Western Music History
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Western Music refers to those cultures whose music system is based on the philosophy and science of Pythagoras and his school. The Ancient Greeks were the first European culture to investigate the science of acoustics using mathematics and simple scientific laboratory instruments like the monochord. Due to the paucity of actual notated music from Ancient Greece we are unable to fully recreate their music but with the rise of Christianity and through the importance and influence of Greek thought upon the early Christian church we can infer that their legacy was of no small importance to the developing musical practices of later generations. There is some debate about Eastern influences notably from the Hebrew liturgy and psalms but this does not disturb the system of consonance and dissonance described by the Ancient Greeks within one octave of twelve intervals. The foundation of Western Music is European.
By Medieval times the Introduction of Chanting (later termed Gregorian Chanting) into the Catholic church services led to the development of the body of music that was disseminated throughout Europe. Western Music then started becoming more of an art form with the advances in music notation and more focus on secular themes that occurred in the Renaissance period. We then have expansions of range and complexity as we move into the Baroque era. The Classical era gives us the emotional power associated with such composers as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Romanticism then transforms the rigid styles and forms of the Classical era into more individualistic stylizations. Tonality was at its peak during this period, then Impressionist music paved the way to the use of extreme dissonances in the music of the Modern era. This process continued into the current Contemporary period of music.
Table of contents
- Medieval Music (476 A.D. to 1400 A.D.)
- Renaissance Music (1400 A.D. to 1600 A.D.)
- Baroque Music (1600 A.D. to 1750 A.D.)
- Classical Music (1750 A.D. to 1820 A.D.)
- Romantic Music (1820 A.D. to 1900 A.D.)
- Modern Music (1900 A.D. to 1960 A.D.)
- Contemporary Music (1945 A.D. to present)
A Note Time Periods
There is no clear line when the Renaissance began and the Middle Ages ended. This is the same for every period, there is no specific date. An important point is that, for example the Classical era, how can you define the end as a date. It was ongoing both with its influences and the music. For western art music, there is no clear dividing point - the Renaissance in music happened at different times in different places. So for convenience, we will use 1400 A.D. as the start of the Renaissance.