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Thread: How do you define Tier 1, Tier 2...composers?

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    Default How do you define Tier 1, Tier 2...composers?

    I've read many posts where a member talks about tier 1, tier 2, or lower tier composers. I'm never sure exactly what is meant by these terms. I don't know if someone's tier 2 composers are all composers I greatly respect and love. When people say tier 1, do they mean something like the top 10 or so composers? The top 25? More? When someone uses the term tier 2, do they essentially mean composers of little interest?

    I'm not so much interested in whether a particular composer is tier 1,2, 3, etc.. I have no doubt that almost no matter how tiers are defined Schoenberg would be tier 1 to some and tier 3 or lower to others. I'm really more interested in how people think about the tiers so that I can better understand how the terms are used in posts.

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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    Ranking composers by levels (Tier 1, tier 2, etc.)

    There was a bit of discussion in the above link. Personally I don't believe in tiers in composers, moreso with works. I think many great composers such as Vaughan Williams wrote some stuff that is equal to the best of others like Mozart and Beethoven. I suspect some rank in tiers in terms of how prolific or how many works in the canon.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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    Senior Member D Smith's Avatar
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    Likwise, I find the whole tier thing pretty meaningless. Perhaps a musicologist with a Ph.D could meaningfully rank composers based on their skill levels and contributions, but I certainly never could. So I'm content to enjoy who I enjoy and leave the ranking to those who enjoy that endeavor.

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    At least one person seems to equate tiers partly with the breadth of a composer's output which seems to me to be a very arbitrary and mostly meaningless distinction.

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by D Smith View Post
    Likwise, I find the whole tier thing pretty meaningless. Perhaps a musicologist with a Ph.D could meaningfully rank composers based on their skill levels and contributions, but I certainly never could. So I'm content to enjoy who I enjoy and leave the ranking to those who enjoy that endeavor.
    Surely you jest!

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    I would rather see categories: piano sonatas, violin sonatas, 19th-century symphonies, and so on, rather than meaningless tiers as if a work could be accurately rated as being on the 34th tier or the 54th tier or the 70th tier or the 500th tier. I think it’s demeaning to the music, and those who decide such things may not be accurate at all. Does listening to a work that’s supposedly on the 34th tier sound inviting? I don’t think so. I would like to see a different rating system, even just using extensive lists, that is more respectful of the music and doesn’t put a stigma on a work that is supposedly only good enough to be in the 40th tier. It’s cutting the boundary line between quality works far too thin and I believe the tier categories are highly misleading because there’s too many of them with no clear meaning of what each tier means.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Jul-13-2019 at 03:08.
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    Senior Member Littlephrase1913's Avatar
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    My theory is that tiers, rankings and categories in general are the products of intellectual boredom. When one amasses an immense knowledge of composers and periods in music history, one feels compelled to organize and hierarchize as a preventive measure against boredom with the material. It’s a way of putting all the “clutter” to good use.

    In other words, it’s a game for the entertainment of the cognoscenti, especially those with a disposition to order and structure things.

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    I don’t see what the big problem is. You would almost think that placing composers into tiers was politically incorrect.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    I don’t see what the big problem is. You would almost think that placing composers into tiers was politically incorrect.
    It just isn’t very useful. I’ve always disliked the need to put things into tiers, groupings, rankings of best and worst. For me, it doesn’t accomplish anything. Composer X may be judged a second tier composer, or whatever, but if I enjoy composer X then what does it matter? Does it point to a deficiency in my taste? If it does, and I like composer Y who is universally acclaimed as first tier, then does that even out? I agree with Littlephrase that the need to tier and rank things derives from a kind of intellectual need to categorize.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ECraigR View Post
    It just isn’t very useful. I’ve always disliked the need to put things into tiers, groupings, rankings of best and worst. For me, it doesn’t accomplish anything. Composer X may be judged a second tier composer, or whatever, but if I enjoy composer X then what does it matter? Does it point to a deficiency in my taste? If it does, and I like composer Y who is universally acclaimed as first tier, then does that even out? I agree with Littlephrase that the need to tier and rank things derives from a kind of intellectual need to categorize.
    I find it an interesting excercise. It’s not all about you and what you like or don’t like. And what you or Littlephrase thinks that says about me or anyone else who may like to do it is irrelevant, not to mention a lame attempt at armchair psychoanalysis.
    Last edited by DaveM; Jul-13-2019 at 05:19.

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    I think hierarchical lists can be useful in finding something else to listen to. We all have limited time, and it can be helpful to winnow down our choices of music, books, movies, television.

    They are not useful for arriving at any sort of objective truth, as they are inherently subjective. The most objective list is probably one of which compositions and composers are most popular and most played. It won't tell you anything intrinsic about the music, but it will at least aggregate the opinions of many.

    I have found that most lists of the most popular/played works in the canon are on to something. People like the music for a reason. I know it's pleasing on an intellectual level to think you've discovered some amazing secret, but generally it's an opinion held by a small minority.

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    Senior Member Littlephrase1913's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    I find it an interesting excercise. It’s not all about you and what you like or don’t like. And what you or Littlephrase thinks that says about me or anyone else who may like to do it is irrelevant, not to mention a lame attempt at armchair psychoanalysis.
    Guilty as charged on the count of armchair psychoanalysis.

    However, I by no means discourage or even dislike tiering, ranking or anything of that nature. It is indeed fun and stimulating. This is the premise of my whole argument after all!
    Last edited by Littlephrase1913; Jul-13-2019 at 05:43.

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    Senior Member Art Rock's Avatar
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    Meaningless without definitions.

    For compositions, I use a personal tier system, purely based on my own preference:

    Hors concours: the very best, less than 100 compositions overall
    First tier ("essential"): works I cannot do without if I had to rebuild my CD collection
    Second tier ("important"): works I would not like to do without if I had to rebuild my CD collection
    Third tier ("good to have"): works I would like to have if I had to rebuild my CD collection
    Fourth tier ("not required, or for completion"): the rest

    It does help me in my own ranking of composers as well, but again, that's subjective.
    Last edited by Art Rock; Jul-13-2019 at 06:10.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    I find it an interesting excercise. It’s not all about you and what you like or don’t like. And what you or Littlephrase thinks that says about me or anyone else who may like to do it is irrelevant, not to mention a lame attempt at armchair psychoanalysis.
    The last part isn’t fair. That there is an intellectual exercise in grading things you acknowledge. I simply said I don’t find it useful.

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    I haven't been involved at all in any of the "tiers" work but was under the impression that the on-going work was in connection with ranking works, and that the rank of the composer in each case was incidental.

    I say this because the area of forum where the results are set out is entitled:

    The Talk Classical Community’s Favorite and Most Highly Recommended Works

    The forum link takes you to this place where the results seem to be set out:

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1...ssZW2FX1U/edit

    ..........

    Whether the "tiers" lists are based on works or composers, I think it would be useful if the organisers could produce tables listing results by genre. As far as I can see, based on a quick comparison of certain genres, the "tiers" results don't tally all that well with the rankings produced in the earlier "TC Recommended Works Lists". Obviously each set of lists was produced at a different time and by different people, but it does look confusing to have two alternative sets of results each with the title incorporating "TC Recommended .."

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