Any Bach/Beethoven "Equals" In The Here And Now?

As in the 21st century.

As I write, I am listening to “Pandora”, my on-line Bach/Beethoven/Mozart/Lizst/Shubert/Strauss/Tchaikovsky (and yes) Wagner-created “radio stations” and was just wondering this.

Does anyone know, or are these masters all we’re going to get?

“The De-Composing Composers”?:wink:



Things just ain’t the same in the 21st century. Back in B, B & B’s days, you couldn’t just put on a CD or ipod if you wanted to listen to music. You actually had to go out and see it performed live. Since there was no at-home alternative (and if there was, it was renting out a chamber orchestra for parties, or else playing your OWN music if you were a competent performer), people were more apt to go out and see music performed, thus a demand for this music to be performed. For Bach especially, who was always being sponsored by various churches which had a built in audience each Sunday.

And of course, at least until Franz Liszt came along, the concept of a “rock concert” (or even the rock genre) had not been invented yet, so composers either wrote for the styles which were big at the time, or tried to create their own sub-genres. Now that Rock/Rap/Techno/etc are bigger in the 21st century, THOSE are the genres where the artists/composers are making it big, and it’s really hard to compare the likes of Lady GaGa or Coldplay to the masters who existed in another time period, but they also don’t have to work QUITE as hard to make it big either.

Really, the only close comparison you have are movie composers, like Howard Shore & John Williams. But while I enjoy their music, I still couldn’t compare them to the likes of the “classical masters”

I’m not so sure about fusoya’s claim that movie composers are the only comparison. There are 21st century classical composers, plenty of them, and their music is being performed. They’re not being heard by as wide an audience as the movie score composers, but then Bach’s music wasn’t either – most people listed to what we’d call folk music today, rather than concerts of Bach’s music.

How about John Adams, Elliott Carter, Steve Reich, Lucas Foss (OK, he died earlier this year), Gyorgy Ligeti (also recently deceased), Charles Wuorinen, Bright Sheng? Not to mention Pierre Boulez. All twenty-first century composers. Those are just the ones who come to mind immediately. There are plenty more, and if I were to extend the list to late twentieth-century composers, it would go on for pages. Time will tell if any of them are remembered like Bach or Beethoven. Ligeti might, although his music isn’t as accessible. Adams has considerable popular sucess (by the standards of classical music). For sure some will be remembered like Schubert or Strauss (either Strauss).

As to the OP, I’ve had this exact same thought before. I’m sure there are people out there composing great music. Maybe Yo Yo or Edwin could help us. For that matter, who are the great concert pianists of our day?

All the best, Gene.

I’ve often suspected that the orchestral music from this period that will still be played 200 years from now, will be film music.

Terry Riley is one major name missing from Saintly Loser’s list. I would also include John Zorn, but some would argue with me.

I’m a big fan of the Kronos Quartet, and they play stuff from modern composers all the time. Even though they only play string quartets, it is helpful to look at people that have composed for them and explore those composers further.

By the by Eugene, Stephen Drury is a big name in piano.

I think the enduring composers are not going to come from the classical forms, but from jazz, pop and rock.

I think the single most enduring modern composers will end up being Lennon/McCartney. Those are the songs that will still have the same familiarity in 200 years that “Ode to Joy” has to us now.

I thought this was the obvious answer too, Diogenes. In fact, 400 years from now, Lennon/Mccartney will be the “classical composers,” ahead of Beethoven, Bach et al.

This quote is unfortunately all to apt:

Yamashiro Shoji

Excellent comments from everyone, thanks!

I had not given any thought to Lennon-McCartney, but yes, I agree, they will be the “classical composers” 200 years hence, fjs1fs!:wink:

And thanks for typing quotes around those two words!:slight_smile:


(who absolutely loves symphonic tone poems!)

There’s one episode of Futurama where Fry is living in a historical 20th-century style apartment listening to Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-a-Lot.

Leela: “Fry, you cant just sit around all day in your underwear listening to classical music!”

I’m a big fan of Kronos too, although once in a while they delve a little too deep into the pop catalogue. With their technical chops, it seems like shooting fish in a barrel – a bit of a waste.

I don’t know Terry Riley’s music – I’ll have to look into that. Thanks for the tip!

As to Zorn, sorry, I’m one of those who’d argue with you.

They won’t be the “classical composers” 200 years from now. They will be remembered (and listened to) as great pop composers, much as Lerner and Lowe and Rogers and Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim are listened to now. And there’s no shame in that. Pop is not something lesser than classical music, it’s just a different genre. Parallel tracks. Once in a blue moon you get someone who works both sides of the street (Mark O’Connor comes to mind, although he won’t be remembered as a great classical composer), but it’s rare. Eric Satie, maybe. Leonard Bernstein, certainly.

