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    : Edmonton, Alberta

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  1. As I noted, I'm not too familiar with his work, so I don't know if it is as bad as some claim. But I researched things a bit, and found that aside from his famous lullaby, he did write at least some accessible music that I had heard and enjoyed: his Hungarian dances. And on the occasion of his first symphony, it's not at all surprising that people were hopeful that a composer had come along who could give them more of what they so much enjoyed with Beethoven. And apparently he did come close. So, indeed, he could hardly have been that bad. But apparently he at least does have the fault that he is not really a Classical composer for people who don't like Classical music.
  2. That's true enough. Remember: I was describing how I felt other people were thinking, rather than my own thoughts. While it is true, though, having been a crusader in a virtuous cause is the sort of thing that makes one a potential target for adulation. If you really like someone, you might also form a more positive opinion of his work. If Beethoven were an author, rather than a composer, the fact that his music was About Something would clearly be significant - it's like comparing Edgar Rice Burroughs to George Orwell. So that, at least, might also matter for music. I will have to admit that my limited acquaintance with classical music doesn't include much of Brahms; hearing why not everyone likes him has not encouraged me to change that. Still: long stretches of boredom, punctuated by moments of exquisite beauty: could he be a moral alternative to war?
  3. One could say that this just shows that Mozart and Beethoven were modest. But it may be also that in the United States - but not Europe - there's a tendency to automatically assume Beethoven is the greatest because of the influence of Leonard Bernstein, or even the Peanuts comic strip. Rather than disputing that point, therefore, the point that I do seriously disagree about is seeing Bach as an ending rather than a beginning. In a way, it does make perfect sense to see Bach as the culmination of the Baroque musical epoch that preceded the Romantic one. But unlike the rest of the Baroque composers (with the possible exception of Pachelbel) he joins the Romantic composers in the "standard repertoire". Yes, he had a rich musical heritage to draw upon. But it certainly appears to me to be both the conventional wisdom, and, as far as I can tell, the truth, that he put the pieces together to give the composers of the Romantic era the musical vocabulary that made their works possible. EDIT: On further reflection, while I'm still not interested in defending the proposition that Beethoven is a greater composer than Bach, the question of why he is considered by many members of the general public, whose knowledge of classical music is often simply that, like broccoli, it is supposed to be good for you, to be the Greatest Composer Who Ever Lived holds some questions of interest. Leonard Bernstein, in his essay on the subject, "Why Beethoven?", gave as his main reason the high degree of polish of Beethoven's works: they went through many revisions, and so each note had a feeling of inevitability. A naive listener might be able to detect this, but I think that simpler reasons can be found. Music teachers in the United States often talk about the "three Bs", Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Mozart, however, ranks higher in name recognition than Brahms. If one is looking for the Greatest Composer Who Ever Lived... Bach, because he was Baroque, rather than Romantic, is somewhat alien to the man in the street. Much of his music appears to lack emotional content. Mozart has the opposite problem. His music definitely sounds nice. So it can be suspected of being light, fluffy, insubstantial and unpretentious. Beethoven, on the other hand, does not labor under either of those disqualifications for the title. Nobody is going to call his Fifth Symphony light and fluffy - or a cold exercise in mathematics rather than music. Beethoven's music is About Something, and so it is not unpretentious. Pretension isn't a good thing in itself, but competent musical scholars do agree that Beethoven was one of the greatest composers, at least, and so he delivered on his pretensions. And on top of that, in the United States, not only was Beethoven's music About Something, but it was often about The Most Important Thing in the World! The Ninth Symphony was framed around a poem by Schiller. A poem about "freude" - except it was really about "freiheit", but he dared not use that word, and Beethoven knew that. Then there is the story of why Beethoven was planning to dedicate the Eroica to Napoleon, and why he changed his mind. So Beethoven was not just a great composer, he was a hero - a champion of political liberty.
  4. I thought Beethoven had that title pretty much sewed up, with Mozart and Bach contending for second place. With Beethoven having almost the last word, Wagner's few peeps only confirming that Beethoven had gone as far as reasonable.
  5. Well, it was just recently reconstructed by a Bach scholar. Perhaps you can ask that question of the harpsichord concerto BWV 1053, though.
  6. I can't deny the truth of that either, but in my defense, it would be equally ignorant to say the same of all non-Western music. Before Bach, Western music was simpler, even if not truly simple, and thus it was comparable to non-Western music.
  7. My memory is playing tricks on me. Somewhere - but apparently not in this forum - I saw a reference to a column in which Bach was referred to as the "father of Western music", and the person making that reference noted this as indicating the columnist was someone not to be taken seriously, as the notion was so mistaken. It is true that Josquin des Pres, for example, might take issue with that. Bone flutes have been found in Neanderthal burial sites. Music is a human universal; the people associated with the cultural group called Western certainly did not languish for long centuries without music until Bach came along. So perhaps a qualifying adjective might have been in order, but I'm not certain which one. "Modern" seems too narrow. Before Bach, the West had music. But its music was comparable to the music of any other culture, largely diatonic, and not far removed from its folk roots. It was Bach who gave to Western music technical resources that were unparalleled in the history of music - for example, the ability to change keys all the way around the circle of fifths and come out the other end, should one please, as famously illustrated in Das Wohltempierte Klavier, but not limited to that. As obvious as it might seem, it isn't the four lads from Liverpool that we have to blame for the fact that Western music now strides the entire world, pushing the long-established musical traditions of other civilizations such as those of China and India to the sidelines.
