29 Oct 2017

Composers on Camera - Composer as Hero

From The Sunday Feature, 2:00 pm on 29 October 2017
George Gershwin

George Gershwin Photo: Public Domain

Thomas Goss compares the cinematic narrative of the epic hero-composer to our own assumptions and impulses in appreciating concert music.

Our composers' gift of music to humanity is a treasured and essential element of our culture. The greater the music, the more we perceive their gift to us to be form of sacrifice, because we believe that such efforts go farther and farther beyond what is humanly possible.

Of course, those great composers did have life struggles that became iconic, like Beethoven’s deafness, or Mozart’s huge personal risk-taking as the first great freelance composer. And thus another illusion, another narrative is imposed upon those musicians, that the sacrifice itself defines who they were and what their music was about. Because no matter how the word “hero” is cheapened by overuse, we still recognize that true heroism involves risking your own life to save others.

In classical Greek terms, to go even further, the hero can’t help it because that is his very nature, which makes him all the more worthy of awe and praise. The difference between an inborn quality of heroism and the gift of natural talent, therefore, becomes very hard to distinguish for one whose life’s meaning is defined by great art and music.