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Old 04-06-2010, 01:51 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Composers' Eccentricities

What are some composers' eccentricities that make them and their music more memorable to you?

Interesting stories about classical composers' unusual behaviors or beliefs make their lives and their compositions stick in my mind. I find their eccentricities to be very endearing...and in a way comforting...since it means I'm not alone in mine!

One example: Erik Satie, a French composer and pianist (1866-1925), who I read elsewhere is booboo's favorite piano composer. My orchestra is currently playing Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie," arranged by Debussy, and so today I learned some interesting information about Satie from our conductor and from this website (http://www.wfmu.org/~kennyg/popular/...s/satie.html):

~ Erik Satie made up his own religion in which he was the leader...and the only member! He used his church to rant against his music critics.

~ When Erik Satie died, his office was found to contain a total of four pianos: two of which were back to back, and two of which sat upside-down on top of the other two. He was using the upside-down pianos to store sheet music, says my conductor.

~ Erik Satie is considered the parent of "furniture music" (background Muzak music).

Here is perhaps his most famous piano piece: Gymnopedie (No. 1), by Erik Satie. The piece gives me a feeling of emptiness, sadness, and nostalgia.



And here is Debussy's orchestral arrangement of Gymnopedie (No. 1), by Erik Satie:

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If a chicken was smart enough to be able to speak English and run in a geometric pattern, then I think it should be smart enough to dial 911 (999) before getting the axe, and scream to the operator, "Something must be done! Something must be done!"
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Old 04-08-2010, 05:53 PM   #2 (permalink)
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~ Erik Satie made up his own religion in which he was the leader...and the only member! He used his church to rant against his music critics.

~ When Erik Satie died, his office was found to contain a total of four pianos: two of which were back to back, and two of which sat upside-down on top of the other two. He was using the upside-down pianos to store sheet music, says my conductor.

~ Erik Satie is considered the parent of "furniture music" (background Muzak music).
That is quite eccentric. I also quite enjoy his music myself. Interesting to learn that stuff about him.

Last edited by someonecompletelyrandom; 09-28-2010 at 11:47 AM.
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Old 05-03-2010, 03:23 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Was Mozart as eccentric as in the Miloš Forman movie (Amadeus)?






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Old 05-03-2010, 04:31 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I did find this out about Mozart which is pretty 'eccentric'...

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Particularly in his youth, Mozart had a striking fondness for scatological humor, which is preserved in his many surviving letters, notably those written to his cousin Maria Anna Thekla Mozart around 1777–1778, but also in his correspondence with his sister Nannerl and his parents. Mozart even wrote scatological music, the canon "Leck mich im Arsch" (literally "Lick me in the arse", sometimes idiomatically translated "Kiss my arse" or "Get stuffed")
I knew it has also been speculated that Mozart may have had tourettes syndrome, as well as a handful of other mental instabilities.

I guess he was quite an eccentric personality. Brilliant composer.
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Old 05-03-2010, 04:56 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Zaqarbal View Post
Was Mozart as eccentric as in the Miloš Forman movie (Amadeus)?
Based on what I've read, Zaqarbal, I'd say no. For example, I think the high pitched (hilarious!) laugh is completely fictional.

Mozart's behaviors were definitely considered unusual at the time...although I'd say perhaps only since he did them in public? Like Lateralus wrote, he apparently really did have a potty mouth and referred to bodily functions quite a bit...which sounds like many people on MusicBanter! And he liked elegant clothing and was a little vain.

