What is the most influential piece of music?

September 24, 2020, 3:52 PM · Hi guys, I have been listening to various symphonies lately all by different composers and noticed that all of them were different. My question to you guys is what do you guys think is the most (or top 3) most influential pieces of music (can be anything. symphonies, concertos, etc...)

Personally I think it's Beethoven 9, but LMK what you guys think!

Replies (76)

September 24, 2020, 5:57 PM · Why, it would have to be Wap by Cardi B.
September 24, 2020, 6:08 PM · What are you counting as influence? Impact on a culture, on the world at large? Or more narrow like impact on other classical composers?
Edited: September 24, 2020, 7:29 PM · I'd argue that Beethoven 1 was much more influential than Beethoven 9, at least in terms of its impact on music history. Beethoven 9 influenced music history mostly by being a hard act to follow. Beethoven 1 elevated the whole concept of the symphony, transforming it from a night's entertainment into a big musical statement, and also introduced the scherzo.
Edited: September 24, 2020, 6:58 PM · If we're talking influence, maybe Twinkle Little Star? It keeps millions of kids going! ;-) but perhaps not what you meant!
September 24, 2020, 6:58 PM · It's going to be hard to beat Beethoven here because he's the first major composer of deep symphonies that brought us into the romantic era. So his integrated impact on music will obviously be greater than someone like, say, Shostakovich.

I also wonder whether there will be room in this kind of discussion for someone like Aaron Copland or George Gershwin.

September 24, 2020, 9:09 PM · The question isn't clear, and is open to numerous interpretations, which of course can be fun. I think we'd have to start with an acknowledgement that we wouldn't be aware of music beyond the range and history that we know of, so can only consider and discuss music within those bounds. Moreover, we couldn't know of the "influence", and its extent, for music or people that have long since disappeared, or are beyond our ken, so the range of influence under consideration could be limited to that within our knowledge.

If we're referring to influence on people, that would reduce to people living in recent memory. If we're referring to music, we might refer to the cumulative history of music influenced by a known starting point.

For people, I'd nominate the following (for fun): https://www.zazzle.com/hippo_birdie_card-137150681503498832

For music, I'd ask a musicologist and then probably regret it, and go with Bach over Beethoven.

September 24, 2020, 9:45 PM · I’d pick Beethoven 3 over 1 or 9.
September 24, 2020, 9:46 PM · Bach's "Well-Tempered Klavier" has definitely been an influential work.
Edited: September 24, 2020, 10:25 PM ·
Beethoven Symphony 5

Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue

Barber Adagio for strings

September 24, 2020, 10:36 PM · Handel’s Messiah.
Edited: September 25, 2020, 8:38 AM · It depends on the kind of influence to which you refer.

In terms of influence on the Allied Forces during WW-II, the first 4 notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony symbolized "V" for victory (from Morse code) - and for the future of humankind, there is little more influential than that.

September 25, 2020, 2:53 AM · If you’re going down that path, then various national anthems could be nominated.
Some could nominate a work by the Beatles ( I ‘m not game to pick one) as very influential on modern non classical music.
And the ‘twinkle’ theme keeps popping up in various disguises....
September 25, 2020, 3:10 AM · I'd join Marty in nominating Beethoven 3 - certainly above 1.
Other possibles include Tristan and Isolde, or Schonberg's 2nd string quartet as the beginnings of a break with tonality. Some who know more about opera than I do (includes almost everyone!) suggest The Marriage of Figaro as a major influence on the development of opera.
But if restricted to one, I would have to go with the Eroica symphony.
September 25, 2020, 5:25 AM · Isn't it usual to say Haydn influenced Mozart influenced Beethoven?
Edited: September 25, 2020, 6:48 AM · I vote for Pachelbel's canon.:-)

Otoh, everyone knows Robbie Williams was the most influential musician of the last millennium, so I guess it should be one of his songs.

