Who Will Stand the Test of Time?

This morning I was listening to a wonderful record - Quartetto Italiano plays Early Italian Music - Cambini, Galuppi and Boccherini, all from the mid 1700s or so. Do you think there are any 20th century artists people will be listening to in the year 2300? For purposes of this thread, let's be optomistic and presume that society is not going to devolve into "Escape from New York", which it definitely will. But let's put that aside for now. BTW - If you like string quartets, Quartetto Italiano is really good.
I would not be surprised if people play John Williams (Star Wars, Jaws, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, ET, etc)for a long time to come. I have noticed whether its Mozart, Beethoven or others...when anyone off the street can whistle a bit of the tune, that's a good sign. Think of Beethoven's 5th. As beautiful as lots of music is...there is something about his music which is both complex, beautiful, but also entirely memorable that has often made me wonder if it can stand the test of 300+ years of time.
Classical music was the only way to create something different in the 18th-20th century. The people had no rights (reigned from a king, supervised from the church) and after the WWI it was done. The destruction was so big, so many people/knowledge died, there was no way to discover something new. After WWi (and WWII) there were the best conductors and orchestras, but from the composing it was more or less done.
The next revolution came with Rock 'n' Roll and the music up to the 80's...
Listening to classic music will be always alive because it is in our cultural roots...but the area from 1950 will live forever, it is a kind of music which touches the soul of the masses and is based in our democratic evolution and independence.

Maybe Computer (Vangelis) music will be dominant in 200 years, who knows..but the touch from the human voice, the singer (singing) itself will never die.
Are you serious? There is sooooo much music which came from the 60s-70s and is so memorable, hummable, whatever, that we will be hearing those for centuries.

Certainly nor my favorite, but "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" just popped into mind - arrrggghhhh!

Rlawinwright...i hear you, but i have often thought about the music that has lasted since 1600s...much of it was composed for the Church, or for major patrons of the arts, or operas/choral productions. in other words, mediums with multiple applications which keep it in the public eye (and ear). Movie soundtracks are sort of that equivalent, and i sometimes think that is part of what keeps a piece of music going thru the ages. Choral, Requiems, operas...probably means Rodgers and Hammerstein is gonna keep going for a while?

I thought about the Beatles of course...its just that 400 years is a long time (ie time from Bach to today)...
Shostakovich, Ligeti, Penderecki, Part, Adams, maybe even Elliot Carter and Jennifer Higdon will stand the test of time.

People want to perpetuate this myth that Beethoven and Mozart were the "Beatles of their time." In actual fact, much of Beethoven and Mozart's best music was rejected in the court of public opinion. On the other hand, people loved Wellington's victory, which is a trite piece of garbage. Try whistling the opening measures of K465.

Most popular music describes a window in time. Once that time is past, the music becomes a relic that is at best a curiosity. I don't recall the last time I heard Way down upon the Swanee River on the radio. My guess is that Heinrich Schutz gets more playing time than Steven Foster. There is a reason for that. The music of Heinrich Schutz describes aspects of the human condition that do not change with time.
Brownsfan is right on point. Not much I can add (or subtract) except:

Rogers and Hart
Stevie Wonder
Richard Strauss
The Beatles
Johnny Mandel
Ervin Berlin
Duke Ellington
Jerome Kern
Cole Porter
Wayne Shorter
Work out is over, sorry.......
I am good with much of that music, Frogman! Thanks. dont know Ades and Mandel but otherwise have music from all of the above.
this question is so subjective:

I think there is evidence that certain groups have lasted and are still "popular".

in the classical repertory, there are composers whose music is frequently played at concerts.

The classic groups of the 60's and 70's have survived.

we won't be around in 2300, so it does not matter.
Well obviously Justin Bieber and Talor Swift immediately come to mind.....
Jmcgrogan2, My worst fear is that the movie Idiocracy is a forward looking documentary, in which case you may very well be right.

Schutz, Bach, Bach, Stamitz, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Bruckner, Mahler, Shostakovich, Madonna, Bieber, Swift--- I guess that sounds about right.

Our culture seems to be on a mission to prove Darwin wrong.
There's a scene in the movie 'Prometheus' where the captain (Idris Elba) is playing a concertina and tells Charlize Therons character that it was once owned by Stephen Stills and she dismissively says "Am I supposed to know who that is?"

That takes place a mere 75 years into the future and I think it speaks volumes as to what matters and to whom. It's all subjective.

