Tuesday, April 01, 2014

My obsession with ranking

This post was triggered by discussions in recent months at the Talk Classical forum, about the (in)ability to rank composers. First off, I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as an objective measure for a composer's greatness, unlike say a composer's height (image sourced from here). At best, one can average a large number of subjective preferences and come to a  result that some might call objective greatness (but I do not). That said, subjectively I can rank composers or compositions in order of preference, and it is a fact that I love doing so. Well, it appears that although I am not alone in this, there are also large numbers of classical music aficionados to whom this whole ranking concept is alien and incomprehensible. This weekend I suddenly realized where my preference for rankings comes from. When I first got really interested in music, it was in pop and rock as broadcast on the Dutch radio in the seventies. Charts played a big role for me at that time, seeing how well (or badly) songs I liked were doing in the top40. Every year there was also a top100 of all time on the radio, as chosen by the listeners. This inspired me to rank my all-time favourite songs many times over the years, most recently in my blog Countdown to Ecstasy. And this conditioned behaviour with respect to pop and rock songs is in hindsight almost certainly what is behind my ranking obsession (as others call it) in classical music. Anyway, it does not hurt anyone, so I will continue doing it.