Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Battle of the killer B´s

The letter b has always meant something special in music history. You've heard about the three Bs: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Or was it Berlioz? I prefer Brahms, so I stick with him. We can also add be-bop, booze and... bass guitar. Well, you get it. But who is best of the Bs? This has been the great debate among music historians for decades - even centuries.

I recently got introduced to a service called Topsy, named after the elephant who never forgets. Topsy harvests social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and tumbldr and indexes them. You can then search for any term, and the site gives you beautiful statistics and graphs. For trend analysts it must be marvelous. Drink of choice? Coca Cola: 25 million tweets. Coffee: 125 million tweets, barely more popular than tea at 103 million. Water: 185 million tweets. I go for water. 

So I asked Topsy who was the greatest composer, and this is what I got:
Bach, Beethoven and Brahms - the killer Bs
The winner is - Bach!

I was rather surprised to see that with 4 million tweets, Bach is more popular than Beethoven. The difference is not great, just a million tweets, give or take, but still not what I expected. I thought Beethoven to be the top star, the emperor of orchestral music, while Bach is just for church goers and connoisseurs. But Twitter proved me wrong, and I accept it. The real shock is poor Brahms. Only 387 K? What happened? The 4th symphony is one of the greatest orchestral works ever written. He's the best melodist on this side of Schubert. Give the man some credit! 

Well, well. Bach won. Join in on the celebration with this stunning video - Glenn Gould's 1981 recording of the Goldberg Variations. Maybe the best classical performance to ever hit Youtube.



But, wait! There are more B's, aren't there? What if we throw in another one? We have the early 18th century B (Bach), the late 18th/early 19th century B (Beethoven) and the mid 19th century B (Brahms). But what about the 20th century? Who can we choose? Berg? Babbit? Berio? Brecht? Bernstein? Oh, ok. Let's put in the Beatles. They're as classic 20th century as you get. What happens?

Bach, Beethoven, Brahms & Beatles
Again, I accept it. I even admit it. I listen more to Beatles than the three other Bs put together. So it was to be expected, wastn't it?

Should we continue? What about the 21st century. Who is our B? Oh, no...


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