renown

This week, on ABC Classic, they have been featuring the works of Luigi Boccherini because it’s his birthday on Saturday. When I heard this, I thought, “Imagine being dead for over 200 years, and people are still celebrating your birthday…”

Well, of course, you wouldn’t know that people are celebrating your birthday if you’re dead, but you might have descendants, and I wonder how they would feel. And what if they have no interest in whatever you’re famous for?

Back in 2020, ABC Classic spent the whole year celebrating the life of Ludwig van Beethoven because it was his (theoretical) 250th birthday — 250 years since he was born. To be fair, he was a particularly prolific composer, so it’s kind of understandable that they wanted to stretch the celebrations over a whole year so that they could still play other music in between all the Beethoven.

Anyway, as I drove home from work, listening to the radio presenter talk about how it’s Boccherini’s birthday, I started thinking about how someone gets to this level of renown — how do you get so famous that people will continue to celebrate your birthday for generations to come? Is this what it really means to be a “legend”, or how you know this or that is a “classic”?

But I guess no one really thinks that far into the future when they’re writing an opera or composing a symphony or whatever. More likely they’re thinking of their present audience. Resonate with your present audience first, and there’s a chance your work could resonate through the years ahead.

And then I started thinking about us common folk, who don’t aspire to be legends. A similar principle still applies, doesn’t it? Do good by the people around you (your audience of sorts), and be well-received and well-remembered by them, even if only fleetingly. Is it ok to try less or do less just because your audience is smaller or their memories are more fickle?