A composer is an artist who writes music to be played or performed by musicians. A classical composer might work by writing out musical notation and trying things out on the piano.

If you're a composer, you most likely write classical, jazz, music for film, or another type of primarily instrumental music, without lyrics. A writer of popular or rock music is more likely to be called a "songwriter." A composer might compose symphonies as a profession, or write short tunes as a hobby. In Old French, composer means "put together, arrange, or write," from com-, "with," and poser, "to place."

Definitions of composer

n someone who composes music as a profession

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Saint Ambrose
(Roman Catholic Church) Roman priest who became bishop of Milan; the first Church Father born and raised in the Christian faith; composer of hymns; imposed orthodoxy on the early Christian church and built up its secular power; a saint and Doctor of the Church (340?-397)
Johann Sebastian Bach
German baroque organist and contrapuntist; composed mostly keyboard music; one of the greatest creators of western music (1685-1750)
Samuel Barber
United States composer (1910-1981)
Bela Bartok
Hungarian composer and pianist who collected Hungarian folk music; in 1940 he moved to the United States (1881-1945)
Ludwig van Beethoven
German composer of instrumental music (especially symphonic and chamber music); continued to compose after he lost his hearing (1770-1827)
Vincenzo Bellini
Italian composer of operas (1801-1835)
Alban Berg
Austrian composer in Schoenberg's twelve-tone music system (1885-1935)
Louis-Hector Berlioz
French composer of romantic works (1803-1869)
Leonard Bernstein
United States conductor and composer (1918-1990)
Georges Bizet
French composer best known for his operas (1838-1875)
Marc Blitzstein
United States pianist and composer of operas and musical plays (1905-1964)
Ernest Bloch
United States composer (born in Switzerland) who composed symphonies and chamber music and choral music and a piano sonata and an opera (1880-1959)
Aleksandr Porfirevich Borodin
Russian composer (1833-1887)
Pierre Boulez
French composer of serial music (born in 1925)
Johannes Brahms
German composer who developed the romantic style of both lyrical and classical music (1833-1897)
Lord Britten of Aldeburgh
major English composer of the 20th century; noted for his operas (1913-1976)
Max Bruch
German composer (1838-1920)
Anton Bruckner
Austrian organist and composer of romantic music (1824-1896)
William Byrd
English organist and composer of church music; master of 16th century polyphony; was granted a monopoly in music printing with Thomas Tallis (1543-1623)
John Milton Cage Jr.
United States composer of avant-garde music (1912-1992)
Carlos Chavez
Mexican composer of nationalistic works using themes from Indian folk music (1899-1978)
Maria Luigi Carlo Zenobio Cherubini
Italian composer of church music and operas (1760-1842)
Frederic Francois Chopin
French composer (born in Poland) and pianist of the romantic school (1810-1849)
Aaron Copland
United States composer who developed a distinctly American music (1900-1990)
Arcangelo Corelli
Italian violinist and composer of violin concertos (1653-1713)
Francois Couperin
French composer of music for organ and a member of a family of distinguished organists (1668-1733)
Sir Noel Pierce Coward
English dramatist and actor and composer noted for his witty and sophisticated comedies (1899-1973)
Karl Czerny
Austrian virtuoso pianist and composer of many works for the piano; studied with Beethoven and was a teacher of Liszt (1791-1857)
Claude Achille Debussy
French composer who is said to have created Impressionism in music (1862-1918)
Clement Philibert Leo Delibes
French composer of operas (1836-1891)
Frederick Delius
English composer of orchestral works (1862-1934)
Gaetano Donizetti
Italian composer of operas (1797-1848)
John Dowland
English lutenist and composer of songs for the lute (1563-1626)
Paul Dukas
French composer (1865-1935)
Antonin Dvorak
Czech composer who combined folk elements with traditional forms (1841-1904)
Sir Edward William Elgar
British composer of choral and orchestral works including two symphonies as well as songs and chamber music and music for brass band (1857-1934)
Georges Enesco
Romanian violinist and composer (1881-1955)
Manuel de Falla
Spanish composer and pianist (1876-1946)
Cesar Franck
French composer and teacher who influenced a generation of composers (1822-1890)
George Gershwin
United States composer who incorporated jazz into classical forms and composed scores for musical comedies (1898-1937)
Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka
Russian composer (1804-1857)
Christoph Willibald von Gluck
German composer of more than 100 operas (1714-1787)
Charles Francois Gounod
French composer best remembered for his operas (1818-1893)
George Percy Aldridge Grainger
United States composer (born in Australia) who lived in London and collected English folk songs (1882-1961)
Edvard Hagerup Grieg
Norwegian composer whose work was often inspired by Norwegian folk music (1843-1907)
Jacques Francois Fromental Elie Halevy
French operatic composer (1799-1862)
George Frederick Handel
a prolific British baroque composer (born in Germany) remembered best for his oratorio Messiah (1685-1759)
William Christopher Handy
United States blues musician who transcribed and published traditional blues music (1873-1958)
Franz Joseph Haydn
prolific Austrian composer who influenced the classical form of the symphony (1732-1809)
Paul Hindemith
German neoclassical composer and conductor who believed that music should have a social purpose (1895-1963)
Arthur Honegger
Swiss composer (born in France) who was the founding member of a group in Paris that included Erik Satie and Darius Milhaud and Francis Poulenc and Jean Cocteau (1892-1955)
Engelbert Humperdinck
German composer of six operas and other incidental music (1854-1921)
Jacques Francois Antoine Ibert
French composer (1890-1962)
Charles Edward Ives
United States composer noted for his innovative use of polytonality (1874-1954)
Joseph Joachim
Hungarian violinist and composer (1831-1907)
Scott Joplin
United States composer who was the first creator of ragtime to write down his compositions (1868-1917)
Aram Kachaturian
Armenian composer who incorporated oriental folk music (1903-1978)
Jerome David Kern
United States composer of musical comedies (1885-1945)
Aram Ilich Khachaturian
Russian composer (born in Armenia) whose works are romantic and reflect his interest in folk music (1903-1978)
Leonard Constant Lambert
English composer and conductor (1905-1951)
Orlando di Lasso
Belgian composer (1532-1594)
Huddie Leadbetter
United States folk singer and composer (1885-1949)
Franz Lehar
Hungarian composer of light operas (1870-1948)
Franz Liszt
Hungarian composer and piano virtuoso (1811-1886)
Baron Lloyd Webber of Sydmonton
English composer of many successful musicals (some in collaboration with Sir Tim Rice) (born in 1948)
Frederick Loewe
United States composer (born in Austria) who collaborated with Lerner on several musicals (1901-1987)
Jean Baptiste Lully
French composer (born in Italy) who was the court composer to Louis XIV and founded the national French opera (1632-1687)
Edward MacDowell
United States composer best remembered as a composer of works for the piano (1860-1908)
Gustav Mahler
Austrian composer and conductor (1860-1911)
Jules Emile Frederic Massenet
French composer best remembered for his pop operas (1842-1912)
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
German musician and romantic composer of orchestral and choral works (1809-1847)
Gian Carlo Menotti
United States composer (born in Italy) of operas (born in 1911)
Jakob Liebmann Beer
German composer of operas in a style that influenced Richard Wagner (1791-1864)
Darius Milhaud
French composer of works that combine jazz and polytonality and Brazilian music (1892-1974)
Claudio Monteverdi
Italian composer (1567-1643)
Douglas Moore
United States composer of works noted for their use of the American vernacular (1893-1969)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
prolific Austrian composer and child prodigy; master of the classical style in all its forms of his time (1756-1791)
Modest Petrovich Moussorgsky
Russian composer of operas and orchestral works (1839-1881)
Carl August Nielsen
Danish composer (1865-1931)
Jacques Offenbach
French composer of many operettas and an opera (1819-1880)
Roy Orbison
United States composer and rockabilly tenor popular in the 1950s (1936-1988)
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Italian composer (1526-1594)
Walter Piston
United States neoclassical composer (1894-1976)
Cole Albert Porter
United States composer and lyricist of musical comedies (1891-1946)
Francis Poulenc
French pianist and composer (1899-1963)
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev
Russian composer of ballets and symphonies and operas (1891-1953)
Giacomo Puccini
Italian operatic composer noted for the dramatic realism of his operas (1858-1924)
Henry Purcell
English organist at Westminster Abbey and composer of many theatrical pieces (1659-1695)
Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff
composer and piano virtuoso born in Russia (1873-1943)
Jean-Philippe Rameau
French composer of operas whose writings laid the foundation for the modern theory of harmony (1683-1764)
