Best Composers (All Genres) Of All Time


This is just my thoughts on those artists which have provided the most significant contributions to their own style. I have also included my favourite composition (that can be an entire work of just a portion of it) of those chosen here. Suggestions are welcomed and encouraged!


J.S. Bach (Partita No. 2 In D Minor 'Ciaconne')
Ludwig van Beethoven (Symphony No. 5 'Allegro Con Brio')
+Hector Berlioz (Symphonie Fantastique)
Pierre Boulez (Repons)
F.F. Chopin (Fantaisie-Impromptu No. 4)
Antonín Dvo?ák (Symphony No. 9)
Claude Debussy (Preludes 1 & 2 or La Mer)
Gustav Holst (Planets)
György Ligeti (Atmosphères)
Gustav Mahler (Symphony No. 1)
Olivier Messiaen (Abime des Oiseaux)
Ennio Morricone (Once Upon A Time In The West)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Symphony No. 41 'Jupiter')
Meredith Monk (Dolmen Music)
Niccolò Paganini (Violin Concerto No. 1)
Arvo Part (Tabula Rasa)
Sergei Prokofiev (Alexander Nevsky)
Sergei Rachmaninoff (Piano Concerto No. 3)
Maurice Ravel (String Quartet In F)
Arnold Schoenberg (Verklarte Nacht)
Dmitri Shostakovich (Symphony No. 15)
Igor Stravinsky (Le Sacre Du Printemps)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Symphony No. 6)
Giuseppi Verdi (Requiem)
Richard Wagner (Die Valkure)


Glenn Branca (The Ascension)
Tim Buckley (Lorca)
Captain Beefheart (Trout Mask Replica)
Faust (Faust)
Peter Gabriel (Passion)
Jon Hassell (Dream Theory In Malaya)
Roy Montgomery (Well Oiled)
The Rolling Stones (Paint It Black, Mother's Little Helper, Satisfaction, Sympathy for the Devil [A huge number of others])
Pere Ubu (The Modern Dance, Terminal Tower)
Royal Trux (Twin Infinitives)
Klaus Schulze (Satz Ebene)
Soft Machine (Third)
Tangerine Dream (Birth of Liquid Plejades)
Third Ear Band (Alchemy)
The Vampire Rodents (Lullaby Land)
The Velvet Underground (Sister Ray)
Robert Wyatt (Alifie)
Frank Zappa (Little House I Used to Live In, King Kong)


Albert Ayler (Spiritual Unity)
Carla Bley (Hotel Overture)
Anthony Braxton (JMK-80 CFN-7)
Dave Brubeck (Time Out)
Ornette Coleman (The Shape of Jazz To Come)
John Coltrane (A Love Supreme)
Miles Davis (Kind of Blue)
Eric Dolphy (Out To Lunch)
Charles Mingus (The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady)
Thelonious Monk (Brilliant Corners)
Oliver Nelson (The Blues & The Abstract Truth)

you should put the work (album) titles in italics and the song titles in "quotes".

classical: what about Hector Berlioz - An Episode in the Life of the Artist: Symphonie fantastique, or the final movement "Songe d'une nuit du sabbat". i am probably going to see it performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in February - they are supposed to be amazing, on top of which i already have a recording of the work performed by the "same" symphony and the same conductor. it should be amazing.

rock: Frank Zappa ("Brown Shoes", "Little House", "King Kong", or albums); The Rolling Stones ("Paint It Black",...); Can (Future Days, Tago Mago); The Doors ("The End")

jazz: Sun Ra ("Atlantis", Magic City)

Hey, I agree with your comment on the formatting, I'll change that soon.

I've heard magnificent things about Berlioz, I'll check him out soonish. Sounds great, I hope you have a great time =)

I had considered Zappa (on my first draft he was on there with Uncle Meat) and Can (with Halleluwah) but not the Rolling Stones or The Doors. The last two are brilliantly creative but I'm not sure if they had enough masterpieces or are great enough (though you could easily argue both were).

Regarding Sun Ra, Free Jazz isn't my thing to be quite honest, so I only like some of it. When I heard Atlantis it didn't strike me as anything great, but I'll give it a relisten (and I'll probably give Unit Structures a relisten too).

i went to hear Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique and it was not as GREAT as i thought i would be - except for the final movement of course which is fucking fantastic. i do not think i am a live music person, unless i know exactly what i am getting into: still waiting for Joanna Newsom to come within driving distance. i felt embarassed for the experimental and rock performers i have seen (but surely not embarassment for the classical performers) and thought, at moments, that i could have listened to that symphony at home for free...i will give it another try; in a few weeks they will perform Bela Bartok's Music For Strings, Percussion and Celesta along with Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, K.467 and a couple weeks later, Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 - if the 5th cannot do it for me then i am doomed for live classical music forever.

Hey Matt,

Nice List. Agree with the majority of what you've put. I commend you on putting Tangerine Dream on there. One of the most underrated bands on Listology.

My two cents,

Rock: Frank Zappa (Little House), Nick Cave (From Her to Eternity), Van Morrison (Astral Weeks)

Jazz: Cecil Taylor (Unit Structures), Peter Brötzmann (Machine Gun)

Hey, thanks, I totally agree that they're way underrated by both Listologists and Scaruffi.

As I said to Feif above, I had strongly considered Zappa and I'm considering him once again. I think I'll go to listen to Uncle Meat again soon. I don't like Nick Cave, (I don't know why, just doesn't appeal to me) so that's why he isn't on the list. As for Van Morrison, I'm not sure. He's certainly very powerful, but I don't want to include too many rock ones because remember we're comparing them to the likes of Ludvig van etc. =)

Regarding Cecil Taylor, see above comments on free jazz. I haven't heard Machine Gun, what style is it?

