7 Composer-Coffee Pairings

“I like my disputes about music the way I like my coffee. Bitter and heated.”

There are great composers, and there are great cups of coffee. Why not combine the two?

1) Maurice Ravel and Cappuccino
made from finely-ground Italian roast coffee beans an
d whole milk, served with a buttery petit croissant

An artfullycappucino crafted cappuccino can be distinguished using three metrics: texture, balance of components, and overall taste.

Texture: pertains to the creaminess-to-frothiness index as you work your way through the drink (I personally prefer the creamy side).

Balance of components: measuring the balance and quality of individual parts of the cappuccino to create a cohesive whole. These elements will always include milk and espresso, but sometimes chocolate as well.

Overall taste: not only one’s initial reaction to the stimulus of the palate, but also the foretaste and the aftertaste, anticipation and relaxation.

Ravel’s music, in my mind, complements this view of the cappuccino. The textures he creates in his music are always carefully executed, and can vary from lush romanticism to frothy impressionism, and his expertise in orchestration shines through in every moment. The components of his music (virtuosic counterpoint, stunning harmonies, orchestration, and sometimes a delightful tune or two) are integrated with the level of precision befitting a composer whom Stravinsky deemed “the perfect Swiss watchmaker.” Finally, Ravel leaves a good taste at all points of the auditory experience, particularly with respect to the aftertaste.

Ultimate gold-star listening experience: Listen to the 2nd Movement of his Piano Concerto in G major in a cute patisserie while sipping on the drink. Ideally, there is a light rainfall and you are slightly heartbroken.

2) Ludwig van Beethoven and French Press Coffee
made from coarsely ground French roast beans

FrenchPressA great place to start exploring ‘real coffee’ taste (not sugar with coffee flavor) is a French press. In the resulting product, a strong taste profile prevails which is still accessible to the novice drinker. In producing a coffee drink, one should start by perfecting the art of brewing with a French press before moving on to more modern cutesy tricks. This leads to a functional, dependable coffee with many subtleties, which, while escaping first sip, a veteran drinker learns to appreciate.

My first instinct in linking Beethoven to coffee is a suspect, but popular, anecdote concerning his amusing insistence of a proper 60 beans for each cup. Whatever the case, the coarse-grained style of a French press suits Beethoven’s music (generally) due to both having dual-natures as introductory and advanced-study materials. Beethoven’s music has the ability to captivate a new listener with uncanny immediacy. At the same time, a seasoned listener will continuously dig into the music’s subtleties. I find that in almost every piece he conveys unfiltered musical goodness (well, except for Wellington’s Victory…). The mixture of immediate accessibility and potential for deeper listening gives Beethoven’s music equal importance for beginner and expert alike.

Ultimate gold-star listening experience: Listen to Wellington’s Victory with a burnt, over-brewed coffee, and compare and contrast with a perfectly brewed coffee and the first movement of the Emperor Piano Concerto.

3) Peter Il’yich Tchaikovsky and Mocha
made from finely-ground Italian roast, whole milk, extra-rich cocoa powder, decadent whipped cream, and dark (90%) chocolate shavings

MocahA truly decadent mocha drink can substitute for a dessert, and there is nothing (nonalcoholic) more warming in the dead of polar vortices than a sweet and caffeinated treat. However, such a drink is not for one’s daily intake -indeed it cannot be- for it must be used for those special occasions when life calls for comfortable excess.

Tchaikovsky’s music is commonly seen as all melody and little development, and perhaps there is some credence to this belief. Like a well-crafted mocha, however, there are moments where Tchaikovsky hits the spot like no other composer can. His music provides a comfort and warmth, and I believe this is all the more effective when saved for only special occasions.

Ultimate gold-star listening experience: Listen to the 3rd Movement of Souvenir de Florence during a snowstorm. You are underneath a fleece blanket, sipping your mocha and relieved that you aren’t riding your troika into work this morning.

4) Steve Reich and Red Eye Coffee
made from medium roast drip coffee and espresso, made from finely-ground Italian roast

red eyeUnlike previous entries, this is based upon empirical evidence from multiple procrastination-induced late-night lab-report-writing sessions. The rhythmic drive of his compositions is in itself a powerful activity enabler, but when paired with a red eye (I make my own), these two create a formidable energy spike which will compensate for any lack of preparation.  While working on something that is typed, one will find that your fingers themselves are adding to the musical texture, and eventually you have reached an equilibrium typing speed, and fortunately there are still 47 minutes left in Music for 18 Musicians, and suddenly there has been ano ther sentence added to your paper before you realized, perfectly expressed and needing no edits.

Ultimate gold-star listening experience: Naturally, in the dead of night, begin Cello Counterpoint as you take the first sip of your red eye. Have a paper (or blog post) due the next day. Observe and report what happens.

5) Antonio Vivaldi and Instant CoffeeInstant

Not that bad, something that can be put together with two shakes and a rehearsal, generally better than no coffee at all.

6) Anton Webern and Straight Espresso Shot

Small, condensed, concentrated, and you look so cool when you consume it. Plus, comes in neat little container.

7) Antonio Salieri and No Coffee

Antonio Salieri did not drink coffee, even as Vienna was fascinated with it. Thus, no coffee pairing.

Are there any of your favorite composer-coffee pairings we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

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One thought on “7 Composer-Coffee Pairings

  1. […] agreed upon to be one of the best orchestrators of all time, Maurice Ravel.  We’ve previously fawned over how amazing Ravel is, but it bears repeating that he is so careful in the execution of his music that the quality […]


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