What is the oldest known piece of music?

What is the oldest known piece of music?

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The history of music is as old as humanity itself. Archaeologists have found primitive flutes made of bone and ivory dating back as far as 43,000 years, and it’s likely that many ancient musical styles have been preserved in oral traditions. When it comes to specific songs, however, the oldest known examples are relatively more recent. The earliest fragment of musical notation is found on a 4,000-year-old Sumerian clay tablet, which includes instructions and tunings for a hymn honoring the ruler Lipit-Ishtar. But for the title of oldest extant song, most historians point to “Hurrian Hymn No. 6,” an ode to the goddess Nikkal that was composed in cuneiform by the ancient Hurrians sometime around the 14th century B.C. The clay tablets containing the tune were excavated in the 1950s from the ruins of the city of Ugarit in Syria. Along with a near-complete set of musical notations, they also include specific instructions for how to play the song on a type of nine-stringed lyre.

“Hurrian Hymn No. 6” is considered the world’s earliest melody, but the oldest musical composition to have survived in its entirety is a first century A.D. Greek tune known as the “Seikilos Epitaph.” The song was found engraved on an ancient marble column used to mark a woman’s gravesite in Turkey. “I am a tombstone, an image,” reads an inscription. “Seikilos placed me here as an everlasting sign of deathless remembrance.” The column also includes musical notation as well as a short set of lyrics that read: “While you live, shine / Have no grief at all / Life exists only for a short while / And time demands its toll.”

The well-preserved inscriptions on Seikilos Epitaph have allowed modern musicians and scholars to recreate its plaintive melodies note-for-note. Dr. David Creese of the University of Newcastle performed it using an eight-stringed instrument played with a mallet, and ancient music researcher Michael Levy has recorded a version strummed on a lyre. There have also been several attempts to decode and play “Hurrian Hymn No. 6,” but because of difficulties in translating its ancient tablets, there is no definitive version. One of the most popular interpretations came in 2009, when Syrian composer Malek Jandali performed the ancient hymn with a full orchestra.

Listen to the enchanting sound of the world’s oldest song, the Hurrian Hymn

The Hurrian Hymn was discovered in the 1950s on a clay tablet inscribed with Cuneiform text. It’s the oldest surviving melody and is over 3,400 years old.

The hymn was discovered on a clay tablet in Ugarit, now part of modern-day Syria, and is dedicated the Hurrians&rsquo goddess of the orchards Nikkal.

The clay tablet text, which was discovered alongside around 30 other tablet fragments, specifies 9 lyre strings and the intervals between those strings &ndash kind of like an ancient guitar tab.

But this is the only hymn that could be reconstructed &ndash although the name of the composer is now lost.


A cappella could be as old as humanity itself. Research suggests that singing and vocables may have been what early humans used to communicate before the invention of language. [3] The earliest piece of sheet music is thought to have originated from times as early as 2000 B.C. [4] while the earliest that has survived in its entirety is from the first century A.D.: a piece from Greece called the Seikilos epitaph. [4]

A cappella music was originally used in religious music, especially church music as well as anasheed and zemirot. Gregorian chant is an example of a cappella singing, as is the majority of secular vocal music from the Renaissance. The madrigal, up until its development in the early Baroque into an instrumentally accompanied form, is also usually in a cappella form. The Psalms note that some early songs were accompanied by string instruments, though Jewish and Early Christian music was largely a cappella [5] the use of instruments has subsequently increased within both of these religions as well as in Islam.

Christian Edit

The polyphony of Christian a cappella music began to develop in Europe around the late 15th century AD, with compositions by Josquin des Prez. [6] The early a cappella polyphonies may have had an accompanying instrument, although this instrument would merely double the singers' parts and was not independent. By the 16th century, a cappella polyphony had further developed, but gradually, the cantata began to take the place of a cappella forms. [6] Sixteenth-century a cappella polyphony, nonetheless, continued to influence church composers throughout this period and to the present day. Recent evidence has shown that some of the early pieces by Palestrina, such as what was written for the Sistine Chapel, was intended to be accompanied by an organ "doubling" some or all of the voices. [6] Such is seen in the life of Palestrina becoming a major influence on Bach, most notably in the Mass in B Minor.

Other composers that utilized the a cappella style, if only for the occasional piece, were Claudio Monteverdi and his masterpiece, Lagrime d'amante al sepolcro dell'amata (A lover's tears at his beloved's grave), which was composed in 1610, [7] and Andrea Gabrieli when upon his death many choral pieces were discovered, one of which was in the unaccompanied style. [8] Learning from the preceding two composeres, Heinrich Schütz utilized the a cappella style in numerous pieces, chief among these were the pieces in the oratorio style, which were traditionally performed during the Easter week and dealt with the religious subject matter of that week, such as Christ's suffering and the Passion. Five of Schutz's Historien were Easter pieces, and of these the latter three, which dealt with the passion from three different viewpoints, those of Matthew, Luke and John, were all done a cappella style. This was a near requirement for this type of piece, and the parts of the crowd were sung while the solo parts which were the quoted parts from either Christ or the authors were performed in a plainchant. [9]

Byzantine Rite Edit

In the Byzantine Rite of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches, the music performed in the liturgies is exclusively sung without instrumental accompaniment. Bishop Kallistos Ware says, "The service is sung, even though there may be no choir. In the Orthodox Church today, as in the early Church, singing is unaccompanied and instrumental music is not found." [10] This a cappella behavior arises from strict interpretation of Psalms 150, which states, Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord. [11] In keeping with this philosophy, early Russian musika which started appearing in the late 17th century, in what was known as khorovïye kontsertï (choral concertos) made a cappella adaptations of Venetian-styled pieces, such as the treatise, Grammatika musikiyskaya (1675), by Nikolai Diletsky. [12] Divine Liturgies and Western Rite masses composed by famous composers such as Peter Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Alexander Arkhangelsky, and Mykola Leontovych are fine examples of this.