Thanks for your comments =)

What Style is Machine Gun? Free's very good though. They play jazz like it's a rock concert. It's vicious, brutal and overwhelming. But if you dislike free jazz, then I doubt you'll enjoy it. Which you would be wrong to. As we both know, opinions aren't subjective. There is only one right and one wrong one.

And your wrong :)

And your grammar is wrong;

'You're' not 'Your'.


Be quiet you silly person

(I have resorted to childish insults at the expense of a substantial argument because my grammer is always wrong...)

Damn, my emotional barriers have been shattered by your insult. :(

Now I've just got to work on your physical barriers..

Have you ever had a prostate examination Matt?

No, planning to change that are we James?

Nope. I have very little money for gloves and a train ticket.

Ok, how did we get from a serious discussion about the musical mertis of free jazz to me talking about putting my finger up your arse?

Lets just leave it where it is and let this topic get back to it's rightful subject areas.

Enough money to pay for AC but not enough for me? I won't forget this.

One could argue listening to some free jazz is akin to have a finger being inserted into one's arse...

Matt, my friend. I always have enough for you. If you want me to inspect your prostate, or check your testicales, or whatever intimate part of your body your worried about I will. But AC make good music. And I'm sorry that I prefer good music to have my fingers up your rectum, um, area.

As far as I'm away, some people like having things being inserted into their arse... just go to an A&E department on a saturday night...

Sounds good, I'll have to check that out sometime...

I love sarcasm.

And back to music, just listened to Siter Ray for the first time in months after this list reminded it to me. It's like I've seen the light again after being blind for a long time. It's incredible.

Question, what do you think is the greatest rock song recorded? If not, what do you think are among the greatest?

That's good to hear, it's an amazing track.

Best rock song? It's definitely one of these:

VU - Sister Ray
Soft Machine - Moon In June
Faust - Miss Fortune
Klaus Schulze - Satz Ebene
Faust - Why Don't You Eat Carrots?
Tangerine Dream - Birth of Liquid Plejades
Tim Buckley - Lorca
Robert Wyatt - Alifie

I can't really narrow it down more than that though. How about you?

How about me?

VU - Sister Ray
Faust - Miss Fortune
Robert Wyatt - Alifib/Alifie
Burzum - Det som en gang var
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Static
The Doors - The End
Frank Zappa - Little House I Used to Live In
Can - Halleluwah
Glenn Branca - Acension

I can't really decide between them...

By "rock" do you really mean non-classical, non-jazz? Because few of these really seem like "rock" songs to me...

Few of them?

Sister Ray - Psychedelic Drone Rock
Moon in June - Canterbury Rock
Miss Fortune - Krautrock
Satz Ebene - Spacerock
Why Don't You Eat Carrots? - Krautrock
Birt of Liquid Plejades - Spacerock
Lorca - Avantgarde Folk Rock
Alifie - Canterbury Rock

And in fact, there are plenty of other more linear rock songs I can think of to add...

So, non-classical, non-jazz? If you're using the word "rock" this liberally isn't the word worthless?

Well no? I just explained that they were all rock. What's your point?

I'm just wondering where the "rock" elements are in a song like Satz Ebene. Simply calling them all "rock" doesn't exactly make it so. I'm just wondering if that word means anything to you except "music that is not classical or jazz".

Satz Ebene is a direct descendant of a 'rock' song (spacerock) called A Saucerful of Secrets by Pink Floyd. If you can recognise that as rock, there's not really a whole lot of difference between that and Ebene stylistically (other than the latter having no drums). Have I made my self more clear? I apologise for seeming to be quite vague, but I guess that when you say 'music that is no classical or jazz' can mean Avant Garde, World Music, New Age or Country. I admit that it can be a bit fuzzy, but I certainly still call Satz Ebene rock.

You forgot the minimalists: Reich and Riley. Also, perhaps:
Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells
King Crimson - 21st Century Schizoid Man or Court Of The Crimson King
Pink Floyd - A Saucerful Of Secrets or Interstellar Overdrive
Popol Vuh - Hosianna Mantra
John Fahey - one of the 3 ragas, Voice of The Turtle, Fare Forward Voyages or A Raga Called Pat
Brian Eno - Music For Airports
Peter Gabriel - Passion

Btw once you hear Atem, you may choose that over Birth for TD. It's certainly close for me atm.

Also you forgot your old favourites...Royal Trux with Twin Infinitives and Stockhausen with Gesang Der Junglinge ;)

I'm not sure Reich's deserving, Riley might be. Mike Oldfield is a no, but he's good, same for all the rest really. The only one out of that list I may consider is John Fahey but I haven't really heard him enough.

I eagerly await listening to Atem (that is, once I've gotten through all 32 of Beethoven's piano sonatas...), I'll get back to you on that.

Actually, Royal Trux may be geniuses, I'm just not sure yet...As for Karlheinz, I still hate him.

I just listened to Beethoven's 6th and 7th again, and Mozart's 40th, it seems these guys (along with a few others: Stravinsky, Bach, Mahler & Verdi) are just so far above the rest (consistently too) that i seems unjust to compare them to the likes of Faust or even Bob Dylan.

N.B. Both the 6th and the 7th are now 9.5s, and if you add that to Beethoven's other masterpieces (3rd, 5th and 9th, along with Gross Fuge and a few of his piano sonatas) you have about 8/9 9.5+s. It seems ridiculous that in comparison the 'greatest' of rock barely edge out one 9 (if they're lucky).

The way the first sentence comes across seems to imply you think Dylan is greater than Faust. Is Beethoven better than Mozart again now in your opinion? Also are Coltrane or Mingus any closer to the classical greats? I'm thinking in that Coltrane also has Ascension and Mingus has Epitaph.