September 25, 2020, 6:21 AM · I apologize about being unclear. I wanted to let you guys take it away but I guess a piece that has influenced other pieces and composers can be a good way to start!
September 25, 2020, 7:15 AM · Gordon Shumway beat me to it with Pachelbel's Canon. ;)
September 25, 2020, 8:16 AM · "What, me inspire you Mr. Beethoven? Ha-ha-ha-haaaa."
September 25, 2020, 8:28 AM · Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

When anyone claims they know "nothing about music at all" I sing the first phrase, and 99.99% of the time, they have no problem singing the exact rhythm of the second phrase.

September 25, 2020, 9:33 AM · No question; it was when Ug, the prot-human rapped on a hollow log with a large mastodon bone.
September 25, 2020, 9:35 AM · I don't know about the most influential piece of music. But the most influential composer (inside the repertoire that is still being performed) was almost certainly Haydn. He did not invent the string quartet but it was his lifelong work on the genre that put it on the map as the most ambitious genre of chamber music if not of all instrumental music. At the same time he achieved the same feat with the symphony as well.

Beethoven's first is an acknowledgment of that and so is op. 18. Beethoven set out to prove that he could match what Haydn and Mozart had achieved and take it further.

Edited: September 26, 2020, 1:39 PM · Influential pieces; interesting question. To the list of Beethoven symphonies, I would add S. #6. I'll second the nomination of Haydn, who invents both the symphony and the string quartet over a lengthy period of experimentation, so we cannot point to a single, ground-breaking piece.
Going way back, the biggest change in Western music history would be about 1400 A.D., when either Dunstable, Landini, or Dufay started using the thirds and sixths intervals as legal chordal(vertical) units. It was preceded by "Gimel" (twin melody) in north England folk music. In medeaval polyphonic music, which sounds strange, alien to modern ears, thirds and sixths were avoided for theoretical/mathematical reasons.
Then to completely switch genres, American popular/commercial music was re-directed by Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, the earliest of the rock'n'rollers, before the word was common.
Edited: September 25, 2020, 10:14 PM · Mozart Requiem.

@Gordon, Haydn was Beethoven's teacher, so there was no need for the influence to be filtered through Mozart.

Edited: September 26, 2020, 2:00 AM · Mozart jacked some of his Requiem almost note for note from Handel's Messiah

Messiah is the better work, and Mozart didn't even finish.

Edited: September 26, 2020, 6:25 AM · Whenever I listen to Haydn's Symphony #1 in D I think of it as the door opening into the Classical Era, symphonic at any rate. Haydn, of course, was not alone; there were other influential composers of his time, such as Florian Gassmann (symphonies and chamber music).

Pachelbel's Canon? Hmm, that was influential, albeit not to a major extent, in persuading me to move (permanently) from orchestral cellist to orchestral violinist some years ago. Cellists will understand.

Edited: September 26, 2020, 7:05 AM · My most influential piece of music is hallelujah by Leonard Cohen, the reason being that this was the piece of music I heard in Rome played by a gypsy violinist near the Vatican. It matched the scene perfectly which is obviously why he was playing it. It got me to thinking about life and music in general(Which Rome does to a lot of people in its own right) and after forty years of playing guitar in different settings, made me take up violin as a challenge, that was only a year and a half ago. So not mozart or any other composer, and not a particularly magnificent composition but in terms of influence sort of changed my life, someday I hope to actually be able to play anything perfectly in tune and have someone listen rapt, as I was with this violinist on that hot day. As an afterthought I would like to say that the music that touches your soul, no matter the one who wrote or composed it and no matter what the genre is the most influential, from the Beatles to Boyzone and then Bach again;)
Edited: September 26, 2020, 8:07 AM · Christian that's interesting! I didn't know that, thanks! Both are great works. Handel's Messiah has suffered the curse of becoming something that is performed at Christmastime. Thus it finds itself in on one's music desk amid the masterworks of Leroy Anderson.

I should start a thread on all the places Bach plagiarized himself. There's a lick in the D Minor Allemande that appears again, verbatim, in the E Major Gavotte. (It's what us jazzers might call a turnaround.)

