History of Western Music [I. General Introduction]

Western music, a very interesting and wide-ranging concept. The purpose of this series of articles is to give you my perspective on Western music and its history.

We often hear familiar names such as Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Tchaikovsky, etc. Today, these names are very well known in Western classical music. Today, these names still shine brightly in the history of Western classical music. A richly colored chapter in the treasury of human civilization.

At the outset I must state what I believe to be the correct view of art history, even though the field of music and art is more subjective, it should still always be approached with a materialistic view of history, as will be mentioned several times later.

To give a simple example, music history is divided into time divisions only to facilitate research, and history can never be really broken point type. development. Musicians couldn’t have woken up in the morning of 1600, patted their heads, and said, “It’s Baroque from today, we should write Point Baroque music now.”

The development of music, like any other field of human endeavor, comes little by little and is subject to the many conditions of the times.

To make that clear, we can get down to business.

This is a general introduction to the first part of the article, and we should first be clear about the “West” of Western music and its specific geographical location.

Firstly, from the origins of Western music in ancient Greece and Rome until the 20th century, Europe has been the main development of Western music, with the general lineage extending from the south of Europe to the hinterland of Europe; secondly, in the 20th century, the main development of Western music shifted to the American continent, especially after the two world wars, the United States became the strong development of Western music.

Secondly, the history of Western music has been divided into several temporal divisions. The history of Western music can be roughly divided into seven periods from the ancient Greek era to the 20th century.

1. the Greco-Roman period (c. 1650 B.C[1]~476)

Ancient Greek civilization originated around the 16th century B.C., and by 146 B.C., Rome had conquered Greece and brought about the end of ancient Greece. During this period, Greek civilization went through the Mycenaean period (c. 1650~1100 B.C.), the Homeric period (c. 1100-800 B.C.), the city-state period (about 800-500 B.C.), and the classical period (about 500-500 B.C.). 338 B.C.), and the Hellenistic period (336-31 B.C.) totaling five periods. (For those who are interested, you can find out for yourself.)

After conquering Greece, Rome inherited many of the civilizations and cultures of ancient Greece, including music. Since the birth of Rome, there have been a total of Roman kingship (753~509 B.C.), the Roman Republic (509~27), and the Roman Empire (509~27). B.C), and the three periods of the Western Roman Empire (27 B.C ~ 476). [2]

The ancient Greeks and Romans did not even have notation because of their backward productivity and lack of means and tools to record their sounds. It is almost impossible to pass on to future generations, which has become an eternal shame. But the ancient Greek and Roman seers still had much to show for it, such as many reflections on the ethics of music, the theory of research, some of the first musical genres to be explored, some of the earlier instruments (liras, alsophone, etc.). The birth and development of Christianity, the initial tetrameter series (prototypical tonal formations), etc., all laid the foundation for the Western music of later generations.

2. Medieval period (476-1453)

Middle Ages (Middle Ages), refers to the period after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 A.D., when Europe entered the Middle Ages. The long period of history, which many historians refer to as the “Dark Ages,” began in Europe in 1453. It was during the Renaissance that this proclaimed the end of the Middle Ages. So, the entire Middle Ages lasted for almost 1,000 years.

In the 1st century A.D., Christianity was born, and after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Christianity ruled the spiritual world of the Europeans, coupled with the fact that Europe was in a state of war and chaos at this time, various peoples were establishing their own regimes, the Crusades, the Black Death and other diseases rampant, Europe at that time can be said to be the worst ever, it is said that the average life expectancy was even less than 40 years.

The Middle Ages was the true starting point for the history of Western music, and many of the achievements in the field of music began to originate during this time and influenced future generations for millennia.

The Middle Ages had several key words that could not be detoured, religious music, secular music, polyphony[3], notation, and music theory. These results are inseparable from the specific European realities of the time. Religious music of the time developed greatly, giving birth to a wide variety of genres; the medieval counterpart to religious music was secular music. In the past, different ethnic groups and regions have produced many distinctive secular vocal genres, such as bar form, bar chant, and bar chant. Lauda hymns (laude), etc.

Religious music and secular music have very sharp contrasts in terms of modulation, instrumentation, lyrics and even the venues used.

The Middle Ages also saw the birth of the first European polyphonic music, and the development of notation and music theory. For example, Canon, as it is known today, is actually a compositional technique that originated in the Middle Ages.

In general, although classical music was in its infancy during the Middle Ages, its millennia of accumulation and several extremely important achievements laid a very solid foundation for its subsequent development.

3. The Renaissance (1453-1600)

Renaissance, a period of about 150 years of Western history after the long Middle Ages Historical period. This was a period when people began to free their eyes and minds from God and Goddess and focus more on man himself. Art was similarly more focused on the human self.

The definition of the time of the Renaissance has been disputed by historians, and in fact the earliest Renaissance ideas would have been from the early 14th century onwards The period from 1300 to 1453 is often referred to as the “Art Nouveau”[4] period, which is the period of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. I see the Art Nouveau period as a buffer zone between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

As I said at the beginning of this essay, history is inherently impossible, and the division of time is for the sake of better research and does not imply that the period of the Middle Ages was a period of “art nouveau”[3]. The inter-temporal period is the break. But as a matter of personal habit, I generally assign the Art Nouveau period to the Middle Ages for study.