Opposition to instruments in worship Edit

Present-day Christian religious bodies known for conducting their worship services without musical accompaniment include many Oriental Orthodox Churches (such as the Coptic Orthodox Church), [13] many Anabaptist communities (such as the Amish, Old German Baptist Brethren, Old Order Mennonites and Conservative Mennonites), some Presbyterian churches devoted to the regulative principle of worship, Old Regular Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Plymouth Brethren, Churches of Christ, Church of God (Guthrie, Oklahoma), the Reformed Free Methodists, [14] Doukhobors, and the Byzantine Rite of Eastern Christianity. Certain high church services and other musical events in liturgical churches (such as the Roman Catholic Mass and the Lutheran Divine Service) may be a cappella, a practice remaining from apostolic times. Many Mennonites also conduct some or all of their services without instruments. Sacred Harp, a type of folk music, is an a cappella style of religious singing with shape notes, usually sung at singing conventions.

Opponents of musical instruments in the Christian worship believe that such opposition is supported by the Christian scriptures and Church history. The scriptures typically referenced are Matthew 26:30 Acts 16:25 Romans 15:9 1 Corinthians 14:15 Ephesians 5:19 Colossians 3:16 Hebrews 2:12, 13:15 and James 5:13, [15] which show examples and exhortations for Christians to sing. [16]

There is no reference to instrumental music in early church worship in the New Testament, or in the worship of churches for the first six centuries. [17] [18] Several reasons have been posited throughout church history for the absence of instrumental music in church worship. [nb 2]

Christians who believe in a cappella music today believe that in the Israelite worship assembly during Temple worship only the Priests of Levi sang, played, and offered animal sacrifices, whereas in the church era, all Christians are commanded to sing praises to God. They believe that if God wanted instrumental music in New Testament worship, He would have commanded not just singing, but singing and playing like he did in the Hebrew scriptures.

Instruments have divided Christendom since their introduction into worship. They were considered a Roman Catholic innovation, not widely practiced until the 18th century, and were opposed vigorously in worship by a number of Protestant Reformers, including Martin Luther (1483–1546), [20] Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin (1509–1564) [21] and John Wesley (1703–1791). [22] Alexander Campbell referred to the use of an instrument in worship as "a cow bell in a concert". [23] In Sir Walter Scott's The Heart of Midlothian, the heroine, Jeanie Deans, a Scottish Presbyterian, writes to her father about the church situation she has found in England (bold added):

The folk here are civil, and, like the barbarians unto the holy apostle, have shown me much kindness and there are a sort of chosen people in the land, for they have some kirks without organs that are like ours, and are called meeting-houses, where the minister preaches without a gown. [24]

Acceptance of instruments in worship Edit

Those who do not adhere to the regulative principle of interpreting Christian scripture, believe that limiting praise to the unaccompanied chant of the early church is not commanded in scripture, and that churches in any age are free to offer their songs with or without musical instruments.

Those who subscribe to this interpretation believe that since the Christian scriptures never counter instrumental language with any negative judgment on instruments, opposition to instruments instead comes from an interpretation of history. There is no written opposition to musical instruments in any setting in the first century and a half of Christian churches (33–180 AD). [25] The use of instruments for Christian worship during this period is also undocumented. Toward the end of the 2nd century, Christians began condemning the instruments themselves. [26] Those who oppose instruments today believe these Church Fathers had a better understanding of God's desire for the church, [ citation needed ] but there are significant differences between the teachings of these Church Fathers and Christian opposition to instruments today.

  • Modern Christians typically believe it is acceptable to play instruments or to attend weddings, funerals, banquets, etc., where instruments are heard playing religious music. The Church Fathers made no exceptions. [26] Since the New Testament never condemns instruments themselves, much less in any of these settings, it is believed that "the church Fathers go beyond the New Testament in pronouncing a negative judgment on musical instruments." [27]
  • Written opposition to instruments in worship began near the turn of the 5th century. [28] Modern opponents of instruments typically do not make the same assessment of instruments as these writers, [nb 3] who argued that God had allowed David the "evil" of using musical instruments in praise. [31] While the Old Testament teaches that God specifically asked for musical instruments, [32] modern concern is for worship based on the New Testament.

Since "a cappella" singing brought a new polyphony (more than one note at a time) with instrumental accompaniment, it is not surprising that Protestant reformers who opposed the instruments (such as Calvin and Zwingli) also opposed the polyphony. [33] While Zwingli was destroying organs in Switzerland – Luther called him a fanatic – the Church of England was burning books of polyphony. [34]

Some Holiness Churches such as the Free Methodist Church opposed the use of musical instruments in church worship until the mid-20th century. The Free Methodist Church allowed for local church decision on the use of either an organ or piano in the 1943 Conference before lifting the ban entirely in 1955. The Reformed Free Methodist Church and Evangelical Wesleyan Church were formed as a result of a schism with the Free Methodist Church, with the former retaining a cappella worship and the latter retaining the rule limiting the number of instruments in the church to the piano and organ. [14]

Jewish Edit

While worship in the Temple in Jerusalem included musical instruments, [35] traditional Jewish religious services in the Synagogue, both before and after the last destruction of the Temple, did not include musical instruments [36] given the practice of scriptural cantillation. [37] The use of musical instruments is traditionally forbidden on the Sabbath out of concern that players would be tempted to repair (or tune) their instruments, which is forbidden on those days. (This prohibition has been relaxed in many Reform and some Conservative congregations.) Similarly, when Jewish families and larger groups sing traditional Sabbath songs known as zemirot outside the context of formal religious services, they usually do so a cappella, and Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations on the Sabbath sometimes feature entertainment by a cappella ensembles. During the Three Weeks musical instruments are prohibited. Many Jews consider a portion of the 49-day period of the counting of the omer between Passover and Shavuot to be a time of semi-mourning and instrumental music is not allowed during that time. [38] This has led to a tradition of a cappella singing sometimes known as sefirah music. [39]

