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beethovenComposers are the ones who hear the sounds of the world as music.

They can bring together musical ideas of their own, or translate songwriters' words or a movie director's most dramatic scenes to heighten our emotions, or to stir a memory.

Like a great writer, a great music composer surpasses putting mere notes to paper but somehow breaths life into them to achieve a level of communication that is something akin to magic.

Of course, that's not to say the great music composers weren't without their personality quirks.

Mozart, for example, composed masterpieces while suffering from massive hangovers. Richard Strauss was known to wear women's frilly underwear because he thought they were more comfortable. Beethoven often dunk his head in a bucket of cold water before he composed.

Just up ahead, check out fun facts and interesting stories about the personal and professional lives of famous composers. And, for more information around the Web, surf top sites for more facts and information on classical, pop, Broadway and contemporary composers -- including biographies and little known facts behind the people who write the music....

Did you know? Top Ten fun facts about music composers

johann sebastian bach holding a coffee cup
Bach's caffeine addiction led him
to write The Coffee Cantata.

• Mozart wrote the overture to Don Giovanni on the morning of the opera's premiere while suffering from a massive hangover.

• Johann Sebastian Bach would drink up to 30 cups of coffee a day, an addiction that inspired him to write The Coffee Cantata.

• Beethoven liked to dip his head in a bucket of cold water before he composed.

• German opera composer Richard Wagner like to be in the pink -- quite literally. He was known to favor women's pink, frilly undegarments to wear under his silk robes.

• Best known for his piano suite, “Trois Gymnopedies", 19th-century French composer Erik Satie was a bundle of eccentricities. He had an intense dislike the sun, a love of gray velvet suits (which he wore all the time) and always carried a hammer in his pocket for protection. He even headed up his own church, the Metropolitan Church of Art of Jesus the Conductor.

• German composer Robert Schumann was probably suffering from schizophrenia when he began hearing "choirs of angels" and "demon voices" in his head. To quiet them he jumped into the Rhine river to take his own life, but was rescued. He was later committed to an insane asylum.

• Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg suffered from triskaidekaphobia, or the crippling fear of the number thirteen. On his 76th birthday (7+6=13) he was so fearful that he took to his bed where he shortly died. It was on Friday, July 13, 1951 at 11:47PM -- or 13 minutes to midnight.

George Gershwin, an
American millionaire in Paris.

• While in Paris, popular American composer George Gershwin aspired to write classical pieces when he sought out the advice of French composer Joseph Ravel. During their meeting Ravel asked how much money Gershwin made from his popular pieces. Upon hearing the astronomical sum the Frenchman replied, "Maybe I should be taking lessons from you". He also strongly suggested that Gershwin stick to popular music. (Ignoring the advice, Gershwin later composed An American in Paris.)

• Although famous as a team, John Lennon and Paul McCartney eventually went their separate ways when composing some of their most famous hits. The Beatles’ third album, A Hard Day’s Night, remains the only one to exclusively contain Lennon-McCartney compositions.

• Stephen Sondheim, the best and most original of living Broadway musical composers, once assessed his competition thusly: "The dumbing down of the country reflects itself on Broadway. The shows get dumber, and the public gets used to them."

More about music composers around the Web:

Composers - Internet Resources in Music - Check out a great list of top sites detailing the lives and works of the major composers of classical music.

Internet Public Library: Music 102 - An Illustrated tour of music and composers through history. Travel from the Middle Ages to modern times with biographies and sound clips. RealPlayer required.

I Write the Music - A major portal for contemporary songwriters and composers, offering breaking news and resources arranged in categories: careers, composers, software, and more.

Classical Net - Composers - The introduction makes this site sound like a small listing of composers from someone's personal music collection. In fact, it is a very comprehensive database of classical composers including their biographical data, works and other good information.


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