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After that infamous poll of contemporary composers, I started listening to more Ravel, and good lord - I kinda knew this already, but Ravel really was so much more than a superficial composer of orchestral special effects and light melodies.

He was the most interesting response in that top ten because it does make me wonder if Ravel has some kind of new relevance to current composers and listeners, but I dunno enough about post-1970s stuff outside minimalism to really know that.
I consider Ravel one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. Bill Evans, Stephen Sondheim, and countless other pianists and composers have cited Ravel's harmonic sense as very influential.

I also think that his best work is not found in the orchestral pieces, but his piano trio, string quartet and of course the solo piano works.
 

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Which ones would those be in particular? Who on this board has said that he/she is personally superior because of the music he/she likes? Strawman.
I've been wondering the same thing. If the one thing really implied the other, I would have to despise quite a few of my friends and family.

I'd rather use their politics as an excuse for that. :)

(OOPS! I see the ominous shadow of a subjectivist moral sermon creeping toward me...)
 

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Unfortunately that kicks it back to square zero. "the greatest composers are the ones with the greatest historical impact" at least attempts to define what "the greatest composers" is. "There is a correlation between the greatest composers and the ones with the greatest historical impact" does not.

Also if you find it overly broad, that's kind of an illustration of my point-that the statement is not necessarily objective despite being based on objective data.
What I find odd about the "objectivist" argument is that they put forward a claim that great composers are those with the greatest historical impact. But people respond to music according to how it sounds, the experience of listening to it. Only a fool would like something because the composer had historical impact.

Throughout these debates I've asked why is "greatness" important. I have yet to receive an answer.
 

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I don't think anyone here has failed to recognize this either. That some composers compose in such a way that has created a positive reaction in many listeners over time is a fact as well. You can't have one without the other. The issue, as always, is that this is fundamentally a poll involving us counting how many subjectivities have reacted positively to certain music. We can speculate on the reasons why they reacted positively, including notions of "compositional skill and innovation," but those will ultimately just be speculation without rigorous scientific testing, and without the latter you're just getting into post-hoc and just-so fallacies.
Right. And of course, this doesn't mean that the enduring 'popularity' and / or critical acclaim enjoyed by the music of Beethoven and Chopin has nothing to do with their immense talents and skills. But music is like organ meat. An expert chef might do a superb job of preparing liver or kidneys. But if you find liver or kidneys revolting, it isn't going to help much. And if you're British, perhaps you are more likely to appreciate a well-made kidney pie. But not always. Even if all that could be reduced to an exact science, it's a safe bet that the success of Beethoven's and Chopin's music will always be highly dependent on the environment, background and physical and mental makeup of each individual listener as well as the general social and cultural context.
What we are left with is empirical observation. You can call it polling if you like, but that's a somewhat inaccurate use of that term. I prefer "cultural anthropology".
 

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What I find odd about the "objectivist" argument is that they put forward a claim that great composers are those with the greatest historical impact. But people respond to music according to how it sounds, the experience of listening to it. Only a fool would like something because the composer had historical impact.
...
Ah. But they had "historical impact" due to the responses of listeners and players in the first place.
 

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It's a trivially true point that people are influenced by their society and culture in a billion different ways, large and small.
I kind of want to emphasize "trivially true" because one reason I didn't really want this to be a point of contention is that I frankly don't think it matters all that much, to the point that I kind of feel bad if it's an idea that offended people, or seemed belittling to their musical taste.

What I mean to say is that musical popularity and renown is not the result of a lot of people happening to the same independent choice in a total contextual vacuum, as if in some kind of massive double-blind test - music is a part of our culture. The fact that Beethoven's music has been renowned through so many different cultural contexts doesn't imply that people are sheep following what books say - in fact it implies that Beethoven's art has shown the ability to endure, and be a part of later romantic culture, modernist culture, post-modern culture, and whatever other cultures you can think of.

As to why it has this ability - hell if I know.
 

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What I find odd about the "objectivist" argument is that they put forward a claim that great composers are those with the greatest historical impact. But people respond to music according to how it sounds, the experience of listening to it. Only a fool would like something because the composer had historical impact.

Throughout these debates I've asked why is "greatness" important. I have yet to receive an answer.
This has actually been a point I've made - that though I think historical importance is a reasonable way to classify composers according to objective data (if - y'know, that's a desirable thing to do), it doesn't constitute an aesthetic evaluation. One reason I think it's useful, though, is that it models well to reactions I've had to certain composers, and things I've heard a few people state - that one can simultaneously think a composer is important, and not like their music very much at all. Or the not-uncommon practice of distinguishing between "greatest" and "favorite".
 

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Unfortunately that kicks it back to square zero.
No it doesn’t.

"the greatest composers are the ones with the greatest historical impact" at least attempts to define what "the greatest composers" is.
No it doesn’t

"There is a correlation between the greatest composers and the ones with the greatest historical impact" does not.
Yes it does.
 

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Ah. But they had "historical impact" due to the responses of listeners and players in the first place.
Yes, I've said this same thing. But what those attributes were in their music which attracted a wide and enthusiastic audience still cannot be objectively quantified. And it changes over time.

What I think is that Beethoven is considered a great composer because 1) his contemporaneous peers thought he was based on his music; 2) later generations thought so because they inherited that original judgment.

All we have for an objective basis of saying a composer is great is the cumulative amount of subjective responses.

But the bottomline is people listen to the music which beings them joy, or engages their mind, or provides something to them which they crave. Or they may listen to Beethoven in order to access something they've been taught to believe was great. But if it leaves them cold they will drop Beethoven.
 

