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Topic: Importance of the composer's personality

  1. #1

    Importance of the composer's personality

    I'd like to hear what you guys think. First a preliminary explanation.

    We had a famous American composer visiting our school and talking to us composer students about his life and work.

    He mentioned an event where he had composed music to and just briefly mentioned that the actual event had ended to an accident where several people had died and many got injured. This was very curious to me.

    As a gadget-guy, I googled this event (while still in the class) from my iPhone and read about it. While I was reading about the event, the visiting composer said to me:"Can you put that away? It's driving me crazy."

    Afterwards I apologized for using it during his lecture, but it made me feel quite bad. When I thought of it afterwards, there were two sides in what just happened. On the other hand, it was maybe rude from me to do something with my phone, especially when I was sitting in the front row, but on the other hand, I wasn't making any sound. I completely understand his point, but he didn't understand mine: I was Googling about his former work and finding out more about what he had just said while the others were listening about a sample of a piece I wasn't so interested in. This was my personal choice.

    On the other hand, the way he said about it was quite humiliating and seemed a bit arrogant.

    As a result, now when I think of him, I don't feel like listening to his music. He might be a very talented composer and be famous and have all the glory in the world, but since he wasn't too nice to me, I don't particularly care about finding out about his art, because I know how he acted towards me. There would've been nicer ways to tell that the lecturer finds something disturbing. Maybe even using the word please?

    Now I'm asking you: how much would you say knowing the composer's personality and character affects to if you find some music likable? Can someone turning out to be a total a-hole make you change your mind about his/her music? Or can someone turning out to be the coolest personality in the world make you like his/her music a bit more?

    I find this really interesting. At least to me, finding out a composer be humble in a way or somehow nice and shining make me appreciate his/her work even more. And in the case mentioned above it took out all the little interest I had and is very hard to change. I will always remember him as the one that was rude and seemed to behave arrogantly at me.

    Something to think about!

  2. #2

    Re: Importance of the composer's personality

    Yes, I totally agree... I guess the those composers who are a pain in the a** and still write awesome music are lucky if we never actually meet them. Even though I would love someone's music and happened to meet this person and he would somehow personally insult me, it would be very difficult to like the music after that. But yes, it certainly depends on the experiences, how are they and how much of them we've had with the specific composers.

    Maybe it's like having a crush on a girl: first you "fall in love" with some certain characteristics you like and maybe how she looks. After that, depending if her personality is good or... bad, the way you perceive her changes to better or worse.

    Composers are like girls. There are pretty, there are not-so-pretty (this is all a matter of a personal taste, in both cases of course) and depending on how the music is, your liking changes to more or less, because the admiration of the works blends with the admiration or dislike towards the composer.

  3. #3

    Re: Importance of the composer's personality

    I can't help but wonder, does it really matter?

    I take for example Howard Hanson. He is a composer I really, truly adored. I have pretty much all his symphonies (except the 7th) in full conductor score, and have taken great pleasure in doodling around with his piano concerto (it's not the most challenging work, but so damned pretty).

    And then, I find out the man was a rabid homophobe.

    My first reaction is

    Then I say to myself: "myself, if you stop at something like that, then there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other composers you will stop listening to".

    At this point, I am capable of differentiating between a composer of whose music I would gladly pop a CD into the player, and one whom I would gladly invite to supper.

    So, Hanson would never know the pleasures of my divine "Saumon en Croute with a delicate dill and yoghurt sauce".

    I'll settle for listening to his scores. It's still great music.

  4. #4

    Re: Importance of the composer's personality

    I can think of one incident in college where someone "famous" was a bit degrading to me. It was a performance situation and I swore to myself not to support this person's endeavors any longer by buying recordings, etc.

    That was a long time ago and I've since seen other "great" artists belittle others and realized the common thread of a lack of self-confidence. Even in their greatness they don't exercise any grace to others because maybe they feel they have something to prove or any number of reasons I suppose.

    As for the person who offended me, I still haven't bought any recordings, but it's only because my tastes in music have changed; not because I'm still offended. I dare say you'll come to a similar conclusion in time.

    Steve Winkler

  5. #5

    Re: Importance of the composer's personality

    swinkler, I think I will. This particular composer didn't composer music that was particularly to my taste. He had some cool stuff, but it was all the time on the border of liking or not liking. But his behaviour didn't encourage me at all and even I would like some of his music, I don't feel too much like finding out or at least thinking too positively about him.

    I guess what I'm saying is what I tried to say with the girl-metafora: the personality MAY (at least in my case) change the liking of someone's work to either direction. If not liking, at least interest.

    Of course if someone wrote complete nonsense (at least something I wouldn't understand or enjoy), no matter how cool this composer was, I probably wouldn't like his work any more than before. But at least I would say "oh, he's a really cool guy" and would talk good about him. Or at least not talk bad about his works. Reputation is important.