Edited: September 26, 2020, 8:47 AM · Technically both Handel and Mozart stole from Bach??

In all seriousness though, I don't think anyone actually copied anyone. I remember beginning to compose a fugue with the EXACT same subject, and then hearing Mozart's requiem for the first time soon after and being extremely disappointed that the idea had already been taken. I proceeded to abandon the composition because I knew people would just call me a copycat, but then ran into the Messiah and Bach examples and was genuinely shocked, and then began to wonder why this phenomenon occurs.

The problem (if you can even call it a problem) is that it's logically one of, if not the most optimal subjects that uses the minimum amount of notes. There is the 5th, 3rd (which shows whether it's major or minor), 6th (same thing), leading note, and finally tonic. It gives maximum description of the key while also having maximum efficiency, and in a way this could basically be achieved by trial and error. In other words, you definitely don't need to be a creative genius to come up this subject. I'm sure there are many composers throughout history who have used this exact subject without realizing that everyone else was doing the same thing!

Here is another similar one by Haydn:

which Bach already used earlier

September 26, 2020, 8:51 AM · Music history is basically one huge network of influence. It would be interesting if some musicologists teamed up and really built this network explicitly, so techniques from network analysis could be applied to find influential nodes, central nodes, etc, there is a whole theory out there.
September 26, 2020, 9:01 AM · Mozart Requiem is also well known to be inspired by a requiem by Michael Haydn. Here is a nice brief article on that which I found by googling (lest someone accuse me of being a regular reader of conservative websites :-)

A model for Mozart? Michael Haydn’s Requiem

September 26, 2020, 9:33 AM · Great idea Jean - so how about dropping everything and going into network analysis.

I've thought of doing the same thing with violinist/mentors. The big challenge there is like the Mayflower cargo (everyone has a piece of it in New England; apparently, the boat was larger than the Titanic). Every soloist claims a superfamous parent. Thus, if you were 4 yrs old and played for Heifetz when he was eating his lunch - he was your 'mentor'. Here the challenge will be, as mentioned above, when is something derived and when is it reinvented.

For example, you can find 12 bar blues structures in Baroque. To figure out if that was a link or just reinvented you would have to know the listening repertoire of the later composer.

September 26, 2020, 10:28 AM · Actually if you handed that gong to Haydn, he'd have said "Rubbish", and passed it straight on to CPE.
Paul, although Haydn was supposed to be teaching Beethoven, in practice he didn't get a single lesson from him. Also Beethoven felt himself to be so influenced by Mozart that he had to make a conscious effort NOT to compose like him - in fact one influence on Beethoven that is never mentioned is that of Clementi. Field influenced Chopin. Brahms influenced a host of composers. Mendelssohn influenced Victorian Brits.
September 26, 2020, 2:24 PM · I think, i am a very ego-centered person, as the first thought i got, was about the music affected me most.
My life was changed after my 3y.o son went to a concert where Rachmaninoff piano concert 2 was played.
Now, all our activities are around his desire to study violin. We even changed the country...
He is 7,5 and still listens to this concert 2-3 times a week, and can destinguish who plays...
Do not ask me, why it is violin, and not a piano, he studies... ))))
Edited: September 27, 2020, 10:26 AM · Reading Ron Black’s and K ch’s posts, I am reminded that our local public broadcaster, once a week, has a segment called “tracks of my life”.
They pick one track of the entries submitted, to play, after the story is read out of why this track was so important to them. You don’t get to find out what it is until the end, although there are often clues.
They are beautifully written tales, of lost or found loves or parents or friends, or massive life changes, that either resulted from that track, or are inevitably associated with it. I only get to hear them if I’m in the car at the time, but I’m often left with streaming eyes by the end.
September 27, 2020, 2:32 AM · The experience of singing tenor in various choirs led me to resent Haendel's 'Messiah', with it's frequently careless inner part writing: the tenor often has weirdly unmelodic and inconvenient leaps, while the altos seem to stick around three notes for stretches of time. I don't think that work's audiences perceive much beyond the soprano and bass lines in the choruses! Perhaps Haendel thought instrumentally, rather than vocally: maybe he was working in a hurry. In any case, my appreciation of JS Bach increased even further.
Incidntally, I returned to singing bass as I came to notice the strain of high notes.
Edited: September 27, 2020, 3:07 AM · Music started with the above-mentioned Ug and his percussive endeavors, passed through ancient, baroque, Romantic, post-romantic, 12-tone, jazz-influenced and minimalist (and I'm probably missing a few).

