Bach was likely the most intelligent composer ever. The sheer complexity of a large part of his later music, particularly, has yet to be rivalled. As often is the case in musical history, however, the complex harmonics of the older generation was stripped away by the one that came after it in the form of far straightforward harmonies. Such composers as Haydn, Mozart, and Gluck invented a brand new style based on what were, essentially, four major chords. A large part of their music was based on dominant, subdominant, and tonic- not unlike rock’n’roll. Such acts as The Ramones and Status Quo have proven that these old formulas could still work all those years later. Some of the more recognisable tunes from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute were based on basic harmonic blocks of three or four chords.
Mozart gave the public what they wanted
Mozart was different than his predecessors in that he made his living independent of an aristocrat patron or an institution. He made music based on what people wanted to listen to. If members of the public heard his operas on multiple occasions, he would make additional income from receipts.
Mozart realised that people wanted to hear great music and that if the audience were pleased with what they heard, he wouldn’t just get further commission but there would also be a higher likelihood of people returning to hear the music again. When it came to melody, Mozart was a genius. He had an uncanny sense of a tune’s rise and fall and what made them catch the ear. Those wonderful tunes lived inside the heads of anyone who heard them. He had a rare gift. In more recent generations, Carole King has composed some amazing songs, and Richard Rogers, too. But the only ones who come to mind when it comes to who can match the unstoppable flow of Mozart are John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
Schubert and the three-minute pop song
The majority of pop songs are based upon around a dozen of the more recognisable chord sequences that have been acknowledged since the 18th century. In modern-day music, a singer like Adele is unique, due to her voice, her style, and her attitude. The chords and sequences she writes with, however, have been around for a long time.
John Dowland was perhaps the creator of the three-minute pop song but Schubert was the one who originated the modern pop song. Schubert had a wonderful talent with melodies seemingly dripping from his very essence. He composed some 600 songs, and just like the songwriters of today, he set out to write songs that people would enjoy instantly. There isn’t a single moment where Schubert was trying to catch out the listener. Neither do you have to listen to a piece of his music on multi-loop before you understand it. His intention was that his listeners understand it the very first time. The formula is simply verse-chorus, voice and piano underneath, and he wants the listener to remember the chorus.