The Renaissance succeeded the Middle Ages, and religious and secular music each had its own fruitfulness. This period produced many schools of music, such as Burgundian, Flemish, Roman, and Venetian, and in the polyphonic There have been great technical breakthroughs in vocal music; in secular music, France, Germany, Italy, etc., have their own sizeable Vocal genre. (e.g., the Italian pastoral, which greatly influenced later opera and is even considered a precursor to opera)

It is worth noting that vocal music developed during the Renaissance, and some of the early instrumental genres based on them began to appear in the late Renaissance. Although these genres were only in their infancy at the time, they served as a precursor to the explosion of instrumental music genres that followed in the Baroque era.

4. Baroque period (1600-1750)

Baroque, from the Portuguese word meaning “irregular pearl”, i.e., containing “grotesque,” “grotesque,” or “pearly” pearls. Baroque” means “messy beauty”. In the history of art, the word “baroque” was first used to refer to the architectural style, which is characterized by ornate and precise carvings, grand architectural patterns. Borrowed from post-musical history, the music of the “baroque” is characterized by a magnificent quality and a great deal of sophistication. The can-do.

The Baroque starts and ends with one marker each: around 1600 was the birth of opera, and 1750 was the death of the musical giant Bach.

The music of the Baroque era is marked by several very iconic features, the digital bass [5], the improvisational treatment, the focus on concertos, and the Emotional factors, etc. And in terms of texture, the Baroque era was the peak era of polyphonic music and began the transition to the main key [6].

The instrumental genre of this era was greatly developed, and the instrumental music of the Baroque era was even as good as the powerful vocal music. gave birth to many early instrumental genres, such as the Baroque concerto (represented by Corelli, Vivaldi, Bach, etc.). Sonatas from the Baroque period (better known as D. Scarlatti), toccata (represented by Bach) , Suite (with Bach as the representative), etc. (So you should be able to see why Bach can be so awesome)

The vocal genre of this era also saw great breakthroughs, with the greatest achievement being the birth of opera, represented in the early years by Monteverdi, A. Scarlatti in Italy; Lully, Rameau in France; Purcell in England, Handel in Germany, and so on. There were other famous vocal genres of the same era, such as the cantata, the oratorio, the Passion, etc. (Bach wrote a great deal of cantatas, the (The creative energy of this big guy really never ceases to amaze me)

The greatest musical theoretical achievement of the Baroque period, in my opinion, was the beginning of the 12 equal temperament [7] on the keyboard. application, replacing previous tonal systems and tonal doctrines, which contributed to the prosperity of Baroque polyphony and the later The foundation was laid for the development of major-key music during the Classical period, and the number one contributor to this breakthrough was the great J. S. Bach ( God, is he omnipotent?)

In general, the music of the Baroque era follows the intellectual core of the Renaissance and possesses an extraordinary charm.

5. the classical period (1750-1827)

The Classical period, first of all, is conceptually different from classical music, and in the history of music, classical music is defined in a narrow and broad sense.

In the history of music, the identification of “classical music” is divided into a narrow sense and a broad sense. In the narrow sense, it refers specifically to the music of the second half of the 18th century to the 1820s, which was born in Vienna with the wave of the Enlightenment. The Viennese classical school of music, the music they composed. This school is represented by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and, more generally, by the professional music of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Musical compositions such as those of the Baroque, Classical, and even later Romantic eras can be loosely classified as Classical music.

The “Classical Period” is the period of almost 70 years in the history of music, the period that followed the Baroque era and the Age of Enlightenment Romanticism. of time, because during these 70 years, the development of music took on many qualities that differed from those of the Baroque era, and these in turn contributed to the The foundation for the development of music in the Romantic era was laid. Therefore, following the above narrow and broad subdivision of “classical music”, the term “classical music” in general music history probably refers to the former. .

The classical period is still rather vague in its temporal positioning, and as I said at the beginning of this view of art history, music is not a quick fix. The delineation of eras is just for ease of research, and you can’t really take a categorical view of music history. Nonetheless, I use the death of Bach (1750) to the death of Beethoven (1827) as a starting point to divide classicalism Period this about 70 years or so.

The contribution of the classical era to music, in my opinion, is threefold: firstly, the identification of several important genres of instrumental music (sonata, concerto, symphony, string quartet); secondly, the technical progress of composition compared to the baroque era (simplification of motives, key music, clear bass notation, etc.); thirdly, the reform of opera, which gave a new life to opera and laid the foundation for the development of opera in the Romantic period.

Late in the Classical period, there was a marked increase in the productivity of Europe, and feudal society began to crumble (e.g., the famous French Revolution was (occurring at this time), the development of the bourgeoisie and the beginnings of urbanization and industrialization, which led a group of musicians to try to get out of the court, developed independently (the first musician in history to be independent of the court was Mozart), and this socio-historical condition is followed by the The Romantic era had a more pronounced manifestation. So, I have to refer back to the view of art history at the beginning of my article.

