Ten Greatest Composers who went To Prison for breaking the law

As much as their reputation precedes them in the classical music world, it is surprising to know that some of them were involved in a little scandal. Check out this list of composers/musicians who went to jail for doing something against the law.

  1. Igor Stravinsky – the controversial chord

Russian Pioneer Igor Stravinsky was no stranger to controversy. His insertion of the major seventh chord in the American National Anthem at the crucial point of the performance became controversial and was the subject of a musical myth that was hotly disputed. It was said that he was charged with a $100 fine by the police and they arrested him.

  1. Erik Satie – An Anarchist of Culture?

Similar to Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” which led to an uproar at its premiere, the “Parade” which is a product of Jean Cocteau and Erik Satie’s collaboration landed on a bit of an uproar on the night of its premiere. As a result, Satie was imprisoned for eight days.

  1. Michael Tippett – A World War 2 Activist

Just like several composers, Michael Tippet was very objective to the efforts of World War Two, which led to his imprisonment. Being a staunch pacifist, Tippet’s combined experience in prison and the moral injustice he witnessed during the war led him to compose “A Child of Our Time” his anti-war masterpiece.

  1. Johann Sebastian Bach – Sent to Prison by his Boss

You will be surprised that even the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach had been in prison, but only in a short period. Not because he broke the law nor did something wrong, but his powerful employer during that time sent him to prison for his desire to leave. But the prison cell could not stop him from being productive. He managed to create the “Orgelbuchen” – his book of keyboard exercises.

  1. Ivor Novello – Petrol Coupon Abuse

Ivor Novello was a famous composer and entertainer but even he was imprisoned for four days in the middle of World War 2. It may sound ridiculous, but he was detained for misusing Petrol Coupons. This offense was serious in Britain during wartime.

  1. Franz Schubert – Offensive Tongue

Franz Schubert was arrested along with his four friends by the Viennese police force who was scouting for young people who have boisterous gatherings. Apparently, Schubert’s circle of friends was the kind of group they are looking for. Schubert was arrested due to his insulting remarks to the police officers.

  1. Rossini’s Father – The French Revolutionary Sympathizer

Horn player Giuseppe the father of Giachino Rossini was imprisoned for his great sympathy for the cause of French revolution. He often went under rigid scrutiny from authorities. In the end, he was caught and put in jail in 1799.

  1. Ludwig Van Beethoven – A Disorderly and Drunk Tramp?

We know Beethoven as a kind of soul who would occasionally be dark and tormented, but what got him arrested and sent to prison in 1820 was his image. He was reportedly had been lost and hungry and having the worst for wear, gazing into the windows of people. Because of that, he was mistaken as a tramp by the policeman who arrested him and sent him to prison. With that kind of appearance, no one would believe Beethoven as the finest composers in his generation, even if he insisted.

  1. Henry Cowell – making prison bars his workplace

American composer and theorist Henry Cowell had a remarkable story, though in the 20th century he may not be the most famous name in the music world. Cowell was a bisexual, and he was arrested for that because of what they the authorities call “Moral Change.” He was sent to San Quentin State Prison and was sentenced for 15 years. Cowell became very productive inside where he produced more than sixty compositions. Before he was released, he conducted the prison band. He only spent 4 years in prison.

  1. Ethel Smyth – a suffragette composer

Female composers were frequently overlooked in the realm of classical music composition as male dominates it. But Ethel Smyth could never be ignored. She met the finest composers like Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Brahms, Grieg, and Clara Schumann. However, because of her active participation in the suffragette movement, she was sent behind bars in Holloway Prison for two months. Conductor Thomas Beecham went to visit her, and she was found conducting with a toothbrush on her fellow inmates who were singing.