Right now I can sorrowfully relate of many people I know who are just as dismissive about what we here consider the classic geniuses. We live in sad times indeed.

All the best,
@Brownsfan, you evolution like this? LOL!!!
Assuming that some semblance of civilized society still exists in 300 years, it is inconceivable to me that the music of 20th century classical composers such as Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and many of the others who have been mentioned will not have withstood the test time over that period.

But does that mean that those composers will be broadly known and have wide appeal at that time? Not at all. Is the music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, etc. broadly known and possessed of wide appeal today? Sadly, my perception is that it is not. Remarkably, not even among a majority of high-end audiophiles, as I perceive it.

For evidence of that, look no further than this very forum. While we certainly have many members who are extremely knowledgeable about and/or interested in classical music, such as pretty much everyone participating in the current 140+ post Beethoven Symphony thread, my perception has been that the musical tastes of a majority of our members extend little further than rock music. (Yes, I know, there are lots of jazz enthusiasts too). And I would expect that the fraction of the general population having an interest in classical music is far smaller than it is here.

In saying that, I hasten to add that I am not casting any aspersions on that kind of music. I happen to like a lot of rock music myself, and it comprises a significant fraction of my collection, although most of my collection and most of my listening is classical. But I would have to say, consistent with Brownsfan's well put comment, that I would expect very little of it to have staying power over the centuries.

Consider, for instance, the substantial number of recordings that were released during the early part of the rock & roll era that were re-do's of "old standards" from earlier in the century. They were typically done so differently than the earlier versions as to make any claim of the staying power of those tunes (as well as the artists who originally performed them) pretty much meaningless. And that was all essentially within a time frame of one generation, not centuries.

-- Al
I have one of those but it has a bagpiper in kilt on the end. :^)
I think great music never dies,just changes in the form of new arrangements.
Lloydelee21, Thomas Ades is a young Brithish composer writing some of the most interesting and adventurous orchestral music today; IMO, one of the leading living composers along side the already mentioned John Adams, Part and others already mentioned by Brownsfan. Try "Asyla" with Simon Rattle conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony on EMI; very imaginative music.

Johnny Mandel was (passed very recently) an American jazz composer/arranger with a very distinctive style. He wrote many songs represented as part of the Great American Songbook. Try Shirley Horne's "Here's To Life", songs/ arrangements by Johnny Mandel. One of my very favorite vocal recordings; an absolutely gorgeous recording.
I am optimistic about the future of classical music, and music in general. There will always be a segment of the population that seeks out quality music, and will support it enough to sustain it, and that of future composers. For a fascinating read on this subject and related subjects, and to put this in a historical perspective, read this great article:


Now, as far as "popular" music is concerned. Look at it this way: just how much lower in quality can it get? We now have a very popular form of "music" that is devoid of one of the previously essential ingredients of music: melody. We can argue about what exactly constitutes a good melody, but I think we can at least agree that it doesn't have to be traditional melody. BTW, if you like string quartets, and on the subjects of 20th century music that will stand the test of time and non-traditional melody, try the Bartok string quartets. Challenging music for sure, but brilliant and sure to stand the test of time.

I believe (hope?) that the time will come when the masses will be so starved for the kind of stimulation that only quality art can provide that many will return to the appreciation of quality music. I think that some of the points raised in the linked article point to this very real possibility. I also think that we should be careful about indulging in too much negativity and fatalism around this subject. If we truly care about the future of quality music, should we not take an even more active role in it's promotion and survival? At least by staying as open minded as possible when it comes to supporting music that may be challenging, and less safe and familiar, to our musical palettes. By not doing so we run the risk of letting our "preferences" become a kind of elitism that will do nothing to promote the creation of new quality music.

BTW, the Emerson Quartet's recording (DG) of the Bartok quartets is wonderful.
2 things.
1. Good read
2. How is it possible that none of us put Benjamin Britten on the list? I am rather ashamed of myself for such an egregious oversight.
Well perhaps serious music will survive in Asia, but when an ensemble as world-class as the St. Paul Chamber Orch., located in perhaps the most sophisticated area between the coasts in the USA fails for lack of an audience, I am not inclined to think it will here.
Not to mention the Minnesota Orch., which is in top form under its present leader, has been on strike for 5 months
trying to maintain a 85-90 k avg. salary, which is not big money where a middle-class home is 350-450 K .

