Author Archives: beckchris

The Art of the Now: A Contemporary Art Meta-List

All Art Has Been Contemporary, Maurizio Nannucci (1999).

As the above work of contemporary art makes clear, the term “contemporary art” is problematic.  “Contemporary” doesn’t refer to a specific method, technique, movement, style or even sensibility. It’s about time – and nothing else. Despite the term’s limitations, when I looked for lists of the best contemporary art, I found a general consensus that the term applied to a period of time beginning in the 1960s or 1970s and continuing to the present day.  Many art historians, critics and others agree that Contemporary Art is what followed Modern Art. While there is  significant disagreement about when the Modern Art period ended, just about everyone agrees that it did end some time ago.

Here’s the new meta-list:
Best Contemporary Art – A Chronological List

In looking at the works on the meta-list (and those that didn’t make the cut), I can make several general observations about contemporary art. Here are 10 takeaways:

(1) Many contemporary artists are interested in the process of making, displaying and acquiring works of art as a subject in itself.  For example, when Damien Hirst priced For the Love of God – a diamond-encrusted skull – at 50 million British pounds in 2007, his marketing strategy was part of the conceptual piece.  Other artists have eschewed or mocked the traditional notion of art museums.
(2) While some contemporary artists continue to create art in traditional forms such as painting (Gerhard Richter, Cy Twombly, Lucian Freud, David Hockney, Bridget Riley, Alice Neel, Ellsworth Kelly) and sculpture (Richard Serra, Duane Hanson, Anish Kapoor), many are drawn to other means of expression. One path leads to technology: films and videos (Francis Alÿs, William Kentridge, Matthew Barney), electronics (Jenny Holzer), multimedia. Another path leads to ephemeral or temporary art: installations (Olafur Eliasson, Yayoi Kusama, Christo), performances (Joseph Beuys, Marina Abramović, Pussy Riot), and street art (Keith Haring, Banksy).
(3) Commodification of art is a concern for many artists. Many artists produce replicas, duplicates or variations of earlier work.  (This artistic practice has a long history, of course.)  The artists may produce multiple copies of identical or similar works (see Andy Warhol’s Mao or Shepard Fairey’s HOPE poster), or they may take a theme and produce variations on it (see Donald Judd’s Stacks, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Rooms, Sigmar Polke’s Watchtower paintings, Louise Bourgeois’ Cells).  This is particularly common with photography; many photographers go from series to series during their careers (see Sally Mann’s Immediate Family; Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Lightning Fields; Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills).
(4) As with the modernists who preceded them, many contemporary artists love to play with the notion of “what is art?” and enjoy provoking the question, “Is this art?” from the viewer (see Damien Hirst’s Natural History series, or Jenny Holzer’s Truisms).  Others appear to be interested in the shock value of their art.
(5) Many contemporary artists encourage viewers to take part in, become part of or otherwise actively interact with the artwork (see Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room, Chen Zhen’s 50 Strokes to Each or Marina Abramović’s The Artist Is Present).
(6) There seems to be a dichotomy between artists who love to explain the meanings of their works – who use texts, interviews and other means to discuss the works – and artists who refuse to attribute any deeper meanings to the works they create.  In a few cases (Jeff Koons comes to mind), some critics feel that the artwork does not live up to the deep meanings ascribed to it by the artist.
(7) Bigger is better.  Many contemporary artists create works that are very large in size or scope (Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty; Jeff Koons’ Puppy, James Turrell’s Roden Crater; Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field), or that include many hundreds or thousands of elements (see Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds; Marta Minujín’s Parthenon of Books; Joseph Beuys’ 7,000 Oaks; Antony Gormley’s Field series).
(8) Art as a forum for personal expression – particularly personal autobiography – is a theme of much contemporary art (see Edward Kienholz’s The Birthday, Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead and the work of Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin).
(9) As more women and people of color have been able to overcome barriers to have their artistic voices heard, they raise difficult issues of race and gender in their work (see Judy Chicago, Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kehinde Wiley).
(10) Postmodernism is a theoretical underpinning to much contemporary art, leading many artists to engage in a dialogue with (or repudiation of) the art of the past (see Kehinde Wiley’s Napoleon Leading His Troops Across the Alps, Yasumasa Morimura’s Portrait (Fugato), Vik Muniz’s Pictures of Garbage). Postmodern ideas also underlie the practice of appropriation art, in which artists incorporate or repurpose objects or images produced by others in their work – either untouched or manipulated in some way (see Andy Warhol’s Mao silkscreens, Thomas Ruff’s jpeg series, Shepard Fairey’s HOPE poster, Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs).

