What is the best piece of music ever?

I know that the title of this thread would be right at home in IMHO, But the full version of the question I believe justifies it’s placement in GQ…

Is there such thing as ‘the best piece of music ever’ not voted for. But worked out by scientists and/or other very clever people.

In other words, has there ever been research into what piece of music inspires the most powerful feelings and emotions in the largest amount of people? (Or something like that)
Forgive me (or kick me in the teeth - whichever you prefer) if this is a stupid question

I know! I know! It’s the Enya that you listen to on your da’s Bose system!

Sorry. I don’t really know the answer to the question, and I doubt that there is one.

I don’t know if there is any research bearing fruit along the lines you’re talking about, Lobsang, but try checking out the music/emotion research sites here (Monash University) and here (Mozart effect) (beware, this second one has tinny, yet strangely soothing music files attached in opening the page.)

No. Appreciation of music is far too personal for a ‘best piece ever’ to exist. Even if you narrow it down to categories and people who particularly like those categories, you won’t get consensus.

There’s a fundamental difficulty.

Enya provokes a strong response in me (in case you hadn’t noticed), but it isn’t positive.

Give it another ten years, and it probably won’t.

Music affects people in certain ways at certain times depending on a large number of factors.

You might be able to find a “strongest reaction by this group of people on this date”, but if you try again later, the results will be different, regardless of whether you re-test the same people or test a different group of people.

There is not only the consideration of “time of life”, but also that the range of music produced by the human species is vast and varies across the globe.

Some common parts of music may prove to be found to be most appealing, soothing, inspiring, whatever – but I doubt entire musical pieces would ever be isolated as being “the best ever” in terms of the tastes of all the world.

And I guarantee, as soon as you’ve identified a piece of music as “the best ever”, give it two years and the newest teenagers will label it as “worst piece of shit ever”.

Since this is about music, I’ll move this thread to Cafe Society.

moderator GQ

Partly for kick-starting a discussion I have at times put forward the claim that there does exist objectively beautiful (assuming this means the same as ‘best’) music. This is not to say that there is music that absolutely everyone likes. I try to make good my claim by pointing to music such as

  • the Allegretto of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony
  • the Nocturne of Borodin’s second String Quartet
    and several others. These are from classical music since I’ve got a more extensive knowledge of that.
    The ‘objective’ claim lies therein that lots of people who do not particularly care for these composers or the specific styles of these pieces, do in fact agree that that particular piece is indeed an exception to their general dismissive attitude.

As such a ‘claim’ was made in half-jest, I’m not sure whether it would stand up to close scrutiny. For one thing, the claim was only validated within the rather narrow subclass of lovers of classical music.

On the other hand, there appear to be pieces that have appeal beyond such subcategories. Possibly Le Sacre du Printemps might qualify: even though a lot of people (including myself) have or did have problems at first in approaching it, it does have an undeniable ‘power’.

Anyone else have examples of this (or proofs of the reverse)?

Asimov (or maybe Clarke) did a short story on this very subject. Plot spoiler ahead.

Turns out, the perfect piece of music is fatal, taking up too much brain power to process. Oh well.

Of course this is entirely subjective, but a lot of people might say that the music of J.S. Bach is the most perfectly crafted music of all time. I can’t recall the author now, but I remember reading a novel where part of the plot was that Bach’s music was actually left on Earth by visiting extraterrestrials.

J.S. Bach’s Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring.

No hesitation in choosing it, either.

Assuming it is not off-topic to point out that another post is off-topic, here goes.

I think I know the story ** NoClueBoy** means, but as I remember it, it is not about the OP’s question at all. Unfortunately I’ve forgotten the title.

The story is about an alien race that has a sixth sense, to wit a different sense for, I believe, magnetic fields and electrical currents. Since they can ‘see’ this, they have also created an instrument for making compositions with magnetism and electricity. A human at one time expresses an interest in it. One of the aliens tells him that humans do have a rudimentary sense like that, that can be stimulated by injecting a certain fluid in a specific gland or so. He agrees to the operation and indeed, suddenly ‘sees’ the beautiful composition that a master performer is playing in front of him. At first his mind ‘translates’ his sense in colours and sounds, but after a while he gets it, and it is the most beautiful thing of art he has ever experienced. The story ends

with him suddenly losing his ‘sense’ since the gland can only operate for a quarter of an hour before ‘overloading’. After that he is, so to speak, permanently blind.

The story hence has nothing to do with music at all. It does, however raise an interesting - albeit clearly off-topic - point: what would a different sense be like?

Chuck Berry’s “Oh, Carol”.

Hands down, no contest, end of discussion. :stuck_out_tongue:

Sorry, TTT.

Totally different story. This was one of Asimov’s Black Widowers Mysteries. It was most definitely a story concerning the ultimate musical composition.

I just can’t remember which of these it is. My searching skills found that much. I wish I still had that book.

So, the fiction hijack remains slightly on topic. :slight_smile:

Beans, beans,
the musical fruit.
The more you eat,
the more you toot.
The more to you toot,
the better you feel;
so let’s eat beans at every meal!


Your Q really got me thinking!

Share and enjoy!

Oh yeah, welcome to The Dope.

As someone who is nearing the very end of a long, intensive paper on the Trio Sonata of Bach’s Musical Offering, let me just say… I believe it.

[ul][]Tocatta[]and Fugue[]in D minor[]by Bach[]That is all.[]Thank you.[/ul]

My own vote would have to be for Gerswhin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”.

I was going to go into why, but if you’ve ever heard (other than in an airline commercial…sigh…) you’d know.