When the live music is gone,recorded music will go too.
Schubert, The subject of orchestras failing or in deep trouble has been discussed previously. I am not familiar with the situation in St. Paul. Is the failure due to lack of audience or scaled back donations from deep pocketed patrons? In any case it is sad that so many top notch orchestras are cutting salaries and full time positions to try to survive.
More food for thought:


Brownsfan, I agree; glaring omission, Britten.
I am an old man, the two worst things I have seen come into being in my long life time are TV and Rock "music".
The medium is indeed the message.
I am an optimist by nature, and while I don't consider myself an old man, I am getting there fast. I do agree, however, with part of your general sentiment (but, only part, damn it! :-) Life is full of ironies, no? I have heard it said more than once, and by credible thinkers at that, that the beginning of the end was, in fact, the very recording technology that we love so much.
Those thinkers were stupid then, hearing recorded Classical music only makes you thrist to hear the real thing.
I am a realist by nature like any good european, only americans use wretched terms like "optimist" .
Brownsfan, I have been told by a very gifted local retired horn player (30+ years in SW German Radio Orch)who was a sub in the St. Paul CO, that lack of audience was the main factor.
The SPCO wanted to start playing in the public schools gratis, but although the State of MN could come up with a billion dollars for the new Vikings stadium, no money could be found for that/them.
Just think where you 'good' europeans would be without these 'wretched' Americans. And BTW, europeans are taxed to support all those classical groups, whose concerts only a small minority attend. We could do that.

auslander raus!!
Schubert, the individuals of whom I speak are anything but "stupid". They are brilliant thinkers and successful musicians who understand the impact that recorded sound had on what in the past had been, for the masses, a common pastime: learning to play a musical instrument, performing for each other at family and friendly gatherings, as well as having much more knowledge about music in general than the average person today.

Anyway, I am sorry that your admitted old age, or some other factor, has caused you to seem so bitter and negative (what you call being a "realist"), but while I usually welcome a challenge as far as discussions on this forum go (right, Rok?), my gut feeling is that I should stay away from this one. Or, is reliance on gut feelings also something that only Americans do? BTW, not being American born, I have in-depth understanding of at least two nationalities and their traits, and I assure you that it is not only Americans who indulge in wretched optimism. Try it, you might like it.
No chance, last "optomistic' German was Hegel.
The most optomistic american was the one who thought gun control was possible after the slaughter in CT.Or perhaps the one who thought his order of the same Bushmaster model used would be less than the 3 year wait quoted him as he paid double price upfront to be on the waiting list.
I'm with Brownsfan, Frogman, and Al. Great art will always stand the test of time, whether or not the majority of the population is even aware of it or not. Those who are aware will keep it alive. And as Al says, this will go for the best jazz and rock, too. After all, some of the oldest jazz recordings that we have are getting closer and closer to 100 years ago now....
Schubert and all,
Not sure what is going on but I have posted several times and the posts are not appearing.
A couple of points here. First of all Schubert, hearing recorded classical music makes one want to hear more of it. Not necessarily live. In my own case, I listened to classical music for decades before I started attending live concerts on a regular basis. Even now, I am faced with a choice. Sit in my living room and listen to world class performances on a really good rig-- last night was Szell and the Clevelanders in the old Masonic auditorium-- 1957 on SACD-- oh my! Or I can get dressed, drive for 30-40 minutes, park, buy my ticket, and take my chances in an auditorium with poor accoustics. I think Frogmans point is quite apt. Now, if I lived in Cleveland, Vienna, or Dresden, where one is served up world class on a regular basis, the weight swings heavy and hard towards attending and supporting with donations. Otherwise, well, it is a somewhat different calculation.
- Mahler (just makes the 20th century cut)
- Stravinsky
- Rachmaninoff
- Al Jolson
- Duke Ellington
- Louis Armstrong
- Count Basie
- John Coltrane
- Dizzy Gillespie
- Ella Fitzgerald
- Billie Holliday
- Dinah Washington
- Elvis Presley
- Muddy Waters
- Ray Charles
- Chuck Berry
- Roy Orbison
- Jim Reeves
- Johnny Cash
- Buck Owens
- The Beatles
- Led Zeppelin
- Pink Floyd
- The Moody Blues
- Yes
- Genesis
- The Kinks
The main problem with predicting the future is that it is assumed to be a continuation of the present. The 300 year time period being discussed is long enough to make that assumption false. The European hegemony will probably not exist. Political systems with individual freedom of choice may not exist. Cybernetic implants will alter what is considered human. Computer programming coupled with genetic advances may allow the creation of a vast number of new compositions by Mozart, Ellington or Bieber. Three hundred years ago the world's population was 600 million, there were no democratic governments, slavery/serfdom was the norm and the symphony orchestra had yet to evolve. It's a long time and many things can radically change.