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This has actually been a point I've made - that though I think historical importance is a reasonable way to classify composers according to objective data (if - y'know, that's a desirable thing to do), it doesn't constitute an aesthetic evaluation. One reason I think it's useful, though, is that it models well to reactions I've had to certain composers, and things I've heard a few people state - that one can simultaneously think a composer is important, and not like their music very much at all. Or the not-uncommon practice of distinguishing between "greatest" and "favorite".
Why is this such an endless point of confusion and acrimony here? A music listener does not have to be a cultural anthropologist. A music listener need not be concerned one iota with whether a composer is 'great', however one defines that term. Most composers and performers I enjoy exhibit some sort of skill in their approach to their musical genre, and also some individuality that sets them apart from the ordinary. More than that I wouldn't say.
 

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...
What I think is that Beethoven is considered a great composer because 1) his contemporaneous peers thought he was based on his music; 2) later generations thought so because they inherited that original judgment.
...
Or 3) they love his music. I didn't have to know what earlier generations thought to love the "Emperor" concerto or the sixth symphony.
 

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Or 3) they love his music. I didn't have to know what earlier generations thought to love the "Emperor" concerto or the sixth symphony.
Loving the "Emperor" concerto or the sixth symphony is different than articulating the idea that Beethoven is a great composer. This is the basis of my question "why is greatness important?" We love the music we love no matter what the judgment of history has been.
 

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Ah. But they had "historical impact" due to the responses of listeners and players in the first place.
Sure. But if we're judging historical impact, or reputation, then the responses may as well be the result of a black-box process. It isn't necessary to know what's going on in the heads of listeners, contemporary peers or critics - that may be the cause of historical impact, but what we're measuring is the effect of it.

This is why "who were the most historically influential composers of all time" is a much easier question to answer than "what was it about their music that made it have such influence?"
 

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Why is this such an endless point of confusion and acrimony here? A music listener does not have to be a cultural anthropologist. A music listener need not be concerned one iota with whether a composer is 'great', however one defines that term. Most composers and performers I enjoy exhibit some sort of skill in their approach to their musical genre, and also some individuality that sets them apart from the ordinary. More than that I wouldn't say.
Personally speaking I love musicology, even as a layman. I'd never suggest myself an expert, or even an amateur in it, but it does give me some enjoyment to try to listen to music via certain lines of influence and draw connections that way.

All sorts of ways to listen to music, like has been said.
 

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What I find odd about the "objectivist" argument is that they put forward a claim that great composers are those with the greatest historical impact. But people respond to music according to how it sounds, the experience of listening to it. Only a fool would like something because the composer had historical impact.
Those who believe objectivity is operative on some level such as myself believe that there is a correlation between great composers and the fact that they have historical impact because of, generation after generation, the ongoing positive response to the music because of ‘how it sounds’ and the positive experience of ‘listening to it’.
 

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Sure. But if we're judging historical impact, or reputation, then the responses may as well be black-boxed. It isn't necessary to know what's going on in the heads of listeners, contemporary peers or critics - that may be the cause of historical impact, but what we're measuring is the effect of it.
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I don't quite get it. That effect is the thing itself. It is the historical impact. Without that effect on listeners and players from Beethoven's time until this moment, there wouldn't have been any "historical impact". It's the chicken-and-egg problem that hammeredklavier keeps bumping into.
 

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What I find odd about the "objectivist" argument is that they put forward a claim that great composers are those with the greatest historical impact. But people respond to music according to how it sounds, the experience of listening to it. Only a fool would like something because the composer had historical impact.

Throughout these debates I've asked why is "greatness" important. I have yet to receive an answer.
No one does like music because of its historical impact, and I haven't seen anyone arguing that anyone does. Where have you seen that?

Historical impact is only one possible (not inevitable) aspect of greatness.

"Greatness" isn't important, except to pollsters. Greatness, without the quotes, is unavoidable for people who know what goes into a work and can tell what they're hearing, but it isn't anything one needs to worry about. It seems most important to people who know little about music and want to know what they should listen to, and to radical subjectivists, for whom greatness, with or without quotes, is intolerably "elitist" and must be drained of its toxicity by being equated to taste.
 

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No it doesn’t.


No it doesn’t


Yes it does.
I don't know if you're just upset at me, but "The greatest composers are the ones with the greatest historical impact" is a definition of "The greatest composers". "There is a correlation between the greatest composers and ones with great historical impact" is not a definition of who the greatest composers are, and isn't a very useful statement unless "the greatest composers" has already been defined.
 

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Loving the "Emperor" concerto or the sixth symphony is different than articulating the idea that Beethoven is a great composer. ...
Not really, not when you consider entire bodies of work. If it were only those two works, they'd be merely a couple of great works. But there's more. And I don't really see anything wrong or elitist in saying so. Hendrix was a great guitarist. Milstein was a great violinist. Mozart was a great composer. I don't quite understand the allergy to the concept of "greatness" except as a symptom of an overall allergy to any concept of artistic hierarchies in general. I don't have any trouble admitting that George Gershwin was a better composer than I am, so I likewise don't have any trouble believing that Gershwin was better -- more indispensable, in a way -- than George M. Cohan or Irving Berlin.
 

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one can simultaneously think a composer is important, and not like their music very much at all. Or the not-uncommon practice of distinguishing between "greatest" and "favorite".
Indeed one can. Those who "personalize" greatness and equate it with taste have to rationalize away the ability of musicians and other musically perceptive people to know that a work has exceptional quality even when it isn't to their taste.
 
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