On a different note, was it clear cut in the end choosing Ciaconna over Tocatta and Fugue for Bach?

Ludwig Van just may top Mozart, and yes the jazz ones are closer, as they usually produced at least two masterpieces (usually due to their extensive musical background and training, which was much less about attitude and image as rock was).

It's close, the Chaconne only just made it. On another note, new House is out, Cameron is failing miserably as a faux-Cuddy.

Just glancing at this list makes me realize I have listened to next to nothing in the whole music world. What a beautiful feeling! The ones I do know I'd have to say deserve the spot on the list (classical is really all I know recognize on this list). Who is your fav. classical artist?

I'm sure that's not true! I don't really either, these are just the best I've heard. My favourite is probably Beethoven followed by Mozart, and then Bach. Stravinsky probably produced the best piece here with The Rite of Spring, but other than that Petrouchka and Symphony of Psalms he isn't as prolific, which is why he's not quite as good. Who's yours?

To be totally honest I do not even know the names of the songs that I like. I just download whatever I can often by Chopin, Mozart and Beethoven. I don't even look at the names of the songs I just find it, download it, and listen to it when I'm writing essays etc. I really should start paying more attention to this genre, since it's basically impossible to fuck it up. Anyway, I will check out the music you listened to here and relay my thoughts to you. Thanks for the list!

For Jazz check out Lennie Tristano: The New Tristano It's Free Jazz, and my personal favorite by him (The album may also be titled Atlantic)

What's your opinion of The Firebird by Stravinsky?

Good (8/10 or so) but highly overrated compared to his other works.

I am left scratching my head with your choices. For rock music let's see Jagger & Richards, Frank Zappa, oh yeah Lennon & McCartney.

Jerry Leiber said about Eleanor Rigby "The Beatles are second to none in all departments. I don't think there has ever been a better song written than "Eleanor Rigby. Leonard Bernstein was obsessed with "Good Day Sunshine". Dylan was a great lyricist not really a good composer of music. The Velvet Underground had the ideas but stringing avant ideas does not make a great composer either. Hardly anyone on your list I doubt could string melodies, unusual form, and chord or harmonic ideas in the same course of one song.

"A Day in the Life" blows anything away that the Velvet Underground did. From a musicians point of view I don’t think you understand what the meaning of composer is. Sorry to be blunt but I don't get this constant Scaruffi blind love.

To answer your points...

I am left scratching my head with your choices.

That isn't surprising, I'm left scratching my head with yours (except Zappa, but if you'd actually read previous comments you'd have seen that I'm currently putting him into consideration).

Jerry Leiber said about Eleanor Rigby "The Beatles are second to none in all departments. I don't think there has ever been a better song written than "Eleanor Rigby. Leonard Bernstein was obsessed with "Good Day Sunshine".

0h, shit. You got me bad with that one. Now that Elvis Presley's songwriter said that he liked Eleanor Rigby, I got nothing. And to top that, Bernstein got obssesed with a catchy melody. Uhh...

Hardly anyone on your list I doubt could string melodies, unusual form, and chord or harmonic ideas in the same course of one song.

Funny, I thought Stravinsky did that?

"A Day in the Life" blows anything away that the Velvet Underground did.

Yeah, Sister Ray is just noise, man. I hate all that 'avant garde noise' bullshit.

From a musicians point of view I don’t think you understand what the meaning of composer is.

I'm pretty sure I do, but lemme have a guess and you can tell me if I'm right or not: 'someone who composes something, usually music'. I'm sorry, what's your point with this bit?

Sorry to be blunt but I don't get this constant Scaruffi blind love.

Sorry to be blunt and all but, I just don't get all this Beatles blind love. That said, I don't go on Beatles-nuts pages and give them abuse just because they like silly pop songs (Yes, that was done just to annoy you, get over it).

Hope that cleared it up! Any thoughts on Classical? :)

You have made no musical points to back up your statements.

"Hardly anyone on your list I doubt could string melodies, unusual form, and chord or harmonic ideas in the same course of one song".

Well I meant for your list of Rock Musicians not classical.

"I got nothing. And to top that, Bernstein got obssesed with a catchy melody. Uhh..."

Umm, he knows more music theory than you and Scaruffi and it was not the melody only he liked. It was the use of the time signature in the song he liked.

"Sorry to be blunt but I don't get this constant Scaruffi blind love"

Whatever, I doubt the Velvet Underground or Dylan where doing what George Harrison did with "Blue Jay Way" the minor AND major 3rds (almost unheard of), plus dwells on the flatted 5th almost as its central tone! There are plenty of examples. "A Day in the Life" broke new ground by using an avant style type of orchestration and combining 2 completely different tunes in different keys,sung by 2 different singers and played at 2 different tempos...what an amazing step toward a larger scope of composition.

I will be nice and not go into classical or jazz music because if you don't get the Beatles greatness how will you understand what is a great classical or jazz composer? Being outright weird or strange is not what makes a great composer or songwriter of music. I am not wasting my time on this thread. I guess I am taught musically in a different train of thought that music was harmony and melody first. Which the Beatles are rock music greatest exponent of.

Lastly Frank Zappa in terms of composing blows away the Velvet Underground. The Velvet Underground where a three chord band who had some decent melodies that's all. It was they did with noise and lyrically in the context of rock is why they were influential.

I feel quite sorry for you, that you'd get so pent up and frustrated over what is essentially a subjective list topic.

I will be nice and not go into classical or jazz music because if you don't get the Beatles greatness how will you understand what is a great classical or jazz composer?

Hehe, that's a totally stupid sentence (the grammar and the content) and I think even you have to recognise that, despite being the one who said that. To suggest that the Beatles are on a level of John Coltrane or Sergei Rachmaninoff is ridiculous, in my humble (and obviously very ignorant) opinion.

