View Poll Results: Who is your favorite of the big 3 composers?

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  • Bach

    54 33.13%
  • Mozart

    37 22.70%
  • Beethoven

    72 44.17%
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Thread: Favorite of the Big Three (poll)

  1. #226
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chu42 View Post
    Pathetic? Or maybe even all of complex reasons why we like a certain composer are also subjective. Why does a certain progression sound good or bad to you? Why does chromatic complexity matter at all to you? What about complexity or simplicity appeals to you? Why does a texture sound good when it is done with a certain combination of instruments over a different combination of instruments? Why do you like the sound of the flute in a certain context, and why do you like the sound of a bassoon in another context?

    Answering these questions will make you realize that music is just as subjective as ice cream, right down to the very last note.
    Have you answered those questions? Care to share some of the the answers - the ones you're certain of, I mean? The ones that lead necessarily to your conclusion?

    Are you somehow offended by the ice cream comparison?
    No, I just find it hilarious.

    There is certainly a lot to learn about the complexities of this aesthetic and why it matters to us.
    There certainly is.

    But even so, it is all subjective.
    Where are those answers you must have found in order to know this?

    Realize that if our brains were just slightly different, maybe Beethoven would have been forgotten for all time. Maybe we would hate Bach. Maybe Mozart would sound no more appealing than Limp Bizkit.
    Our brains ARE different. For some brains, Beethoven is easily forgotten for all time. Some brains do hate Bach. But that's not what's interesting. No one enjoys everything, not even life itself. What's interesting is how so many people - and virtually all musicians and students of music who possess more knowledge than the kid who practices the snare drum in the garage - have not forgotten Beethoven and don't hate Bach. In fact, most of them are absolutely certain that these composers are some of the greatest masters of the art. That's really interesting, isn't it? It's also interesting that even less musically knowledgeable audiences seem to agree with the musicians and scholars, as evidenced by the way they attend concerts and buy recordings. But wait! Maybe even more interesting is that enormous numbers of people raised in other cultures with completely different musical traditions, when they discover Beethoven and Bach, agree with Western musicians, scholars and audiences that those composers are among the greatest masters of music.

    Why?

    If you want some questions to answer, work on that one.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Mar-31-2020 at 22:47.

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  3. #227
    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    Now I'm feeling as if I've done something wrong.

    And what do you mean by "perhaps"? Either he is the greatest, or he isn't.
    Wait a minute. I’ll ask KenOC.

  4. #228
    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    Many people think that simple popularity is the best indicator of greatness. But it's more complex than that. I prefer to use box office revenues.
    Probably, using the idea of importance as a stand-in for greatness, one might comparatively measure column-inches of type devoted to each composer. This would include books, journals, Internet verbiage, etc. This would show Beethoven well ahead of Vincent d'Indy: hence more important. Measurable stuff.

  5. #229
    Senior Member chu42's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    Maybe there wouldn’t be classical music at all. Maybe we wouldn’t be able to intelligently communicate. On the other hand, what if our brains were a little better and we wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place. How does that make you feel?
    You are getting off topic and moving towards reductio ad absurdum because you have run out of points to make. Let me explain my own points better

    This is an objective statement: "The Große Fuge is more complex than Für Elise".

    This is not an objective statement: "The Große Fuge is a greater work than Für Elise."

    If you think this is untrue, what if someone went up to you and said: "I completely understand everything about the Große Fuge. I appreciate it's harmonic and chromatic complexity. I know the theory behind why it's such a powerful and innovative work. But even so, I think Für Elise is better because I prefer the simplicity."

    Who decided that complexity has more merit than simplicity in this context? Who decides that a certain series of notes, or a certain use of techniques, is better than another?

    We can take the analogy further. Let's say that a Stradivarius violin sounds objectively "sweeter" than an equivalent Guarneri (humor me as if such a thing were possible.) Who decided that a sweeter tone is more appealing in the first place? Why do we prefer a sweet sound to a strained sound? Let me answer this question: Music is a democracy. How anything is decided is through the experience of the people.