The popularization of the Jewish chant may be found in the writings of the Jewish philosopher Philo, born 20 BC. Weaving together Jewish and Greek thought, Philo promoted praise without instruments, and taught that "silent singing" (without even vocal chords) was better still. [40] This view parted with the Jewish scriptures, where Israel offered praise with instruments by God's own command [41] The shofar is the only temple instrument still being used today in the synagogue, [42] and it is only used from Rosh Chodesh Elul through the end of Yom Kippur. The shofar is used by itself, without any vocal accompaniment, and is limited to a very strictly defined set of sounds and specific places in the synagogue service. [43] However, silver trumpets, as described in Numbers 10:1-18, [44] have been made in recent years and used in prayer services at the Western Wall. [45]

Peter Christian Lutkin, dean of the Northwestern University School of Music, helped popularize a cappella music in the United States by founding the Northwestern A Cappella Choir in 1906. The A Cappella Choir was "the first permanent organization of its kind in America." [46] [47]

An a cappella tradition was begun in 1911 by F. Melius Christiansen, a music faculty member at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. [48] The St. Olaf College Choir was established as an outgrowth of the local St. John's Lutheran Church, where Christiansen was organist and the choir was composed, at least partially, of students from the nearby St. Olaf campus. The success of the ensemble was emulated by other regional conductors, and a tradition of a cappella choral music was born in the region at colleges like Concordia College (Moorhead, Minnesota), Augustana College (Rock Island, Illinois), Waldorf University (Forest City, Iowa), Luther College (Decorah, Iowa), Gustavus Adolphus College (St. Peter, Minnesota), Augustana College (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), and Augsburg University (Minneapolis, Minnesota). The choirs typically range from 40 to 80 singers and are recognized for their efforts to perfect blend, intonation, phrasing and pitch in a large choral setting. [49] [50]

Movements in modern a cappella over the past century include barbershop and doo wop. The Barbershop Harmony Society, Sweet Adelines International, and Harmony Inc. host educational events including Harmony University, Directors University, and the International Educational Symposium, and international contests and conventions, recognizing international champion choruses and quartets.

Many a cappella groups can be found in high schools and colleges. There are amateur Barbershop Harmony Society and professional groups that sing a cappella exclusively. Although a cappella is technically defined as singing without instrumental accompaniment, some groups use their voices to emulate instruments others are more traditional and focus on harmonizing. A cappella styles range from gospel music to contemporary to barbershop quartets and choruses.

The Contemporary A Cappella Society (CASA) is a membership option for former students, whose funds support hosted competitions and events. [51] [52]

A cappella music was popularized between the late 2000s and the early to mid-2010s with media hits such as the 2009–2014 TV show The Sing-Off and the musical comedy film series Pitch Perfect.

Recording artists Edit

In July 1943, as a result of the American Federation of Musicians boycott of US recording studios, the a cappella vocal group The Song Spinners had a best-seller with "Comin' In on a Wing and a Prayer". In the 1950s, several recording groups, notably The Hi-Los and the Four Freshmen, introduced complex jazz harmonies to a cappella performances. The King's Singers are credited with promoting interest in small-group a cappella performances in the 1960s. Frank Zappa loves Doo wop and a cappella, so Zappa released The Persuasions' first album from his label in 1970. [53] Judy Collins recorded "Amazing Grace" a cappella. [54] In 1983, an a cappella group known as The Flying Pickets had a Christmas 'number one' in the UK with a cover of Yazoo's (known in the US as Yaz) "Only You". A cappella music attained renewed prominence from the late 1980s onward, spurred by the success of Top 40 recordings by artists such as The Manhattan Transfer, Bobby McFerrin, Huey Lewis and the News, All-4-One, The Nylons, Backstreet Boys, Boyz II Men, and *NSYNC. [ citation needed ]

Contemporary a cappella includes many vocal groups and bands who add vocal percussion or beatboxing to create a pop/rock/gospel sound, in some cases very similar to bands with instruments. Examples of such professional groups include Straight No Chaser, Pentatonix, The House Jacks, Rockapella, Mosaic, Home Free and M-pact. There also remains a strong a cappella presence within Christian music, as some denominations purposefully do not use instruments during worship. Examples of such groups are Take 6, Glad and Acappella. Arrangements of popular music for small a cappella ensembles typically include one voice singing the lead melody, one singing a rhythmic bass line, and the remaining voices contributing chordal or polyphonic accompaniment.

A cappella can also describe the isolated vocal track(s) from a multitrack recording that originally included instrumentation. [ citation needed ] These vocal tracks may be remixed or put onto vinyl records for DJs, or released to the public so that fans can remix them. One such example is the a cappella release of Jay-Z's Black Album, which Danger Mouse mixed with The Beatles' White Album to create The Grey Album.