"Sorry to be blunt but I don't get this constant Scaruffi blind love"

Wait, why did you quote me quoting you? Defeats the point surely?

I am not wasting my time on this thread.

Urr, think you just did.

I guess I am taught musically in a different train of thought that music was harmony and melody first. Which the Beatles are rock music greatest exponent of.

That also doesn't make grammtical sense, please try to ensure your points are intelligible.

To conclude, I think you confuse complex technicality with compositional greatness. Ever played Beethoven's Ode to Joy? It's piss easy. :)

It's quite funny that given your name you have no comments on the jazz selections...

I will be nice and not go into classical or jazz music because if you don't get the Beatles greatness how will you understand what is a great classical or jazz composer.

What Jazz99 is trying to say is,

'I will be nice and therefore not go into a discussion on classical or jazz music because if you don't get the Beatles greatness how will you understand WHO is a great classical or jazz composer?'

Am I the only person who really doesn't care for the Beatles all that much? I mean, it's true they did cause a musical revolution, I will not deny that because that is basically a well known and widely accepted fact. But just because they made such great music back then doesn't mean we all need to go around and claim they are THE GREATEST BAND EVER AND IF YOU DON'T LIKE THE BEATLES YOU HAVE BAD MUSIC TASTE. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that any of you have accused me of that (I get it from classmates all the time though),but that seems to be the most of my personal experience.

My personal views on the Beatles (and I own a few songs by them, so don't think I hate them) is like that of a Ford Model T. Was it a great and revolutionary car at the time? FUCK YES it was. But we have all moved on from the car and built better cars based on that one.

The only problem with this analogy is that todays Pop/Rock music basically sucks. Not all of it, but the majority (in my opinion).

I guess my real beef with The Beatles isn't that their music is bad (it isn't great in my opinion, worth a listen to every once in a while), but the way everyone treats them like gods. For every artist out there there are huge followers, but in my opinion this band got a little too much... credit.

You should never base your opinion of any genre off of one artist, no matter how good the artist is/was. That is very close minded, and only a fool would do something like that. It's like judging the human race based on the "best" human or the "worst" human ever.
(Sorry for the random post =P)

Excuse me?

I have in the past in a cordial way disputed these generic lists that are obviously influenced by Piero Scaruffi. I highly doubt he either knows or cared to find out how unusual their songs were at the time or how different than they were from American groups. Everyone has their opinions and that's fine. I point out the Beatles were not only known for their melodies but their chord usage. (With The Beatles) have very unusual use of chords at the time. "It Won't Be Long", "Not A Second Time", and "Don't Bother Me" all have those bitchin' chords going on behind these songs. That is what the guitar players were noticing in 1964. The first thing that was noticed by Dylan, McGuinn, Richards and others was their chord usage.

It was by Rubber Soul given the landscape of musical influences available to the Beatles, what’s the logical precedent for “Eleanor Rigby” or “I Am the Walrus” or “Golden Slumbers” or “Nowhere Man” or “Penny Lane” or “Across the Universe” or the entire Sgt. Pepper album? ? Each generation’s most popular musicians, from Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin there are a traceable progression to their musical development, a discernible link with what came before. What I am saying is I don't care if you think there better songwriters or composers than the Beatles. The Beatles were not just a bunch of great melodists a common mistake Scarrufi people makes.

What about Ray Davies, Brian Wilson, Pete Townshend, and Elliot Smith? Frank Zappa not really a great mainstream songwriter but his compositions makes many of the people on your list look like child play.

Everyone has their opinions and that's fine.

I think you just summed up why I'm not going to bother answering any more of these suggestions for the Beatles (someone else already recommended them and I said no). If you truly don't like this list, please feel free to create your own I'd love to see your picks.

Frank Zappa, child's play? He was a far superior guitarist and composer than all of your suggestions.

I'm surprised no one has suggested Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin or any other choices for Classical!

Ok question Matt... (ignore I suggested Frank Zappa for this comment)

Why do you feel that Zappa deserves a place on your list? On you Favourite Rock Albums list his best work is only an 8, below other artists which aren't on this list such as Van Morrison, Red Crayola, Tim Buckley, The Residents, Pere Ubu, Glenn Branca, Talk Talk etc... Why do you feel Zappa deserves a place on the list and not any of those?

Consistency - He created numerous 7s and 7.5s, a definite 8 (and possibly more, I need to relisten to his stuff and get more of it). The others (along with most artists who do) had one masterpiece and the rest weren't so great. If it is just one epic work, then it has to be really good to merit a placement.

I now believe he created an 8.5, an 8.0, at least two or three other 7.5s and several pieces which are just masterworks. Also, his composition is flawless.

Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia and/or Phil Lesh
Lennon and/or McCartney
Brian May
Freddie Mercury
Pete Townshend
Andy Partridge
Elvis Costello
John Martyn
Al Stewart
Robyn Hitchcock
Kate Bush
David Bowie
Brian Wilson
David Sylvian
Robert Fripp/Pete Sinfield
Roger Waters
Syd Barrett

I wanna say Page/Plant but they'd be accused of plagiarism.

Needless to say the only ones on your rock list I agree with is Frank Zappa and Robert Wyatt. Some advice Neptune when you debate don't talk down to people like you did with Jazz99. Jazz made valid and coherent points in which you had no answer. Then you make points by ridiculing Jazz. What are your qualifications in determining what makes a great composer? Maybe pick up an instrument and learn there is more to music than noise making like "Sister Ray" it barely qualifies as a composition. Maybe in the future answer people responses with more dignity and class like Afterhours.

