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Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379061 05/21/08 01:52 AM
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ChopinLives81 Offline OP
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So why do you guys think this is. Seems to be that the last of the great Era of composers died out early in the 20th century. Why don't we have composers of Bach's caliber today? Why are there no more Chopin's, Beethoven's etc...today? The 18th and 19th century was abundant in these great minds, but no more frown

Everyone Today does plenty of playing, but not much composing. I think that we as the capable musicians that we are, should be responsible in continuing in the footsteps of our greatest inspirations. Anyone else agree?


"A Sorceror of tonality; the piano is my cauldron and the music is my spell, let those who cannot hear my calling die and burn in He11."

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Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379062 05/21/08 02:07 AM
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mabye we just need a break...?

bortkiewicz was still compoing till the early 50's


"I don't think I handle the notes much differently from other pianists. But the pauses between the notes - ah, there is where the artistry lies" - Artur Schnabel

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Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379063 05/21/08 02:25 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by ChopinLives81:
Seems to be that the last of the great Era of composers died out early in the 20th century.
So you wouldn't consider Shostakovich, Stravinsky or Britten "great"? (Just to mention three off the top of my head who managed to make it to the 1970s)


Du holde Kunst...
Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379064 05/21/08 02:29 AM
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There are plenty of good composers alive now. You are not paying attention. I just got back from a concert with a very nice piece by James Cohn, who was in attendance.


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Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379065 05/21/08 03:13 AM
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Part of it is that the Classical style is currently overshadowed by other, more mainstream forms. If there are any great composers, it would be hard to hear about them.


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Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379066 05/21/08 03:24 AM
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copland...

and I definitely feel John Williams should be included as a great modern composer, and quite prolific considering the amount of work he has done for the film industry. Don't discount the modern era of music quite yet.


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Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379067 05/21/08 03:43 AM
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I've been thinking may times about this problem, and I will try to express my idea in my broken english (sorry guys!)

During the 19th there was a big change in the manner of composing music. Instead of giving the biggest importance to the contrapuntal aspect of music (i.e melodic lines) the composers started to explore the extreme limits of harmony (i.e chords, the vertical aspect of music). This fact made the music less and less accessible to the large public, as "normal" people , without formal musical education, are much more interested in the catching "melody" than in the "scholar" harmony...The music, more and more, became an "elit" art, of people able to appreciate the strong harmonic aspect of the 19the and early 20th contury music...This finally leaded to the atonal music, of wich you'll never see a teenager listenin to it in his ipod...

The big problem is, that the future big composers and musicians, are to be recruited WITHIN THE PUBLIC. No public means very rare students, and nearly no talented students...I'm a bit rough but that's the truth.

Another point is that we are living in a "performance" society...We are training infants to be great "machine" pianists, just to see them perform the "moonlight sonata" at the age of three in front of an audience...Without any artistic or musical education...This leading most of this three years old pianist to give up music at the age of 15, or to become what they were trained for, machine pianists...

Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379068 05/21/08 04:22 AM
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I think the problem is not lack of composers themselves , but rather the public's focus on preformers and not composers. Not to mention the fact that the public prefers shallow tuneful music that is without substance. It seems that they have reduced music to cheap dancing tunes. If you can't dance to it, then it's of no value, those are the common standards today.

Talent and creativity still and will always exist, it' just being redirected towards insignificant matters.

I could only imagine if Liszt was born in our time,wouldn't he have ended up as a rock star rather than history's most formidable pianist?


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Beethoven : Piano Conerto No.2
Mozart : Piano Sonata No.6
Schubert : Moment Musicax No.3
Chopin : Black Key Etude
Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379069 05/21/08 04:56 AM
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81 has set the bar mighty high in asking us to come up with an extant keyboard composer to match the likes of Bach, Beethoven and Chopin.

It should be remembered that the audience of the Masters was thin ... privileged aristocratic salons ... the rest of the merry world got by, by whistling a catchy street-corner tune.

Thank goodness we will never again hear an imitation of a Bach Prelude and Fugue, a Beethoven Sonata or a Chopin Nocturne ... time to move on.

But pushing 81's time constraint to include the 20th century ... some of us are still transported by the Tin Pan Alley Song Era ... which splashed
trendy melodies to a universal audience ... anticipating the global village ... but still making space for innovative classical likes of Debussy, Stravinsky, Ravel, Rachmaninoff ... and dare I include ... George Gershwin.

But in savouring the past, let’s move on ... each remembered composer will have pioneered new ground to plant a respected banner by the way ...
however, us oldies might battle to appreciate the weird formats of Cage and Messiaen ... but it won’t be long before the fresh generation will come up with the shock of "who’s Cage?" ... must be getting old!

Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379070 05/21/08 04:59 AM
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1. Into the abyss of atonality

It is no accident that when Brahms saw during the heights of New German Romanticism that the limits of tonality were being pushed towards destroying tonality altogether that he threatened to stop composing himself.

At the beginning of the last century, "Classical=Modern" music started developing beyond something which could reach the average listener. If music does not impact you or please you or elicit an emotional response, then what exactly is the point?

Brahms was right.

2. Reach of the Masses & Consumer Choice

Let's not forget that "classical" music was always an affair for the elites. Beyond church settings, public events and priveleged circles, there was little serious music being made or heard.

There was more trickle down as living conditions improved, instruments became more available, revolutions changed social structures, etc. But, compared to today, very few people heard music ever or with any regularity.

Today music is ubiquitous. It is wallpaper. And it is marvelously multi-faceted but also splintered with something for everyone. People can be plugged into their own personally designed soundtrack world via ipod 24/7. Part of the price to be paid with widespread appeal and the law of the lowest common denominator of mass markets making the music choices for us versus trickle down from elite music making, is the banality we find in pop music. But there are many pop, country, etc. composers composing music meeting people's needs better today than at any other time in history. Love 'em or hate 'em, history's classical composers could only dream of the financial and dissemination success of today's popular composers.

3. Mausoleums of Music Preservation

As soon as we all had to start sitting still in absolute silence during concerts as if we were in some dark Dutch Reformed Church service, concerts started to become more and more anachronistic ceremonies to venerate museum pieces rather than living institutions supporting contemporary music.

Those who appreciate Classic music are also the ones who often don't like Rap or Ambient House, or something serious but unknown from someone who isn't even dead yet! When they consume Classical music they want to hear things they know, that are familiar or that lie in their comfort zone.

Concert Halls have to be filled and CD's have to be sold, so we get what we ask for. Concert halls program known Classics from the Canon because they are deserve to be "classics", but also because people simply don't come when they program something else.

4. Mount Olympus

We are living in fascinating, absolutely fast-paced times. The increases in computer processing power seem to be almost setting the tempo for unimaginable improvements in human performance.

If composer Brahms was shocked by extended chromaticism, imagine the heart attack today's wide variety of music styles would bring him. But the greater shock might come from the sheer quantity and extraordinarily high level of playing of today's piano virtuosos. The level of playing demanded of pianists today would seem to preclude any kind of development as well-rounded musicians. Who has the time to reflect, create and compose when there are 3 warhorses to be memorized and perfected to CD-studio standard?

The increased, almost un-human levels of human performance demanded today whether in Olympic sports or Classical music making are making composition something for "someone else" to do.

5. Make or Break critics

In this day and age of mass media and paradoxical extreme conformism within the context of apparent wide consumer choice, the power and impact of critics is perhaps greater than at any time in the past.

When before a composer might simply first need to get a smile from the King or patron, today moving a piece of serious music beyond a marginal premiere into experimental phase and actually into the repertoire is perhaps more difficult than ever.

6. Hindsight is 20/20

Bach is considered one of the greatest composers ever, yet he did not enjoy widespread appreciation during his lifetime and was in fact forgotten until he was re-discovered and re-launched decennia after his death partially with the help of Mendelssohn.

Who is to say which of the talented composers of the 20th and 21st centuries will only be truly appreciated after a similar resurrection long after both they and we are dead and buried?

Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379071 05/21/08 05:08 AM
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I think the distinction is between 'academic' and 'interesting' music.

Also, recording technology has changed worthwhile 'business models'. In 19th century one could not perform more to than small elite groups, so writing selling sheet music for other performers was their focus. Now it's much more profitable to perform (shaping the image too!) and sell the records, and stadiums with amplification can gather much more paying public. And charge royalties if others perform their pieces.

As for danceable = bad that is laughable !! Mozart and Johann Strauss wrote some of the most danceable pieces of their time.
I've heard a contemporary orchestral piece, sparkling still classical sounding in a sort of continuation of Strauss, by a certain Roberti ?

As for what will be 100 years later the prized academic music taken from recent times, there may be many... even if now composers are mainly their own performers, for above mentioned income control reasons ;-)

Bjoern Ulvaeus wrote not only in ABBA (and if you really analyze, that isn't shallow arrangement), but later the opera "Kristina fran Duvemala" [EDIT: that was colleague Benny Andersson!]. I appreciate it as better than most Verdi operas (in interesting minutes ;-)) Listen to the contrapuntal choir "A Sunday in Battery Park".
Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, ... in the musical theatre.
Mike Oldfield, J.M. Jarre... in using electronics to really advance fine original music.
Yngwie Malmsteen... of the hard rock continuing the classical tradition. Listen to his Toccata (needed some Japanese orchestra and choir to put it in value):
http://youtube.com/watch?v=CXlFmKu44nY
Beto Vazquez, Ritchie Blackmore, ...

Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379072 05/21/08 08:13 AM
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Great comments.

It makes me wonder If Chopin, Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart were born in say... 1955 and were composing today what would their music sound like and would people love it as much as they love the music composed back in the 17 and 18 hundreds?

Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379073 05/21/08 08:42 AM
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The 80's electronic music has gone too.
Music is a language and a mean of communication and therefore the surrounding social environment you live in does influence the kind of music you naturally compose.

As someone said classical music had already disappeared when musical dadaism took over. Classical or Romantic music seems indeed to develop from a social environment where life is calmer and slower, when there's more aestethic details and other things hard to evaluate.
The music dadaism already lived in an era of modern chaos, fast changes and urban noises and in fact that's what they tried to capture. A typical claim was that you can't create the pastoral music of Beethoven anymore because the green hills and flowers had been substituted by cars, concrete, buildings and so on.

I believe the modernist argument holds no water.
Not only because "innovation for the sake of it" is a stupid thing, I can claim to be innovative by throwing big purple rocks on the piano and recording the sound it produces and it would "innovative" because no one else has done it, but would be fake innovation which is very different than being innovative by sharing your individual message through the content of the music itself (which is what every musician does and have always done and will always do). But also the claim that music must represent reality is completely retarded as music can represent a dream, an utopia, a fantasy, a memory ... just everything.
Creating music about Apollo is not any less modern nowadays than it was in the past.

What we call pop music is not a modern invention. Pop music has always existed and all composers took popular music in high esteem and classical and romantic music can be said to be always derived from the popular music of the villages.

So I think what happened is a combination of the cultural environment changing and also the way music is listened to and also the accademical modernist dogma that have really sabotaged any attempt of many composer to maintain their own language rather than conform to the language of innovation for the sake of it or always seeking the shock factor. Many of these composers who wanted to compose their own music but were ridicules and chased away from the accademic theaters ended up becoming soundtrack and musical composers which is where I believe the new symphonic music really resides.

Things are changing a little nowadays.
The arguments of people like Adorno are slowly dying and becoming absolete and the free-composers are vindicating their right to compose their own music without the restrain of accademical modernism.

The greatest sign of this change is the Masterprize which is a contest for modern composers. The Masterprize was created to give composers the chance to compose what they wanted and to free their creativity rather than being limited by the modernist ideals. People of every kind partecipated with interest which proves that if people stopped following accademic music it is because accademic music broke all the bridges with people. It is a typical modernist motto that people are stupid and that the less people are interested in your music the better it must be.

There's a modern composer for piano which I appreciate a lot called Jean Chatillon www.jeanchatillon.com If only his music were transmitted on ratio and his concertos were more published a lot of people (Yes even those that listen Christina Aguilera music) would attent and appreciate.

I want also to add that there shouldn't be a war between popular music and symphonic accademic music. All music which is listened is here to stay. The same person might prefer some light musical experience while preparing his breakfast but still attent the opera at night. Different genres of music suits different circumstances, fulfill different social roles and convey different emotions. Being a musician, a music lover and limiting yourself with a single genre must be one of the most terrible things one can do to himself. Movie lovers are interested in every kind of movie from old classic and subtexted japanese movies to hollywood flicks. Cuisine lovers are interested in every kind of cuisine from simple traditional dishes to more sophisticated to cuisine to ethnic food. The same should be for the musician and the music lover.

I think the different genres should all be in the composer bag. It is exciting how nowadays we can have our mind full of ideas and write a musical one time, a sonata another time, a ballad another time, a fugue another time, a pop song another time, a videogame soundtrack another time, a symphonic poem another time ... they're just different means to express the same individual emotions.

Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379074 05/21/08 08:54 AM
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Anybody who writes in a popular genre is automatically disqualified, right?


Sam
Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379075 05/21/08 10:01 AM
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Wagner wouldn't be disqualified even if opera became popular. In fact, when he started out, opera was popular and mostly trash. Everybody heard about him. If there's a Wagner somewhere today, nobody has heard about him.

Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379076 05/21/08 10:20 AM
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That is such a loaded question. It is true we don't see superstars in our midst like a Beethoven etc., but there are almost certainly still active great composers. The main problem is that mass media ignores classical music and so we rarely hear of them. Also, there are probably 10 times the number of active composers now than 100 years ago, so competition to be seen and heard is extremely fierce.