It is true that a current writer, a doctor (Medical and Musical Byways of Mozartiana, by Benjamin Simkin, M.D.), suggests Mozart may have had Tourette syndrome, in which the brain's ability to stop spontaneous outbursts is reduced:

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Fithian Press: Medical and Musical Byways of Mozartiana
But throughout Mozart's brief but brilliant career Simkin finds letters and journalistic entries to, from, and about Mozart that present a disturbing picture of the young genius's mind. We see Mozart fidgeting compulsively, talking nonsense and delighting in word-play and the coarsest bathroom humor, and even leaping about the room miaowing like a cat. As Mozart's friends describe him, his eccentricity would make Tom Hulce's giddy portrayal in the film Amadeus seem reserved by comparison.
However, upon reviewing the documents about Mozart, others write in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry that evidence for Mozart having Tourette syndrome or other diagnosable mental conditions is lacking:

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J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2007;78:1171-1175 doi:10.1136/jnnp.2007.114520
Mozartā€™s movements and behaviour: a case of Touretteā€™s syndrome? -- Ashoori and Jankovic 78 (11): 1171 -- Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry

Although there are numerous reports attributing Mozart’s peculiar personality and behaviour to a spectrum of neurobehavioural disorders such as Tourette’s syndrome, autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder and paediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infection, the evidence for any of these disorders is lacking. Whether Mozart’s behaviour was nothing more than a reflection of his unique personality or a more complex neurological disorder, aggravated later in life by enormous demands by his father and society, his behaviour has been the subject of many biographies.
Mozart was considered a child prodigy...which means he was unusually gifted in music. He was very fascinated with keyboard when he was 3 and wrote compositions at age 5. Not every child, even those exposed to instruments at a young age, takes such joy in music. So, Mozart's passion for composing music was definitely uncommon!
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Originally Posted by Neapolitan:
If a chicken was smart enough to be able to speak English and run in a geometric pattern, then I think it should be smart enough to dial 911 (999) before getting the axe, and scream to the operator, "Something must be done! Something must be done!"

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Old 09-24-2010, 04:55 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Edward Elgar incorporated a line from a nursery rhyme in the first six bars of his Enigma Variations (Variations on an Original Theme, Opus 36). Elgar enjoyed jokes, puzzles, puns, and nursery rhymes and he incorporated all of these in this work. Talk about eccentric! Read on to see how he did it. You can view the first six bars of the score at wikipedia.org/wiki/Enigma_Variations

Pi is a constant in a circle (circumference divided by diameter.) It is usually approximated by 3.142 as a decimal or 22/7 as a fraction. In 2007, **** Santa observed that the first four notes were scale degree 3-1-4-2, decimal Pi. Fractional Pi can be found within the first four bars by observing that two “drops of a seventh” follow exactly after the first eleven notes, giving us 11 x 2/7 = 22/7. Elgar included a “dark saying” into his first six bars by using “Four and twenty blackbirds (dark) baked in a pie (Pi).” The first four and twenty black notes each have “wings” (ties or slurs.) Thus Pi fits all the clues given by Elgar in 1899. Elgar took the unusual step of putting a double bar between 6 and 7 which usually mean the end of the piece. In this case it meant the end of the enigma. Viewing “theme” as the central idea/concept explains how Pi can be the “larger theme which 'goes', but is not played.” Pi “is never on the stage.” The 'dark saying' which must be left unguessed, turns out to be a pun from a familiar nursery rhyme.

As if to confirm Pi, there is a Pi hint in each of the three sentences Elgar wrote in 1929 at the age of 72, when no one had guessed the enigma after 30 years. In the first sentence he referred to two quavers and two crotchets (hint at 22) and then in the third, he referred to bar 7 (hint at /7.) Putting them together yields another 22/7. In the second sentence he wrote, “The drop of a seventh in the Theme (bars 3 and 4) should be observed,” which leads us to find fractional Pi, 22/7, in the first four bars. Elgar said the solution was “well known.” Pi is taught to school children as part of a basic education.

Elgar wrote his Enigma Variations in the year following the very foolish Indiana Pi Bill of 1897 which attempted to legislate the value of Pi. Years later in 1910, Elgar wrote “the work was begun in a spirit of humour.” Elgar enjoyed such japes, as well as codes, puzzles and nursery rhymes. No other proposed “solution” has offered any relevance to Elgar’s 1929 hints including his “drop of a seventh in the 3rd and 4th bar.”