AfterHours is very patient and I respect him for that. I on the other hand, am too lazy to hold proper discourse when no progress will be made and no-one will make any point the other cares about. This debate has been made before.

However, on your selections - nice ideas!

The ones I'd most consider are Robert Fripp and Syd Barrett. What are your favourite works by them?

Also, I'd be interested to know, what do you think of Tim Buckley and Van Morrison?

Also, you're being a bit of a hypocrite, you said on your own list 'It's my personal favourites' and something about why you felt others didn't deserve placement. I think I may just do the same.

After all, it's my favourites and all. Trying to be objective within aesthetics is stupid.

One last point. One who writes lyrics is a lyricist, while one who writes music is a composer. While Dylan did both, would he be considered a great composer of music? I think some people think writing lyrics as composing music. It's not the same thing.

He's not even on the list anymore? Jeez, keep up!

I respect Robert Fripp on his complexity and his use of jazz with rock music. Syd Barrett for his use of avant music influences and strong use of melody. Sorry I have never liked Van Morrison so I really can't comment on him. I plead ignorance on Tim Buckley. Neal Morse is someone I would suggest. Take it easy.

Fripp sure is hugely talented (and innovative), though I'm not sure I'm convinced he produced any great works other than In The Court of The Crimson King and the quite good Red. Maybe I'm wrong.

When I hear the Beatles, I think of a more mainstream Barrett on some songs, particularly his Piper tracks such as Bike, Lucifer Sam and Flaming.

If you don't like Van, I'm not sure you'd warm to Tim Buckley very easily, he's avant garde folk rock, with a smidgen of jazz thrown in here and there.

I highly recommend Cecil Taylor for the jazz section of this list. Hard to believe but Unit Structures was composed. In my opinion it may be the most awe-inspiring example of compositional complexity in jazz or rock history.

Tell you guys what, as so many people speak so highly of Free Jazz music and I only like but a fraction of it, I shall listen to it more in this next week and tell you what I think. It's weird, one of the Free Jazz albums (Barbed Wire Maggots) I actually love is actually Industrial, do you know of any others of that type?

You could try Machine Gun by Peter Brötzmann. That's the most aggresive Jazz Ive ever heard.

That's not jazz. That's death metal with saxophones.

Sounds nice and easy listening, I'll check it out!

RE: Peter Brötzmann - Machine Gun

My ears hurt. Like, a lot.

But it's a good kind of hurt, innit?

Yes, it seems I'm now musically a masochist. =)

Great list. For the classical section, what do you think of Brahms, Debussy, or Ives?
For jazz, there's Duke Ellington to consider. A newer composer I'd recommend would be Anthony Davis, if you can track down his stuff.

I've only really heard Brahms briefly, the other two I'm not really familiar with. I've always found Ellington a bit annoying, but I'll give him a relisten and see what I think. Thanks for the suggestions!

I added the Stones. Same reason as Zappa really - sheer consistency, these guys were incredibly successful so many times.

You have the Stones but not Lennon & McCartney which is your opinion? The Stones were not better or even close, in my opinion. They wrote the Stones first major hit and it doesn't seem logical to have the Stones ahead of the Beatles especially in terms of songwriting.

"These guys were incredibly successful so many times".

Just on that criteria the Stones and Zappa were not even close. John Lennon in particular was pushing the limits of a straight pop song on "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Revolution "9".


Matt, The Beatles put a backward tape in a song. They should be on the list.

Hey it's ok we disagree. Sometimes I prefer simplistic blues based rock music The Rolling Stones, to the Beatles songs where experts marvel at how a song can contains passages in 4/4, 3/4, 5/4, etc., and "strange" modes like the mixolydian, and funny unorthodox chord progressions. Oh set to some nice-ass melodies. It's fine with me.

Hey Matt,

What do you see in Metallica that ranks them up with The VU, Tim Buckley, Captain Beefheart etc...

I think there good, but not this good

Have you ever ventured into any other 'older' electronic stuff? I know Irrlicht gets all the praise but Schulze has like 40 more albums, and the ones I've heard were pretty good. I have his 10th (called X) and there is a classical-sounding piece called "Ludwig von Bayern" which I really liked. There is a lot in this area, like Tangerine Dream or Jean-Michel Jarre (I always thought Oxygene was something of an essential, even if just for its importance on the electronic music scene) that you can explore if you liked the Irrlicht sound.

I love Tangerine Dream, they even did an 8.5 (Zeit) and Oxygene is a high 7.5. I also like E2-E4 and some others from that era, they're just not to this standard. At the moment I'm mostly just discovering metal.

The Rolling Stones?, The Velvet Underground?. Composing music is more than three chords and drone. Nice to have opinions but let's not reinvent history.

John Lennon
Paul McCartney
Peter Gabriel
Steve Hackett
Robert Fripp
Ian Anderson
Jon Anderson
Chris Squire
Bill Bruford
Tony Banks
Roger Waters
David Gilmour
Steve Howe
Kieth Emerson

Woah! WOAH! Dude those names are new to me.

Peter Gabriel is in there (learn to read)
I don't like the music of most of the people you named, particularly the first two (SHOCK)

The funny thing is, at least I've heard of them. I'd be surprised if you'd heard Lullaby Land or Twin Infinitives

Touchy are you. It's not like I disagree with everything you said. If you put a list and people disagree with you why bother putting on a list. The Rolling Stones were hardly great composers of music but they were great songwriters like Bob Dylan which is a difference.

I might have never heard of Lullaby Land or Twin Infinitives but I know the difference between songwriting and composing. Zappa was a great composer but a lousy songwriter.

Composer for me is a synonym for creator, as in they were the creative force behind something; whether that be an improvisational jam of Davis', a more linear approach from Richards and Jagger or a symphony by Beethoven - it's all composition.

