Essay On Music: Music needs no introduction. It is something that is common across gender, generations, cultures and civilisations. All of us, regardless of training, can recognise and appreciate a good rhythm or beat. This is due to the nature of our brains. As human beings, we tend to try and organise and classify things, ‘ordo ab chao’ is the motto of our collective brains. Thus when we hear something that has a distinct rhythm, beat and organisation, our brains tend to appreciate it. This is the chief reason behind the universality of music.
In this article, I will deal with the history of music, how it evolved, and what it has evolved into. However, I shall not be providing much in the way of technical details about music, because first, I have not read up about that, and second, it would make the article too long. I will deal with the technical evolution of music in a later article, where we shall discuss only the technical aspects.
So without further ado, let’s go into a world that I love, a world where history and music collide.
Essay On Music – History Of Music
How it all began:
Each and every culture of the world, even the most isolated tribal cultures have some music in their societies and cultures. To find out the reason for this we must go back to the early days of human beings.
Most modern scientists explain how human beings managed to inhabit such a large area of the earth by the out-of-Africa theory. This theory states that humans initially evolved in Africa and then migrated across the world. Music may have been a part of human life before this migration took place. This would explain the global prevalence of music.
The earliest music may have been imitations of naturally occurring phenomena, as there are several instances of cultures with folk music that tends to imitate natural sounds.
The oldest musical instrument was probably the human voice, it can make a very wide range of sounds and this may have been an important factor in the evolution of music. Other than that, the oldest confirmed musical instrument is a bone flute discovered in the Hohle Fels cave near Ulm, Germany. It is around 35,000 years old and is made of a vulture’s wing bone.
The oldest unconfirmed musical instrument is the Divje Babe Flute found in the Divje Babe archaeological park in Cerkno, Slovenia. It is made of a cave bear femur. Some scientists believe that the femur was reshaped to make a flute, while some believe that the holes were just a by-product of carnivores chewing on the bone. It is approximately 43,500 years old.
Music through the times:
Like all branches of history, the history of music is divided into various time periods. This makes classification, study, and comparison much easier for historians and students of music.
- Prehistoric Music: Prehistoric, primitive, folk, indigenous, and traditional music are the names given to the music produced by preliterate cultures. Prehistoric and primitive music are usually used to refer to European music before the advent of reading and writing. The terms folk, indigenous, and traditional music are usually used in case of music that has survived in existing preliterate cultures like Native American, Aboriginal, pygmy tribes in the world.
- Ancient Music (before 500 CE): Ancient music contains the music that was produced following the advent of literacy. The oldest known song was written around 3,400 years ago in Ugarit, Syria. This era saw the emergence of various musical instruments like bagpipes, double flutes, seven holed flutes, various stringed instruments like fiddles across parts of the worlds. Music was especially developed in Greece, where musical notation was used for the first time. The Greeks placed much importance on music, especially in accompaniment with theatre. Mixed gender choruses performed for entertainment, celebratory, and spiritual reasons.
- Medieval Music (500 – 1400 CE): Music during the medieval period was undoubtedly rich as evidenced by depictions of instruments, and writings on music. However the only surviving music of the era is music of the Roman Catholic Church. From the 9th century CE onwards, the church attempted a unification and standardisation of all the hymns and chants of the various churches. This process ultimately led to the development of the process of notation used by Western music to such great efficiency. Another important component of medieval music was the prevalence of bards and poets, known by various names across cultures. They represented the, epic- like, story-driven folk music of the era.
- Renaissance Music (1400 – 1600 CE): Initially renaissance music was defined by clear, and singable melody and was less complicated than the medieval music of the church. The invention of printing during this era had a huge impact on the dissemination of musical styles and contributed greatly to the establishment of an, albeit temporary, pan-European style of music. By the late 16th century, most regions of Europe had well differentiated and distinct musical styles.
- Baroque Music (1600 – 1750 CE): The Baroque musical tradition began when the first operas were written around the late 16th – early 17th centuries. Soon various types of music pieces like fugues, toccatas, sonatas, concertos, and inventions. The baroque style was characterised by rich ornamentation, use of a vast array of musical instruments, and the solidification of the modern orchestra.
- Classical Music (1750 – 1820): The Classical period of music is probably the most widely recognised era of music. Legends like Mozart and Beethoven composed pieces that would stay in people’s minds for a long time. The Classical period resulted in much better instrumental music than before and therefore the reliance on singers declined. However, operas were still very popular and became even more so with the advent of operas in regional languages (Baroque operas were in Italian only). Instrumental music reached one of its highest points in the fugues, sonatas, symphonies, and concertos of the classical era.
- Romantic Music (1780 – 1910): The romantic era is another very recognisable era in music. This era too relied on a very large orchestra, which was actually expanded a little. The defining feature of the romantic era was that music became much more emotional and expressive. This process first started in the classical era and was developed in the romantic era, due to which the periods for the two periods are shown as overlapping. Mozart’s Requiem Mass is a very expressive and emotional piece, easily surpassing many pieces of the romantic era. Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Bellini were some of the greatest early romantic composers. Johann Strauss II, Brahms, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, and Wagner were the best from the second half of the period. During the last stages of the era, a third wave of composers built on the work of the middle composers to create complex pieces. A defining characteristic of the third stage of composers is the nationalistic fervour in their pieces, as exemplified by the work of Dvorak, Grieg, and Sibelius.
- Contemporary Music (20th and 21st centuries): Music of the 20th and 21st centuries was marked by increasing experimentation, innovation, and frequent challenging of the earlier accepted rules of music. New technologies like the radio, the television, headphones, and electronic amplification led to great changes in the music itself as well as the way music was presented. The television led to music pieces becoming increasingly visual, these were not only musical performances but were also abstract visuals, or visuals which might fit in with the tone of piece. West African culture carried over by former slaves also played an important part in new musical styles like jazz, blues, soul, etc.
Conclusion: Music has been one of the fundamental components of human life since time immemorial and will continue to do so for almost any foreseeable future of humanity. Music helps us to express our emotions in a very different way than other ways. The ability to feel emotions, sentiment, and express them is what makes us human. And till we have emotions, music will be an intrinsic part of human life, simply because it is one of the components in making us who we are.