[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.

The author also set his question as follows:

"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?"

To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: