History of Music

Music, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity. There are various theories about the time and place of music origin. Images from 6000 B.C.E., found in a cave in Turkey, include drummers and dancers. Music was mentioned in clay tablets which date from ancient Mesopotamia, where lyres, pipes, drums, bells and harps were used to make music.

Western music is influenced by Ancient Greek music, primarily ancient Greek theoretical writings. Writings, archaeological remains, and a many images show the use of musical instruments, including aulos, lyres and kithara, a type of a large lyre. Music in Ancient Rome was influenced by Greek traditions, but did not have an impact on the development of music in Europe.

The Hebrews also made a contribution to the cultivation of music, which reached its golden age during the reigns of Samuel, David, and Solomon, with the singing of psalms. Much of the Hebrew musical tradition passed into Christian music, where psalms and hymns were sung as part of the liturgy.

In the Medieval period, several types of musical chants, sung by singers or choirs, were developed. These included the Byzantine chant, Ambrosian chant and the Gregorian chant. The effort to unify different chant types resulted in the reinvention of musical notation which was forgotten after the ancient Greek period. The earliest available books of chants with notation date from the 9th century.

In the Middle Ages, few outside the church were able to read music. Little is known about the secular music of that period, as it was not written down, but passed on orally. The songs of the troubadours and trouveres in France, the Minnesinger in Germany, the Italian lauda and Spanish cantiga and dance music, all developed as part of secular medieval music. Most characteristic instruments for the medieval age were vielle, hurdy-gurdy, harp, flute, organs, trumpet, and the bagpipes.

Between 1050 and 1300, when large Gothic churches and cathedrals were being built across Europe amid robust economic growth, a new art of polyphony was developed as a way of accompanying a chant with one or more voices. The 14th century saw the development of the rhythmic and melodic patterning known as isorhythm.

The Renaissance saw many changes in music. A new international style was created, comprising French, Italian, and English musical traditions. Major characteristics of music in the 15th and 16th century were imitative counterpoint and homophony. National genres cultivated at that time were the villancico in Spain, the frottola in Italy, and a new kind of French chanson. The genre that had the most significant impact in Renaissance music was the Italian madrigal.

The development of instruments, written music, new genres, such as the prelude, fantasia, toccata, ricercare, canzona and the sonata, led to the spread of instrumental music. The creation of the first recognised opera, Dafne, in 1598 by Jacopo Peri marked the beginning of Baroque period for music. Religious music was still strong, but secular musical genres such as sonata, concerto, and concerto grosso grew in popularity. The most famous composers in this period were Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Frideric Handel, and Antonio Vivaldi.

The mid-18th century saw the rise of instrumental music to unprecedented prominence. Several Baroque genres such as preludes, toccatas, fugues, fantasias, and keyboard dances were no longer popular. The piano became the favorite instrument, replacing the harpsichord and clavichord. The sonata was one of the leading genres for solo and chamber music, and orchestral music was dominated by the concerto and symphony. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the most famous composer from this period.

The 19th century saw a shift from the Classical period of Mozart, to the Romantic musical era, characterized by Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert. Opera continued to play a major role in music of this period, primarily in Italy, France and Germany. New types of opera were developed in France and Germany. Central composers in the period were Giuseppe Verdi, Johann Strauss II, Richard Wagner, Robert Schumann and Franz Liszt.

Music in the 20th century was characterized by freedom and cultivation of new musical styles including blues, country, jazz, rock and roll, soul, funk, salsa, disco, hip-hop, new age, electronic music.

History of Music: Selected full-text books and articles

A History of Western Music
Donald Jay Grout; Claude V. Palisca.
W. W. Norton, 2001 (6th edition)
Ancient and Oriental Music
Egon Wellesz.
Oxford University Press, 1999
The Early Middle Ages to 1300
Richard Crocker; David Hiley.
Oxford University Press, 1990
Librarian’s tip: This is a volume of the New Oxford History of Music
Ars Nova and the Renaissance, 1300-1540
Dom Anselm Hughes; Gerald Abraham.
Oxford University Press, 1960
Librarian’s tip: This is a volume of the New Oxford History of Music
The Age of Enlightenment, 1745-1790
Egon Wellesz; Frederick Sternfeld.
Oxford University Press, 1973
Librarian’s tip: This is a volume of the New Oxford History of Music
The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music
Jim Samson.
Cambridge University Press, 2002
The Modern Age, 1890-1960
Martin Cooper.
Oxford University Press, 1974
Librarian’s tip: This is a volume of the New Oxford History of Music
A History of Music in England
Ernest Walker.
Clarendon Press, 1952 (3rd Rev. edition)
The Historical Performance of Music: An Introduction
Colin Lawson; Robin Stowell.
Cambridge University Press, 1999
Breaking Records: 100 Years of Hits
William Ruhlmann.
Routledge, 2004
Twentieth-Century Music: A History of Musical Style in Modern Europe and America
Robert P. Morgan.
W. W. Norton, 1991
The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930-1945
Gunther Schuller.
Oxford University Press, 1991
Rock Eras: Interpretations of Music and Society, 1954-1984
Jim Curtis.
Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1987
The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United States
Samuel A. Floyd Jr.
Oxford University Press, 1996
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