If you're referring to songwriting as in lyrics, read some literature or poetry for something really profound. Good lyrics only work within the context of good music, if Dylan were a professional poet he would be an unknown.

I'll be sure to add John and Paul soon :)

Richards and Jagger much of their compositions are derivative of Chuck Berry and blues music. They were strictly 1-4-5 band with variations of that theme.

When they branched out they copied what was popular whether it was the Beatles, Pink Floyd or Disco. They had exceptions like "Sympathy For the Devil". We disagree.

The Rolling Stones?, The Velvet Underground?. Composing music is more than three chords and drone. Nice to have opinions but let's not reinvent history.

this makes no sense they didn't just have chords or just drone. does anyone even listen to these bands?

To say the Stones are just chords confuses me

Are we talking about composers or songwriters? I don't mean it as a snob distinction, it's just different. Composers create integrated music for instruments or voices where the arrangement or orchestration is an integral part of the form. it implies being able to write (or communicate by other means) parts for a wide variety of instruments and understanding how those instruments function, and a basic understanding of harmony rhythm and form. There are great songwriters who are by no means composers and great composers who couldn't write a good song if their lives depended on it. A lot of composition is about sound as opposed to tunes and words.

So there are a lot of great songwriters in rock, a few great arrangers, and very few composers:

The Rolling Stones were great songwriters but by no means are great composers. The rest of your rock list except for Zappa is suspect at best for many reasons like one great album or a couple of singles does not make a great composer. I MEAN YOU HAVE THE VELVET Underground, a bunch of unknowns with one great album like The Vampire Rodents (Lullaby Land)
and not Brian Wilson or Paul McCartney on your list.

A Composer. Notice the very first sentence: "A composer (latin com+ponere, literally "one who puts together") is a person who creates music". A composer is an arranger of music. Whether that be through strict notation, song writing or brief arrangements doesn't matter. A composer is literally "one who puts together music". Composers and songwriters are historically the same thing.

Secondly, this is one person's opinion. Opinion's are subjective. He could put that this gentlemen as the greatest composer of all time. You may disagree with him, but his opinion is no less valid than yours. So if you want to debate music, than fair enough. I'm sure I, and neptune would like a nice debate. However, belittling one person's opinion and saying they're categorically wrong I think is rude of you and very disrespectful to neptune.

I was not putting down Neptune at all. I disagree with Neptune's opinion. Most of the artists on the rock list what have two great albums at best. That is not enough of a body of work to say they are amongst the greatest "songwriters or composers". Brian Wilson and Lennon/McCartney are more deserving but then again it's just my opinion. If a football player had one great season would he be called one of the greatest football players ever? Now I am sorry you took it that way but let's be realistic how many great songs did Captain Beefheart compose?

Well, if we're defining the best Beatles album as great, and I'm not sure Sgt. Pepper's is the best, then many of them can be said to have produced more than two great albums. Buckley has at least three great albums; Roy Montgomery's output is very good, probably second to Zappa in terms of the quantity of quality (aliases include Hash Jar Tempo and Dadamah); Rolling Stones had possibly one great album and at least two albums more worth of great songs; Schulze has much high quality work before epically failing, rival to Montgomery; Soft Machine did three great albums, not just one; Tangerine Dream did three or four, Zeit is a candidate for Scaruffi's most underrated album in my opinion.

The others require more discussion. I'm not familiar with Branca's work outside of the Ascension but that is certainly an interesting album, especially the title track. Arguable that it is not really enough to qualify for this list.

Beefheart produced TMR which is 28 songs and nearly 80 minutes long, Mirror Man which is 4 extended songs and just over 50 minutes long and Safe As Milk which is 9 songs at around 25 minutes. Of those at least 30 could be said to be great with more on other albums such as Ice Cream For Crow or Lick My Decals Off. The longest of these great tracks, Tarotplane is fifteen minutes long so I don't think you could complain he cannot write extended compositions.

Faust had their debut album with at least two of the greatest compositions in rock music and Krautrock on IV which could also fit in this category. Complaints that they cannot compose anything resembling what most people consider normal can be answered with tracks such as Jennifer and Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl. So Far and Faust Tapes certainly show moments of compositional or improvisational genius. So in total two definately great albums with two at minimum good albums.

Peter Gabriel falls with Glenn Branca except I believe Passion as a whole is better than Ascension though no individual track is better than the track Ascension. But he was also responsible for the earlier work of Genesis who I'm sure you'll admit had a number of great compositions. More reason to be on here than Branca.

Jon Hassell's Dream Theory if you have ever heard it is a highly original composition and alone qualifies him for this list in my opinion. Unfortunately I have not heard any of his other work but I would not be surprised to find he has one or more other great albums.

Royal Trux can understandably be questioned considering Twin Infinitives is a bit of a one off among their albums. This album is more of love it/hate it one than pretty much any other rock album except maybe TMR. Those on the love it side will certainly see it as a worthy composition to qualify it. Incidently, there is a third category...undecided :P I sit in that one, having not really given the album a proper listen yet.

Third Ear Band had two ridiculously original albums, more so than Hassell even. They pretty much invented world music which I think qualifies them for this list.

The Vampire Rodents do not have a single weak track on Lullaby Land, which is 21 tracks long and just over 70 minutes. Read Neptune's review of this album for why this alone would qualify them. As well as this they have at least two other albums which show moments of greatness.

I'm not going to pretend the Velvet Underground had a career of great albums. But the first one is unquestionably great, the second more variable but still great and the 1969 Live album good. White Light/White Heat and I Heard Her Call My Name tend to get overshadowed by you know what on the second album but on any other album would consistently be labeled as masterpieces. Those three and at least four from the debut would qualify for my top 50 rock songs. There's even the possibility a track from 1969 Live might feature in my top 100, What Goes On. They're certainly my favourite rock band especially if you want to include Nico with them which I think Neptune has in this list.

