Ever wonder what a day in the life of a composer is like? This chart gives us a preview of how famous creative individuals spent their time.
Spoiler alert: Mozart didn’t sleep much.
The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People (Podio.com)
Born in Munich in 1864, Richard Strauss is a leading composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. Many saw Strauss as the successor to Richard Wagner, and he became known for his advanced harmonic style. He met Alexander Ritter during his early professional years and was encouraged to abandon classical forms. As a result of this relationship, Strauss began to compose symphonic poems. The wide acceptance of his Don Juan (1889) started his ascendance to the musical elite.
Strauss’s first operatic success came in 1905 when he debuted Salome, which was based on Oscar Wilde’s play of the same title. His other opera’s include Elektra (1909), Der Rosenkavalier (1911), and Arabella (1929). After his experimentation with symphonic poems and opera, the remaining years of his life were spent perfecting his craft in relative isolation. He composed some rather interesting symphonies as well. One in particular — Symphonia Domesticai (1903) — describes twenty-four hours within the Strauss family household. He maintained an unparalleled ability to describe and to show psychological detail.
During his life, Strauss witnessed two world wars and remained uninterested in politics. While Wagner remained a Nazi party favorite throughout his life, Strauss occupied the opposite end of the spectrum: the Nazi regime disliked his association with the Jewish librettist, Stefan Zweig. After the two worked on Die schweigsame Frau (The Silent Woman, 1935), the opera became banned. Shortly after this event, the composer received continued threats from the regime due to his daughter-in-law’s Jewish heritage. Known as a family man, Strauss took is family and lived in Vienna during World War II. He likely used his power as the most famous German composer alive to protect his family from the Nazi regime. He only moved back to Germany after the war when his name was cleared (Learn more about his life). Among the most memorable composers to come out of Germany, Richard Strauss maintained an interesting life and created music to match.
Classical music has long influenced the world of film, both directly and through the influence of composers. Figures like Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold forged the identity of early Hollywood music with their Romantic compositional styles, and classical pieces were often used as test music for producers and writers.
Here are several classical works made ubiquitous by their inclusion in film.
The Piece: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor was first published in 1833 after Felix Mendelssohn, a frequent admirer of Bach’s work, prepared and edited the piece. Critics and musicians alike praised the piece throughout the 19th century, with Mendelssohn, Liszt and others adopting it as a part of their repertoires. Mendelssohn deemed it “at the same time learned and something for the people”- certainly an astute presage of the work’s eventual popularity in the film world.
The Score: The booming, iconic introduction was used for the main titles of 1931’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, creating an indelible association with the horror genre. However, the film world perceived it as a powerfully dramatic score in its own right, leading to its inclusion in Sunset Boulevard and Federico Fellini’s 1960 Palme D’Or winning film La Dolce Vita. Robert Schumann, though, viewed the aggressive opening lines as clever histrionics revealing Bach’s sense of humor, a view that is perhaps more in line with how the oft-parodied work is now regarded.
The Piece: Rossini’s final opera, based on the play by Friedrich Schiller, was met with modest success during its initial performance history, but it is now best remembered for its four-part overture, which depicts an idyllic picture of the Swiss Alps. Franz Liszt, among others, prepared a piano arrangement that joined his concert repertoire. Though a frequent critic of Rossini, Hector Berlioz praised the overture as “a symphony in four parts,” despite its short length and uninterrupted structure.
The Score: “The Call to Cows” is often used to connote a pastoral morning setting, especially in cartoons such as Disney’s The Old Mill. “The Finale” is perhaps more recognizable. The rousing score was popular with American brass bands in the early 20th century, and gained a public profile as the theme to The Lone Ranger. Since then, it has appeared in everything from A Clockwork Orange to Armageddon and Toy Story 2.
The Piece: These two Strauss’s wrote two works remembered in the film world for their use in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also Sprach Zarathustra was a tone poem that joined the classical canon after its 1896 premiere. While The Blue Danube was met with universal acclaim as perhaps the best-known waltz from the “The Waltz King” himself, Johann Strauss II.
The Score: Also Sprach Zarathustra drew inspiration from Nietzsche’s philosophical work of the same name- an appropriately heady conceit for the eccentric Kubrick. The score’s powerful introduction accompanies the title shot of 2001, and this connotation of the majestic and imposing has stuck ever since. Kubrick did not shape the popular interpretation of The Blue Danube as he did for Also Sprach Zarathustra. However, his inclusion of the piece in 2001-where it accompanies two satellites as they “dance” in space-brought it to the public fore, and the lilting, elegant piece is now a staple in film and commercials.
2001 is also notable for its use of several pieces from the modernist composer György Ligeti. Ligeti’s idiosyncratic work utilized micropolyphony, an abstract technique that went on to inform the work of minimalist composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich. At the time of the film, Ligeti was struggling in obscurity, and Kubrick actually utilized his music without permission. The director was apparently incredulous when Ligeti objected to the unsanctioned use of his work, since, he argued, the film served as publicity for Ligeti’s music. Free marketing or not, a lawsuit duly followed, but the two soon settled out of court. Ligeti moved on with a heightened public profile, and Kubrick moved on with his reputation for an abrasive personality intact.
Ligeti’s dense work does like its classical counterparts in 2001, but it has since appeared in Hollywood films such as Martin Scorsese’s 2010 film Shutter Island. Additionally, the leitmotif from Darren Arnofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, entitled Lux Aeterna, takes its name from one of Ligeti’s works. Lux Aeterna has since been used extensively in film trailers and other forms of media, and the piece is popular for the dramatic tone it borrows from Ligeti’s work (though Requiem composer Clint Mansell wisely ignored the modernist composer’s absence of melody).