For more on contemporary art, check out this list:
Best Contemporary Artists and their Work 


Too Soon? Reviewing the 21st Century

Listers can be impatient people. How impatient, you ask? Well, folks have been making “Best of the 21st Century” lists since 2012. Seriously?

But we here at Make Lists, Not War don’t judge. If you want to make a list of best 21st Century films, books or music less than two decades into the 100-year period, you go right ahead. And if you do, you know that Make Lists, Not War will collect those lists and compile them into meta-lists. And we’ll keep looking out for new lists and update the meta-lists accordingly. The current update is thanks to The Guardian newspaper, which recently published its top 100 books, movies and albums of the 21st Century so far. I’ve added those to the meta-list, which you can find by clicking on the link below:

Best of the 21st Century (So Far)

For those who need to know right now, here is a sneak peek at the items on the most lists:

Movie: There Will Be Blood

Album: Elephant – The White Stripes

Book: The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen

Modernist Architecture in Cambridge, MA: A Tour

Cambridge, Massachusetts (“Our Fair City”, to CarTalk fans) is home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and each of these institutions of higher learning is home to two major works of modernist architecture.  I took a self-guided tour today of the four buildings (actually one of them consists of multiple buildings) and thought I’d share some photos and info with you.


Harvard University Graduate Center (1949-1950)
: Walter Gropius (Germany/US, 1883-1969) with The Architects’ Collaborative (Jean Bodman-Fletcher, Norman C. Fletcher, John C. Harkness, Sarah Harkness, Robert S. McMillan, Louis A. McMillen, and Benjamin Thompson)
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Originally built as the university’s graduate center, the Gropius Complex (as it is sometimes called) consists of eight buildings – seven dormitories and a dining hall/student center – arranged around larger and smaller four-sided courtyards. The dormitories are situated so that no one faces another. The dormitories are now used to house Harvard Law School students. The dining hall (Harkness Commons) can seat up to 1,000 students. All the buildings are four stories or fewer and are constructed of concrete; the exterior walls are made of buff-colored brick or limestone. According to, “The Harvard Graduate Center is the first modern building on the campus, it was also the first endorsement of the modern style by a major university and was seen in the national and architectural presses as a turning point in the acceptance of the aesthetic in the United States.”

Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (1961-1963)
ArchitectLe Corbusier (Switzerland/France, 1887-1965) with Guillermo Jullian de la Fuente. On-site coordinator: Josep Lluís Sert.
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Le Corbusier was a driving force in modern architecture and the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard is the only building in the United States that he designed. Le Corbusier was famous for his “five points of architecture”: (1) The building is raised up on reinforced concrete pylons, which allows for free circulation on the ground level, and eliminates dark and damp parts of the house. (2) The sloping roof is replaced by a flat roof terrace, which can be used as a garden, for promenades, sports or a swimming pool. (3) Load-bearing walls are replaced by a steel or reinforced concrete columns, so the interior can be freely designed, and interior walls can put anywhere, or left out entirely. The structure of the building is not visible from the outside. (4) Since the walls do not support the house, ribbon windows can run the entire length of the house, so all rooms can get equal light. (5) Since the building is supported by columns in the interior, the façade can be much lighter and more open, or made entirely of glass. There is no need for lintels or other structure around the windows. The building now houses Harvard’s Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, and is the venue for screenings by the Harvard Film Archive. The building was completed in 1963, just two years before Le Corbusier’s death; he was too ill to attend the opening ceremonies and never saw the completed building.


Baker House (1947-1948)
: Alvar Aalto (Finland, 1898-1976)
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Finnish architect Alvar Aalto once described his design for Baker House – a six-story MIT dormitory on Memorial Drive in Cambridge – as a mix between a ski lodge and a ship. An aerial view of the building shows its wave shape. The website docomomo-us opined: “Baker House is the first major building to synthesize European Modernism with the regional material vernacular of New England. It is also a pivotal building in architect Alvar Aalto’s career and the most significant of his works in North America.”

