The Art of Classical Music, Pt 1: Mozart Did It First

See why Roger says Mozart was the first pop star and an avid do it yourselfer

To say anybody did anything in music first is kind of funny.  It’s more like whoever was successful first and maintained that success.  This doesn’t mean there wasn’t a bunch of people around somewhere doing it themselves.  In the new generation of d.i.y. artists and people trying to do things on their own, I think Mozart should stand out as a definite icon.  Today, people are trying to step away from major labels and sponsorship, in order to really get their trade out to everyone and try to make a little bit of money.  Understand that Mozart did the same thing.  He was commissioned by the Archbishop of Salzburg to write for parties and other social gatherings, and made a decent living doing it, but he wanted to step away.  You see, classical music at the time was really only for those who were within a certain social status that were allowed in to actually see him perform, whereas, Mozart wanted to get away from these places and go off on his own.  He wanted to bring the music to everyday people, so he would get more and more involved in writing in 4/4 common time and cut time – stuff that people could really enjoy.  He just kind of took off the leash and started writing and taking half the house in ticket sales, and realized that the simplicity and movement of a certain piece of music would get people to come back and see it again.  So he was specifically writing to get people to come to the show, which has grown into quite a large business, as we all know.

Most composers at that time would write a commissioned piece for a certain person, or be commissioned to make their social gatherings more intellectually pleasing as opposed to more fun.  I guess you could say he was the first pop star – he wasn’t under the thumb of any particular royal or religious hierarchy to write great mythology or whatever they would use for basic concepts of material at the time.  He would write a piece of music and perform it in a regular theater that anybody could go see, and he would hope more would come back to see it again.

He was one of the first to really embrace the simplicity of a few chords creating a tonal and then orchestrating around it getting those melodies stuck in people’s heads so they would walk around whistling it, I’m sure, and then come back and see it again and again that way he could continue to write, roam around, and make his own living so he could be more independent. 

It’s no different from people now.  You want to get signed to a label and you know you are going to be giving away a major percentage of any money you might make in order to stand on your own two feet.  Mozart took a chance and decided to play for people, so to say he did it first is kind of a tricky one.  Things have been going on a lot longer than what the history books say, but to say he’s maintained his success with it?  I’d say he did pretty well considering all these years later we are still listening to his stuff.  Let’s give him credit for stepping out and making a living doing it.


Reference Links:    The Guardian - What Pop Music Owes to the Classical Masters

                               Richard Nilsen - What Makes Music Classical

                               Bonus Link!  Mental Floss - 10 Really Weird Pieces of Classical Music