The History of Music

Music is one of the most fundamental, universal languages of humanity. It is not clearly known when music actually began or where it precisely originated, although there are certainly theories about the matter. All people around the world, no matter how isolated, have known some form of music. Music is an ancient art form that seems to be an intrinsic part of being human. Although the particular sounds, emotions, and styles which exist in music certainly vary between time-periods and cultures, the concept of music has been a constant for as long as anyone can remember.

The first form of music predates documented history. This type of music is called prehistoric or primitive music. Music exists in nature, but using patterns and repetition has turned music into a more human event. Music has been used for the practical purposes of hunting animals but also in entertainment and in religious or ritualistic practices. Interestingly, the first human musical instrument was likely the human voice, which is versatile and can make a range of sounds. Flutes and wooden pipes have been found which are believed to have existed prior to documented history.

Ancient music is the next step up from the prehistoric or primitive era, which technically ended with the birth of the written word. Ancient music is to prior 500 AD, but exists during the age of writing. The oldest song that is known of goes back 3400 years. It was written in cuneiform and originates from Ugarit. At this point ancient music begins to unveil itself as individual cultures and countries begin to stand out and distinguish themselves from the rest via forms of musical development and musical instruments. The bowed fiddle of India called the Ravanahatha is considered to be one of the oldest stringed instruments.

Music of course has certain distinctions in different religions. According to the Christian Bible, Jubal was the inventor of musical instruments. Music is a very important aspect of the Bible and historically it has been quite important among early Hebrews and Jews.

Early music is from 500-1760, and common practice music is from 1600-1900. Early music began after the fall of the Roman Empire and it lasted until the end of the Baroque era. Early music, within this timeframe, was very diverse and varied. The Roman Catholic Church proved to unify these various cultural music forms and it did so for many centuries, influencing musical development.

Medieval music is a category within the early period of music, living between the years 500-1400. Unfortunately, although this era was musically quite rich, most of the surviving music is restricted to that which came out of the Roman Catholic Church, most of which primarily involves the Gregorian Chant. Polyphonic music was formed at this time and it was known then as organum. The medieval music era also marks the reinvention of notation. During the medieval times many music schools flourished, often specializing in organum. Clausulae, discant, conductus, and motet are all different types of music which developed in the late 13th century. Ars nova was the primary style which took over the 14th century.

The Renaissance era was between 1400-1600; another great time for the evolution of music. There are some differences between music of the Renaissance era and the art of that era. Other forms of art are more clearly marked at the beginning of the era, but this is not true for music. While Renaissance music began in northern Europe Renaissance other art began in Italy. Polyphony thrived during this era, and printing was also invented. Printing had quite an impact on the music of the times, and helped bring together an international sytle in European music. Many noteworthy composers thrived during this time, such as Dufay, Palestrina, and Josquin.

The Baroque era of music also produced some extremely famous names, such as Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, and countless others. The Baroque period was when instrumental music became more the focus. The harpsichord was one of the dominant instruments of the time and music was designed for improvisation.

The Classical era of music is one of the most popular and widely recognized forms of historical music and it dates back to 1730-1820. This period of music is known for its homophonic texture. Instrumental music began replacing opera and oratorio. Although opera was not entirely gone instrument music was the primary attraction of the era. The music of the time was focused on forms like the symphony, the sonata, and the concerto. These forms are now in music theory but at the time they had not been specifically defined. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven are some of the most popular composers of the era and of the musical world.

Romantic music is from the dates 1780-1910. This type of music is known for being emotional, and some of the composers of this period were Chopin, Schumann, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss, Franck, and others. The orchestra expanded during the romantic music era.

The Impressionist era lasted from 1875-1925. The term “impressionist” is comparable to the type of painter who uses a specific artistic style. Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy are a couple of important names in the impressionist era. Blues came into being at the end of the 19th century, and Country Music came around in the 1920s. The 20th century marked a drastic change in the style and form of music, largely due to electricity. Music was recorded and distributed in a way which, previously, had been completely impossible. The technological revolution also enabled the rich and poor to be able to enjoy good music, which before had been much more difficult.

As attitudes and perceptions of music developed so did the styles of music themselves. The 20th century also saw the King of Rock, Elvis Presley, and many other musical sensations followed, including The Beatles. Electronic music has become popular in recent years, but since the turn of the 21st century many various musical genres have dominated the scene, and they are all vastly different from one another—there is rap, metal, country, rock, electronic, and countless many others.