Stata Center (2004)
Architect: Frank Gehry (Canada/US, 1929- )
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The Stata Center houses classrooms and auditoriums used by MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department, the Linquistics Department and the Philosophy Department, as well as other departments and on-campus groups. It is also home to the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems. Noam Chomsky, Richard Stallman and Tim Berners-Lee are among the academic A-listers with offices there.  In a 2004 review of the building, Boston Globe columnist Robert Campbell wrote: “the Stata is always going to look unfinished. It also looks as if it’s about to collapse. Columns tilt at scary angles. Walls teeter, swerve, and collide in random curves and angles. Materials change wherever you look: brick, mirror-surface steel, brushed aluminum, brightly colored paint, corrugated metal. Everything looks improvised, as if thrown up at the last moment. That’s the point. The Stata’s appearance is a metaphor for the freedom, daring, and creativity of the research that’s supposed to occur inside it.”

I’ll conclude with a Stata Center self-portrait:
stata center self portrait


See It To Believe It: The Updated Art Lists

I found a bunch of new lists of best works of visual art and decided to add them to the meta-list.  Now I have over 30 source lists gathered from books and various websites. This particular meta-list is in two versions – one version (in two parts) is organized by rank and contains every work of art on four or more of the original source lists.  To look at this list, click on the links below:
Best Works of Art of All Time – Ranked, Part 1 (works of art on 6 or more lists)
Best Works of Art of All Time – Ranked, Part 2 (works on 4 or 5 lists)

The second (and much larger) version of the meta-list is organized chronologically and includes every work of art on at least two of the original 30+ source lists.  This meta-list (which I call Art History 101) is in seven parts:
Part IA (Prehistoric Era – 399 CE)
Part IB (400-1399 CE)
Part IIA (1400-1499)
Part IIB (1500-1599)
Part III (1600-1799)
Part IV (1800-1899)
Part V (1900-Present)

Please note that the artworks on this particular meta-list are primarily paintings and sculptures, with a few pieces of decorative art.  For other forms of visual art – including architecture, photography, film, and television – I have compiled separate meta-lists.

To keep with the list theme, I’ve made some lists about the updated visual arts lists, which follow below. First, the updated meta-list has led to changes in the rankings throughout the list and the top 10 has been rearranged considerably:

The New Top 10: Artworks on the Most Lists
1. Leonardo da Vinci: Mona Lisa (1503-1505)
2. Michelangelo: Frescoes, Sistine Chapel Ceiling (1508-1512)
3. Diego VelázquezLas Meninas (1656)
4. Pablo Picasso: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907)
5. Pablo Picasso: Guernica (1937)
6. Michelangelo: David (1501-1504)
7. Vincent Van Gogh: The Starry Night (1889)
8. Sandro Botticelli: The Birth of Venus (1486)
9. Francisco Goya: The Third of May, 1808 (1814)
10. Edward Munch: The Scream (1893)

There are 25 new works of art on the meta-list as the result of this latest update, and six new artists:

The New Kids on the Block, Part 1: The Artworks

  1. Unknown Artists: Great Sphinx of Giza (Egypt, c. 2530 BCE)
  2. Unknown Artist: Lyre with Bull’s Head (Mesopotamia/Iraq, c. 2550-2450)
  3. Gislebertus: Relief Sculptures, Saint-Lazare Cathedral (France, 10th-11th Century)
  4. Lorenzo Ghiberti: The Baptism of Christ (Italy, c. 1423-1427)
  5. Albrecht Altdorfer: George and the Dragon (Germany, 1510)
  6. Giorgione and Titian: Sleeping Venus (Italy, 1510) 
  7. Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Harvesters (The Netherlands, 1565)
  8. Nicolas Poussin: Et in Arcadia ego (France, c. 1638-1640)
  9. Ogata Korin: Flowering Irises (Japan, c. 1710)
  10. Joshua Reynolds: Self-Portrait (Great Britain, c. 1748)
  11. Jacques-Louis DavidThe Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons (France, 1789)
  12. Antonio Canova: Perseus Triumphant (Italy, 1804-1806)
  13. John Constable: Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (UK, 1831)
  14. Édouard ManetThe Execution of Emperor Maximilian (France, 1867)
  15. Vincent van Gogh: Vincent’s Chair (The Netherlands/France, 1888)
  16. Vincent Van Gogh: Starry Night over the Rhône (The Netherlands/France, 1888) 
  17. Paul Gauguin: Te Arii Vahine (The King’s Wife) (France/French Polynesia, 1896)
  18. Paul Cézanne: Still Life with Apples and Oranges (France, c. 1895-1900)
  19. Henri Matisse: The Conversation (France, 1909)
  20. Umberto Boccioni: The City Rises (Italy, 1910)
  21. Rene Magritte: Le Faux Joan Miróir (The False Mirror) (Belgium, 1928)
  22. Diego Rivera: Man, Controller of the Universe (Mexico, 1934)
  23. Jackson Pollock: Number 5, 1948 (US, 1948)
  24. Damien HirstThe Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (UK, 1991)
  25. Louise Bourgeois: Maman (France/US, 1999)