The music of the Classical period was the peak of traditional instrumental music, and instrumental music was equal to or even superior to vocal music, laying a solid foundation for the development of the following Romantic music.

6. the Romantic period (1800-1900)

Romanticism (Romanticism), and the chronological location is vague, with the approximate date being the home of Romantic music throughout the 19th century.

During Romanticism, Europe was in the midst of sweeping changes. With England taking the lead in completing the Industrial Revolution in 1840, the whole of Europe collectively began a dramatic transformation. Industrialization and urbanization led to significant growth in the instrument manufacturing industry, and musical instruments began to become cheap and affordable for the average family! At the same time, musicians developed in large numbers independently of the court and the aristocracy, giving rise to the professions of music agent and music critic (see below). Schumann used to be a music manager and music critic)

The music of the Romantic period had many new characteristics, which I will briefly explain from two latitudes of musical style and genre development.

Firstly, in the style of the Romantic period, musicians paid more attention to the expression of emotions in music, rather than being satisfied with the classical period. For musical bars. The music of the Romantic period was very different in the areas of harmony, tonality, and so on.

Classical music, refined, rigorous, whether for harmonic writing, harmonic function, orchestral orchestration, and even polyphonic counterpoint, have more stringent rules; Romanticism, the music in the tonal use of frequent distant relations in modulation, making the music has a sense of tonal wandering (which also laid the foundation for the 20th century tuneless music), melodic frequent use of chromatic intervals, harmony also uses a large number of color tone (Schubert is the master of this piece).

Secondly, in terms of genre, instrumental music, the Romantic period, the development of large instrumental genre is relatively small, the development of the focus on piano music-based instrumental pieces (such as Chopin, Mendelssohn) and chamber music; vocal music, the development of the focus is still in the opera, compared to the baroque period and the classical period, the Romantic period of opera presents many different qualities.

It is worth mentioning that throughout the 19th century, due to the development of urbanization, emigration became a norm, so many musicians were in foreign lands, coupled with a series of emotional catalysts such as the “Rivalry Movement”, ethnicity became an important theme in the 19th century Romantic music, many countries emerged national representatives of musicians or national music schools, such as Poland’s Chopin, Russia’s Glinka, Tchaikovsky, “The Five”, Czech Smetana, Norway’s Grieg, Finland’s Sibelius and so on.

Throughout the 19th century Romantic music presented a hazy, irregular sense of wandering that set the stage for the 20th century.

7. 20th Century Music (1900 to present)

As the timeline moves into the 20th century, music takes on a more colorful and diverse quality. During this period, there were many events in world history, two world wars, the third technological revolution, etc., which artistically All fields reflected it, such as the fine arts, which gave birth to Impressionism and Expressionism, and literature, which gave birth to Existentialism, Stream of Consciousness. Surrealism, etc., and even more so the emergence of a whole new art form like cinema.

In the first half of the 20th century, impressionist music ( (representing Debussy, Ravel, etc.), Expressionist music (representing Schoenberg, Webern, Berger, etc.), Neoclassical music ( (representing Stravinsky, Hindemith, etc.) These three genres.

The music of the 20th century presents so many different qualities that it is difficult to summarize them carefully; in general, it is based on the Romantic period and is characterized, roughly speaking, by the following five points.

(1) Tonal music is gradually declining. Since the time of the Baroque, the major and minor key system has gradually become the center of traditional musical works, but since the 20th century, many works of tonal It is characterized by a very weak or even complete intonation. During this period there were various approaches, such as some composers who did not use scales in the melodic context, or even more extreme ones who created their own scales. phonetic series.

Harmony is no longer pursued in harmony and balance. Traditional classical music to harmony and balance for the beauty of the harmony, modern music is to break this rule, frequent use of eleven chords, thirteen chords and so on. Highly stacked chords, and the concept of chords no longer being built in a traditional frame (triplets), even in the later stages.

(iii) The rhythm and tempo undergo many changes. Traditionally, the beat and rhythm were the skeleton of the piece, but after the 20th century, the rhythm of many musical pieces began to undergo variations, some using compound rhythms, some even without rhythms, and even more freely arranged by the player.

(4) Differential notes appear in the series. After the 12 equal temperament system was established and applied in the Baroque period, the semitone was regarded as the minimum interval. Bound, began to compose in smaller quarter tones, 1/6 tones, and the Czech composer Haba was truly the first systematic composer who used differential tones to compose, he also founded the Department of Differential Music at the Prague Conservatory.

⑤ There have been many changes in the instrumentation. Traditional classical music emphasizes harmony, balance, and instrumentation that has been explored over the centuries, culminating in a scientific configuration, while modern music has become more and more complex. The music makes heavy use of noise (this noise is a musical concept, not an acoustic one), extreme registers, highlighting percussion. Seeking many new instrument combinations, sound colors.

Concluding Remarks
This is my first article related to the history of Western music, and I am very thankful for the encouragement and support from all the like-minded friends, and I would like to ask all the senior teachers and students for their advice.

I hope that through this series of writing (xia), I can bring you into a new door, popularize some interesting stories in music history, and explain some simple music theory knowledge in layman’s terms, which is my original intention.