On their 1966 album titled Album, Peter, Paul and Mary included the song "Norman Normal." All the sounds on that song, both vocals and instruments, were created by Paul's voice, with no actual instruments used. [55]

In 2013, an artist by the name Smooth McGroove rose to prominence with his style of a cappella music. [56] He is best known for his a cappella covers of video game music tracks on YouTube. [57]

in 2015, an a cappella version of Jerusalem by multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier was selected for Beats by Dre "The Game Starts Here" for the England Rugby World Cup campaign. [58] [59]

Musical theatre Edit

A cappella has been used as the sole orchestration for original works of musical theatre that have had commercial runs Off-Broadway (theatres in New York City with 99 to 500 seats) only four times. The first was Avenue X which opened on 28 January 1994 and ran for 77 performances. It was produced by Playwrights Horizons with book by John Jiler, music and lyrics by Ray Leslee. The musical style of the show's score was primarily Doo-Wop as the plot revolved around Doo-Wop group singers of the 1960s. [60] [61]

In 2001, The Kinsey Sicks, produced and starred in the critically acclaimed off-Broadway hit, "DRAGAPELLA! Starring the Kinsey Sicks" at New York's legendary Studio 54. That production received a nomination for a Lucille Lortel award as Best Musical and a Drama Desk nomination for Best Lyrics. It was directed by Glenn Casale with original music and lyrics by Ben Schatz. [62]

The a cappella musical Perfect Harmony, a comedy about two high school a cappella groups vying to win the National championship, made its Off Broadway debut at Theatre Row's Acorn Theatre on 42nd Street in New York City in October 2010 after a successful out-of-town run at the Stoneham Theatre, in Stoneham, Massachusetts. Perfect Harmony features the hit music of The Jackson 5, Pat Benatar, Billy Idol, Marvin Gaye, Scandal, Tiffany, The Romantics, The Pretenders, The Temptations, The Contours, The Commodores, Tommy James & the Shondells and The Partridge Family, and has been compared to a cross between Altar Boyz and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. [63] [64]

The fourth a cappella musical to appear Off-Broadway, In Transit, premiered 5 October 2010 and was produced by Primary Stages with book, music, and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan, and Sara Wordsworth. Set primarily in the New York City subway system its score features an eclectic mix of musical genres (including jazz, hip hop, Latin, rock, and country). In Transit incorporates vocal beat boxing into its contemporary a cappella arrangements through the use of a subway beat boxer character. Beat boxer and actor Chesney Snow performed this role for the 2010 Primary Stages production. [65] According to the show's website, it is scheduled to reopen for an open-ended commercial run in the Fall of 2011. In 2011, the production received four Lucille Lortel Award nominations including Outstanding Musical, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League nominations, as well as five Drama Desk nominations including Outstanding Musical and won for Outstanding Ensemble Performance.

In December 2016, In Transit became the first a cappella musical on Broadway. [66]

Barbershop style Edit

Barbershop music is one of several uniquely American art forms. The earliest reports of this style of a cappella music involved African Americans. The earliest documented quartets all began in barber shops. In 1938, the first formal men's barbershop organization was formed, known as the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A), and in 2004 rebranded itself and officially changed its public name to the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS). Today the BHS has about 22,000 members in approximately 800 chapters across the United States and Canada, [67] [68] and the barbershop style has spread around the world with organizations in many other countries. [69] The Barbershop Harmony Society provides a highly organized competition structure for a cappella quartets and choruses singing in the barbershop style.

In 1945, the first formal women's barbershop organization, Sweet Adelines, was formed. In 1953, Sweet Adelines became an international organization, although it didn't change its name to Sweet Adelines International until 1991. The membership of nearly 25,000 women, all singing in English, includes choruses in most of the fifty United States as well as in Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the organization encompasses more than 1,200 registered quartets and 600 choruses.

In 1959, a second women's barbershop organization started as a break off from Sweet Adelines due to ideological differences. Based on democratic principles which continue to this day, Harmony, Inc. is smaller than its counterpart, but has an atmosphere of friendship and competition. With about 2,500 members in the United States and Canada, Harmony, Inc. uses the same rules in contest that the Barbershop Harmony Society uses. Harmony, Inc. is registered in Providence, Rhode Island.

Amateur and high school Edit

The popularity of a cappella among high schools and amateurs was revived by television shows and movies such as Glee and Pitch Perfect. High school groups may have conductors or student leaders who keep the tempo for the group, or beatboxers/vocal percussionists.

Since 2013, summer training programs have appeared, such as A Cappella Academy in Los Angeles, California (founded by Ben Bram, Rob Dietz, and Avi Kaplan) and Camp A Cappella in Dayton, Ohio (founded by Deke Sharon and Brody McDonald). [70] These programs teach about different aspects of a cappella music, including vocal performance, arranging, and beatboxing/vocal percussion.

Pakistan Edit

The musical show Strepsils Stereo is credited for introducing the art of a cappella in Pakistan. [71]

Sri Lanka Edit

Composer Dinesh Subasinghe became the first Sri Lankan to write a cappella pieces for SATB choirs. He wrote "The Princes of the Lost Tribe" and "Ancient Queen of Somawathee" for Menaka De Sahabandu and Bridget Helpe's choirs, respectively, based on historical incidents in ancient Sri Lanka. [72] [73] [74] Voice Print is also a professional a cappella music group in Sri Lanka. [75]

Sweden Edit

The European a cappella tradition is especially strong in the countries around the Baltic and perhaps most so in Sweden as described by Richard Sparks in his doctoral thesis The Swedish Choral Miracle in 2000. [76]

Swedish a cappella choirs have over the last 25 years won around 25% of the annual prestigious European Grand Prix for Choral Singing (EGP) that despite its name is open to choirs from all over the world (see list of laureates in the Wikipedia article on the EGP competition).

The reasons for the strong Swedish dominance are as explained by Richard Sparks manifold suffice to say here that there is a long-standing tradition, an unusually large proportion of the populations (5% is often cited) regularly sing in choirs, the Swedish choral director Eric Ericson had an enormous impact on a cappella choral development not only in Sweden but around the world, and finally there are a large number of very popular primary and secondary schools ('music schools') with high admission standards based on auditions that combine a rigid academic regimen with high level choral singing on every school day, a system that started with Adolf Fredrik's Music School in Stockholm in 1939 but has spread over the country.

