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tinyfaery's avatar

What defines a "musical genius"?

Asked by tinyfaery (42871points) August 21st, 2008

My wife and I talk about this often. What makes a person a musical genius? Is it the ability to play an instrument(s) superbly? Is it creating music that is entirely new?

As a supplement question, who would you describe as a musical genius, given your definition?

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17 Answers

loser's avatar

Google: Mozart

dalepetrie's avatar

The best definition I can arrive at is “someone who masters the intricacies of songwriting enough as so to impact/expand the very definition of an entire genre of music or even music as a whole.” In other words, The Beatles were musical geniuses because with each album, they showed us what was possible that no one had thought of before. I think someone’s ability to play instruments well, or to sing or to craft catchy hooks…these things are skills…it’s when you can do something that can’t be taught, something that you have to create out of whole cloth…that is my definition of a musical genius. Versatility is often key in this area.

trumi's avatar

When your mind processes and creates music the same way a math genius does numbers. Or something like that….

tinyfaery's avatar

So anyone who makes up something new, is a musical genius? Is that even possible anymore?Isn’t new music just an amalgam of what has come before? Maybe Radiohead, or other electronic music can be defined as truly new, but certainly the idea of any new popular music geniuses is moot. Is, say, Dave Matthews a musical genius? He creates music that defies categories? Or the members of Rage Against the Machine?

wilhel1812's avatar

modern people, ABBA, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, Queen. It’s something that many percent of the people really love over a big period of time. Pink Floyd is my best example, selling 10 000 copies each day of The Dark Side Of The Moony, over 30 years after it’s release. It defines bot art and a group of musical geniuses

trumi's avatar

I think that there are musical geniuses that have horrible music, and idiots with microphones that make me swoon. It is all relevant.

Randy's avatar

I’d say a musical genius is someone who thinks of life in terms of music.

marinelife's avatar

Someone that creates music either by composing or playing that transcends its place and time and lives on.


dalepetrie's avatar


your point is why I pointed out that versatility is one key, and why I specified creating something new within a genre. New within a genre is often not new but an amalgamation of various things that have been perhaps tried sporadically here and there, but never fully realized and flushed out. I don’t think commercial success is necessarily a key component here, again I think it has to qualify as a “gift” and not a “skill”, something you possess inherently, and can’t just be taught.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m curious as to why the answer matters. Is this a bar bet? Or just a way to pass the time?

dalepetrie's avatar

daloon, I just imagine it’s curiousity and the desire to seek out another’s perspective.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s just that I can’t imagine why it’s a concern. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be a concern. I just am really curious. I would never, in a million years, think of this question.

Genius is such a value-laden term, and it seems to me to be undefinable, really. So are we asking is what is our opinion about who the best musicians are? Or are we trying to figure out if there are any current musical geniuses? I don’t really understand. I’m sure what I’m asking is a pretty dumb question, but I can’t learn if I don’t ask. There’s a lot I don’t understand about my fellow humans. That’s why I ask.

dalepetrie's avatar

That’s why I say it’s a “curiousity” and not a “concern”, just like you’re curious why anyone would ask the question, I think the asker is curious how people would answer it, probably because it is such a unique question.

wundayatta's avatar

Ok then. The definition of musical genius is an individual whom a lot of other people consider a musical genius. It is unlikely that there is any blanket statement can be made to explain why they choose to designate any particular person with this label.

tinyfaery's avatar

@daloon If you don’t like the question then do not answer it. What kind of attention are you seeking?

wundayatta's avatar

@tinyfaery: please don’t mistake a request for a clarification as not liking the question. I don’t answer questions I don’t like.

Oh, and admiration would be perfect. Thanks for asking.

In my book, Miles Davis was a musical genius.

bridold's avatar

Someone who thinks only in terms of tones. They may not be able to express themselves in words, because every emotion churns in their minds as music. (For a literary genius – it is words, For an artist – it is visible art).
They need to write or record music that lasts beyond a few year’s fad and stands the test of time.
The music they create must be beautiful – not necessarily pleasant sounding, but beautiful in sound or construction or meaning ….

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