Life After 40

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The response to Q2 and NPR Music’s crowdsourced 100 Composers Under 40 project has been amazing and endlessly fascinating. As an under-40 myself, I’m constantly amazed by both the quality and quantity of new works churned out by my (far more talented) peers.

Of course, good music is good music, regardless of who churned it out. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who admires Wagner for his personality and politics, but if the sold-out houses at the Metropolitan Opera this month are any indication, there are still plenty of folks who go bonkers for his music. Likewise, a work like Steve Reich’s rocking Double Sextet bears no indication that the composer was well into his '70s when he wrote it.

So this week we’re having some fun with our music-makers who, despite checking off a different box on the census, are ageless. Some just skirted the line (Matthias Pintscher, anyone?), others are courting triple-digits (hello, Elliott Carter!). Some of the works were written long before the mid-life point and others still bear wet ink.

And the funny thing is, many of the pieces written at the beginning of the last century have the same freshness and vibrancy of pieces written in the last couple of years. I dare you to try and tell what was written when -- and at what age -- in a blind listen. While you’re at it, if we were to make a list of Composers Over 40, who would be on your list?