United Kingdom Edit

A cappella has gained attention in the UK in recent years, with many groups forming at British universities by students seeking an alternative singing pursuit to traditional choral and chapel singing. This movement has been bolstered by organisations such as The Voice Festival UK.

It is not clear exactly where collegiate a cappella began. The Rensselyrics of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (formerly known as the RPI Glee Club), established in 1873 is perhaps the oldest known collegiate a cappella group. [77] [ additional citation(s) needed ] The longest continuously-singing group is probably The Whiffenpoofs of Yale University, [78] which was formed in 1909 and once included Cole Porter as a member. [78] Collegiate a cappella groups grew throughout the 20th century. Some notable historical groups formed along the way include Colgate University's The Colgate 13 (1942), Dartmouth College's Aires (1946), Cornell University's Cayuga's Waiters (1949) and The Hangovers (1968), the University of Maine Maine Steiners (1958), the Columbia University Kingsmen (1949), the Jabberwocks of Brown University (1949), and the University of Rochester YellowJackets (1956).

All-women a cappella groups followed shortly, frequently as a parody of the men's groups: the Smiffenpoofs of Smith College (1936), The Shwiffs of Connecticut College (The She-Whiffenpoofs, 1944), and The Chattertocks of Brown University (1951). A cappella groups exploded in popularity beginning in the 1990s, fueled in part by a change in style popularized by the Tufts University Beelzebubs and the Boston University Dear Abbeys. The new style used voices to emulate modern rock instruments, including vocal percussion/"beatboxing". Some larger universities now have multiple groups. Groups often join one another in on-campus concerts, such as the Georgetown Chimes' Cherry Tree Massacre, a 3-weekend a cappella festival held each February since 1975, where over a hundred collegiate groups have appeared, as well as International Quartet Champions The Boston Common and the contemporary commercial a cappella group Rockapella. Co-ed groups have produced many up-and-coming and major artists, including John Legend, an alumnus of the Counterparts at the University of Pennsylvania, Sara Bareilles, an alumna of Awaken A Cappella at University of California, Los Angeles, and Mindy Kaling, an alumna of the Rockapellas at Dartmouth College. Mira Sorvino is an alumna of the Harvard-Radcliffe Veritones of Harvard College, where she had the solo on Only You by Yaz.

A cappella is gaining popularity among South Asians with the emergence of primarily Hindi-English College groups. The first South Asian a cappella group was Penn Masala, founded in 1996 at the University of Pennsylvania. Co-ed South Asian a cappella groups are also gaining in popularity. The first co-ed south Asian a cappella was Anokha, from the University of Maryland, formed in 2001. Also, Dil se, another co-ed a cappella from UC Berkeley, hosts the "Anahat" competition at the University of California, Berkeley annually. Maize Mirchi, the co-ed a cappella group from the University of Michigan hosts "Sa Re Ga Ma Pella", an annual South Asian a cappella invitational with various groups from the Midwest. Another South Asian group from the Midwest is Chai Town who is based in the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign.

Jewish-interest groups such as Queens College's Tizmoret, Tufts University's Shir Appeal, University of Chicago's Rhythm and Jews, Binghamton University's Kaskeset, Ohio State University's Meshuganotes, Rutgers University's Kol Halayla, New York University's Ani V'Ata and Yale University's Magevet are also gaining popularity across the U.S. [79] [80] [81]

Increased interest in modern a cappella (particularly collegiate a cappella) can be seen in the growth of awards such as the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards (overseen by the Contemporary A Cappella Society) and competitions such as the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella for college groups and the Harmony Sweepstakes for all groups. In December 2009, a new television competition series called The Sing-Off aired on NBC. The show featured eight a cappella groups from the United States and Puerto Rico vying for the prize of $100,000 and a recording contract with Epic Records/Sony Music. The show was judged by Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman, and Nicole Scherzinger and was won by an all-male group from Puerto Rico called Nota. The show returned for a second, third, fourth, and fifth season, won by Committed, Pentatonix, Home Free, and The Melodores from Vanderbilt University respectively.

Each year, hundreds of Collegiate a cappella groups submit their strongest songs in a competition to be on The Best of College A Cappella (BOCA), an album compilation of tracks from the best college a cappella groups around the world. The album is produced by Varsity Vocals – which also produces the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella – and Deke Sharon. ). According to ethnomusicologist Joshua S. Dunchan, "BOCA carries considerable cache and respect within the field despite the appearance of other compilations in part, perhaps, because of its longevity and the prestige of the individuals behind it." [82]

Collegiate a cappella groups may also submit their tracks to Voices Only, a two-disc series released at the beginning of each school year. A Voices Only album has been released every year since 2005. [83]

In addition, all women's a cappella groups can send their strongest song tracks to the Women's A Cappella Association (WACA) for its annual best of women's a cappella album. WACA offers another medium for women's voices to receive recognition and has released an album every year since 2014, featuring women's groups from across the United States. [84]

In addition to singing words, some a cappella singers also emulate instrumentation by reproducing instrumental sounds with their vocal cords and mouth, often pitched using specialised pitch pipes. One of the earliest 20th century practitioners of this method were The Mills Brothers whose early recordings of the 1930s clearly stated on the label that all instrumentation was done vocally. More recently, "Twilight Zone" by 2 Unlimited was sung a cappella to the instrumentation on the comedy television series Tompkins Square. Another famous example of emulating instrumentation instead of singing the words is the theme song for The New Addams Family series on Fox Family Channel (now Freeform). Groups such as Vocal Sampling and Undivided emulate Latin rhythms a cappella. In the 1960s, the Swingle Singers used their voices to emulate musical instruments to Baroque and Classical music. Vocal artist Bobby McFerrin is famous for his instrumental emulation. A cappella group Naturally Seven recreates entire songs using vocal tones for every instrument.

