A composer (Latin com+ponere, literally "one who puts together") is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material as electroacoustic music.
The level of distinction between composers and other musicians varies, which affects issues such as copyright[specify] and the deference given to individual interpretations of a particular piece of music. In the development of European classical music, the function of composing music initially did not have much greater importance than that of performing it. The preservation of individual compositions did not receive enormous attention and musicians generally had no qualms about modifying compositions for performance. Over time, however, the written notation of the composer came to be treated as strict instructions from which performers should not deviate without good practical or artistic reason. Performers do, however, play the music and interpret it in a way that is all their own. In fact, in the concerto form, the soloist would often compose and perform a cadenza as a way to express their individual interpretation of the piece.
In as much as the role of the composer in western art music has seen continued solidification, in alternative idioms (i.e. jazz, experimental music) it has in some ways become increasingly complex or vague. For instance, in certain contexts the line between composer and performer, sound designer, arranger, producer, and other roles, can be quite blurred.
The term "composer" is often used to refer to composers of instrumental music, such as those found in classical, jazz or other forms of art and traditional music. In popular and folk music, the composer is usually called a songwriter, since the music generally takes the form of a song.
Since the mid-20th century, the term has expanded to accommodate creators of electroacoustic music, in which composers directly create sonic material in any of the various electronic media. This is distinct from instrumental composition, where the work is represented by a musical score to be interpreted by performers.
Famous composers have tended to cluster in certain cities throughout history. Based on over 12,000 prominent composers listed in Grove Music Online and using word count measurement techniques the most important cities for classical music can be quantitatively identified.
Paris has been the main hub for classical music of all times. It was ranked fifth in the 15th and 16th centuries but first in the 17th to 20th centuries inclusive. London was the second most meaningful city: eight in the 15th century, seventh in the 16th, fifth in the 17th, second in the 18th and 19th centuries, and fourth in the 20th century. Rome topped the rankings in the 15th century, dropped to second in the 16th and 17th centuries, eight in the 18th century, ninth in the 19th century but back at sixth in the 20th century. Berlin appears in the top ten ranking only in the 18th century, and was ranked third most important city in both the 19th and 20th centuries. New York entered the rankings in the 19th century (at fifth place) and stood at second rank in the 20th century.
The patterns are very similar for a sample of 522 top composers.
- Karol Jan Borowiecki and John O'Hagan (2012). "Historical Patterns Based on Automatically Extracted Data: the Case of Classical Composers". Historical Social Research (Section 'Cliometrics'), 2012, 37(2): 298–314. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
- John O'Hagan and Karol Jan Borowiecki (2010-07-08). "Birth Location, Migration, and Clustering of Important Composers". Historical Methods, Volume 43, Issue 2, 2010. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
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