In this context, I believe that after Ug, the most influential work is Cage's 4' 33", which completely redefines music from the conceptual standpoint.

September 27, 2020, 3:44 AM · I believe Cage wanted to complete his conceptual trilogy starting 4'33" and continuing ASAP with ALAP (1000dB) but was prevented by H&S
September 27, 2020, 3:51 AM · Stravinsky reportedly said at the time of the première of 4' 33" that he was now looking forwards to new such works but "of major length".
September 27, 2020, 3:54 AM · Isn't that a blank score Mr. Musafia? :)
Edited: September 27, 2020, 5:09 AM · @Jeff. Not at all. It's 84 bars of rests (in the solo piano arrangement), divided into three movements and a tempo marking of 70.
Edited: September 27, 2020, 10:54 AM · "I believe that after Ug, the most influential work is Cage's 4' 33", which completely redefines music from the conceptual standpoint."

It's part of a greater continuity, reminding us of the time before (if one can say such a thing) - the most influential music, the Big Bang.

September 27, 2020, 12:33 PM · Bullseye, J Ray :-)
September 27, 2020, 5:40 PM · If the big bang, but nobody was there to hear it, was it music?
September 27, 2020, 8:15 PM · Is a symphony not a symphony in its first attosecond? (If not, could you remove its every first attosecond and still have a symphony?)

We're here now; it's still playing. Probably not even past the elaboration; no sign of the fat person singing its ending; could be a while.

Whether or not and when and how you see it as music would be subjective.

September 27, 2020, 8:52 PM · Music of the Spheres?
Edited: September 27, 2020, 8:53 PM · James wrote, "I remember beginning to compose a fugue with the EXACT same subject, and then hearing Mozart's requiem for the first time soon after and being extremely disappointed that the idea had already been taken."

Yes. Someone once said, "Originality means forgetting where you heard it."

That's why we have to run our manuscripts and proposals through plagiarism-checking software before we send them on because if there is an 11-word phrase in there that matches against some 1974 masters thesis, you're totally screwed.

September 28, 2020, 12:11 AM · Visiting art galleries in Europe as you do, I learnt that in past centuries, artists would make copies of respected artists paintings, quite openly. A bit like doing a cover version of a well known song, putting their own take on it. It was seen as a tribute and a compliment, not theft, as it is today. It would appear that musical themes were approached similarly.
September 28, 2020, 4:15 AM · How about talking drums? That could have been how speech sounds originally morphed into music
September 28, 2020, 8:05 AM · Picasso (I think) said “People’s estimation of my genius is directly proportional to the obscurity of my sources.”
All art stands on the shoulders of others.
Edited: September 29, 2020, 10:33 AM · --
Steve J.-- The African "talking drums" is not code, but an imitation of speech using the rhythm, inflections, and pitch contour of the spoken language, so one would need to be a fluent speaker to decipher it.
There is a hypothesis among some anthropologists that singing preceded language, based on the greater use of pitch in old stable languages like Chinese, and at least one indigenous Amazon language. The idea is impossible to test because there is no physical evidence or written record before 3000 BC. Languages are a miraculous mystery. They seem to devolve instead of evolving to more complexity. Ancient survival languages like Basque and Welsh are difficult. Ancient Greek has a more complicated grammar than modern Greek.
September 28, 2020, 10:47 PM · Not just languages, but people, their sensibilities, usage and needs for language change over time, and are continuing to change.