New Kids on the Block, Part 2: New Artists
1. Gislebertus (France, 12th Century)
2. Ogata Korin (Japan, 1658-1716)
3. Joshua Reynolds (Great Britain, 1723-1792)
4. Diego Rivera (Mexico, 1886-1957)
5. Louise Bourgeois (France, 1911-2010)
6. Damien Hirst (UK: England, 1965- )

And, finally, here is a list of the artists with the largest number of artworks on the entire meta-list:

12 Works of Art on the Meta-List
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (The Netherlands, c. 1525/1530-1569)
Rembrandt (The Netherlands, 1606-1669)

11 Works
Titian (Italy, 1488-1576)

10 Works 
Francisco Goya (Spain, 1746-1828)

9 Works      
Vincent Van Gogh (The Netherlands, 1853-1890)

8 Works
Leonardo da Vinci (Italy, 1452-1519)
Michelangelo (Italy, 1475-1564)

7 Works
Piero della Francesca (Italy, 1416-1492)
Albrecht Dürer (Germany, 1471-1528)
Raphael (Italy, 1483-1520)
El Greco (Greece, 1541-1614)
Caravaggio (Italy, 1571-1610)
Peter Paul Rubens (Flanders/Belgium, 1577-1640)
Claude Monet (France, 1840-1926)

6 Works 
Andrea Mantegna (Italy, 1431-1506)
Diego Velázquez (Spain, 1599-1660)
J.M.W. Turner (UK, 1775-1851)
Édouard Manet (France, 1832-1883)
Pablo Picasso (Spain, 1881-1973)
Henri Matisse (France, 1869-1954)
Jackson Pollock (US, 1912-1956)

Story of My Life: Introducing the Best Memoirs Lists

The New York Times has just published a list of the best 50 memoirs of the past 50 years, and this inspired me to make a meta-list of the best memoirs and autobiographies of all time.  I started with the Times list, then I found about a dozen additional lists of best memoirs/autobiographies on the Internet.  I combined all the lists into a single meta-list.  You can look at the list in rank order (that is, with the books on the most lists at the top) or chronological order.

Here are the lists:
Best Memoirs and Autobiographies of All Time – Ranked
Best Memoirs and Autobiographies of All Time – Chronological

What’s the difference between an autobiography and a memoir?  Here’s how I understand it: an autobiography usually tells the story of a significant portion of the author’s life.  A memoir can tell the story of one incident, a series of events, or a period in a person’s life.  These categories overlap quite a bit.  I think every autobiography is a memoir, but not every memoir is an autobiography.

As you can see from the meta-list, many of the memoirs are quite recent and there are very few from before the 20th Century.  I was particularly disappointed to see that Augustine’s Confessions (c. 400 CE) and Rousseau’s Confessions (1782, 1789) didn’t make the list.  I would also have loved to have seen more books from non-English speaking countries.  (There are a few, but they are mostly older: Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa, and Elie Weisel’s Night, for example.)

Cheer Up – The Blues Lists Are Here!

I’ve updated my lists of best blues albums – adding a number of new lists, revising the formatting and creating two separate lists: one organized by rank (that is, with the albums on the most lists at the top) and one in chronological order.

Here are the updated lists:
Best Blues Albums of All Time – Ranked
Best Blues Albums of All Time – Chronological

The challenge of making a list of best blues albums is that so many of the albums are compilations and so many of the compilations have duplicate material.  As an example, take Sonny Boy Williamson (II), who has five albums on the list:
1. King Biscuit Time (rec. 1951-1965) (on 3 lists)
2. Down and Out Blues (rec. 1955-1958) (on 3 lists)
3. His Best (Chess, rec. 1955-1964) (on 3 lists)
4. The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson (rec. 1955-1963) (on 2 lists)
5. The Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues (rec. 1957, 1960-1964) (on 3 lists)
I don’t know exactly, but my guess is that there are at least some of his tracks that are on all five albums, and probably a lot more that are on three or four.  The same problem is true for so many other blues artists.  To complicate matters, not all these compilations are of the same quality.  This creates a problem for the lister, and for the person trying to use the list to make choices about what .  My recommendation is that if you are looking for a first album to buy from a blue artist, start with my list, but in trying to decide among the compilations here take the next step of googling “what is the best compilation for [Artist’s Name]” and see what advice you get.

