1. Education

Music History 101

Introduction to Music Education

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What is Music?

Dictionaries and encyclopedias define music as "an artistic form of auditory communication incorporating instrumental or vocal tones in a structured and continuous manner." It is also defined as "any pleasing and harmonious sound" and "the sounds produced by singers or musical instruments." (Source: wordnet.princeton.edu)

There are a lot of definitions for music and it will take a whole book to explore the subject of music. If there is one true definition of music it is this; music is universal and yet it is also relative and subjective. What may be music to one may not be so to another.

For me music is the singing of the birds, the whistling of my husband as he takes a shower, the soft humming of my little girl as she quietly plays, the beautiful sounds a pianist produces as he touches the keys of a piano...

Take a moment to ponder what the meaning of music is for you.

Origin and History of Music

There are many theories regarding when and where music originated. Many agree that music began even before man existed. Historiographers point out that there are six periods of music and each period has a particular style of music that greatly contributed to what music is today. Here are some resources for you to better understand the history of music. Links are arranged chronologically and is a great primer to learn more about every stage of music development.

Medieval/Middle Ages

Music during the Middle Ages is characterized by the beginning of musical notation as well as polyphony. During this time, there were two general types of music styles; the monophonic and the polyphonic.

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Renaissance

Renaissance means "rebirth" and in music this period brought about many changes in the way music was created and perceived.

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Baroque

The word "baroque" comes from the Italian word "barocco" which means bizarre. The Baroque period was a time when composers experimented with form, styles and instruments. This period saw the development of opera and instrumental music.

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Classical

The music of the Classical period, which spans from 1750 to 1820, is characterized by simpler melodies and forms such as the sonatas. The piano was undoubtedly the primary instrument used by composers during the Classical period.

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Romantic

Historiographers define the Romantic Music period to be between 1800 to 1900. It is characterized by using music to tell a story or express an idea, and the use of various instruments including wind instruments. Melodies are fuller and more dramatic.

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20th Century

Music during the 20th century brought about many innovations on how music was performed and appreciated. Artists were more willing to experiment on new music forms and used technology to enhance their compositions.

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Additional Resources

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