It seems as though everyone has heard the names Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. However, many do not know why these men are famous, or why their music is still prevalent today. In fact, many have never heard their compositions, or have heard them and think that they are uninteresting, old, and that they lack any sort of moving sound.
Despite your taste in music, it is important to understand that the master composers such as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven are the fathers of all great music.
[learn_more caption=”Johann Sebastian Bach”] Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March 21, 1685. A brilliant composer from the baroque era of music, Bach was actually better known for his organ playing abilities rather than his composing in his lifetime. He is now considered one of the best composers of the baroque era of music. He died on July 28, 1750. His innovative ideas inspired some of the other greatest composers of all time, including Mozart and Beethoven.
What’s the baroque era of music? During this time, a more ornamented melodic line became more common than it had been before. Baroque music did away with a lot of the severity of the previous eras.
[learn_more caption=”Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart”] Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria, in the classical era. He began composing music by the time he was only five years old. Mozart was greatly influenced by his father, who was a successful composer and violinist. In addition, he was also influenced by some of the greatest musicians in Europe, including Johann Christian Bach (Johann Sebastian Bach’s youngest son). Mozart went on to play in many tours with his father, and became a very well-known musician. He was best known for his series of symphonies, operas, concertos, and sonatas, which strongly shaped classical music.
In the classical era, there was somewhat of a rebellion against the previous era, with a greater emphasis on clarity with more concise melodic expression.
[learn_more caption=”Ludwig van Beethoven”] Ludwig van Beethoven’s estimated birth date is December 16, 1770. Beethoven’s innovative ideas in music built a bridge between the classical and romantic eras of classical music. To me, Beethoven is one of the most interesting and impressive composers out of all of the famous composers. He led a very difficult life, and his childhood was marred by his abusive, alcoholic father. Beethoven lived past his dismal childhood in spite of his father, and grew to have a successful career. However, his life still had many trials. As he aged, he started to lose his hearing. Despite this, he wrote some of the best music of his career while he was almost completely deaf. One of his greatest pieces was his last symphony, which was Beethoven’s ninth symphony.
The romantic era broke many of the restrictive bonds of the classical era. Musical pieces from the romantic era are filled with imagination and expression.
(Hopefully you clicked on that last block, because I’m about to drop something big.)
Beethoven is considered by many to be the greatest composer of all time.
I challenge you to find any composing or recording artist today that can match Beethoven’s mastery in the darkest, most handicapped part of his life. Do you think any of today’s popular pop musicians could match Beethoven in skill, even with their hearing intact? I don’t think so.
But here’s why (bring your headphones):
This is Beethoven’s 9th symphony, arguably one of the greatest musical compositions ever.
This is some really awful song by Justin Beiber. It’s somewhat nauseating to see this overglorified musician’s face in this article, but I find it necessary to point out the massive difference between the great legends of music, and the people who are made to look like they can even be compared to a master. Composers like Beethoven spent their entire lives improving their music. Musicians spent their entire lives learning how to play their instruments. Most of their time was spent learning how to read and play the intricate compositions of composers. In all modern pop music, if the original sound isn’t very good, it can be severely altered by auto-tune, making even scratchy, out-of-tune, off-key, and undesirable sounds seem immaculate and balanced. Usually the songs aren’t written by the artist, yet the artist makes a great deal of money for their over-edited songs. Of course, there are many hard working pop singers that actually have beautiful voices, but the tunes that you hear on your radio usually aren’t live recordings of musicians.
Classical music may be considered a dying art. Orchestras are harder to come by than they were in Beethoven’s time. Yet, classical art prevails. In its pure form, classical music is not as commonly heard as often as other genres, but brass bands and orchestras are used in many thriving genres.
Orchestras can often be heard in the background of many popular pop songs.
“Hey Jude” by The Beatles featured an orchestra in their song. You can hear it in this version around 3:47.
In addition, classical instrumentation is often used for non-classical music. A violin is commonly used in country and Irish music, though in such genres it is renamed as the “fiddle” (the fiddle and the violin are exactly the same instrument, but “fiddle” usually refers to a more rustic interpretation, rather than classical). There are also many musicians who play on classical western instruments, but play in a more modern style. You might have heard of David Garrett or Lindsey Stirling, or perhaps “2 Cellos,” who all perform modern rock, pop, and dubstep music on their instruments. There are also popular bands such as One Republic, who use a cello or chamber group in the background of their music. In fact, the opening of One Republic’s song “Secrets” from their album named “Waking Up” is reminiscent of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite 1 for cello.
Did you hear it?
Though I have no particular issue with today’s modern popular music (in fact, there are many modern songs that I find very good, and quite a few artists that I do find exceptional), it is quite obvious to me that classical music is much more worthy of attention. However, many people simply don’t really like classical music. “It sounds boring,” many people say. If this is your view as well, I would advise you to treat classical music as an acquired taste. It’s like caviar or stinky cheese – only much better. If you give it a chance, you can open your eyes to a completely different world of music – and I hope to do that in this column.
The fact that classical music is still alive really shows something. Do you think some of the songs that are popular today will still be heard 300 years from now? Do you think that anyone will still be playing songs by Robin Thicke, Rihanna, or Justin Beiber? Probably not. After all, how many popular songs from the 20s can you name? That hasn’t even been 100 years.
Most popular songs, today, are written by a team of people, rather than the main singer or artist, and they’re written to appease a market value. It took composers many hours to single-handedly compose entire symphonies, for a very large number of musicians. Often, they had a deep appreciation of the history of their craft, and they changed that history with an equally deep reverence. The painstaking labor of each phrase of this music is something that can’t be duplicated or replaced by some popular “artist” belting out a cheesy tune out of key. It can’t be substituted by a boy band with a lot of fans. It can’t be swapped with repetitive melodies and over-used lyrics.
Classical music is a culture in itself. It is our history, our great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of music, and nothing can take that away.