The idea of good music is a manifestation of specific cultural norms. Today we can appreciate Beethoven because we can understand the world view that produced his music. In comparison think of how many participants in this forum cannot understand the culture that produces rap/hip-hop or other popular music forms. To them it's noise. Three hundred years from now without an understanding of how and why it was produced may render Beethoven as nothing more than noise. It's anybody's guess.
" In comparison think of how many participants in this forum cannot understand the culture that produces rap/hip-hop or other popular music forms. To them it's noise"

I understand the Culture that produced rap/hip-hop, and it's still noise. But noise is not limited to rap/hip-hop. I think ROCK owns noise creation!

Rok2id, take a course in basic logic. Pay attention to the parts about necessary and sufficient conditions.
Two factors I used mainly to determine my list:

1) talents that have withstood the test of time to a good extent so far, although admittedly that is still a limited time frame.

2) core musical themes or attributes most likely to affect people than others and to still withstand the test of time and still remain embedded in society and how people are wired to some extent 300 years from now.

So its an extrapolation based current state and history, but what else can one go on when predicting the future?
The same, or worst conditions, were experienced by, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Louis Arstrong, Lester Young.... shall I go on? You get my point.

And 'conditions' don't apply to the guys into metal and other such garbage.

"And 'conditions' don't apply to the guys into metal and other such garbage."

Metallica has a decent chance of survival there I would say.

Maybe "Deep Purple" as well.

Motorhead also has a decent chance I would say.

Why should material that appeals more to people's darker side not have a chance of survival? I doubt we will evolve completely beyond that in 300 years. Hopefully, we will survive it though.
Mapman I don't doubt that a lot of 'dark side' stuff will survive. It will depend on how much MONEY can be made off of it. That's the key.

"Mapman I don't doubt that a lot of 'dark side' stuff will survive. It will depend on how much MONEY can be made off of it. That's the key."

Nothing, dark or otherwise, will survive if there is no market for it.
There will BE NO MUSIC in the future except for generative music. with possible variations on the theme to include interactive music.

Music as we know it - created solely by humans interacting and in direct contact (manipulation) with organic/acoustic/electronic instruments will become rare/non-existant like strawberry jam in the movie SOLENT GREEN.

Enjoy it now while we can....
Well, I guess someone has to follow up a post like that. Jeez!

There, I did it.
In that case, I guess Brian Eno and maybe Philip Glass are likely to withstand the test.

Or everything will be so abstract and generic by then that no artists of our generations whatsoever will any longer stand out. Kinda like most big box stores of today.
Brownsfan wrote: "...I don't recall the last time I heard Way down upon the Swanee River on the radio. My guess is that Heinrich Schutz gets more playing time than Steven Foster. There is a reason for that..."


You should talk to a Musicologist at an American University.

Like it or not, Foster is considered the "Premier American Song Composer" of the 19th Century. Further, "Old Folks At Home" is considered within American Academe the "Premier Example" of 19th Century American Song.

Also, if you want to hear Foster on the radio, tune in to the Kentucky Derby on ESPN Radio. Churchill Downs plays "My Old Kentucky Home" immediately before the race. It's worth noting that Foster has been getting state sanctioned play in both FL and KY for some time, as both state legislatures have selected Foster compositions as their Official State Songs.

At the same time, comparing a 17th Century German "composer" to a 19th Century American "songwriter" is GOOFY. Please keep in mind that Foster worked without a patron, and on the open market before the protections of modern copyright law.

Granted, some of what you say about "Pop" is correct. For example, the biggest author of Victorian England wasn't Dickens; it was Doyle. Today, we read Doyle but "revere" Dickens.