    I'm aiming to film composition so I guess I better have my tuxedo made.... :/

    And of course in some cases, if it's a composer who you've just heard of, like "he was in love and cut his ear off", then you can think "he had a hard life and he was a difficult person and went crazy and that's what I like because I hear it in his music". Rumors are rumors and can be intrepreted as cool stories, but it's different if you actually met this composer yourself. Personal is always personal. If it was your ear he cut, that is.

  6. #6

    Re: Importance of the composer's personality

    First of all, if I was the composer visiting and I found someone toying with their mobile phone (even for any reason), I would be seriously tempted to kick them out. I came to "lecture", or give a "seminar", or anyways to talk about things. If you want to do anything else, you simply don't belong to that place at that particular time, end of story. Even if you told me that you were googling for more info about the piece, I would still tell you that:
    1. You could've waited. What's the rush?
    2. If indeed you wanted to talk about the score more you could just raise your hand and ask.

    (At least if that was me instead of that composer).

    Now, if personality of the composer influences people? I bet it does! I swear it does!

    The very very first time that I listen to something in here, from someone I don't know, I am influenced, I'll admit it, by everything. A nice post, tpyos (to which I'm horrendouly awful at (and spelling of course)), the way they talk and take feedback, how they present their work, etc. I think it's much more interesting to see a post with various details, maybe even the score if it exists, explaining what you did, why, etc, than a bare link "this is my music. Like it? I don't care enough to spend more time typing).

    For example Roliffers posts, always make a nice impression, since he's making the best of efforts to explain few things. Same with Jamie, and David, and other people in here.

    Now, knowing that someone is... a homophobe (that Michel gives an example), or an awful guy in general, will not make me dislike their music, no. I can judge music independantly. But it may turn me away from the person altogether! (not the music).

    Of course it does depend on what he says, why, if this is a common attitude, etc. I do recall a masterclass I've been for piano (I've been playing piano for more than 20 years now, and have stoped for 4 years now), by a guy who was at the same level as Richter. They came 1st together at a few competitions, then somehow Richter went away from all that and became who he was.

    The guy was a complete ~~~~~! Totally. Awful! He would reduce the students too garbage for the simplest of things! BUT! But he was right 100%! And I do understand that when you are sooo high, as that guy was, you could see a few things you take for granted or assume it's common sense and tear the other person apart! It certainly is not nice, and I won't support him, or anything, but still there is an excuse!

  7. #7

    Re: Importance of the composer's personality

    Quote Originally Posted by nikolas View Post
    1. You could've waited. What's the rush?
    2. If indeed you wanted to talk about the score more you could just raise your hand and ask.

    (At least if that was me instead of that composer).
    You are totally right about this and I agree: like I said, I see his point of view. But I wouldn't do what you suggested if I was the lecturer and him doing so changed my opinion about him, no matter who was "right". Like you said yourself about the forum posts, everything we see, do or experience, matters.

  8. #8

    Re: Importance of the composer's personality

    Indeed, and I don't know the tone he used, but he didn't say much. Anything he said would be rather humiliating, only because he would "accuse" you of doing something wrong. And it's not nice doing it in front of anyone. The most tactfull thing would be to wait until finished, call you and explain in private. But he won't be here next time, and he doesn't care to embarasse you, since it is "your fault".

    If there was something like that in a repeated lecture (with students that I would see again), I would attempt to be more tactful, if it was an one thing time, I wouldn't...

  9. #9

    Re: Importance of the composer's personality

    Personality certainly influences me.

    I met John McCabe at university. As far as I was concerned he was a composer of some reasonable pastiche, some of which I would listen to if in the right mood, and a pianist of some ability, but again not great. At the lecture he gave, it soon became clear that he thought he was a musical god, that he was the central figure in the avant-garde, and that we must think so to have invited him to give a lecture. I never listened to his music again.

    Peter Maxwell Davies, on the other hand, was someone whose music I originally couldn't stand. But I met him a few times. He gave his time, for free, to open the music department at my high school, wrote comissions for us, again for nothing, and I know he gives a great deal of his time to music education in general. Whenever I've spoken with him, he's been very polite and taken an interest in me. And I still find trying to like his music because I like him.

    The influence of personality becomes less though, for me, when it's only by reputation. I find myself indifferent to the fact that Karajan was a ~~~~, and that Gesualdo was a murderer.

  10. #10

    Re: Importance of the composer's personality

    You need to consider that the main goal of a composer is that someone make a film about his life. Ordered and gentle lifes are boring for hollywood, so, start to make some disorder in your lifes if your want that someone film your biography sometime in the future
    Seriously talking, for the historical composers biography knowledges, say from 1600 to Sibelius, wichs ones do you know they were really kind people? Would like to know, just for curiosity.
    Marcelo Colina

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