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Old 08-22-2019, 05:11 PM
Max S. is offline
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Florida, USA
Posts: 1,550

Western Music History

Originally Posted by Sitnam View Post
Why does classical music always have the same instruments and structure? As if through out time, only violins, cellos and flutes existed.

Where are the jams Richard the Lion-Hearted grooved too? Why isn't Platos favorite song considered classical?
Well, in western music history, and I hope I didn't get any of this wrong:

Ancient Music
(before 800 CE)

Tonal music as we know it did not exist during the time of Plato. Ancient Greek "songs" were really monophonic chants: poems sung on and accompanied by instruments playing on a single mode. Lyre-players usually fixed the cross-bar for the duration of the poem, so that the instrument only played one mode, like a guitar without a fretboard. They would use one hand to mute certain strings, then strum all of the strings at once, producing a tetrachord and probably copying the vocal melody note for note. Pan flutes were crafted for a single mode as well, and flautists would carry a set of eg: Dorian and Phrygian pipes. The aulos was a double-reed instrument that might accompany Dionysian chants. You can find an example of ancient Greek music (as we understand it) near the end of this video.

Medieval Music
(1200 CE - 1500 CE in England
800 CE - 1400 CE for the rest of Europe)

Until the late medieval ages, western music was mostly the human voice. At first it was plainchants, which means a single monk or bard singing a single melody line, or a group all singing the same exact note. Children's songs are plainchants, like "Ring around the Rosie" or "Pop goes the Weasel". Sometimes, in folk settings, they would have a musical instrument doubling the chant (as in ancient times).

Sometimes they added a second voice singing the same melody in parallel, either a perfect fifth or full octave above the main voice. This is called organum. Organum was probably developed after rediscovering ancient Greek culture. This is still considered monophony but it was a new and important development in western music theory. English musicians preferred thirds to fifths though.

Also around 900 CE monks realized that changing pitch more than once while singing a single syllable sounds nice, and thus introduced the melisma into western music theory. Think of the "Glo-oo-ooo-oo-ooo-oo-ooo-ria" from "Angels We Have Heard on High". Earlier compositions drew upon syllabic meter, which means one pitch per syllable. People also started using new instruments such as the fiddle (a bowed lute) which could reproduce that sliding pitch.

It wasn't until the twelfth century that French composers (such as Léonin and Pérotin) developed polyphony from melismatic organum. In English, it wasn't until the 1100s that French composers listening to the male choir singing one single note in a deep voice, and the female choire singing a melody that starts each stanza exactly one octave or perfect fifth higher than the men, realized "hey, what if we had them singing different melodies at the same time?" The movement away from monophonic chants to polyphonic music is called Ars Nova. But Ars Nova didn't reach England until the mid 1200s because England is far away and musical notation at the time did not convey enough information to recreate a song without hearing it first. I'm guessing it took some time for a guy from England to learn polyphony in France and bring it back to England.

I think the ecclesiastical music of England by the time of Richard I (c. 1200 CE) would have been Roman Gregorian chants, which would have recently replaced older Celtic chants. Folk music has not survived (only the monks would know how to write it down), although we know it existed and probably involved monophony.

And polyphony was a revolutionary idea, despite having existed for hundreds of years in virtually every other part of the world. Suddenly all that boring church music became less boring. I think the pope banned polyphony at one point, possibly because it was so pleasing that it distracted people from the religious nature of prayer. Further, having two voices makes it more difficult to understand the words being said. Later popes liked it and by the fourteenth century people were writing polyphonic masses and developing new technology such as the chromatic keyboard for the pipe organ. Lute players stopped strumming with quills as plectrums and started plucking individual notes, which is now called finger picking.

In the early fifteenth century, English composers such as Dunstaple and Power created polyphonic music using triads based on thirds and sixths instead of then-customary fifths and octaves. This contenance anglaise was influential in central Europe as England's armies (and music) marched across France, and marked the beginning of the Renaissance era in western music.

