Like other human pursuits the creation of music has evolved over time. Music History Scholars look back over time, and attempt to break that evolution up into stages, in the same way Paleontologists and Historians classify other types of change. Such a classification system is always going to be a simplification. In reality music has evolved in a more gradual manner with a number of smaller revolutionary steps along the way. Still a broad classification is helpful to make sense of the complexity and give labels to different styles and techniques of music. Although there are some differences of opinion about the dates for different transitions (there is always a degree of overlap), most musicologists are agreed on the overall shape of musical development. Below is a quick summary of the key periods of musical development, but we also recommend that you take a look at our Classical Composers Poster which lists more than 900 composers.
The breakdown into music periods concentrates on Western Classical Music not because there wasn't music elsewhere in the world, but simply because that is the type of musical tradition which we focus on at mfiles. In our summary of that classification, we have used the following names and dates for the different musical eras:
* Early Music (before 9th Century) * Medieval or Gothic (9th to 14th centuries) * Renaissance (15th and 16th centuries) * Baroque (1600 - 1750) * Classical (1750 - 1820) * Romantic (1820 - 1910) * Modern (1910 - present)
This is a difficult one as Early Music was the most limited. Simple mono tonal tunes where just being written. This is the period where "chants" were simply written for the church. The advent of the European seven note scale was developed versus the five note Asian scale provided the basis for all music to follow.
Medieval music was a little more adventurous through the advancement of stringed musical instruments. Wind instruments remained little changed. The music was more "common" and not exclusive of the church.
Renaissance music saw an explosion in both instrumentation and the music itself. This period provided for the masses.
Baroque was the most elaborate of music. Bach's Toccata and Fugue for Organ is a good example. Telemann, Vivaldi, and Handel are composers from this period.
The Classical period created complex melodies and counter melodies in the music. Mozart and Beethoven being the giants of this period.
This next period, the Romantic, is the period that more emotion was introduced into the music. Not only technically complex but more lyrical in nature. Composers such as Schubert, Grieg, Dvorak, Wagner, and Tchaikovsky populated this period.
Most people would not consider Modern classical music to be classical music. It is only when you consider the symphony structure that the ties to earlier times connects. Williams, Shostakovich, Copland, Strauss, and Ravel provide more modern musical themes.
With that in mind still find it difficult to pin down a single period that I enjoy above all others. My current music collection includes everything from Gregorian Chants to John Williams. I guess that I would have to say the Classical period is my favorite. I enjoy Mozart and Beethoven too much.
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I can't pin down any single period as being my favorite either. I'll wake up one day and want to hear something classical, another day renaissance another day modern. I like individual composers more than periods.
You posted the 'Kovsky's Romeo and Juliet. Are you familiar with Prokofiev's? Here's a sample. Ignore the dancing, the choreography is pretty boring.
I love Igor Kipnis and/or Trevor Pinnock on harpsichord playing Bach. Here's Trevor Pinnock playing a chromatic fantasia and fugue, the fugue is fantastic. The endless chromatic scales at the beginning get a bit old as do the arpeggios. Amazing how complex and involved Bach could make a simple theme. If you really listen to what he's doing its overwhelming - how could he have thought of all that and tied it together so perfectly?
Here's Hilary Hahn playing the impossible Ciaccone movement from one of Bach's Partitas that he wrote soon after the death of his first wife. You can hear his sadness. Of course the fact that it was written in D Minor helps.
You know Joshua Bell played the same piece in the DC subway station (great accoustics) just as a street musician as an experiment to see what would happen. Practically no one stopped to listen to him. Such a brilliant piece and so difficult to play well. No one knew who he was. He'd just finished a concert earlier, and here he is playing a multi-million dollar Strad in the DC Metro - world famous violinist.
I love basically all the time periods except for baroque and classical; classical least of all. I could never get into Mozart, but that might be because I'm a cellist and he writes the lousiest cello parts this side of Pachelbel (don't even get me started!). I do like his operas and clarinet concerto though, so that's something! You couldn't get me to say which is my favorite out of the other five if my life depended on it though!
I have to say that you picked a fairly conservative offering of what 20th century music has to provide; they are fairly well known and awesome, nonetheless. I don't see how the exploration of what makes music, music that happened (and is still happening) during that time period means that it's any less of a classical tradition than the other periods. The music of the newer age was usually seen as less worthy than the older styles, and I think that's very much what is happening now. People thought that Stravinsky had composed the most hideous piece of junk ever when The Rite of Spring first came out, now it's considered a classic piece of musical literature. And while pieces like 4'33" will always lead to heated discussion, the likes of Alban Berg, George Crumb and Steve Reich are just as much a part of the classical tradition as Mozart and Beethoven.
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