Are you saying there will be no greater composers in the interim? After all, Monteverdi or Palestrina aren’t the most popular classical composers today. And if you’re suggesting that Lennon’s better than Beethoven, I’ll… refrains self. I think the Beatles owe their contemporary endurance to a greater extent to their recency and being a phenomena in living history; that and the whole mass media/television thing, and also my bias that vocal music that relies even partly on the lyrics for their appeal, needs extra timeless oomph to retain favor. 400 years hence, the playing field will be a lot more leveled out (although not completely, there’ll still be video archives of the Beatles vs. none for classical composers, apocalypse(s) notwithstanding). Contemporary popularity is a tenuous thing: Rossini was more popular than Beethoven during their common lifetime. Today, not even close.

P.S. This reminds me, on Star Trek TNG, whenever they showed an on-screen musical performance, it was always classical music. I used to wonder, did that civilization lose all memory of music post-1800? No reference to the great songwriters of the 2100s? No contemporary music? I know, royalties & licensing & lack of imagination…etc

If anything is remembered of 20th century popular music in 400 years, it will be the Beatles. No modern classical composers will be remembered. It’s an anachronistic and used up genre. Some Jazz composers could survive (Duke Ellington, maybe), or semi-classical/pop hybrids like Gerschwin. It’s going to be the rock that really endures, though.

Classical music is an anachronistic and used-up genre? You’re simply wrong. If your only knowledge of the classical music scene wherever you live is yet more performances of the standard repertoire (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Mahler, etc.), I can see why you might think that, but there is a live, active scene of new music being composed and performed, and it has quite a following. Not like pop music, of course, but then classical music never had the following that pop (or folk, or whatever) did in its day. Most people in the 18th century weren’t lining up for performances of Bach’s music, they were listening to the popular music of their time, at home, performed by friends and relatives. Now, with recording technology, pop has become the dominant form of music, but the other stuff hasn’t exactly gone away.

And reputations come and go. For a while after his death, Bach’s (by whom I’m assuming everyone here means J.S. Bach) reputation was eclipsed by that of his son, J.C. Bach. Nobody thought he’d be remembered much either, except maybe as the father of J.C. Bach and perhaps as a performer, but not as a composer. It wasn’t until maybe 80 years after his death that his music was revived and his greatness was appreciated, eclipsing in turn (unfortunately) J.C. Bach’s reputation.

Pierre Boulez’s concerts of modern classical music can still fill Avery Fisher Hall (and presumably others around the world). John Adams’ operas (especially Nixon in China) pack opera houses. David Del Tredici’s neo-romantic style wins him regular commissions from major orchestras, and his accessible, tonal style makes him quite popular among those who reject “academic” music. While Gyorgy Ligeti’s work isn’t quite as accessible, or popular, he will be remembered as a great innovator, like Schoeberg or Webern.

Classical music isn’t anachronistic or used up, not by a long shot.

I like all the names cited for modern composers working in the classical instrumentation palate and agree that they illustrate how the medium is still moving forward. By the way, if you haven’t read **Hallelujah Junction **by **John Adams **- a memoir of his work and life as a composer - I would recommend it.

I also agree with posters who assert that the Beatles will endure - I would add Louis Armstrong, Sinatra, Miles Davis, Elvis, Dylan and a few others, but agree on the basics. And yeah, Rock will be a chapter in the classical music canonin due time…(link to previous thread)
Here’s the question, to me: classical music, in the classic Back-to-Beethoven sense, was about setting up and exploring the deep harmonic structures available with complex instrumentation. Bach’s work defined the basic harmonic structure - his Well-Tempered Clavier was an assertion that Well Tempering was the standard all Western music should adopt. We ended up with Even Tempering but the beginning of this was Bach. His WTC was written to show the how contrapuntal melodic lines could interweave to create deeper harmonic structures - especially if a standard tempering was adopted and keyboards didn’t have to be tuned to specific keys.

Beethoven took deep, complex harmonic structures to a Golden Age extreme. He works the different voices within a symphony the way a master chef combines spices. The fact that the individual voices are so finely wrought within the whole is amazing - each instrument is a fine thread but the full work is a complex tapestry that he controls.

So - in today’s era, what exactly is a deep harmonic structure? I humbly, and provocatively, offer an illustrative counterpoint: The Ramones. The Wall of Sound distortion coming out of Johnny Ramone’s guitar - and I use Wall of Sound consciouslyy, since Tommy Ramone who co-produced their first album was trying to emulate a Phil Spector sound - well, it has deep, harmonic structures. They were using layers of harmonic distortion, not layers of individual instrumentation, but the effect is there. And that is just an extreme example - look at the studio work of the Beatles, again, or Pink Floyd - there’s tons of deep harmonic structure in there.

Or another key musician who stands up to the classics: James Brown. If you don’t appreciate what the Godfather of Soul, the Progenitor of Funk, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, etc., brings to rhythmic and harmonic complexity, well…:wink:

So - what are new and interesting ways to explore music structures and complexity? What about Beck - his mash-up, paste-up songs done with the production team The Dust Brothers are really interesting, too…

Just thinking out loud…

Are you deliberately paraphrasing the music teacher from ‘Rock n Roll High School’?

Nah - I haven’t see that movie in 25 years - PJ Soules never did anything for me… :wink: Remind me, what did he say?

And, more importantly, because you are a “music guy” (that’s the technical phrase, btw) whaddya think about my post? Any issues with my trying to connect different approaches to obtaining harmonic richness?