Life with music

In a letter to the composer Heinrich Köselitz, Friedrich Nietzsche mused:

Music now brings me sensations such as I have never had before. It takes me away from myself, it sobers me up from myself, as if I oversaw myself from a distance, it gluts my senses . . . Life without music would be an error, a hardship, an exile.

The last sentence, with all of its escalating hyperbole, is my favorite statement on the essential role of music in human life. Below is a classification of the music that has contributed to an enlargement of my being.

Top 10 Classical Composers

  1. Henry Purcell
  2. Johann Sebastian Bach
  3. George Frideric Handel
  4. Antonio Vivaldi
  5. Franz Joseph Haydn
  6. Ludwig van Beethoven
  7. Johannes Brahms
  8. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  9. Igor Stravinsky
  10. Sergei Rachmaninoff

Honorable Mention: Franz Schubert, Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, Gabriel Fauré, Gustav Mahler, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt

Top 10 Operas

  1. Giacomo Puccini, Tosca
  2. Giacomo Puccini, La Bohème
  3. Ludwig van Beethoven, Fidelio
  4. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Don Giovanni
  5. Georges Bizet, Carmen
  6. Giuseppe Verdi, Rigoletto
  7. Christoph Willibald Gluck, Orfeo ed Euridice 
  8. Henry Purcell, Dido and Aeneas
  9. Gioacchino Rossini, Il Barbiere di Siviglia 
  10. Igor Stravinsky, The Rake’s Progress

Honorable Mention: George Frideric Handel, Giulio Cesare; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, The Magic Flute; Giuseppe Verdi, La Traviata and Otello; Giacomo Puccini, Madama Butterfly; Wagner, Tristan und Isolde; Benjamin Britten, Billy Budd and Peter Grimes

Top 5 Jazz Artists

  1. John Coltrane
  2. Miles Davis
  3. Thelonious Monk
  4. Bill Evans
  5. Tie: Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald

Honorable Mention: Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Stan Getz & João Gilberto, The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, Cassandra Wilson

Top 12 Rock Artists or Bands

  1. Sufjan Stevens
  2. Ben Howard
  3. Mumford & Sons
  4. Over the Rhine
  5. David Gray
  6. Van Morrison
  7. Of Monsters and Men
  8. The Head and the Heart
  9. Natalie Merchant / 10,000 Maniacs
  10. Ray LaMontagne
  11. U2
  12. Arcade Fire

Honorable Mention: Elliott Smith, Coldplay, Belle & Sebastian, The Oh Hellos, The National, Bon Iver, Florence + The Machine, Peter Gabriel, Johnny Cash, Radiohead, The Rolling Stones, Annie Lennox / Eurythmics, Patty Griffin, Talking Heads, The Police, R. E. M., Neil Young, José González, Fleetwood Mac, and Cat Power.

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