the Middle Ages, there were three classes of people. The
first class was the nobility: kings, princes, and wealthy
landowners. They owned land and from these people came
our legends of knights in shining armour. The second class
consisted of the clergy: priests who worked in the church
and monks who lived in monasteries. The rest of the people,
poor farmers and peasants, made up the third class. The
average peasant lived to be 30 years of age and ate little
more than black bread and turnips. The first great centres
of music were in the churches.
the Middle Ages, until 1100, the vast majority of music
was monophonic, meaning a single line without accompaniment.
As life became better and more civilized in the Middle
Ages people began to focus more on themselves and less
on God and religion. Toward the end of the Middle Ages,
polyphony began to be used in music. This was the use
of more than one melodic line at the same time.
of the greatest composers of the new polyphonic music
were Leonin and Perotin at the Notre-Dame in Paris. Later
important composers included Guillaume de Machaut.
The Renaissance was an exciting time in the world history.
World exploration by Columbus and Sir Francis Drake, and
scientific advancement by Galileo and Copernicus led the
world in new directions. Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci
and Michelangelo flourished while playwrights like Shakespeare
wrote plays and poetry.
Renaissance saw the rise of the middle class. No longer
did all of the wealth belong to the nobility. People moved
to cities, and spent more time seeing plays and concerts.
Music was now part of any good education. With the invention
of the printing press around 1450, sheet music was printed
and made available to everyone. By 1600, popular music
of the day was available across Europe, and the middle
class learned to play instruments using method books for
recorder, lute, and guitar.
like Josquin des Prez and Giovanni Palestrina led the
way into a new way of composing. Man, rather then God,
became the new focus in a great deal of music. Composers
now turned to another dimension of music that had been
neglected up to then. The use of harmony changed music
Baroque Period (1600-1750CE)
Baroque period was an important time in the history of
the world. Galileo, Kepler and Newton were discovering
new ways to explain the universe. In music, art, architecture,
and fashion, fancy decoration and ornamentation became
the rule. Both men and women wore wigs and coats with
the Baroque period, composers continued to be employed
by the church and wealthy ruling class. This system of
employment was called the patronage system. As the patron
paid the composer for each work and usually decided what
kind of piece the composer should write, this limited
their creative freedom.
Baroque composers include Johann Sebastian Bach, George
Frederic Handel, Johann Pachelbel, Georg Phillip Telemann,
Henry Purcell and Antonio Vivaldi.
Classical Period (1750-1820CE)
years of the Classical Period saw many changes in the
world. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars changed
the face of Europe. During the Classical period it became
more and more possible for the public to enjoy and participate
in leisure activities. Thus, in the music world, the patronage
system of the Baroque began to die out and was replaced
by the first public concerts where people paid to attend.
of the sudden changes in style and trills of Baroque music,
the music of the Classical period tended to be simple,
balanced, and non-emotional. Music had straightforward
titles like "Symphony No. 1" instead of flowery
descriptive titles. Known as absolute music, classical
works were written for their own sake, not for dancing
or any other special occasion. It was performed in the
recital or concert hall.
most important classical composers were Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart, Franz Joseph Haydn, and Ludwig van Beethoven.
Vienna was the musical center of Europe, and most serious
composers spent part of their lives there.
Romantic Period (1820-1910CE)
saw many changes during the Romantic period. Composers
expanded existing musical forms and developed new forms
as a way of expressing themselves. Thus, a huge variety
of instrumental and vocal music appeared on the scene.
There were no restrictions on the length of a piece, the
number of movements, or the number of instruments or voices
used. The operas of Richard Wagner sometimes last 6 hours.
Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony requires an oversize
orchestra, a full choir, and vocal soloists.
was during the Romantic period that most of the band instruments
came into being as they are today. The invention and widespread
use of valves on brass instruments and new key systems
on woodwind instruments made them much easier to play,
encouraging composers to write more music for them.
were many influential composers during the Romantic period.
They included Hector Berlioz, Johannes Brahms, Richard
Wagner, and Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
20th Century (1900-2000CE)
written since 1900 is called 20th century music. There
have been more types and styles of music written in the
20th century then ever before. In the 20th century, the
only limit is the composer's imagination. Peter Schikele
has fun with his pieces by having players play on mouthpieces,
or by gargling with water during the piece.
melodies are also very different from those of past periods.
Anton Webern's melodies have leaps, and are often made
up of only two or three notes. Other melodies, like those
written by Bela Bartok and Alan Hovhaness, are based on
scales taken from the Middle Ages.
developments have also had an influence on the 20th Century
music, especially electronic music. Composers like Philip
Glass use electronics to create totally new sounds, styles,
about Classical Music: When we think
of "Classical Music," we often are referring
to any music played by an orchestra or any opera music.
However, when studying music history, the word "Classical"
refers to the music written between 1750 and 1820.