The Best Buildings of I.M. Pei

Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei died this month at the age of 102.  Here are his best designs (as determined by a web survey of lists of “best I.M. Pei buildings”), in chronological order, with multiple photos for each.

Mesa Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Boulder, Colorado (1961-1967)
NCAR Mesa Laboratory (DI00221)
pei mesa lab 6pei mesa lab 5pei mesa lab 4

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University
Ithaca, New York (1973)
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pei cornell 2pei cornell 3

East Building, National Gallery of Art 
Washington, D.C. (1974-1978)
pei dc 1pei dc 4pei dc 3pei dc 2

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Boston, Massachusetts (1979)
pei kennedy 5pei kennedy 1pei kennedy 4pei kennedy 6pei kennedy 2

Pyramide du Louvre
Paris, France (1989)
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Bank of China
Hong Kong, China (1982-1990)
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Miho Museum
Shiga, Japan (1997)
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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Cleveland, Ohio (1998)
pei rock 5pei rock20140810. The rear view of the great I.M Pei's Rock and Roll Halpei rock 4

Museum of Islamic Art
Doha, Qatar (2008)
pei islam 6Museum of Islamic Art Dohapei islamMuseum of Islamic Art Dohapei islam 3


Sound Advice: The Updated Albums Lists

I’ve revised and updated my best albums meta-lists.  This is the combined wisdom of over 34 different listers – most of the lists were created by music critics, music magazines, newspapers and radio stations. The meta-lists I’ve created include every album on at least three of the original source lists.  Here they are:

Best Albums of All Time – Ranked
Best Albums of All Time – Chronological
Best Albums of All Time- By Artist

While updating the list, I decided to create some lists about the meta-lists:

Most Prolific: Artists with the Most Albums on the Meta-List
1. Bob Dylan (10 albums)
2. The Beatles (9 albums)
3. The Rolling Stones (8 albums)
4. Led Zeppelin (7 albums)
5. Neil Young (6 albums)
6. David Bowie (6 albums)
7. The Who (5 albums)
8. Jimi Hendrix (5 albums)
9. Bruce Springsteen (5 albums)
10. U2 (5 albums)
11. R.E.M. (5 albums)

 One and Done: Highest Ranked Albums by Artists with Only One Album on the Meta-List
Love – Forever Changes (1967)
Carole King – Tapestry (1971)
Patti Smith – Horses (1975)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)
Television – Marquee Moon (1977)
Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols (1977)
Paul Simon – Graceland (1986)
Guns n’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction (1987)
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (1989)
Pearl Jam – Ten (1991)
Jeff Buckley – Grace (1994)

Just didn’t make it: Albums on two lists by artists with no albums on at least three lists
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – Moanin’ (1959)
Bobby “Blue” Bland – Two Steps from the Blues (rec. 1956-1960, rel. 1961)
Essra Mohawk – Primordial Lovers (1970)
Mott the Hoople – All the Young Dudes (1972)
Bob Seger – Night Moves (1976)
Young Marble Giants – Colossal Youth (1980)
Genesis – Abacab (1981)
Huey Lewis & the News – Sports (1983)
L.L. Cool J – Radio (1985)
Pet Shop Boys – Discography (rec. 1985-1991, rel. 1991)
INXS – Kick (1987)
Don Henley – The End of the Innocence (1989)
Bikini Kill – Revolution Girl Style Now! (1991)
The Black Crowes – The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion (1992)
Jane Siberry – When I Was a Boy (1993)
Tool – Undertow (1993)
Dave Matthew Band – Under the Table and Dreaming (1994)
Mary J. Blige – My Life (1994)
No Doubt – Tragic Kingdom (1995)
Paul Weller – Stanley Road (1995)
Tool – Aenima (1996)
Super Furry Animals – Radiator (1997)
Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane over the Sea (1998)
Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R (2000)
Andrew W.K. – I Get Wet (2001)
Blink-182 – Blink-182 (2003)
Adele – 21 (2011)