He was eccentric and very clever.
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Old 09-28-2010, 05:16 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Wagner: Didn't he wear gloves to conduct the "Jewish" music of Mendelssohn?

Bruckner: Didn't he count things over and over, making sure he'd counted correctly? This suggests some sort of Asperger's or autism trait.

Brahms didn't he write lots of slickly put together contrapuntal music, totally lacking in spontaneity?
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Old 10-17-2010, 12:03 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Nimrod View Post
Edward Elgar incorporated a line from a nursery rhyme in the first six bars of his Enigma Variations (Variations on an Original Theme, Opus 36). Elgar enjoyed jokes, puzzles, puns, and nursery rhymes and he incorporated all of these in this work. Talk about eccentric! Read on to see how he did it. You can view the first six bars of the score at wikipedia.org/wiki/Enigma_Variations

He was eccentric and very clever.
Yes, Edward Elgar certainly sounds very playful and clever with his method of incorporating Pi and other math/poetic ideas into his works. Here's a youtube of the Enigma Variations, which I'd never heard before you mentioned this composer. Rather pleasantly beautiful! YouTube - A complete version of Edward Elgar's "Enigma Variations" (No. 1-8)

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Wagner: Didn't he wear gloves to conduct the "Jewish" music of Mendelssohn?

Bruckner: Didn't he count things over and over, making sure he'd counted correctly? This suggests some sort of Asperger's or autism trait.

Brahms didn't he write lots of slickly put together contrapuntal music, totally lacking in spontaneity?
According to this source, Wagner *did* wear white gloves because of his anti-semitic feelings, and threw them down on the ground after conducting: Trivia on The Guiness Book of Music Facts and Feats | Trivia Library

Unfortunately, those anti-semitic views weren't very eccentric, I'd say, but rather all too commonplace.

Brahms lacked spontaneity? That doesn't sound too eccentric, either, davey!

I haven't heard enough of Brahms' contrapuntal music to appreciate this criticism. All I know is he wrote one of the most beautiful pieces for clarinet, which I used to love to play in high school:

Brahms Clarinet Sonata No. 2, mov. 1
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Originally Posted by Neapolitan:
If a chicken was smart enough to be able to speak English and run in a geometric pattern, then I think it should be smart enough to dial 911 (999) before getting the axe, and scream to the operator, "Something must be done! Something must be done!"
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Old 10-20-2010, 05:04 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Beethoven's personality was rather...strange.
In Vienna, there are over twenty "Beethoven Homes", apartments that claim that Ludwig stayed in. The reason for this is that he got kicked out of every single one because he was a horrible tenant. He was notoriously grumpy, and often banged on his piano late into the night (mind you he was deaf as well.)
Also, I love his relationship with Haydn. He was Haydn's pupil for some time and resented him. He basically thought Haydn was an old hoagie who wasn't with the times. The only time he liked Haydn was when he complimented him on his compositions.
Oh, and his favorite food was macaroni and cheese.
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Old 07-16-2013, 10:56 AM   #10 (permalink)
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The Parisian organist and composer Charles Tournemire (1870-1939) followed in the footsteps of Cesar Franck as one of his most faithful and admiring students, and eventually succeeded him as organist of the same church. However, he was no imitator but very creative, world-renowned for his improvistions in an advanced style, carrying the art to heights of intensity and mysticism still emulated by the great French organists. His postludes might continue for some ten minutes, whether anyone was still there to listen or not.

One day a new or visiting priest had celebrated mass. After puttering around in the sacristy for awhile, he noticed Tournemire still carrying on in the organ loft, climbed all the stairs, and confronted him at the console: "What are you doing? It is only the sortie [going-out music]." Hardly batting an eye, Tournemire replied, "Alors, mon pere, sortez!" (Then go out, Father!)
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