Renaissance Music
(1400 CE - 1600 CE)

Influenced by contenance anglaise, contemporary Flemish musicians such as DuFay and Ockeghem used many triads when they developed and spread the motet form. The motet is where two voices sing different parts, but the Flemish motet has them singing different words in contrapuntal form. Originally one person (or group) would repeat the same word or phrase at one pitch, for example the first words in a stanza, and the second person (or group) sings a different melody with different words at another pitch. By the mid-to-late 1400s rich Italian nobles had attracted Franco-Flemish musicians such as Josquin de Perez to Italy, who would later dominate the music scene. This Franco-Flemish school of music was disseminated via the newly invented printing press, and their secular (chansons) and ecclesiastical works (masses) nearly define the early Renaissance in music.

Now the early 1500s, religious people started objecting to how complicated church music was becoming (again). With all the stuff going on, with ten people saying one word and ten people saying a different word, you can't really understand what is being said. Josquin, Palestrina, and others (now the "Roman" school) dropped the repetition from the motet form, so that one group sings very slowly to one melody while the other sings words to a faster melody. This technique is known as a suspension, and is not limited to choral music; in choral music, this made it easier to understand the religious text being recited. The Council of Trent (mid-1500s) agreed and ordered the Church to cut down on complex polyphony. As a result, ecclesiastic composers started developing harmophony, which is where a single melody is accompanied by chords as opposed to an independent contrapuntal melody. After that, churches started to sound like modern Roman Catholic churches do now, what with the organs playing a chord to accompany a single choral melody for important verses, and maybe splitting the choir and organ into multiple parts for the less essential verses.

In secular music, more and more complex polyphony made it impossible to understand the words. For the first time, composers developed wholly instrumental works. This coincides with advances in metalworking, trade, and manufacture that allowed for the invention or discovery of new instruments such as the recorder, natural trumpet, the cornetto (no modern equivalent), the viol (precursor to violin), clavicord, citthern (like a guitar), shawm (an oboe with holes instead of valves), etc. Still, you wouldn't expect to see more than a few instruments playing together (called a consort), and music was not yet written for any particular instrument.

Meanwhile, Italians adapted polyphony to secular poems and thus developed the madrigal form (eg: Luzzaschi or Marenzio), which is sung a capella (unaccompanied, in the chapel). This became very popular and quickly spread to Germany and England.

Rome was sacked in 1587 and musicians fled to Venice, founding the Venetian school (these schools are not physical establishments, by the way). Probably inspired by the opposing choir lofts in St. Mark's Bascilica, the Venician school under Willaert and Zarlino started to develop antiphony, which is a sort of call and respond approach. One half of the choir might sing, then the other half sings back at the first half, and the organ played alongside both, much like a congregation and preacher do today, but with music. Venician antiphony inspired the secular concertato, an instrumental form of choral antiphony developed by the Gabrielis in St. Mark's. One group of instruments would play, and another group would respond.

At the end of the sixteenth century and early seventeenth century, musicians especially in Florence started looking back at ancient Greek culture and developed the monady. A monady is where you have one vocalist singing a melody over an instrumental bass line or basso continuo, provided by the lute, harpsichord, or organ. A similar form emerged in France from the older medieval chansons. This development of the bass against the treble is important. Similarly, people started to realize that music can in and of itself produce an emotional response in people; previously, it was thought that the (sacred) words did so. Mixed with the existing musical forms, these developments introduces the musical solo and tonality to western classical music.

Finally we have the invention of orchestration, which really brings the Renaissance era of music to an end and ushers in the Baroque or early classical music. (Well, some people say Renaissance music is classical, too.) The concertato style developed at St. Mark's Bascilica in Venice, and improved upon by those such as Claudio Monteverdei, prompted composers to write for different groups of instruments. They might say "we will have the trumpets call out first, and the strings will respond, and then have everybody play at once." This kind of thinking lead to larger musical ensembles such as chamber ensembles and, much later, orchestras. It also lead to "classical" forms such as the concerto grosso made popular by Corelli, the concerto championed by Vivaldi, and later the (vocal) cantata by Rossi, and much later the instrumental cantatas you may recognize by Bach. The monady in turn evolved into oratory such as those of Carissimi, and opera such as those of Cavalli.

I'm going to stop there. I hope you learned as much as I did.