The Top Ten Worst Classical Composers Of All Time

June 26, 2009

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I thought about writing a top ten list of the ten worst albums of 2009 (January-to-June) this week, but decided against it when I realized that there were way too many albums to list, and I’d probably offend or insult a people I know with my choices, thus ensuring passive-aggressive bullshit and evil eyes wherever I go. It’s not worth the annoying responses my bashing of local acts normally brings. That was before I thought about how amazingly insulting all the reader comments would be when I made fun of Wavves and whatever atrocious, soul-deadening records Matador and K. are releasing these days. I shouldn’t get into it. I like receiving promo CDs in the mail. I don’t want to waste my valuable press contacts at those labels. Please keep pushing on me your wares so I can keep giving ’em away to my readers when they make donations to the site.

While I try to think of an idea for an interesting Top Ten, please enjoy this mini-list of the ten most absurd Google searches which directed people to Swan Fungus today:

10. fuck gails
09. human and ape sex
08. ape
07. hipster girl waco
06. how many people should you have at your birthday
05. is bono full of himself
04. little russian kids porno
03. massage stories
02. fart sex
01. puerto rican pussy

There, that wasted a few minutes. Now, let’s see…what can possibly inspire me to write a top ten list that doesn’t involve slagging on bands…hmm…I know, I’ll slag on individuals, not bands!

Now…what’s about the furthest thing from college rock music, because I would so very much hate to ruffle the feathers of people who listen to Radiohead and the Pixies. Oh, I know! Classical music!

Excuse me for a moment while I slip into something a little bit more…erudite.

The Top Ten Worst Classical Composers Of All Time

10. Claude Debussy – While this is a rather unfair inclusion, as Debussy’s own musical philosophies were incredibly insightful and rather unusual for a French post-Romantic Impressionist composer, it is still true that much of his compositional catalogue is comprised of either overly simple sentimental pieces or entirely ornamental pieces without any real structural backbone–and this list is about compositional honesty, after all. Methinks the reason for his lack of backbone had something to do with the fact that he was the the town man-whore, letting any homo with a taste for Frenchmen perpetrate the deviant sexual act known as “blowing his back out.”

09. Frederic Chopin – While Chopin indeed possessed of a knack for indisputably magical-sounding right-handed tinkling, and while he did indeed compose a number of tolerable (and possibly even beautiful) works, Chopin’s ultra-Romantic sound is almost nauseating under the right (or would they be wrong?) conditions. The bulk of his compositions were made either as teaching devices (he had a number of young, and usually female, pupils) or as salon accompaniments meant to serve as admittedly fitting background to hedonistic bourgeois prancing, dancing and flirting; the small part of Chopin’s catalogue which is preferable to these former pieces still have yet to live this fact down. His works are best suited for those of the male species who enjoy “stopping to smell the flowers,” and for little girls who play MASH all day and incessantly draw pictures of how they think their future weddings will appear.

08. Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert [tie]. Both of these composers are so over-rated and so dull that I can’t even think of anything they’ve composed outside of a few “indispensibles” which, even then, still aren’t worth mentioning. Perhaps it is not ironic that in East Germany during the year 1956, the country issued a pair of postage stamps featuring Schumann’s picture against an open score that featured Schubert’s music. You can read all about it on Wikipedia if you’re that much of a loser.

07. Jacques Offenbach – Having written one of the most unremarkable operas of all time in “Tales of Hoffman”, and considering that the aforementioned is generally conceded to be his masterpiece, Offenbach is typically given fourth chair to the greater talents (which is indeed unarguably as it should be) which both preceded him and served as his peerage. He died in Paris in 1880 at the age of 61, never having known the joys of being considered “cool” by anyone he ever met. In fact, it is tradition in Paris now that all boys turning thirteen years old must visit Offenbach’s grave and piss on any flowers that have been left by mourners or admirers. This is because the nation of France has since realized that Jacque was no more than the Burt Bacharach of his era: Jewish-born and oft-derrided by anyone with half a brain.

06. Johannes Brahms – Brahms, while undoubtedly widely loved (for he did indeed create some truly beautiful works–such as a few of his Intermezzi, a Scherzo for violin and piano, and various other sundry), really turned out–and let’s be honest here–some blithely traditional (which in itself is not necessarily a crime) and tepid material; most of his symphonic output (usually mocked as aping the Beethovenian style), his walzes, and his well-known variations (those on Paganini being the most vapid of all) fall into this latter category. Additionally, he was on the wrong side of the Wagnerite boundary, and for this a large faction of Romantic followers still has (rightfully) yet to forgive him. He was fond of nature, and often brought penny candy with him to hand out to children. In other words, he was the Michael Jackson of his generation, only he never got caught with a child’s penis in his mouth.

