[lit-ideas] Re: Why are the greatest composers all German?
- From: Eric Yost <eyost1132@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 09 Jun 2006 23:02:53 -0400
Julie asked: On what basis is the term "greatest" used?
What are the criteria?
The greatest are those who set the terms of a particular
art. The author put it this way:
Bach-Mozart-Beethoven et al simply happened to be the ones
who used up all the new ways of composing. Composers that
merely copied these new techniques doomed their texts to
being outcompeted by the stronger pre-existing originals.
The only alternative for composers was to introduce new
techniques so radically different that they changed the
‘environment’ altogether—for instance, writing pop instead
of classical, and so appealing to a whole new audience.
"I’m talking about classical music of course, and I can
start with polemical oversimplification, as follows: almost
all the greatest composers were from a small area in
northern Europe, and all were working within a relatively
short period of time. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert,
Mahler, Mendelssohn, Richard Strauss, Wagner … all of them
were German. Some notable other figures (Smetana, Holst,
Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Grieg) came from territories
proximate geographically and culturally to Germany. All
these figures composed during a narrow historical timeframe
from the end of the eighteenth-century to the end of the
nineteenth. So this is my question, boiled down to its
essentials: why is it that all the great classical composers
are German, working within a tightly-defined period of a
handful of decades of one another?"
"Thousands of years of human musical creativity has resulted
in an enormous body of work, from every culture. Why should
this corpus be so dominated by a small group of
late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth-century Germans?"
The author also set his question as follows:
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