Once languages would have been only spoken, and by the point of the earliest surviving written forms would already have changed significantly with the introduction of writing and its needs. When only verbal, it'd need greater redundancy, memorability and audible differentiation as a matter of course; conversely when and where written forms replace verbal ones, the written forms might have been condensed, and would have encouraged abbreviation as cost reduction.

When written only and easily subject to greater scrutiny and accountability, yet talking of music, it needs something else. Musical thought. Or at least more cowbell.

Edited: September 30, 2020, 9:26 AM · George, the person who introduced me to that joke told me first that the speaker is a young female pupil.

A doctor, cousin of my fathers's (first name Fritz, surname I can't remember - it wasn't Kreisler or Spiegl) was hanged by the Nazis for whistling (on one note) that Ha-ha-ha-haaaa (In Morse Code, this denotes the letter "V", which the Allies adopted as a slogan).

September 30, 2020, 9:32 AM · @Matthew "Picasso (I think) said “People’s estimation of my genius is directly proportional to the obscurity of my sources.”"
I read dozens of books on Picasso in the 80s and 90s and I'm pretty sure it wasn't him. It was however one of Warhol's methods - he was America's most highly paid illustrator in the 1950s and he would borrow library books and take them back 6 months late and pay the fines on them (he could afford to) in order to conceal his sources.
September 30, 2020, 9:35 AM · @Steve "I believe Cage wanted to complete his conceptual trilogy starting 4'33" and continuing ASAP with ALAP (1000dB) but was prevented by H&S"

However, Cage wasn't the first. The humorous writer Alphonse Allais wrote a piece of silent music in 1897 entitled "Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Great Deaf Man" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphonse_Allais

September 30, 2020, 9:38 AM · Man and guide in the jungle can hear drums in the distance.

Guide: We must go now - when drums stop, big trouble!
Man: But the drumming sounds amazing, I really want to check it out
Guide: No -- we must go, when drums stop, big trouble!
Man: But this is the kind of thing I came here to experience! I really want to hear it!
Guide: No! We must go before drums stop!
Man: Why? What happens when the drums stop?
Guide: Bass solo!

September 30, 2020, 10:42 AM · Originality of melodies. It is something like chess. Every chess master memorizes the first 4--6 moves of the standard openings. After that the possibilities become infinite. There are only 24 melodic intervals. The possible 3-note combinations are 24 x 24, and so on.
I don't think Beethoven would today be able to register a copyright for that S. # 5 motif. It is only one interval and only one rhythm idea, already used for morse code letter V.
September 30, 2020, 11:29 AM · The issue of copyright protection for melodies (and harmonies?) is so nebulous as to be ridiculous. Unless it were possible to define the degree of resemblance between two tunes objectively and place a measurable limit on how much similarity is deemed to be acceptable the decision must be a purely subjective one. The plaintiff must hope for a judge who's tone-deaf - "yes, tum ti doodly dum" sounds exactly like "la di diddly dah".
September 30, 2020, 11:46 AM · Nobody has said "hegemony" yet.
October 1, 2020, 1:26 PM · I will say the little pieces written for orchestra like Radetzky march. There is also the last movement from Beethoven's last symphony ( n°9 ).
For "musicians", I would say Dvorak's cello concerto: its themes are very well-known, and there is a very interesting and tragic story about the lied in the last movement.
October 1, 2020, 1:26 PM · I will say the little pieces written for orchestra like Radetzky march. There is also the last movement from Beethoven's last symphony ( n°9 ).
For "musicians", I would say Dvorak's cello concerto: its themes are very well-known, and there is a very interesting and tragic story about the lied in the last movement.
October 1, 2020, 2:42 PM · The Dvorak cello concerto is instantly recognizable by anyone who's seen the movie The Witches of Eastwick. Those who haven't seen it yet will recognize it when it comes by.