The Swingle Singers used ad libs to sound like instruments, but have been known to produce non-verbal versions of musical instruments. Beatboxing, more accurately known as vocal percussion, is a technique used in a cappella music popularized by the hip-hop community, where rap is often performed a cappella. The advent of vocal percussion added new dimensions to the a cappella genre and has become very prevalent in modern arrangements. [85]

Beatboxing is performed often by shaping the mouth, making pops and clicks as pseudo-drum sounds. A popular phrase that beat boxers use to begin their training is the phrase "boots and cats". As the beat boxer progresses in their training, they remove the vowels and continue on from there, emulating a "bts n cts n" sound, a solid base for beginner beat boxers. The phrase has become popular enough to where Siri recites "Boots and Cats" when you ask it to beatbox. [86]

Jazz vocalist Petra Haden used a four-track recorder to produce an a cappella version of The Who Sell Out including the instruments and fake advertisements on her album Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out in 2005. Haden has also released a cappella versions of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'", The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" and Michael Jackson's "Thriller".

Christian rock group Relient K recorded the song "Plead the Fifth" a cappella on their album Five Score and Seven Years Ago. The group recorded lead singer Matt Thiessen making drum noises and played them with an electronic drum machine to record the song, blurring the lines between true a cappella and instrument use.

What does the red cross mean?

This is a fascinating piece of musical history. It's an example of musical notation, indicating when each new voice should start. There are Latin directions at the bottom of the manuscript, which translate, according to Wessex Parallel WebTexts, like this: &ldquoThis round can be sung by four people together. And it is sung in this way: while the others remain silent, one person starts, together with those who are carrying the 'pes' and when he comes to the first note after the cross, the next one begins, and so on with the others. And the individual singers should stop at the rests where they are written and not elsewhere, for the space of one long note.&rdquo

Baroque (1600 – 1750)

Expanding upon the end of the Renaissance period, the Baroque period saw the creation of writing music in a particular key. However, the Baroque period is commonly known for complex pieces and intricate harmonies. Still, this period laid the groundwork for the next 300 years of music.

The idea of the modern orchestra was born, along with opera, the concerto, sonata, and cantata. Choral music was no longer king, as composers turned to compose instrumental works for various ensembles. “Classical” music gradually began to work its way into society, being played outdoors at dinner parties and special functions, or as a spectacle in the form of opera.

George Frederick Handel‘s Water Music is an excellent example of a typical Baroque period piece, composed for King George and performed on the River Thames.

As instrumental pieces became more prominent, individual instruments advanced drastically. Many new instruments emerged, such as the oboe, bassoon, cello, contrabass, and fortepiano (an early version of the piano). The string family of the Renaissance was replaced with stronger sounds from the violin, viola, and cello. The invention of the harpsichord flourished, and all existing woodwind and brass instruments were updated and advanced. The Baroque period also introduced stronger percussion with instruments like the timpani, snare drum, tambourine, and castanets.

Early Baroque composers included Claudio Monteverdi, Alessandro Scarlatti, Henry Purcell, and Jean Baptiste Lully, while later Baroque composers included Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel, Georg Philipp Telemann, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Dominico Scarlatti, and Antonio Vivaldi. These later composers contributed substantially in the transition to Classical music.


The exact origin of music is unknowable as it occurred far prior to recorded history. It remains debated as to what extent the origin of human cognition—and thus music—will ever be understood, with scholars often taking polarizing positions. [6] [n 1] The origin of music is regularly discussed as intrinsically linked with the origin of language and the nature of their connection has been a subject of serious debate, [9] the though the latter has received far more attention. [10] [n 2] However, before the mid-late 20th century, the topics were seldom given substantial attention by scholars. [12] [13] [n 3] Since recent resurgence in the topic, the principal source of contention is whether music began as a type of proto-language and a product of adaptation that led to language, or if music is a spandrel (a phenotypic byproduct of evolution) that was the result of language. The proto-language view has a long history the noted linguist Otto Jespersen wrote in 1894 that "language, then, began with half-musical unanalysed expressions for individual beings and events." [11] [15] On the opposite view, in How the Mind Works (1997), cognitive psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker famously termed music as merely "auditory cheesecake", [16] [17] an analogy relating to his view of music as a spandrel, [18] arguing that "as far as biological cause and effect is concerned, music is useless", [19] and that "it is a technology, not an adaptation". [20] Other scholars such as Daniel Levitin and Joseph Carroll have rejected this take. [21]

There is little consensus on any particular theory for the origin of music, which have included contributions from musicologists, cognitive scientists, linguists, anthropologists, biologists, psychologists and neurologists. [n 4] Among the first notable theories on the origin music are a few pages in Charles Darwin's 1871 book The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. [12] [23] Other notable early theories include those of Karl Bücher, Johann Gottfried Herder, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Herbert Spencer and Richard Wallaschek [de] and particularly Carl Stumpf. [24] Some suggest that the origin of music likely stems from naturally occurring sounds and rhythms. Human music may echo these phenomena using patterns, repetition and tonality. Even today, some cultures have certain instances of their music intending to imitate natural sounds. In some instances, this feature is related to shamanistic beliefs or practice. [25] [26] It may also serve entertainment (game) [27] [28] or practical (luring animals in hunt) [27] functions. It is probable that the first musical instrument was the human voice itself, which can make a vast array of sounds, from singing, humming and whistling through to clicking, coughing and yawning.

