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Thread: Why the obsession with composers?

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    Default Why the obsession with composers?

    What I mean is - why do y'all always sort your music by composer? All this talk about ranking favorite composers, comparing composers, skillsets of composers, ideology/intent of composers, influence of composers, stylistic idiosyncrasies of composers, etc, etc, on and on and on. This is especially apparent when discussing the big guns (Beethoven, The Beatles, Miles Davis), who are often treated as if they may as well have singlehandedly invented music itself.

    The truth is, no one exists in a vacuum, and no one individual (or even a list of individuals) can be held responsible for significant stylistic developments in music. Understanding of a context of a piece requires far more nuance than just an analysis of its composer. The biographical elements are interesting but secondary to the music itself. And the music itself - if it's worth anything - is not primarily an individualistic personal expression or a manifestation of impressive craftsmanship; these are also of secondary importance. So why the obsession with composers? To me it seems like one of a great number of secondary characteristics to talk about when discussing music. We listen to music, not to composers.
    Last edited by BrahmsWasAGreatMelodist; Apr-04-2021 at 07:30.
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    Yes, we listen to music but it was composed by composers. We have favorites.

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    I guess I could say the same about performers and conductors. My real question is, why the sensationalized obsession with the people involved in the production of music (often superceding the music itself)?
    Last edited by BrahmsWasAGreatMelodist; Apr-04-2021 at 07:40.
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    I think becaus every composer leaves his own musical fingerprint that makes them unique in some way. Ravel, DeBussy, and Fauré all spearheaded the movement of French Impressionism, but all had their own unique voice and sound.

    I think your question hits at something overall much broader and general: why do people put other people on a pedestal? Celebrities, athletes, the royal family, people who literally only exist to be scrutinized in the tabloids? Good question.

    I don't think it's healthy or realistic to put anyone on a pedestal, regardless of who they are. I also believe one can admire someone else's deeds or work without all that pedestal-putting baggage attached. Like the way one can appreciate Beethoven, Mozart or Bach, the three composers who I feel get mythologized the most to the point where they're not even people anymore, without the mythology or 'celebrity worship' for lack of a better word. An admiration for a specific composer can be done from an absolutely musical lens. For example, composer's personal lives can provide some context to their music which is important, but other than that I could care less about their personal lives. Just 'cause they're dead doesn't mean it's any of my business

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrahmsWasAGreatMelodist View Post
    I could say the same about performers and conductors.
    not the same, these come second, composer first.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrahmsWasAGreatMelodist View Post
    The Beatles, Miles Davis
    a pile of crap, not music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zhdanov View Post
    a pile of crap, not music.
    Right. So, anyway...
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrahmsWasAGreatMelodist View Post
    What I mean is - why do y'all always sort your music by composer? All this talk about ranking favorite composers, comparing composers, skillsets of composers, ideology/intent of composers, influence of composers, stylistic idiosyncrasies of composers, etc, etc, on and on and on. This is especially apparent when discussing the big guns (Beethoven, The Beatles, Miles Davis), who are often treated as if they may as well have singlehandedly invented music itself.

    The truth is, no one exists in a vacuum, and no one individual (or even a list of individuals) can be held responsible for significant stylistic developments in music. Understanding of a context of a piece requires far more nuance than just an analysis of its composer. The biographical elements are interesting but secondary to the music itself. And the music itself - if it's worth anything - is not primarily an individualistic personal expression or a manifestation of impressive craftsmanship; these are also of secondary importance. So why the obsession with composers? To me it seems like one of a great number of secondary characteristics to talk about when discussing music. We listen to music, not to composers.
    Shouldn't your user name be ThereWereManyGreatMelodists?

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    Haha. Very original bro. I knew someone was going to point it out. Ad hominem, and red herring. Please stick to the topic. Sorry to bore.
    Last edited by BrahmsWasAGreatMelodist; Apr-04-2021 at 10:09.
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    Not being interested in where music came or comes from is a luxury that individuals may indulge in, but the society shouldn't.
    Last edited by Fabulin; Apr-04-2021 at 10:58.

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    "The composer" seems the most convenient way of categorising the vast range of music we listen to. It stands in for both a musical identity and a time period, at the same time. Whereas the type of music - symphony, string quartet, etc - covers just a general concept that doesn't necessarily tell us very much, and even when that sort of categorisation is useful, we then need to fall back on the composer anyway - which symphony or string quartet are we talking about. If the composer is a kind of "default setting" for identifying music, then it seems natural that it becomes a focal point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrahmsWasAGreatMelodist View Post
    What I mean is - why do y'all always sort your music by composer? All this talk about ranking favorite composers, comparing composers, skillsets of composers, ideology/intent of composers, influence of composers, stylistic idiosyncrasies of composers, etc, etc, on and on and on. This is especially apparent when discussing the big guns (Beethoven, The Beatles, Miles Davis), who are often treated as if they may as well have singlehandedly invented music itself.

    The truth is, no one exists in a vacuum, and no one individual (or even a list of individuals) can be held responsible for significant stylistic developments in music. Understanding of a context of a piece requires far more nuance than just an analysis of its composer. The biographical elements are interesting but secondary to the music itself. And the music itself - if it's worth anything - is not primarily an individualistic personal expression or a manifestation of impressive craftsmanship; these are also of secondary importance. So why the obsession with composers? To me it seems like one of a great number of secondary characteristics to talk about when discussing music. We listen to music, not to composers.
    I agree almost wholeheartedly. Had I my druthers, we'd almost always focus on works rather than composers.

    The exception is that I'd favor diversity in our listening, which means listening to more composers rather than listening to ever more works by the same 25 or so composers.
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrahmsWasAGreatMelodist View Post
    What I mean is - why do y'all always sort your music by composer? All this talk about ranking favorite composers, comparing composers, skillsets of composers, ideology/intent of composers, influence of composers, stylistic idiosyncrasies of composers, etc, etc, on and on and on.
    It is true that every composing giant was a giant by standing on the shoulders of others. But they were still giants. Sometimes I love the lesser pioneers but never as much as even relatively lesser works by the big names - I love CPE Bach and find his explorations leading to the new Classical style really exciting - but still Haydn delivers a lot more pleasure to me. But there are, I'm sure, works by CPE Bach that I prefer to some of the Haydn works I am less taken by. I absolutely agree with the rest of what I have quoted above (even though I am guilty of what you sketch in my third and fourth sentences).

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    The human mind likes to categorize things, yet has, for most of us, a comfortable upper limit for how many things to store in the "easy access" memory. Since the number of, say, symphonies, concertos, chamber and other works dwarfs the number of composers, it's a lot easier to focus on the composers. Plus, most musical history books and music texts dwell extensively on composers and just specimen works, with sometimes prurient or otherwise attention-getting spotlighting of composers' lives. Both more interesting and more mnemonically useful to individually attend to composers than to Myaskovsky's or Haydn's umpteen symphonies or all of everybody's Preludes and Fugues.

    Plus gossip is always about people.

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    Sorry to bring up John Williams again. But I think without the historical context, John Williams should be considered much greater than some give him credit for. He would be a musical giant.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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