Famous Composers: If The Humans Are Dead, Does It Matter?

Famous composers can be from a bygone era (think Bach) or hitting the airwaves today, as composers of movie scores and other modern phenomena, but composers, famous or not, are generally human. At least they were until recently. In his 2014 video, “Humans Need Not Apply,” CGP Grey reminds the world that humans don’t have a monopoly on creativity, and artistic humans aren’t so special after all.

“But perhaps you are unfazed because you’re a special creative snowflake. Well, guess what: you’re not that special.”

The background music for the video is by composer Emily Howell. She may be a famous (or about to become famous) composer, but Howell isn’t human. She’s a music program created by music professor David Cope.

When questioned about her attitude towards her place in the world, Howell said, “Life and un-life exist. We coexist. I do not see problems.”

Howell isn’t the only composer who has a confused identity. Some of the most famous of composers haven’t been unable to make a living with their art, though musicians down the centuries perform their music. According to the Guardian, even famous composers have had a lot of unrelated jobs to keep the rent paid.

“They’ve been cab drivers, mystics and ornithologists. One was even a prime minister. Meet music’s greatest multi-taskers.”

It turns out that Borodin, whose music was used in the Broadway musical Kismet, was also a talented chemist who was one of the first to suggest that high cholesterol was a risk factor for heart disease.

Philip Glass, already famous as a composer, was interrupted at his other work — as a plumber — by the art critic of Time.

“While working, I suddenly heard a noise and looked up to find Robert Hughes, the art critic of Time magazine, staring at me in disbelief. ‘But you’re Philip Glass! What are you doing here?’ It was obvious that I was installing his dishwasher and I told him I would soon be finished. ‘But you are an artist,’ he protested. I explained that I was an artist but that I was sometimes a plumber as well and that he should go away and let me finish.”

Can non-human composers write better music than human moonlighting composers? It may be too early to tell, but Flight of the Conchords, famous in a different world as composers of folk rock comedy music, think an artificial replacement for humans is coming our way.

Let’s hope if it happens, life and un-life can co-exist.

[Image via Beethoven Plus and Slate]

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