Most—if not all—cultures have their own mythical origins on the creation of music. [29] In Chinese mythology, the creation of music is attributed to culture hero Fuxi while various deities are credited with important musical instruments: Fuxi with lute and lyre [n 5] Nüwa with the sheng the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi) with the lü pipes [30] and Emperor Shun with the paixiao and as founder of the Chinese philosophy on music. [31] [n 6] According to the Lüshi Chunqiu, in 2697 BCE, Ling Lun is said to—on the orders of the Yellow Emperor—have invented bamboo flute by imitating the song of the mythical fenghuang birds [n 7] he then created the 12-tone shí-èr-lǜ system. [32] [33] In Ancient Greek mythology, the invention of music is credited to the muses, [29] various goddesses who were daughters of the King of the gods Zeus. [34]

In the strictest sense, prehistoric music—more commonly termed primitive music in the past [35] [36] [n 8] —encompasses all music produced in preliterate cultures (prehistory), beginning at least 6 million years ago when humans and chimpanzees last had a common ancestor. [37]

As for musical instruments, in 2008 archaeologists discovered a bone flute in the Hohle Fels cave near Ulm, Germany. [38] [39] [40] Considered to be about 35,000 years old, the five-holed flute has a V-shaped mouthpiece and is made from a vulture wing bone. The oldest known wooden pipes were discovered near Greystones, Ireland, in 2004. A wood-lined pit contained a group of six flutes made from yew wood, between 30 and 50 cm long, tapered at one end, but without any finger holes. They may once have been strapped together. [41]

It has been suggested that the "Divje Babe Flute", a cave bear femur dated to be between 50,000 and 60,000 years old, is the world's oldest musical instrument and was produced by Neanderthals. [42] [43] Claims that the femur is indeed a musical instrument are, however, contested by alternative theories including the suggestion that the femur may have been gnawed by carnivores to produce holes. [44]

Following the advent of writing, literate civilization are termed part of the ancient world, a periodization which extends from the first Sumerian literature of Abu Salabikh (now Southern Iraq) of c. 2600 BCE, until the Post-classical era of the 6th century CE. [45] [46] Though the music of Ancient societies was extremely diverse, some fundamental concepts arise in virtually all of them, namely monophony, improvisation and the dominance of text in musical settings. [47] The "oldest known song" was written in cuneiform, dating to 3400 years ago from Ugarit in Syria. It was a part of the Hurrian songs, more specifically Hurrian hymn no. 6. It was deciphered by Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, and was demonstrated to be composed in harmonies of thirds, like ancient gymel, [48] and also was written using a Pythagorean tuning of the diatonic scale. The oldest surviving example of a complete musical composition, including musical notation, from anywhere in the world, is the Seikilos epitaph, dated to either the 1st or the 2nd century CE.

Double pipes, such as those used by the ancient Greeks, and ancient bagpipes, as well as a review of ancient drawings on vases and walls, etc., and ancient writings (such as in Aristotle, Problems, Book XIX.12) which described musical techniques of the time, indicate polyphony. One pipe in the aulos pairs (double flutes) likely served as a drone or "keynote," while the other played melodic passages. Instruments, such as the seven holed flute and various types of stringed instruments have been recovered from the Indus valley civilization archaeological sites. [49]

China Edit

Xia, Shang, and Zhou Edit

By the mid-13th century BCE, the late Shang dynasty had developed writing, which mostly exists as divinatory inscriptions on the ritualistic oracle bone but also as some bronze inscriptions. [50] [51] However, evidence of a musical culture predates both this and the legendary 2967 BCE invention of flutes by Ling Lun: the earliest instruments are 12 bone flutes in the modern-day Jiahu, Wuyang, Henan Province from c. 6000 BCE, [52] [n 9] and later, various bone whistles in Hemudu, Yuyao, Zhejiang Province from c. 5000 BCE. [54] The only instruments dated to the Xia dynasty (c. 2070–1600 ) are two qing, two small bells (one earthenware, one bronze) and a xun. [55] Due to this extreme scarcity of surviving instruments and the general uncertainty surrounding most of the Xia, creating a musical narrative of the period is impractical. [55] In the Shang dynasty (1600–1046), as many as 11 oracle script characters may refer to music to some extent, some of which are iconographical representations of instruments themselves. [56] The stone bells qing appears to have been particularly popular with the Shang ruling class, [n 10] and while no surviving flutes have been dated to the Shang, [58] oracle script evidence suggests they used ocarinas (xun), transverse flute (xiao and dizi), douple pipes, the mouthorgan (sheng), and maybe the pan flute (xaixiao). [59] [n 11] Following the advent of the bronze in 2000 BCE, [61] the Shang used the material for bells—the ling [zh] (鈴), nao [zh] (鐃) and zhong (鐘) [53] —that can be differentiated in two ways: those with or without a clapper and those struck on the inside or outside. [62] Drums, which are not found from before the Shang, [63] sometimes used bronze, though they were more often wooden (bangu). [64] [53] [n 12]

India Edit

Indian classical music (marga) can be found from the scriptures of the Hindu tradition, the Vedas. Samaveda, one of the four vedas, describes music at length.

Ravanahatha (ravanhatta, rawanhattha, ravanastron or ravana hasta veena) is a bowed fiddle popular in Western India. It is believed to have originated among the Hela civilization of Sri Lanka in the time of King Ravana. This string instrument has been recognised as one of the oldest string instruments in world history.

Iran Edit

The history of musical development in Iran (Persian music) dates back to the prehistoric era. The great legendary king, Jamshid, is credited with the invention of music. [66] Music in Iran can be traced back to the days of the Elamite Empire (2500–644 BCE). Fragmentary documents from various periods of the country's history establish that the ancient Persians possessed an elaborate musical culture. The Sassanid period (AD 226–651), in particular, has left us ample evidence pointing to the existence of a lively musical life in Persia. The names of some important musicians such as Barbod, Nakissa and Ramtin, and titles of some of their works have survived.