  8. Strictly speaking, what you are saying is true. However, at least in English, it is a common shorthand way of speaking to say "one can't say X" when one means "one can't say X without lying", or at least without being incorrect, or even without making a statement which, while it may be true, is one that cannot be substantiated.
  9. It is true that one can't just dismiss a theory by citing credentials and asserting it's wrong. The National Review is, if I remember correctly, a conservative publication. So it might be biased against a feminist theory that Anna Magdalena Bach was the "real" composer in the family. However, I've found an even more critical view of his theories in the British newspaper The Guardian, which is known as left-wing: https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2014/oct/29/why-bach-wife-cannot-take-credit-for-his-cello-masterwork And then there's the New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/case-mrs-bach I certainly do think that pauses in the manuscript by A. M. Bach are not sufficient evidence of her composing the work; if we had, as we do for Beethoven, worksheets with corrections, that would be a different matter. So, if that is the core of his case, as is claimed, I would tend to dismiss it. Now, the general consensus is that Christian Petzold, not Johann Sebastian Bach, wrote the Minuet in G from Anna Magdalena's Notebook (as featured in the movie "Electric Dreams", and made popular as the song "A Lover's Concerto"). As to Shakespeare, I don't need to be an expert to dismiss as nonsense the claims that his plays were written by Marlowe or Bacon. On the other hand, that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, might have written Shakespeare's plays at least sounded, on the surface, to a non-specialist like myself as plausible. That's a great deal different from being true, though; that the experts on the subject know much that I don't that supports the conventional view is likely as well. I did think that the case was slightly overstated, though. I think it unlikely that Shakespeare was uneducated and almost illiterate. He represented himself in court frequently, which incidentally refutes the notion that a knowledge of law illustrated in Shakespeare's plays is evidence of Baconian authorship. If Oxford had been the "author", for practical reasons, his authorship could not have extended further than the "foul papers" - now considered more fair than foul, being the good reading versions of the plays - with Shakespeare himself revising them so that actors could perform the plays in the time available. And this would nicely explain Titus Andronicus, the one Shakespeare play that, due to its relatively inferior quality and excess violence, conventional scholars say Shakespeare didn't write. If Oxford were the author, it could have been the only one Shakespeare did write all by himself, something the Oxfordians refuse to credit Shakespeare with the ability to accomplish.
  10. Although this is anecdotal evidence, rather than rigorous double-blind testing, it does seem to refute the claim that some have made that music is simply about harmony and discord, and all attempts to attach "program" to music are nonsense.
  11. I do believe that the problem here could be one of customer education. As I've noted, computers generally sell based on their power - because it's easy to tell how powerful a computer is. Judging the tone quality and playing characteristics of a violin is more difficult, therefore people rely on the name of the violin's maker. If more people knew how to identify a concert violin by its sound, the demand for old instruments for soloists would presumably ease up a bit.
  12. So you're saying that the selling price of a violin is not affected by its sound quality, but the liquidity of a violin is affected, and, yes, even dramatically affected, by its sound quality. Those of us who are not professional economists are likely to be unable to think of a comparable example off the top of their heads of that kind of price inelasticity. Therefore, I think there's no big mystery here as to why people are failing to understand what you are saying. What you are saying is so utterly unbelievable that of course they assume they must have heard you wrong. (I'm not saying you're wrong, just that what you're saying is rather surprising, at least to outsiders.)
  13. This is true. At most, it could be about $4,000,000 worth of sound, since a Guarneri is comparable to a Stradivarius. But how can a Stradivarius be worth $4,000,000? From playing the MMORPG RuneScape, I've learned that people will pay 100 times as much for one set of armor as another set, even though it is only 2% better, if it is harder to obtain and it is the absolute best in the game. Having the absolute best armor makes it easier - or even just possible - to kill the most formidable monsters in the game, which drop the most valuable treasures. There is an immense demand to equip concert soloists with the best possible violins. Prestige, no doubt, is a big factor.
  14. That sort of thing is a special case, like the violin found on the Titanic. That a particular violin can be especially valuable as a historical artifact says nothing about violin prices in general. An Apple I computer recently sold for $375,000. Does that mean that computer buyers in general don't choose their computers on the basis of how powerful they are in terms of gigaflops and so on? Of course not. That sale was for something that was a historical curio. Most computers are not historical curios - and, even more importantly, the performance of a computer is easy to measure reliably and repeatedly. It is not nearly so easy to identify a violin with a "good sound", or with the playing properties that would make it suitable for the use of a concert soloist. This, I believe, is the primary reason why the violin market is very much unlike the computer market.
  15. However, he is correct that it is because of sound in the first place that the provenance of being made by Stradivari or Guadagnini adds value to a violin. Yet, I am not denying that sound appears to hardly matter at all to the value of an individual violin. The conclusion is obvious: if you have the ability to judge the sound of a violin correctly after having only a brief opportunity to play it, then you should be able to pick up some bargains.