Here are some names of composers that are either still alive are just recently died that might be considered great: Sallinen, Rautavaara, Malcom Arnold, John Williams (when he feels like it); there must be several more I don't know about.

There are also some great composers that really concentrate on one or two genres, like choral writing or opera. There are some beautiful choral works by Tikey Zes, who otherwise is an unknown composer. The operatic writing of Tan Dun shows some real promise to become great. His opera "The First Emperor" was recently given at the Met and I was pleasantly surprised at how often he was able to combine traditional operatic elements with a twist, but not in a gimmicky sort of way. I actually had my two kids (8 and 10 years old) watching with me and they liked it. Some of it was not great, but I think Tan Dun is on the right track.

Well, that's my 2 cents' worth.


Scott
Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379077 05/21/08 10:56 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by btb:
It should be remembered that the audience of the Masters was thin ... privileged aristocratic salons ... the rest of the merry world got by, by whistling a catchy street-corner tune.
Quote
Originally posted by theJourney:
Let's not forget that "classical" music was always an affair for the elites. Beyond church settings, public events and priveleged circles, there was little serious music being made or heard.
These comments honestly surprised me. I'm certain I've read uncontested statements in other threads to the effect that what we call "classical" music was the popular music of that era.

Which version is correct?
Quote
Originally posted by ROMagister:
In 19th century one could not perform more to than small elite groups, so writing selling sheet music for other performers was their focus.
Did music publishers in those days really sell, by and large, to such a narrow market as "other performers"? Does performers in this context mean professional musicians or include students and amateurs?

I had always imagined—again, based on my possibly flawed notion that our classical music was actually popular music back then—that there was a significant level of public interest in that music. I thought the study and performance of music by amateurs was much more common then. Was it? Or was it the province of musical professionals and the educated elite?

Steven

Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379078 05/21/08 11:19 AM
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Originally posted by ScottM:
The main problem is that mass media ignores classical music and so we rarely hear of them.
The problem is that when music consumption changed, the media changed, the cultural environment changed "classical" music shut itself into an ivorty tower and ignored the mass media and the people in the street. It is the music and the accademic establishment that broke every bridge with the population, the cultural problems of those years (i.e. when joan baez and bob dylan were singing in the squares against the war and forming a bond with the problems of the society) and the way the musical world had changed. A lot of modern composer that were students in those year nowadays acknolwedge the faults of the dogmatic snob attitude of the musical accademy establishment of those years, and the modernist hype was a huge part of that.

Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379079 05/21/08 11:21 AM
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Caviar and foie gras are today very popular foods at serious gourmet restaurants. But in overall numbers and wide dissemination, Big Macs and kraft mac'n cheese dinners are the most popular. Why don't more Wal-Mart employees eat caviar and foie gras? Well, they may not even know it exists since it is not part of their personal culture, it might not be to their liking or please their palette, they don't frequent those kind of restaurants and they couldn't afford it if they did. But still, they eat "out" for almost 50% of their meals.

A similar situation existed in the 16th, 17th, 18th and to a lesser extent 19h centuries. Except that people certainly did not eat out for 50% of their meals and perhaps 50% did not hear anything but informal "pop/folk" music in their own circles since there were no radios, record players or suitable instruments in most people's home. Yes, Bach, or Beethoven or Brahms might have been the popular serious music of the time, but the circle exposed to that music was small. It was more caviar and foie gras kind of a crowd.

Pianos were instrumental so to speak in providing a medium to get music out to the masses. With the advent of the piano transcriptions of the operas or sonates that were being enjoyed by the elite could be sampled in one's own home.

Pianos started to make classical music become popular music. Radios then started a whole new movement.

Re: Why did the Composer Era die out and why don't we have great composers today? #379080 05/21/08 11:50 AM
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It's partly true that "classical music" shut itself in an ivory tower around a hundred years ago. But it's just as true that more and more people were hearing music over the radio and they gravitated more toward what they knew - specifically folk music, which is the grandfather of jazz and popular music.

Only very, very few songwriters will ever be considered great composers. If the composer really had more importance than the singer or group, their name would be emblazoned on the album or CD. Instead, you have to read the fine print most of the time to find who wrote something, and even then it's not always clear. That's a shame in some cases. And since they are mostly unknown, they will never be held up as great composers.

So it's also true to say that you hardly ever hear of a great "pop" composer (i.e. songwriter). The only ones that come to my mind from the last 40 years are John Lennon and Burt Bacharach.


Scott
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