Hooked on Classics: The New and Improved Classical Music Lists

I’ve updated my meta-lists of best classical music by adding several more lists to the mix and expanding the main page to include all works on three or more of the original source lists.  I’ve also added a new page with the list organized by the type of composition. Click on the links below to go directly to the classical music meta-lists:

The Best Classical Music of All Time: Ranked
The Best Classical Music of All Time: Chronological
The Best Classical Music of All Time: By Composer
The Best Classical Music of All Time: By Type of Composition

I was originally going to introduce the new and updated lists with a serious post about the definition of classical music, going into how it really should be referred to as Western art music, because “classical” technically only refers to music (much of it in sonata form) produced during the period of 1750-1828 or so (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, et al.).  But I decided against that.  Instead I decided to look at my listening history (which since 2008 or so has been tracked by the website – they keep track of every time I listen to a song on the computer, iPod or iPhone) and find the 25 pieces of classical music I have listened to most frequently (either the entire piece or portions of it).  These don’t necessarily represent my preferences (although I like all the music here), since I usually have my playlist on “shuffle” mode, so the selection is somewhat random.  I am intrigued by the number of contemporary composers and the absence of big names like Mozart and Beethoven (even though I’ve got lots of their work in my collection).  Here’s the list of the 25 pieces of classical music I’ve listened to most frequently since 2008, arranged in chronological order by date of composition:

  1. Anonymous: Chevalier, mult estes guariz (12th Century)
  2. Anonymous: La quinte estampie real (13th Century)
  3. Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto for 2 Cellos in G minor (c. 1720)
  4. George Frideric Handel: Concerti Grossi, Op. 3 (1734)
  5. George Frideric Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks (1749)
  6. Johann Sebastian Bach: Mass in B minor (1749)
  7. Christoph Willibald Gluck (arr. by Hector Berlioz): Orphée et Eurydice (1762, Berlioz version, 1859)
  8. Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (1859)
  9. Johannes Brahms: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77 (1878)
  10. Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90 (1883)
  11. Claude Debussy: Mazurka (1890)
  12. Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a (1892)
  13. Claude Debussy: Children’s Corner (1908)
  14. Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19 (1917)
  15. Dmitri Shostakovich: Adagio (Elegy) for String Quartet (1931)
  16. Charles Ives: They Are There! (1942)
  17. John Cage: Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (1948)
  18. Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 4 in D major (1949)
  19. Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story (1957)
  20. Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 7 in F# minor, Op. 108 (1960)
  21. Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 15 in Eb major, Op. 144 (1974)
  22. Iannis Xenaxis: Tetras for String Quartet (1983)
  23. Christopher Rouse: Kabir Padavali (1998)
  24. Arvo Pärt: Lamentate (2002)
  25. Hans Abrahamsen: Let me tell you (2013)

2018: The Year in Review in Books, Music and Movies

Finally, some good news: the annual meta-lists of best books, music, and movies have arrived!  As always, I need to remind everyone that these are not my personal opinions – they are compilations of multiple lists published in newspapers, magazines and websites. I have not read all these books, listened to all this music or seen all these movies.

Here they are:

Best Books of 2018
Best Music of 2018
Best Films of 2018

Some random observations:

Every year, the “best of the year” lists seem to come earlier and earlier, just like Christmas music in the stores.  I’m guessing this has to do with the retailers’ desire to use these lists to inspire holiday gift givers to make purchases (of books and music) and get folks out to see the movies on the lists.  I just hope that movies, books and albums released in late December get considered for next year’s lists.

Another thing that is changing (i.e., expanding) is the length of nonfiction book subtitles (the stuff after the colon).  The publishing industry needs to take a chill pill on this – pretty soon, the entire first chapter is going to be on the cover of the book.  Maybe the worst offender this year is: BOOM TOWN: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its
Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming
a World-Class Metropolis.  

The Wikipedia genre descriptions for musical acts (which I include in the Best Music lists) make me laugh.  Like one band that is described as both “punk” and “post-punk” – how is that logically possible?  (And how is “post-punk” different from “post-punk revival”? Is post-punk already dead such that someone had to revive it? And if so, why are some bands still referred to as “post-punk”?)  Also, the proliferation of “cores.” I assume that “hardcore” was the first one, but now there are “grindcore”, “slowcore” and “sadcore” (I’m sure I’m missing some). Not to mention “shoegaze.”