[lit-ideas] Re: Why are the greatest composers all German?

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2006 21:09:38 -0700



Good article.  I tried to wade through the blog comments following, but
couldn't get past By  <http://apragmaticpolicy.wordpress.com/> Tony
Christini's "Dude! Wasn't Mozart like, totally Australian?"

I don't think much of the Darwinian approach to "Golden Age Clumping," but
without doubt the Clumping has existed.  I had to resist criticizing the
clumps Adam Roberts described. He would have been better served if instead
of calling these clumps "the greatest" he had referred to Golden Ages
encompassing these composers, poets, etc.  

I wouldn't include Pope on my list but I understand that he was considered
very important to his age, but so was Dryden whom Roberts doesn't mention.
He includes Milton but adds that no one reads Milton today.  This at least
tells us that Milton's Paradise Lost isn't as "eternal" as Homer's Iliad. So
why is Milton still in our "Golden Age Clump"?  Why Milton and not Spenser?
I can see Spenser as having influenced Tennyson.  But perhaps all this says
is that Roberts' lists needs to be longer.

Also, Roberts assumes a sort of Darwinian uniformitarianism; whereas the
artistic developments of the various "Golden Age Clumpings" seem culturally
oriented.  Consider the difference between the symphonic music of the
composers mentioned by Roberts and the Golden Age Clumping of the Italian
Bel Canto composers Puccini, Bellini, Rossini, Verdi, and Donizetti.  Can we
see in this contrast a significant difference between the Italian and German

And Roberts describes the "Golden Age Clumping" of British & U.S. 60s & 70s
rock & roll.  It isn't Roberts' intention to say anything about our culture,
but if this does say something, I have to think it says we have become much
more superficial.  But then we knew we were heading in that direction from
reading Sinclair Lewis, didn't we?





-----Original Message-----
From:  Eric Yost
Sent: Friday, June 09, 2006 10:22 AM

At The Valve, Adam Roberts asks, "Why are the greatest 

composers all German?" He ponders an evolutionary 

explanation which has provoked many comments.





the various branches of art enjoy long periods of mediocre 

achievement, punctuated by blazing, tightly-defined 

(geographically and chronologically) 'golden ages', which 

then go on to dominate the canon or received climate of the 

art for many subsequent generations.


Why should this be?  If artistic ability is distributed 

evenly amongst the population, as seems likely (so that, let 

us say, one in two hundred thousands humans has exceptional 

ability regardless of accident of place or time of birth), 

we would expect artistic achievement to be spread evenly, 

throughout time and throughout countries.  But this is not 

what we find.  Why not?


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