Robert Wyatt made at least two great solo albums Rock Bottom and End Of An Ear, and wrote Moon In June while in Soft Machine which is more than enough for him to qualify for me. The most important person in jazz fusion.

Zappa you obviously agree. His output was ridiculous and he's pretty much the only person to have works taken seriously in the rock, jazz and classical traditions. How ironic he could never take himself seriously :)

The glaring omission on this list in my opinion is The Residents. Not Available and Meet The Residents alone in my opinion put them as more deserving than Branca at least.

People please stop listing groups. Those aren't composers at least write the composers names. The Rolling Stones had two main songwriters the whole band did not write the majority of their music. The Soft Machine had more than one writer.

Melody + lyrics + innovation/influence=greatest composer ever sorry that goes to Lennon/McCartney and Brian Wilson.

McGuinn, and Dylan were not saying Lennon/McCartney were doings things musically no one was doing in rock music for laughs. The same goes for Wilson when he heard Rubber Soul. McCartney and Dylan called Brian Wilson a genius. "God Only Knows" is a lot better than what Captain Beefheart put out.

Captain Beefheart, The Velvet Underground both have one classic album. You said the Vampire Rodents created one great album. Faust had their debut album with at least two of the greatest compositions in rock music which is your opinion.

Still all these people you mention are known for creating one great album or a couple of great compositions. Lennon/McCartney are easily more covered by musicians than Zappa in all genres especially in jazz, pop, and rock music. They were not only known for great albums, also great signles as many have said the greatest single may have been Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever. That is not my opinion only.

Get your history right Third Ear Band did not invent World Music have you heard of the Beatles "Love You To" and "Within You Without You", The Rolling Stones "Gomper" or George Harrison album Wonderwall. This was already common in rock music by 1968.

One to annoy Scarrufites Minimalism in pop music one of the first examples is the Beatles "Tomorrow Never Knows" by The Beatles is an early example of a piece of music written only in C, making a collage from a drone played on an Indian tambura, a modal tune, bluesy instrumental figures, tape loops, ADT, vocals played through Leslie speakers, distorted close-up miking of instruments, and a psychedelic mystical "outlook.

One last point making original music does not mean it's great it could mean it's garbage also. I highly doubt anyone you mentioned wrote 100 great songs and from the ones I know on this list they didn't. Sorry Scarrufites THAT I don't agree with your opinions.

The majority of the bands that he mentioned are bands that all the members contributed to the composing, or it's just an alias for one or a couple of composers.

Woah! Greatest composer ever? So Lennon/McCartney and Brian Wilson are greater composers than Mozart? Schubert? Beethoven? I highly doubt even the musicians you quote agree with that.

Once again, we disagree. God Only Knows is a fine pop song, I'll give you that. I actually really enjoy Pet Sounds and Brian Wilson's SMiLE. However, they are still three minutes pop songs. Captain Beefheart completely deconstructed rock, blues & jazz music to create a highly original and innovative form of music. He composed Trout Mask Replica. He created every melody in there and the band practised that album solidly for 8 months. There's more melody in Trout Mask Replica than there is in the whole of The Beatles career. It's just hidden and entwined within each other.

And to say Captain Beefheart & The Velvet Underground have only one classic album each, is frankly wrong. Captain Beefheart created three masterpieces (TMR, Safe as Milk, Mirror Man). The Velvet Underground created two highly influential albums (& Nico, White Light) and depending on how you view their s/t and Loaded, two more.

Lennon McCartney are more covered by musicians by than Zappa? Ignoring that highly sweeping presumption, in jazz as well? Since when did The Beatles influence jazz? Especially more than Zappa who had created his own form of jazz and continued to develop his style throughout his career (Which I may add, was longer than The Beatles).

And your examples aren't world music. They're pop music with world instruments. They still use a western structure. Third Ear Band created a completely new structure of music, one which cut & pasted styles from all over the world. Indian, celtic, jazz etc.

You said it yourself, in pop music. We;re talking about the greatest composers of all time, and pop music really isn't an innovative genre. It's music for the masses.

And i'm sorry we don't agree with your opinion.

You compared Lennon/McCartney and Brian Wilson to Mozart not me. I am responding to Neptune's rock music list. You know anyway that Leonard Bernstein called Lennon/McCartney the greatest songwriters since Schubert. You Scarruffites keep on coming even though I suspect you are one person.

Lennon/McCartney AND Brian Wilson had a gift for melody. Their tunes have the power to stick in one's mind. A Beatles melody is immediately recognizable by its natural flow, as if it were driven by its own internal dynamic. That can't be said about Captain Beefheart could you be honest there

Even if you say Captain Beefheart created three great albums though most view Safe As Milk as only Ok. The Beatles by most people estimation have created the most influential pop/rock albums and at least 5 are generally considered to be amongst the top 100 albums of all time. Then add the singles on top of the albums.

The Beatles music is easily more covered by musicians than Zappa which is not a knock but fact. There are literally thousands of jazz versions of Beatles songs. It's about melody and chord progressions that attract all these cover versions

The Beatles especially George Harrison helped put World Music in rock on the map. To call it pop music with world instruments is reaching. Harrison was radically pushing the songwriting envelope.

George Harrison one of his most innovations in Rock was the merging of Classical Indian with pop music. This was a huge influence on the start of World Music in rock and progressive rock though not the kind that became Yes or King Crimson.

George was a proficient practitioner in the theory of Indian music, and this was reflected in the way he used certain chord voicing (I’m thinking in particular of diminished chords here), and melodies that to western ears skirt towards dissonance. In fact they are reflecting of the “microtones” of Indian music scales – a good example of this is “Blue Jay Way”, which was directly based on an Indian raga, and is a very advanced example of cross-cultural musical synthesis.

