That has long been the contention of the classical folks, but I think their first question would be, “How do I get one of those synthesizers?” and the second, “I see my recordings still sell. Where are my royalties?”
And Beethoven would demand the surgery to fix his hearing.
What is your take on a classical composer being dumped in the 21st century?
I think once they got over the utter bafflement of trying to comprehend recording technology, they would all have unpredictable and probably vastly disparate reactions to the music itself. I think they would probably all become fascinated and enamored with instrumental technology (I can see Mozart going to town with an electronic keyboard. I suspect Beethoven would adore the electric guitar), but much of popular music might strike them as cacaphonous, even blaspehemous.
I imagine some would run screaming, while others would be more intrigued. I think the complexity of jazz might be seductive to them, if they could adjust to the shock of the unfamiliar dissonance.
Here is where my German teacher and I parted. I have heard of classical types reacting that way–hell, my German teacher claimed Mozart fainted the first time he heard a trumpet–but I’ve known decades of composers/conductors who admitted all of it as music and stole the details, and also did in the musical tradition as they tried to position their daughters as stars.
I do think they’d appreciate some jazz as well as some classic rock soloes. That is, until they could get some of the good stuff themselves and crank out soloes that blow everyone else away once they also get rrrrrrrrrrrrrreal f’in high on drugs.
OTOH, I think the only person who’d appreciate hip hop is Haydn, not because of musical similarities but because of commercial ones.
I think some of them would be fascinated by modern technology, but would consider the music to be noise. Don’t forget that we have all grown up hearing today’s music, and our understanding of it has evolved along with the music itself. Even if we don’t like it, we nevertheless understand that it’s a type of music (though some of it strains that understanding). I think there are certain genres, like rap and hip hop, that someone from 200 years ago could never accept.
I suspect that it would largely depend on how old the person was. Even old people of today think the most recent music is blasphemous noise.
If you got Mozart at 16 to listen to Britney Spears he’d probably enjoy it well enough, though he might think that it’s a bit sparse of notes and instruments. Get out a 60 year old Zombie Mozart and he’d think it cacophony.
Speak for yourself. I am an old person (mid 50s) and I know more about recent music than most of the 20 somethings I work with. People ask me for musical recommendations. I just got home from seeing Antony and the Johnsons with a 41 piece orchestra at the opera house. I have been to 5 live gigs in the last 2 weeks.
Obligatory reference to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, where the heroes kidnap Beethoven and turn him loose at the mall music store… “Beethoven’s favourite works include Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, and Bon Jovi’s Slippery when Wet.”
They would like bluegrass and rockabilly instrumentals I think. I seriously doubt they would enjoy the vocals on any modern music, because it’s so radically different from what they considered to be vocal music.
I guess it depends very much on what you mean by classical as well as on the individual composer. If by classical you mean of the classical period I guess theyd be:  enormously surprized their music survived and  they’d all be repulsed by most music since their deaths. Beethoven’d probably fare better than the rest of his peers, -if anyone from his time could grasp jazz or the modernists it’d be him- but still I’m not sure anything popular today would be of interest, nor that he would like classical music from the 20th century. Hell, even classical music from the late 19th century would probably be too strange for most of these guys. What would Haydn make of Wagner? I can just about see Mozart learning to like Brahms, but something like Strauss’ Salomé is out of the question. Sure, there’d be lots of stuff any of them could learn to like, but mostly I think that the more recent the work the less liked it’d be.
These people wrote and listened to music for the aristocracy and the moneyed elites. It wasn’t a problem it was too long, too subtle, too complex or too expensive for popular consumption. The target audience had the leisure time and the resources to appreciate it and pay them. Mostly popular music of their time wasn’t too interesting, so ours shouldn’t be very different in this regard. Technique, sophistication and emotional restraint were prized highly. Popular music would mostly be too sloppy and too sentimental or just plain vulgar. I’m guessing most jazz is just too alien to their sensibilities as well.
I’m sure they’d feel fascinated by the technology - none of those guys ever heard any recording of music at all. I’d love to hear what Mozart would do with a saxophone and a modern piano would drive most of them nuts. All of them would marvel at the size and proficiency of a contemporary orchestra. However, I don’t believe electric instruments would be well-regarded as they’re not subtle enough and (I’m just guessing, of course) would sound plain ugly.
Some of the stuff Mozart himself wrote sounded enormously dissonant and difficult for the ears of his time and that is now hard for us to comprehend, it all sounds so normal and even pretty. How can we expect their ears to understand the sounds to which we’ve had 200 years to become used to? It’s not that their music was better or worse than ours, it’s just that too long a time has passed and too much has changed in music. Art is not like science: Newton might have come to understand Einstein because in the end you can demonstrate Einstein (or he might not, maybe Einstein’s theory would prove to be too weird for Newton’s upbringing and he’d just irrationally refuse to accept it). But music can’t be proven or demonstrated - that which sounds good is largely a cultural construction and our culture is just too foreign to theirs. Of course, I can listen to, say, Indian music, without my ears bleeding, so maybe I’m just wrong. But I think I can appreciate Indian music (though I don’t like it all that much really) just because we hear and accept so many different sounds nowadays. There’s been a historical process in which western music - and thus western ears- was developed and we are the products of this process, while the classical composers are left much farther back on it. Their culture wasn’t anywhere near as open and diverse as ours, and that shows in the music, as does the fact we’re not nearly as hierarchical.
Just the question I came in to ask. For those who think the classic composers couldn’t grasp the new stuff, where is the cutoff point; is it The Rite of Spring, Rhapsody in Blue, something else around that era?