Shutze is very likely a "better" composer, but Foster will remain VERY IMPORTANT in the US, again because his songs are,like it or not, the premier historical examples of popular American Music of the 19th Century.
Courant, I think you may have missed my point. There are aspects of the human experience that don't change. There are far more aspects of the human experience that do change. Popular music tends to focus on the ephemeral. I'm not sure what Steven Foster, for instance, may have to say to a 24th century man growing up in Scotland, who has never been to either Kentucky or Florida. I'm not sure what he has to say to a 21st century kid growning up in NYC. Schutz on the other hand, offers plenty for those who will listen. The quality of Foster's work is very high. I did not mean to demean his music in any way.
If you prefer, contrast "Rowan and Martins Laugh in" to "the Honeymooners." Laugh-In was of the highest quality, but the subject matter is severely dated. The subject matter of the Honeymooners, on the other hand, is not.
Many people think much of what I say is odd. Nothing new here.
Courant,nothing wrong with Foster and yes he does occupy a significant place in music as it relates to American cultural history.
However, comparing him to H. Schutz, perhaps second only to Bach as a composer of religious music, is like comparing a K-mart bike to a Mercedes S-500 .
Schubert wrote:

"...comparing him to H. Schutz, perhaps second only to Bach as a composer of religious music, is like comparing a K-mart bike to a Mercedes S-500"

No argument, and I agree completely. It appears I need to clarify...

I wasn't trying to defend Foster as much as criticize Brownsfan's using him as a counter-example choice to Schutz.

Essentially, my thought was that using Foster as a counter example was dicey in that, whether you like or can relate to his material, Foster is simply too important, even though he is a much weaker composer compared to Schutz. Foster will stand the test of time simply because of his place in musicology from a strictly historical perspective.

By analogy, F. Scott Fitzgerald during his lifetime earned just under $450,000 (about 10 Million adjusted for inflation). Source: http://theamericanscholar.org/living-on-500000-a-year/#.UWEqHldFIvo . In contrast Stephen King has sold 350 Million books and is worth $400 Million. Source: http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/authors/stephen-king-net-worth/

My thought was that Brownsfan needed to use a counter example who was more of a musical equivalent of Stephen King who, if he's lucky, will be a curiosity in 400 years. Possibly someone like Elton John or Barry Manilow would have been better choices.

In contrast to "Barry Manilow", Foster was more the "Irving Berlin" or "John Lennon" of his day, and will be remembered.
It does not appear that my statement and yours with respect to Foster's music are all that far apart.

"Most popular music describes a window in time. Once that time is past, the music becomes a relic that is at best a curiosity."

"Foster will stand the test of time simply because of his place in musicology from a strictly historical perspective. "

My perception is that the OP was not asking about music that would survive to be of historical or academic interest.
Ralph Vaughn Williams (along with many already mentioned).
Mapman - WHAT! no Rolling Stones?

Rok2id - in a future I'd prefer to experience, no one will recall Lady Gag Me or stuff by Tupak etc etc etc etc.
As an aside, and ignoring the commercial 'machine' that drives the pop industry (the more ephemeral exponents; Bieber, Gaga etc) consider the plight of classical music. In the 20th Century diatonic music went into a kind of decline: dodecaphonic, "music concrete", aleatoric music, etc all pointed towards the death of the kind of melodic and diatonic music that had served us for centuries.

Inevitable; the march of progress, one could say. In the 20th century composers like Rachmaninov could say things like "I'm old-fashioned because I write tunes". Well, history would bear out that this is what the average ear thrives on. Composers like Berio and Messiaen may never be popular: there is evidence that the average ear simply cannot comprehend and process this music. A composer like Schoenberg (and now we are talking about a music that is almost 100 tears old) will still not supplant the tunesmiths of prior generations. For the mass audience Schoenberg may still be close to un-listenable.

Could this signal the beginning of the end of an art form? If music can only look backwards in order to succeed then is atrophy inevitable? The number of live concerts that will place the "modern' composition at the end of the first half (so as the audience HAS to listen to it) is legion. La Traviata may always outsell Nixon In China - simply because it is more comprehendible. This has not happened before: no matter how much one might wish to think that 'new' music has always been the province of the avant-garde listeners this is very much the exception (the Rite of Spring is notable). Rather, new composers have tended to be immensely popular - in their time.

Perhaps humanity is at the end of one of its developments: in the visual arts too, one may make similar observations. I would surmise that Rubens would always be more 'popular' than Picasso for similar reasons. Time will tell.

Who will stand the test of time? Not Lady Gaga. And maybe not Webern, although I hugely hope I'm wrong about him. Diatonicists? Absolutely. But how? The answer maybe lies in a de-Westernization of the art.

I imagine the future will contain a more global music. In fact I think it will have to. Our thirst for new music is insatiable, but merely plodding on with a uniquely Western aesthetic maybe not fruitful. I am neither optimist nor pessimist: I heartily believe that music can be likened to a most powerful organism, and that it will do what it must to succeed and thrive. Diatonicism may be what we're stuck with, but there's a lot of diatonic music we haven't heard yet.

Long may it thrive!