    We love the Große Fuge today. It is considered to be one of the greatest works of all time. You might even say that it is "objectively great", in our current view of musical aesthetics. But we often forget a certain aesthetic in a certain zeitgeist despised the work—that is, the zeitgeist present 200 years ago. Does the Große Fuge magically metamorphize from being "objectively great" to "objecticely awful", just because we went back in time by 200 years?

    Music is subjective.

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  7. #230
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    Quote Originally Posted by chu42 View Post
    This is not an objective statement: "The Große Fuge is a greater work than Für Elise."
    I think you mean "better," or using the more metaphorical meaning of "greatness." The Große Fugue is certainly a greater work than Für Elise, if we take greatness at its literal value: "considerably above normal in extent, amount, or intensity." That's a measurable quantity.

    Better/Worse can be objective too if objective criteria are defined.

    Your last point is wrong. It's not that music is subjective. It's that the standards of quality are subjective. The standards themselves can be objective.
    Last edited by AeolianStrains; Mar-31-2020 at 22:42.

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  9. #231
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    Quote Originally Posted by chu42 View Post
    We can take the analogy further. Let's say that a Stradivarius violin sounds objectively "sweeter" than an equivalent Guarneri (humor me as if such a thing were possible.) Who decided that a sweeter tone is more appealing in the first place? Why do we prefer a sweet sound to a strained sound?
    I dunno. Why do we like not experiencing intense amounts of physical pain? Why do we prefer scientific theories that predict the results of experiments? Why do we frown upon serial killers? Who decided these things in the first place? It's all just subjective crap and anyone who says otherwise is just exalting their own experiences above others. Clearly.
    Last edited by BachIsBest; Mar-31-2020 at 22:50.

  10. #232
    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chu42 View Post
    You are getting off topic and moving towards reductio ad absurdum because you have run out of points to make. Let me explain my own points better...
    You are late to the game. This has been discussed several times in the past and I’ve explained why ‘it’s all subjective’ misleadingly reduces the subject to the lowest common denominator. Don’t confuse my alleged ‘running out of points’ with the fact that I will decide when, where and with whom I choose to discuss the matter further. And resorting to Latin doesn’t impress anybody either. Meanwhile, Woodduck has given you some homework.
    Last edited by DaveM; Mar-31-2020 at 22:55.

  11. #233
    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Woodduck's argument is most persuasive, especially the part about enormous numbers of people raised in other cultures grooving on Bach and Beethoven. Yet CM continues to shrink as a percentage of total musical interest as the pie grows ever larger, bringing into question the real size of "enormous numbers". But all of this again boils down to voting: who likes what? Each person's reaction to music and the arts is subjective and personal. Their reactions can be summed, bell curves constructed, conclusions laboriously drawn showing correspondences in certain brains between certain musics and sensations of pleasure, awe, well-being. But rather than being able to say that composer or work X is the greatest, it's more accurate to say that composer X most closely matched his/her output to the most other minds in some defined audience. If someone is moved more powerfully by composer Y, they can say "While I affirm that the data shows X more popular than Y, I still find Y moves me more powerfully and that's what matters."

  12. #234
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Artists spend their lives making their work better. Not liking it better. Making it better. For them, liking it better is contingent on it becoming better. They know the difference.

    To an amazing extent, we do too.

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  14. #235
    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Artists spend their lives making their work better. Not liking it better. Making it better. For them, liking it better is contingent on it becoming better. They know the difference.

    To an amazing extent, we do too.
    Sometimes we agree with the artist that it's been improved. Sometimes not.

  15. #236
    Senior Member chu42's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AeolianStrains View Post
    I think you mean "better," or using the more metaphorical meaning of "greatness." The Große Fugue is certainly a greater work than Für Elise, if we take greatness at its literal value: "considerably above normal in extent, amount, or intensity." That's a measurable quantity.

    Better/Worse can be objective too if objective criteria are defined.

    Your last point is wrong. It's not that music is subjective. It's that the standards of quality are subjective. The standards themselves can be objective.
    You put it better than I do.

  16. #237
    Senior Member chu42's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    You are late to the game. This has been discussed several times in the past and I’ve explained why ‘it’s all subjective’ misleadingly reduces the subject to the lowest common denominator. Don’t confuse my alleged ‘running out of points’ with the fact that I will decide when, where and with whom I choose to discuss the matter further. And resorting to Latin doesn’t impress anybody either. Meanwhile, Woodduck has given you some homework.
    Am I late to the game? It was in this 31-page discussion where I argued incessantly that composers could indeed be ranked objectively, and I was then convinced otherwise by a large lot.

