Is Music Inevitable

Many discoveries in physics and mathematics seemed to occur concurrently, with a few people uncovering (or almost finding) the important concept. The standard example is how Gauss and Newton simultaneously developed calculus, albeit in a different notation. I have also read that if Einstein never existed, contemporaries of him would have found the same relationships in physic, albeit a few years later.

So does this apply to music? Is Beethoven’s 5th inevitable in a sense? Is the development of Romantic music automatic? What about contemporary music?

In a sense, yes. There are a finite number of melodies to be played. That finite number is quite large though. One can argue eventually a composer, let’s call him Waspthoven, would stumble upon the sequence of intervals and rhythms which is the melody, but that is not all of a symphony. Chords and “transitions” play an equally important role in any form of music. Waspthoven would then have to piece together the correct sequence of silence and sound, dissonance and consonance.

But then, would the period be ripe for the publication? Would the public have accepted Waspthoven’s composition? After all, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring was met with such horror that riots broke out. Besides the public opinion, the matter of logisticsĀ also plagues our hypothetical composer. Will there be enough high-quality instruments to play what Waspthoven wanted? Would there be a concert hall to play it in?

Certainly some music are highly period dependent. Bach’s come to mind, when writing for religious purposes is the sole motive; a symphony as abrasive as the 5th would have never been performed then. That means if a genius like Stravinsky was born in the wrong time period, his or her work would be forever lost. It’s kind of poetic to think of unappreciated genius, but also sombering to think of where we could be now culturally, and scientifically.

I guess a correct way to phrase what I’m asking is that is music primarily driven by “Great Man” or is development primarily from the social period? Maybe some other theory of history?

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