As for drums-in-the-jungle jokes, the other one is where one of the expedition says, "I really don't like the sound of those drums." From the jungle a voice says, "Give us a break; he's not our regular drummer."

Edited: October 2, 2020, 3:30 AM · I don't suppose many people here have watched ALF the Movie.
An FBI agents notes the similarity between Yasser Arafat and Ringo Starr.
A diplomat says "I met Yasser. He drums better than Ringo, too".
October 3, 2020, 11:30 AM · There’s a brave statement. I can’t comment on his musical talents, certainly the Lennon/McCartney compositions have influenced a lot of subsequent musicians , but Paul’s post Beatles work? He may have had a lot of hits, but nothing inspirational, or memorable.
October 5, 2020, 12:40 PM · Talking of requiems, one thing that puzzles me is, why did Britten introduce his Dies Irae with somethiing that's almost a quote from DVORAK's Dies Irae, of all things (Maybe I'm puzzled because I don't find the Dvorak Requiem to be that impressive a work - I think Svata Ludmilla is considerably better)?
Actually the Dies Irae plainsong has influenced at least three works (Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique, of course, but also Liszt's Totentanz and Ysaÿe 2).
I think Paganini was influential way beyond the musical quality of his compositions (though that can be underestimated).
October 5, 2020, 2:26 PM · Rachmaninov either quoted or interpolated the Dies Irae in almost all of his works.
October 5, 2020, 5:02 PM · I love Verdi's requium. His dies Irae feels like I have control of everything around me XD
October 7, 2020, 7:25 PM · You're not alone, Tyler - Brahms called it the work of a genius.
October 7, 2020, 8:09 PM · Also, that motif from "And with His Stripes" and Mozart's Requiem Kyrie, and Haydn's Op 20 and a couple of Bach fugues: Wasn't Holst also in process of using it for Uranus when he realised he was plagiarising, so he just left the 1st 4 notes, raising the penultimate one by a semitone to hide his tracks ...
Edited: October 8, 2020, 1:59 PM · I'd put my vote to Corelli Opus 6 concertos: synthethic foundation of "classical" orchestral approach, modern string technique and tonal harmony. Widely imitated in their form, but less important for that than the giant leap musically.
October 10, 2020, 4:07 AM · @Christian, yes Rach did, and in my opinion most memorably with his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (the 24th caprice). If I remember correctly, Paganini himself capitalized on his reputation as something of a Devil, with spectators claiming to smell brimstone at his concerts, and so Rach's juxtaposition of the Paganini theme and the Dies Irae is spot-on.
Edited: October 10, 2020, 6:26 AM · Even more excitingly, I hear the finale of Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances as a witches' sabbath in which the "Dies Irae" plainchant is finally exorcised by a syncopated version of the "Alleluia" that also occurs in his Vespers
October 11, 2020, 1:04 AM · Come to think of it, the Dies Irae is performed in the soundtrack of Kubrick's film adaptation of "the Shining".
October 11, 2020, 9:09 AM · I believe the song “Somewhere” was influenced by Beethoven Emperor concerto. . The Beatles “Because” was influenced by Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata. I think Yoko Ono had a role in composing that song.
Edited: October 11, 2020, 11:31 PM · "Thus Spake Zarathustra" because it and a giant Bible inspired one ape to beat up another with a bone at the Dawn of Man
October 12, 2020, 12:43 AM · So THAT is what the monolith is???
Edited: October 14, 2020, 7:10 PM · May be, and the ape may represent the Bible's early version of God: "Go into their lands and kill without mercy or mixing seed! " (paraphrasing I'm sure) Of course by the time you get to the end of the Pentateuch and Israel is on his deathbed, he rebukes the dominant sons for their cruelty and assigns matters of law to Judah (until Shiloh comes).

so in that regard- Yes- the monolith could be the Bible. I used to think it was a movie screen turned on end.

At 6:41 "talk" bone, so the ape might be more Aaron than Moses, and probably a Republican.

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