We here at the Detritus have come to learn that great music is great because it's aesthetically and technically stunning, makes money, makes people happy, is liked by more than 216 people, can run 40 yards in 4.2 seconds, and is written by someone famous and dead.
Concert review: Blomstedt, PSO create a Brahms experience
Andrew Druckenbrod, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 09, 2011
We spend an inordinate amount of time trying to define greatness,…
So true. And from what I can tell, it's pretty much an exact science nowadays...
Like when Mel Kiper said of JaMarcus Russell, "Three years from now you could be looking at a guy that's certainly one of the elite top five quarterbacks in this league. Look out because the skill level that he has is certainly John Elway-like."
…and classical music is particularly obsessed with it.
Well, when you only listen to the same 10 or 15 composers who all died over 100 years ago, might as well rank them between sessions of masturbating over which conductor's phrasing of Mahler 4 was ejaculatory enough.
Was that harsh? It felt harsh. Anywho...
But so often it is a debate made away from the music in question…
What do you mean “away”?
… -- in a coffee shop or a classroom, in an article or a book.
And you prefer that debate be made inside the music? Words are my tool of choice when I wish to communicate specific thoughts and ideas. Do you want me to make an argument that Beethoven's music is great with music? I’m not sure I follow.
But what role does experience play?
I’m going to guess that most of the people debating this have experienced classical music before. No?
So Mr. Smarty-pants, how do you define greatness in music?
As of late I have come to define greatness in music as any composition or song that, when listening to it, seems the best work I have ever heard.
Like I said, defining greatness is pretty much down to science these days.
When I am listening to a Beethoven Symphony, I can't imagine another that's "better."
I’m not sure you’re actually familiar with the concept of a definition.
But now that I think about it, our imaginations should be the first criterion for any good definition of the greatness of music.
Same with Chopin's nocturnes and Wagner's operas, Schubert's lieder or Radiohead's albums.
Radiohead does make the best Radiohead albums…although Muse releases pretty good Radiohead albums, too.
No wait...neither of them releases very good Radiohead albums.
But, hey, wait a minute.
What if I can’t imagine a better piece, but I feel like there must be one. Is it necessarily so that imagination is greater than feelings?
I don’t know, because I imagine that you have no idea what you’re talking about, but my gut feeling is that you’re absolutely right.
Moving along, Brahms' First Symphony was on the program (clearly the greatest symphony ever), as was his First Piano Concerto...
I am happy to report that pianist Garrick Ohlsson is human.
This was in doubt?
He missed a note in his brilliant performance of the First Piano Concerto,...
I really hoped you pointed this out to him after the concert. However, in his defense...
…and it actually made me appreciate his amazing virtuosity all the more.
That's exactly how I feel about JaMarcus Russell.
You just had to be there.
Exactly. How else could you experience imagining this was the greatest music ever?