A composer is defined by the Meriam-Webster online dictionary as "a person who writes music". More specifically, a composer writes the music to be performed by a musician. Though a composer can refer to anyone who writes music, the term is more commonly associated with European classical music, than the pop culture music genre of today (a person who writes music of this genre would be called a "songwriter" as opposed to a composer). A person who writes songs for movies, plays, etc. is referred to as a composer today. Also there is an emerging genre of modern instrumental music known as New Age that is written by composers.
Famous composers include:
- Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
- George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759)
- Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849)
- Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
- Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)
- Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)
Four modern-day composers are:
Composers are usually more interested in the actual music than fame or fortune, as opposed to many modern day musicians. This quote by Ludvig Van Beethoven shows the respect that composers in general have for the music they write:
"Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend." -- Ludwig van Beethoven, quoted by Bettina von Arnin, letter to Goethe, 1810
However, this attitude did not always prevail during the 20th century, when many composers, such as Milton Babbit, Pierre Boulez, and John Cage, wrote music that was deliberately unlistenable.  This trend was generally associated with the destructive, atheistic forms of so-called "modern" art.