Music History Essay, Research Paper
Music has been a great influence in the lives of many people through lyrics and rhythm. There are many different styles that can be performed by either a male or female. Music has been around for many years and is constantly changing. Music has been divided into six periods: Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Twentieth Century.
Music is written in symbols that represent musical sounds. The system of written symbols is called Musical Notation. “The primary requirement of any notation is that it be suited to the music it represents (Gerboth).”
The simplest texture of music is monophonic or single voiced texture. Gregorian chant is an example of monophonic texture. “All music up to about a thousand years ago, of which we have any knowledge, was monophonic (Machlis 295).” Its melody is heard with out a harmonic accompaniment or other vocal lines and attention is focused on the single line (Machlis 295). “To this day the music of the Oriental world – of China, Japan, India, Java, Bali, and the Arab nations -is largely monophonic (Machlis 295).”
Polyphonic or many-voiced texture is when two or more melodic lines are combined. Most Medieval polyphonic music is anonymous, though some composers were so important that their name was preserved along with their music (”Historical”). The polyphonic texture is based on counterpoint: the art and science of combining in a single texture two or more simultaneous melodic lines, each with a rhythmic life of its own (Machlis 295-96). The development of counterpoint took place at a time when composers were mainly occupied with religious choral music, which was by its nature, many-voiced (Machlis 296). Polyphony had to be written in a way that would indicate the rhythm and pitch precisely. It brought the emergence of regular meters that enabled different voices to stay together. Polychoral music is music for several chiors singing in answer to each other across the huge resesses of the church (Frowler 122).
Homophonic texture is a single-melody with chords (Machlis 296). Homophonic means “same” or similar sounding. Its texture is based mainly on harmony. This texture dominated the Classical style.
The Medieval period was the longest and most distant period of musical history and consists of almost a millennium’s worth of music (“Historical”). One of the difficulties in studying Medieval music is that a system for notating music developed only gradually (”Historical”). A musical notation system was started in the 12th or 13th century. Notation in music, for several centuries, only indicated what pitch (or note) to sing.
The Renaissance (1400-1600) began in 14th century Italy (Kirshner) and its name means rebirth. A cultural break with Medieval tradition was the Renaissance idea of humanism. “The Renaissance was a time of brilliant accomplishments in literature, science, and the arts (Frowler 445).” During the Renaissance there is an increase in individualism that is reflected by the changing role of the composer (“Historical”). In late Renaissance instrumental music went toward an independence from vocal music (Ulrich). Most of the popular songs were played on the lute. The Renaissance, in the arts, was on of the most innovative and active periods in the history of Western man, based partly on the philosophic movement called humanism (Ulrich).
The Baroque period (or Middle Ages) (1600-1750) is divided into three fifty-year periods, early, middle, and late Baroque. Music of the Baroque era was characterized by the vastness of proportion, rich counterpoint, great splender and a highly ornamented melodic line (Mautz). Baroque music is often highly ornate, colorful and richly textured when compared with its predecessors (”Historical”). The term Baroque came from a French word for an imperfect or irregular pearl (Frowler 448-49). “The early baroque was a time of intense experimentation, led in large part by Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi (“Historical”).” Many aspects of the Baroque art were determined by religion (Sullavin). “The intensity and immediacy of Baroque art and its individualism and detail – observed in such things as the convincing rendering of cloth and skin textures – make it one of the most compelling periods of Western Art (Sullavin).”
Major events of the early 17th century were related to the invention of a new method of composition called monodic style. Monodic style music was for one singer with an instrumental accompaniment. It was achieved by a group of Florentene writers, artists, and musicians known as the Camerata, a name derived from the Italian word for “salon” (Machlis 354).
Opera was born around 1600, the beginning of the Baroque era. Opera was considered by many to be the single most important achievement of the Baroque period (Machlis 354). The first great opera was Orfeo, (”Historical”), by Claudio Monterverdi and was first performed in 1607.
The Classical period (1750-1825) centers about the achievements of the four masters of the Viennese school – Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert (Machlis 228). Vienna was the most important center of the classical period. The growth of the public concert was one of the most important developments of the classical period (“Historical”). Writing music was much more simpler than it was in the Baroque period (”Historical”). Composers were now able to survive with out being the employee of one person or family and concerts were no longer limited to place drawing rooms. Composers also started organizing concerts that featured their own music. This would often attract large audiences. The size of the orchestra was gradually expanded, by composers, to accommodate the expanded musical version. “Although chamber music and solo works were played in the home or other intimate settings, orchestral concerts seemed to be naturally designed for big public spaces (”Historical”).” The popularity of the public concert had a strong impact on the growth of the orchestra.
During the Romantic period (1825-1900) typical symphony’s were extended from thirty minutes to well over an hour (Ulrich). Gifted performers – particularly pianists, violinists, and singers – became enormously popular. In addition to seeking the sights and sounds of other places, composers began exploring the music of their native countries. When nationalism became a driving force in the late Romantic period composers wanted their music to express their cultural identity (”Historical”). color was an important feature of Romantic music (”Historical”).
Music has been around for many years and has been through many changes, not only in the styles, but also in the way it is written, read, and sang. It exists in all known societies and has many uses (Nettl). Music plays a role in all societies, and it exists in a large number of styles, each characteristic of a geographical region or historical era (Nettl).
Frowler, Charles, “Music! Its Role and Importance in Our Lives”, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994: 122, 445, 448-49.
Gerboth, Walter, “Musical Notation”, Encarta 97, CD Rom, 1993-96.
“Historical Periods”, Classical Insites Conservatory, AOL, 1998.
Kirshner, Julius, “Renaissance”, Encarta 97, CD Rom, Microsoft, 1993-96.
Machlis, Joseph, “The Enjoyment of Music”, New York: Norton, 1984: 228, 295, 296,
Mautz, Nancy B., “Creative Impulse…Baroque”, World Wide Web, 12 Sept., 1998.
Nettl, Bruno, “Music”, Encarta 97, CD Rom, Microsoft, 1993-96.
Sullavin, Edward J., “Baroque”. Encarta 97, CD Rom, Microsoft. 1993-96.
Ulrich, Homer, “Music”, Encyclopedia Americana, 1979: Vol. 19.