George Harrison was working at a sophisticated level of extrapolating Indian scales to the Western setting, something no one else had done in rock music at the time. "Love You To", which is certainly derived from classical Indian, "Within You Without You", “The Inner Light", and even "Norwegian Wood" follows the raga khamaj avarohana is an unaltered raga were.

In "Love You To" could be rock music first example of using classical Indian music in terms of instrumentation, mode, rhythm, and structure.

One more song “Blue Jay Way,” was conceived on the harmonium but is more significant in that it reveals the depth of Harrison understanding of Indian music, as well as his ability to express it in a pop context. The opening sequence of notes imposes part of the scale from an Indian raga called “Marwa” onto a basic C-major chord. He uses notes that are dissonant in the C-major setting (E-flat and F-sharp), pivoting them around a C-diminished chord. It certainly was not rock ‘n’ roll, and the quality of his work was now to be found in the details-not in the immediate impact. Perhaps this is why this example of Harrison radically pushing the songwriting envelope is rarely discussed in such terms.

Lastly to say pop music is not innovative is a joke. The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks, and even much of the Yardbirds music is pop music that is rock related.

From Howard Goodall's 20th Century Greats: Lennon and McCartney

"The Beatles drifted away from the rock'n'roll style over-used and endlessly repeated by most of their counterparts and began exploring new musical avenues. Nothing was left aside in this exploration: harmony, orchestration and rhythm were all revived and transformed by the Beatles's genius. In 'Eleanor Rigby', they used a quasi-Baroque string orchestration. The construction of 'Penny Lane' is based on a systematic and very unusual change of keys. In their later albums, they successfully incorporated traditional Indian music harmony and Avant-garde techniques used by classical musicians, such as the use of distorted tapes in studios to create new sounds".

You Scarruffites keep on coming even though I suspect you are one person.

I know it's an old comment but I look back and think to myself, 'schizophrenic, anyone?'

One more point have you actually listened to George Harrison "Wonderwall" album Harrison was the REALISER of this. Using both Indian and Western musicians its a forecast really of what would be called World Music in the 80s. This process was started on "Love You To" in 1966. Even the Yardbirds tried out a sitar player in 1965 but I would not call it World Music. I know Scarruffites are programmed to not like the Beatles but get your facts straight. Peace.

I know Scarruffites are programmed to not like the Beatles but get your facts straight. Peace.

Funny guy! You're so informed about music in general it seems like you only actually know about mainstream rock. Oh, wait...

Ok man, you keep on chugging. I admit defeat. My whole view on music on general is completely flawed because I dislike one band.

P.S. I'm not a scaruffist, me and Piero disagree on many things.

Check out darktremor's Musical Personalities list. I'm listed and would still consider myself in the ADHD (or eclecticists as it's also known) group. Although my main music selections fall into the Scaruffist and Robot groups, I also regularly listen to music that would put me in the Rockists and occasionally even Metalheads and Traceheads categories. Hey I'll even dance to music that'd fit in the Popheads or Sheep category if (and lets face it, pretty much definitely) they get played in clubs. So I essentially listen to all the other seven groups' style of music, the definition of an eclecticist.

Are we talking about composers or songwriters if they make the music no matter how simple they are considered the composer.

Plus you make no sense you call Lennon/Mcartney and Brian Wilson the greatest composers after the composer/songwriter rant

Here is Scaruffi's opinion on the Stones greatest moments

The Stones added to these elements the spirit of their time and a messianic evocation to evil. From this synthesis stemmed the great trilogies: that of frustration (Satisfaction, Last Time, Paint It Black), that of psychosis (Mother's Little Helper, Have You Seen Your Mother, 19th Nervous Breakdown), that of depravation (Let's Spend The Night, Honky Tonk Women, Sympathy), that of psychedelia (Rainbow, Tuesday, We Love You). To those trilogies, to comprehend all the masterpieces of the Stones, we may add the trilogy of existential blues (All Sold Out, Out Of Time, You Can't Always Get What You Want), that of the anthems (Street Fighting Men, Jumping Jack Flash, Brown Sugar), and the corporeal one (She`s So Cold, Start Me Up, One Hit).

I would also add Gimme Shelter. interesting none of these come off of Exile or Between the Buttons

(I think the inclusion of them on the list is justified) =)

The Stones were a great band but were a copy-cat band. They took from the blues and when they branched out they copied the Beatles time after time until they went back to being what they were good and that was creating simple three chord rock & roll.

The songs aren't just made up of chords. they add other instruments. Do you even listen to the songs...

Biggest omission from Scaruffi's primary classical page: Rachmaninoff's Preludes.

Man, this list is weird to me.

I mean I really do like a good portion of the rock composers here (Glenn Branca, Tim Buckley, Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, etc) but I just don't see how they can hold a candle to the likes of Miles Davis or Gustav Mahler, John Coltrane or Richard Wagner, or whatever. I wouldn't doubt me having some ingrained bias against rock (despite liking it an awful lot) when it comes to naming the best of the best; but I just don't see how some of these musicians are rubbing shoulders. It's odd to see a composer like Bach, who was a genius among geniuses, being put in the same hemisphere as Faust.

So really I have nothing constructive to say, just that this is a weird list. And that it's missing Charlie Parker (I saw that you said you're not a fan of Sun Ra so I won't bother mentioning him). Oh wait, I have a question. Are you looking at them as being the best composers in their individual genres, or in music as a whole? Because if it's the former then it does make a lot more sense to me.

It is weird. This doesn't really represent my tastes anymore. Can't really go wrong with any artists on the list, though.