Maurice Ravel
French composer and exponent of Impressionism (1875-1937)
Stephen Michael Reich
United States composer (born in 1936)
Ottorino Respighi
Italian composer remembered for his symphonic poems (1879-1936)
Nikolai Andreyevich Rimski-Korsakov
Russian composer of operas and orchestral works; often used themes from folk music (1844-1908)
Richard Rodgers
United States composer of musical comedies (especially in collaboration with Oscar Hammerstein II and with Lorenz Hart) (1902-1979)
Sigmund Romberg
United States composer (born in Hungary) who composed operettas (1887-1951)
Giloacchino Antonio Rossini
Italian composer remembered for his operas (1792-1868)
Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein
Russian composer and pianist (1829-1894)
Charles Camille Saint-Saens
French pianist and composer (1835-1921)
Erik Alfred Leslie Satie
French composer noted for his experimentalism and rejection of Romanticism (1866-1925)
Artur Schnabel
United States composer (born in Austria) and pianist noted for his interpretations of the works of Mozart and Beethoven and Schubert (1882-1951)
Arnold Schoenberg
United States composer and musical theorist (born in Austria) who developed atonal composition (1874-1951)
Franz Seraph Peter Schubert
Austrian composer known for his compositions for voice and piano (1797-1828)
Robert Alexander Schumann
German romantic composer known for piano music and songs (1810-1856)
Clara Josephine Schumann
German pianist and composer of piano music; renowned for her interpretation of music, especially the music of her husband Robert Schumann (1819-1896)
Aleksandr Nikolayevich Scriabin
Russian composer of orchestral and piano music (1872-1915)
Andres Segovia
Spanish guitarist who made classical guitar a concert instrument (1893-1987)
Roger Huntington Sessions
United States composer who promoted 20th century music (1896-1985)
Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich
Russian composer best known for his fifteen symphonies (1906-1975)
Johan Julius Christian Sibelius
Finnish composer (1865-1957)
Bedrich Smetana
Czech composer (1824-1884)
Stephen Sondheim
United States composer of musicals (born in 1930)
John Philip Sousa
a United States bandmaster and composer of military marches (1854-1932)
Strauss the Elder
Austrian composer of waltzes (1804-1849)
Strauss the Younger
Austrian composer and son of Strauss the Elder; composed many famous waltzes and became known as the `waltz king' (1825-1899)
Richard Strauss
German composer of many operas; collaborated with librettist Hugo von Hoffmannsthal to produce several operas (1864-1949)
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky
composer who was born in Russia but lived in the United States after 1939 (1882-1971)
Arthur Seymour Sullivan
English composer of operettas who collaborated with the librettist William Gilbert (1842-1900)
Thomas Tallis
English organist and composer of church and secular music; was granted a monopoly in music printing with William Byrd (1505-1585)
Joseph Deems Taylor
United States composer and music critic (1885-1966)
Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky
important Russian composer whose works are noted for their expressive melodies (1840-1893)
Georg Philipp Telemann
German baroque composer (1681-1767)
Virgil Garnett Thomson
United States composer who collaborated with Gertrude Stein (1896-1989)
Edgar Varese
United States composer (born in France) whose music combines dissonance with complex rhythms and the use of electronic techniques (1883-1965)
Ralph Vaughan Williams
English composer influenced by folk tunes and music of the Tudor period (1872-1958)
Guiseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi
Italian operatic composer (1813-1901)
Heitor Villa-Lobos
Brazilian composer (1887-1959)
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi
Italian baroque composer and violinist (1675-1741)
Wilhelm Richard Wagner
German composer of operas and inventor of the musical drama in which drama and spectacle and music are fused (1813-1883)
Sir William Turner Walton
English composer (1902-1983)
Baron Karl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber
German conductor and composer of romantic operas (1786-1826)
Kurt Weill
German composer; collaborated with Bertolt Brecht (1900-1950)
Hugo Wolf
Austrian composer (1860-1903)
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a composer who specializes in counterpoint
a composer of sacred songs
ballad maker, songster, songwriter
a composer of words or music for popular songs
a composer of symphonies
Type of:
artist who composes or conducts music as a profession

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