05. Franz Liszt – Liszt was truly a shameless showman, and a terrible composer to boot; while his transcriptions (such as entire Beethoven symphonies for piano) are marvelous, his own compositions tend to be so very basely technically-oriented that they don’t even approach the blends of technique and art so perfectly attained by J. S. Bach or Arnold Schoenberg. Liszt was far too busy trying to impress people, and far too unconcerned with musical integrity; fortunately, these egregious tendencies were made up for by his fathering Cosima Liszt-von Bulow-Wagner, who came to be the inspiration behind such beautiful Wagnerian masterpieces as “Siegfried Idyll”. You will not find Liszt’s name on the “Top Ten Lists Of All Time” list previously featured on Swan Fungus, though you will find a man named Fredrich List. No relation.

04. Karl Maria von Weber – Pompous, hollow, and lacking of any real content, von Weber’s work is easily summed up as being the “elevator music” of the early Romantic period. Von Weber was a key figure in the institutionalisation of virtuosic display of the most shameless kind; this element is easily evident in his Konzertstück in F minor, and the same piece handily displays the boring, nothing-special-if-capable style he utilised most frequently. I also hear he used to blow dogs in the parking lot at his local 7-11. It’s not heresy if I heard the rumor myself from a guy who used to hang out at the same 7-11 as Weber.

03. Johann Strauss, Jr. – Strauss’s widely-overplayed and over-loved catalogue of waltzes is truly insufferable; it is truly worth nothing that no-one else of such small merit has attained such worldly reknown for what is, like it or not, an unnotable collection of what should have merely been mildly popular nineteenth-century parlour music. While many know (and perhaps even love) the still-unquenchable Blue Danube and the Emperor Waltz, these same listeners are making a grave mistake in perpetuating such truly undeserving repertoire. He was his generation’s Elliott Smith, only he didn’t go out in a blaze of glory and two stabs to the chest; he quietly succumbed to double pneumonia in the Spring of 1889 at the age of 73. Also like Smith, several years after his death, Strauss Jr.’s sister tried to sell his Volkswagen on a very crude, very early incarnation of Craigslist.

02. Sergei Rachmaninoff – Rachmaninoff’s pianistic works are far too “virtuosic for the sake of being virtuosic”; his crescendi, glissandi, and sforzandos all smack of an insufferable show-off’s penchant for performing concerto cadenzas of extremely unlistenable character. Grossly overrated, his works are far too full of technical conceits which make for rather unmusical machinations. Had he lived another fifty years, he would have been privy to seeing Bill Murray’s character learn Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini during the film Groundhog Day. So torturous is hearing that vile composition, surely Rachmaninoff would have been subject to re-watching that film over, and over, and over, until he finally admitted to us all that he totally sucked.

01. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Mozart’s writing style was entirely frivolous; his later works, while “serious” only inasmuch as Mozart could summon seriousness, are still full of ineffectual writing which mainly seems as though it is trying to invoke a spritely-if-Beethovenian attitude. Additionally, his writing calls to mind an amalgam of other (and more meaningful) composers, using as his own signature only the most smug Alberti bass and flippant “tunes”. Even worse, he was the originator of a game of musical dice, making him an irresponsible forefather of aleatoric “music”. The “severe miliary fever” that took his life in 1791 wasn’t nearly deadly enough to wipe away the public’s collective memories of his music. That Eine Kleine Nachtmusik has been reduced to no more than incidental television commercial music proves the bland and impotent nature of his “works,” if you can even call them that.

Thanks for your help, Jet!

Ken Nordine – Mauve
13th Floor Elevators – Dear Dr. Doom
Dianogah – Puma
Young Widows – Delay Your Pressure


  1. |

    What a shit list. Evidently you are subhuman, or merely exceedingly droll. But unfunny, either way. Except the google searches.

  2. 253scream

    I revisited this site once again and read through the comments. Everyone is being so immoral and simply unknownledged of what an opinion is and means. One went so far as to say, if this list is true by him, his music taste is inferior. Inferior? You are simply stating your idiocy for insulting someone’s opinion and even if this is a joke that does not mean it should be subject to those who are uncultured in the ways of this vast world or music.

  3. |

    Agree 100% about Mozart! Never been a fan. J. Strauss, Brahms, Chopin, also agree with, probably Liszt too although don’t know his music that well. In fact the only two I’d disagree with are Rachmaninov and Debussy, both of whom I am a big fan of. I thought my favourite composer Ravel might be included in the list, but thankfully he wasn’t.

  4. |

    Ditto Andy (which is odd enough in itself), though I don’t really loath Brahms nearly as much as Mozart, and even Mozart I think, wrote some nifty things for organ.
    But i really really can’t understand how such an intelligent person could have omitted Percy Grainger from this list.
    Hope this thread gets a second wind, just for fun.
    Cheer up, Ken – if you know jesus, see you paradise. Otherwise it’s just eternal flaming hell, which really cant be that much worse than, I’m guessing, San Francisco?

  5. |

    Ps – I don’t care what compositional sins Jacques may have committed, he wrote that Pearl Fishers thing, Fondue Temple Beth Israel?, and that earns him a big jewel in his crown… imho.

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  7. |

    You are all penis licking chodes. p.s. I fucked your mom

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