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?

    Why are some pieces of music more liked than others?
    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. Evid…
  • 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".

    Why are some pieces of music more liked than others?
    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. Evid…
  • 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.

  • 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].

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

    Why are some pieces of music more liked than others?
    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. Evid…
  • 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
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9TYm4d5dNs

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

    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.

    - YouTube
    Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube.
  • 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.

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