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Definition: music from Philip's Encyclopedia

Sound arranged for instruments or voices, for many purposes, exhibiting a great variety of forms and styles. It can be split into categories, including rock, jazz, blues, folk music, soul music, rap, house music, and country and western. Within classical music, there are distinct historical periods - medieval music (1100-1400), Renaissance music (1400-1600), Baroque (1600-1750), classical music (1750-c.1800) and Romantic (c.1800-1900) (see romanticism). In the 20th century, various techniques developed, notably serial music, twelve-tone music and impressionism. Composers also experimented with electronic music.

Summary Article: music
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Art of combining sounds into a structured form, usually according to conventional patterns and for an aesthetic (artistic) purpose. Music is generally divided into different genres or styles such as classical music, jazz, pop music, country, and so on.

The Greek word mousikē covered all the arts presided over by the Muses. The various civilizations of the ancient and modern world developed their own musical systems. Eastern music recognizes smaller changes of pitch than does mainstream Western music (with the exception of much 20th-century contemporary art music) and also differs from Western music in that the absence, until recently, of written notation ruled out the composition of major developed works, though these are created through improvisation using melodic and rhythmic patterns governed by particular modes and formal devices. Such improvisations (as in the Indian raga) can last up to 70 minutes, interpreted by virtuosos.

Middle Ages The documented history of Western music since classical times begins with the liturgical music of the medieval Catholic Church, descended from Greek and Hebrew roots. The four modes (derived from ancient Greek models), to which the words of the liturgy were chanted were first set in order by St Ambrose in 384. St Gregory the Great added four more to the original Ambrosian modes, and this system forms the basis of Gregorian plainsong, still used in the Roman Catholic Church. The organ was introduced in the 8th century, and in the 9th century, music using a very primitive form of harmony began to be used in churches, with notation gradually developing towards its present form.

In the 11th century counterpoint was introduced, notably at the monastery of St Martial, Limoges, France, and in the late 12th century at Notre-Dame in Paris (by Léonin and Perotin). In the late Middle Ages the Provençal and French troubadours and court composers, such as Guillaume de Machaut, developed a secular music, developed from church and folk music (see also Minnesingers).

15th and 16th centuries Europe saw the growth of contrapuntal or polyphonic music. One of the earliest composers was the English musician John Dunstable, whose works inspired the French composer Guillaume Dufay, founder of the Flemish school. Its members included Dufay's pupil Joannes Ockeghem and the Renaissance composer Josquin Desprez. Other major composers of this era were Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina from Italy, Orlande de Lassus from Flanders, Tomás Luis de Victoria from Spain, and Thomas Tallis and William Byrd from England. Madrigals were developed in Italy by members of the Flemish school and later by native composers, including Giovanni Gabrieli. They were written during the Elizabethan age in England by such composers as Thomas Morley, Orlando Gibbons, and Thomas Weelkes. Notable composers of organ music were Antonio de Cabezon in Spain and Andrea Gabrieli in Italy.

17th century The Florentine Academy (Camerata), a group of artists and writers, aimed to revive the principles of Greek tragedy. This led to the invention of dramatic recitative and the beginning of opera. Claudio Monteverdi was an early operatic composer; by the end of the century the form had evolved further in the hands of Alessandro Scarlatti in Italy and Jean-Baptiste Lully in France. In England the outstanding composer of the period was Henry Purcell. Oratorio was developed in Italy by Giacomo Carissimi; in Germany, Heinrich Schütz produced a new form of sacred music.

18th century The early part of the century was dominated by Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. Bach was a master of harmony and counterpoint. Handel is renowned for his dramatic oratorios. In France, their most important contemporaries were François Couperin in keyboard music and Jean-Philippe Rameau in grand opera and ballet; the later operas of Christoph Willibald von Gluck, with their emphasis on dramatic expression, saw a return to the principles of Monteverdi. The modern orchestra grew out of various movements of the mid-1700s, notably that led by Johann Stamitz at Mannheim. Bach's sons C P E Bach and J C Bach reacted against contrapuntal forms and developed sonata form, the basis of the classical sonata, quartet, and symphony. In these types of composition, mastery of style was achieved by the Viennese composers Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. With Ludwig van Beethoven, music assumed new structural form and growth in expressive function, with his late works providing the basis of Romanticism and even modernism.