    Where are all these naysayers now? How very interesting.

  17. #238
    Senior Member chu42's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Have you answered those questions? Care to share some of the the answers - the ones you're certain of, I mean? The ones that lead necessarily to your conclusion?



    No, I just find it hilarious.



    There certainly is.



    Where are those answers you must have found in order to know this?



    Our brains ARE different. For some brains, Beethoven is easily forgotten for all time. Some brains do hate Bach. But that's not what's interesting. No one enjoys everything, not even life itself. What's interesting is how so many people - and virtually all musicians and students of music who possess more knowledge than the kid who practices the snare drum in the garage - have not forgotten Beethoven and don't hate Bach. In fact, most of them are absolutely certain that these composers are some of the greatest masters of the art. That's really interesting, isn't it? It's also interesting that even less musically knowledgeable audiences seem to agree with the musicians and scholars, as evidenced by the way they attend concerts and buy recordings. But wait! Maybe even more interesting is that enormous numbers of people raised in other cultures with completely different musical traditions, when they discover Beethoven and Bach, agree with Western musicians, scholars and audiences that those composers are among the greatest masters of music.

    Why?

    If you want some questions to answer, work on that one.
    There is nothing to answer. It all boils down to the chemical makeup of our brains. I suppose you can dive into what chemical/hormonal reaction the average brain produces when it is processing the sound of a bassoon versus a flute.

    It seems like your argument hinges on the idea that when a certain amount of people around the world agree on something, it is suddenly objective good. Again, 200 years ago, people agreed that the Große Fuge was rubbish. What does that say about the supposed "musical aesthetic"? How can it be at all objective if it changes drastically with time?
    Last edited by chu42; Mar-31-2020 at 23:21.

  18. #239
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    Sometimes we agree with the artist that it's been improved. Sometimes not.
    Anyone can be mistaken. But the artists usually know best, and we can usually tell. Hardly anyone thinks that the revised versions of Verdi's Macbeth, Wagner's Tannhauser, and Sibelius's 5th symphony are not superior, even far superior, to the original versions. In the first two instances, the revisions actually create some stylistic incongruity, but they add so much depth and power to the works that it matters only to people dead from the neck down.

    An interesting exception to this is Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony. The revised version is fine but is never played. The original needed no improving, but Mendelssohn was (surprisingly) chronically insecure. The fact that the changes were generally slight makes even more interesting the general unanimity of opinion. How do we know that the original needs no improving and is better than the revision? We can't consult "objective" factors such as number of performances, which in this case would tell us that the revised version is worthless. It isn't, and if the original didn't exist the revision would probably be played as often as the original is now. I have them both on one CD, and only one hearing was needed to tell that the original is marginally superior. Why? I can't tell you, but that's art for you. Not everything that can be known can be explained. The subtleties of art can be beyond explaining, yet not beyond perceiving. Which is why some will never believe in them, and will feel compelled to ignore or deny any amount of evidence, internal or external.

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  20. #240
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chu42 View Post
    There is nothing to answer. It all boils down to the chemical makeup of our brains. I suppose you can dive into what chemical/hormonal reaction the average brain produces when it is processing the sound of a bassoon versus a flute.

    It seems like your argument hinges on the idea that when a certain amount of people around the world agree on something, it is suddenly objective good. Again, 200 years ago, people agreed that the Große Fuge was rubbish. What does that say about the supposed "musical aesthetic"? How can it be at all objective if it changes drastically with time?
    Hey, you're the one making claims here. I'm just questioning them. You said that answering certain questions, questions you posed, led to a necessary conclusion which you stated. That doesn't sound to me as if there's "nothing to answer." I'd say it puts you out on a long, thin limb.

    The music world is waiting to hear why its near-unanimous judgments that Bach and Beethoven are brilliant, profound artists have no more significance than somebody's enjoyment of peanut butter and chicken liver sandwiches, and why one of these things is of no greater objective value to humanity than the other.

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