The joy of polls

There are a number of reasons to love Twitter, even now!

There are a number of reasons to love Twitter, even now!

I won’t go into the reasons not to love Twitter, which are all pretty obvious and usually involve politics, trolls and rampant prejudice or discrimination…but for me it remains a place where like minds can hang out and appreciate things they know and love, as well as discovering whole new worlds of culture. The latter is one of the main reasons for me continuing to use the platform. It is continually inspiring to discover and share other people’s love of music, as well as keeping up with news and developments in all musical forms.

There are a good number of polls or questionnaires to be found on Twitter, in which you can engage, spectate or ignore as you see fit. I did want to mention one in particular, from the reliable source that is Michael Irons, which got me thinking. It went like this:

I saw it late, but since reading it my mind has been occupied for several days. Having given it some thought, the ten composers I listen to most of all are probably as follows:

Sibelius, Prokofiev, Schumann, Beethoven, Ravel, Debussy, Haydn, Brahms, Shostakovich and Dvořák

Now, which ten composers’ music would I like to explore further and / or hear more in concert?

This one is trickier, but going on first instinct I would like to take five of each. There are some composers I still think are massively underappreciated, and I would like to hear more of them in concert. Off the top of my head those five are:

Hindemith, Grieg, Franck, Holst (beyond The Planets) and Joan Tower. Oh, and Liszt as a bonus.

Then five composers I would really like to explore further are:

Rameau, John Foulds, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Caroline Shaw and Andrea Tarrodi, whose music I first heard at the Proms back in 2017.

I’m going to throw the question to electronic and pop music, too – with the ten outfits I listen to most being these:

James, Super Furry Animals, Ed Sheeran (not by choice, but through the radio!), Tears For Fears, New Order, Blur, Stereolab, Depeche Mode, Björk and Erland Cooper

Five outfits I would love to hear in concert are Lady Gaga, Depeche Mode (sadly looking less likely with recent events), Def Leppard (I know!), Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell (also unlikely). The five acts I want to hear more of, on recent recommendation, are Robert Palmer, The Hollies, Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder (reappearances) and Can.

These names, of course, are just the tip of the iceberg. What I wanted to ask, is which composer(s) or pop acts would you like to read more (or less) of on Arcana? I know there is a big Beethoven project ongoing, but generally we try to adopt a complete lack of any policy on the music we cover! Please let me know, on social media (on Twitter we are here or through e-mail (

by Ben Hogwood

Writer appreciation: Daniel Heartz

written by Ben Hogwood

This is the first in an occasional series of posts where I would like to draw attention to writers on music, classical or pop, whose work I love and respect.

Yesterday Arcana’s Listening to Beethoven series reached the Second Symphony – the last work discussed by Daniel Heartz in the third volume of an epic series looking at music of the 18th century.

I wanted to draw attention to Daniel’s writing because this series of books is quite simply invaluable. When I first considered purchasing it I baulked at the price per instalment (roughly £45, even at second hand) but I can honestly say it has provided me with incredible value for money.

Heartz’s strengths are many, but his ability to talk through technical aspects of music without losing the reader in jargon is unusually strong. However even that quality is second to his knack of placing the music in historical context, which he does so throughout the books. I warmed to this quality in the third volume (Haydn, Mozart and early Beethoven 1781-1802) just as much in the second (Haydn, Mozart and the Viennese School: 1740-1780). Going back further, the equally sizable volume of Music In European Capitals: The Galant Style, 1720-1780 ensures lesser-known and appreciated composers such as Boccherini, J.C. Bach and Stamitz get the detail and respect they fully deserve.

Heartz is great at telling a story, applying the same detailed and pictorial approach to each composer or historical figure, and at every turn it is clear that a remarkable depth of research has been applied to his work. There is very little speculation needed, but where it is made he is never fanciful or exaggerated.

Very sadly Professor Heartz died in 2019. I must admit, rather selfishly, that I was hoping his exploration of Beethoven would continue beyond the year 1802, but on learning the sad news I can only say I am very grateful to him for illuminating the classical period of music history with such high quality, informed writing. His books will give pleasure and more information, no doubt, for many years to come.

A tribute to Daniel can be found here on the University of California website. The three books referred to above are published by W.W. Norton.