19th century Romantic music, represented in its early stages by Carl Weber, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn, and Frédéric Chopin, tended to be more ‘subjective’ in emotional content. Orchestral colour was increasingly exploited – most notably by Hector Berlioz – and harmony became more chromatic. Nationalism became more important at this time, as seen in the intense Polish nationalism of Frédéric Chopin; the use of Hungarian folk music by Franz Liszt; the works of the Russians Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Borodin, Modest Mussorgsky, and, less typically, Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky; the works of the Czechs Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana; the Norwegian Edvard Grieg; and the Spaniards Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados, and Manuel de Falla. Revolutionary changes were brought about by Richard Wagner in the field of opera creating a new genre of music theatre, although the traditional structure of the Italian style continued in the work of Gioacchino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi, and Giacomo Puccini. Wagner's contemporary Johannes Brahms stood for classical discipline of form combined with Romantic feeling. The Belgian César Franck, with a newly chromatic language, also renewed the tradition of polyphonic writing.

20th century Around 1900 a reaction against Romanticism was found in the Impressionism of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, and the exotic chromaticism of Igor Stravinsky and Alexander Skriabin. In Austria and Germany, the tradition of Anton Bruckner, Gustav Mahler, and Richard Strauss was developed in the new world of atonal, then serial expressionism by Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern.

After World War I neoclassicism, represented by Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, and Paul Hindemith, attempted to restore 18th-century principles of objectivity while combining classical harmony with colouristic dissonance. More forward-looking composers such as Edgard Varèse began using the orchestra to produce blocks of sound to be played off against each other, anticipating later figures such as György Ligeti, Harrison Birtwistle, and Olivier Messiaen. In Paris, composers such as Debussy and Ravel radically altered the use of consonance and form, while composers further from the cosmopolitan centres of Europe, such as Edward Elgar, Frederick Delius, and Jean Sibelius, took the Romantic symphonic tradition forward by extending other parameters than harmony, Sibelius using modernist formal development together with a Romantic harmonic language. The rise of radio and recorded media created a new mass market for classical and Romantic music, but one which was initially resistant to music by contemporary composers. Organizations such as the International Society for Contemporary Music became increasingly responsible for ensuring that new music continued to be publicly performed. Interest in English folk music was revived by the work of Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Among other important contemporary composers are Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály in Hungary; Olivier Messiaen in France; Luigi Dallapiccola and Luciano Berio in Italy; Dmitri Shostakovich in Russia; and Arthur Bliss, Aaron Copland, Edmund Rubbra, William Walton, Samuel Barber, Benjamin Britten, and Michael Tippett in England and the USA.

Modern developments The second half of the 20th century has seen dramatic changes in the nature of composition, with many new techniques such as those developed from medieval and biological or natural processes by composers such as Harrison Birtwistle, and the immense complexity and ultra-expression of Brian Ferneyhough. The recording studio has helped in the development of musique concrète, based on recorded natural sounds, and electronic music, in which sounds are generated electrically. These developments meant that music could be created as a finished object without the need for interpretation by live performers. Chance music, promoted by John Cage, introduced the idea of a music designed to provoke unforeseen results and thereby make new connections; aleatory music, developed by Karlheinz Stockhausen, introduced performers to freedom of choice from a range of options, and in Poland, Witold Lutosławski took this further to create immense controlled complexity in sound, while allowing performers much freedom to play naturally. Further initiatives by Stockhausen introduced new musical sounds and compositional techniques, often combining electronic and live performances. Since the 1960s the computer has become a focus of attention for developments in the synthesis of musical tones, and also in the automation of compositional techniques, most notably at Stanford University and MIT in the USA, and at IRCAM in Paris.


Music Through Time – the Basics

Music in public places

Music and the Media

Music Through Time: Medieval Music


West Side Story

Use of music in films




Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music

Glossary of Musical Terms

Glossary of Musical Terms

Gramophone Home Page

Indian Music

Instrument Jokes

Instruments and their Families

Mix Your Own Music

Music History

Play the Instrument Storage Game

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Tonal Centre: Tonality

What Is Gamelan?

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

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