Greece Edit

Greek written history extends far back into Ancient Greece, and was a major part of ancient Greek theatre. In ancient Greece, mixed-gender choruses performed for entertainment, celebration and spiritual reasons. [ citation needed ] Instruments included the most important wind instrument, the double-reed aulos, [67] as well as the plucked string instrument, the lyre, [68] especially the special kind called a kithara. Music was an important part of education in ancient Greece, and boys were taught music starting at age six.

According to Easton's Bible Dictionary, Jubal was named by the Bible as the inventor of musical instruments (Gen. 4:21). The Hebrews were much given to the cultivation of music. Their whole history and literature afford abundant evidence of this. After the Deluge, the first mention of music is in the account of Laban's interview with Jacob (Gen. 31:27). After their triumphal passage of the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel sang their song of deliverance (Ex. 15). But the period of Samuel, David, and Solomon was the golden age of Hebrew music, as it was of Hebrew poetry. Music was now for the first time systematically cultivated. It was an essential part of training in the schools of the prophets (1 Sam. 10:5). There now arose also a class of professional singers (2 Sam. 19:35 Eccl. 2:8). Solomon's Temple, however, was the great school of music. In the conducting of its services large bands of trained singers and players on instruments were constantly employed (2 Sam. 6:5 1 Chr. 15:16 235 25:1–6). In private life also music seems to have held an important place among the Hebrews (Eccl. 2:8 Amos 6:4–6 Isa. 5:11, 12 24:8, 9 Ps. 137 Jer. 48:33 Luke 15:25). [69]

Music and theatre scholars studying the history and anthropology of Semitic and early Jewish culture, have also discovered common links between theatrical and musical activity in the classical cultures of the Hebrews with those of the later cultures of the Greeks and Romans. The common area of performance is found in a "social phenomenon called litany," a form of prayer consisting of a series of invocations or supplications. The Journal of Religion and Theatre notes that among the earliest forms of litany, "Hebrew litany was accompanied by a rich musical tradition:" [70]

While Genesis 4.21 identifies Jubal as the "father of all such as handle the harp and pipe", the Pentateuch is nearly silent about the practice and instruction of music in the early life of Israel. Then, in I Samuel 10 and the texts which follow, a curious thing happens. "One finds in the biblical text", writes Alfred Sendrey, "a sudden and unexplained upsurge of large choirs and orchestras, consisting of thoroughly organized and trained musical groups, which would be virtually inconceivable without lengthy, methodical preparation." This has led some scholars to believe that the prophet Samuel was the patriarch of a school which taught not only prophets and holy men, but also sacred-rite musicians. This public music school, perhaps the earliest in recorded history, was not restricted to a priestly class—which is how the shepherd boy David appears on the scene as a minstrel to King Saul. [70]

Early music Edit

Medieval music Edit

While musical life was undoubtedly rich in the early Medieval era, as attested by artistic depictions of instruments, writings about music, and other records, the only repertory of music which has survived from before 800 to the present day is the plainsong liturgical music of the Roman Catholic Church, the largest part of which is called Gregorian chant. Pope Gregory I, who gave his name to the musical repertory and may himself have been a composer, is usually claimed to be the originator of the musical portion of the liturgy in its present form, though the sources giving details on his contribution date from more than a hundred years after his death. Many scholars believe that his reputation has been exaggerated by legend. Most of the chant repertory was composed anonymously in the centuries between the time of Gregory and Charlemagne.

During the 9th century several important developments took place. First, there was a major effort by the Church to unify the many chant traditions, and suppress many of them in favor of the Gregorian liturgy. Second, the earliest polyphonic music was sung, a form of parallel singing known as organum. Third, and of greatest significance for music history, notation was reinvented after a lapse of about five hundred years, though it would be several more centuries before a system of pitch and rhythm notation evolved having the precision and flexibility that modern musicians take for granted.

Several schools of polyphony flourished in the period after 1100: the St. Martial school of organum, the music of which was often characterized by a swiftly moving part over a single sustained line the Notre Dame school of polyphony, which included the composers Léonin and Pérotin, and which produced the first music for more than two parts around 1200 the musical melting-pot of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, a pilgrimage destination and site where musicians from many traditions came together in the late Middle Ages, the music of whom survives in the Codex Calixtinus and the English school, the music of which survives in the Worcester Fragments and the Old Hall Manuscript. Alongside these schools of sacred music a vibrant tradition of secular song developed, as exemplified in the music of the troubadours, trouvères and Minnesänger. Much of the later secular music of the early Renaissance evolved from the forms, ideas, and the musical aesthetic of the troubadours, courtly poets and itinerant musicians, whose culture was largely exterminated during the Albigensian Crusade in the early 13th century.

Forms of sacred music which developed during the late 13th century included the motet, conductus, discant, and clausulae. One unusual development was the Geisslerlieder, the music of wandering bands of flagellants during two periods: the middle of the 13th century (until they were suppressed by the Church) and the period during and immediately following the Black Death, around 1350, when their activities were vividly recorded and well-documented with notated music. Their music mixed folk song styles with penitential or apocalyptic texts. The 14th century in European music history is dominated by the style of the ars nova, which by convention is grouped with the medieval era in music, even though it had much in common with early Renaissance ideals and aesthetics. Much of the surviving music of the time is secular, and tends to use the formes fixes: the ballade, the virelai, the lai, the rondeau, which correspond to poetic forms of the same names. Most pieces in these forms are for one to three voices, likely with instrumental accompaniment: famous composers include Guillaume de Machaut and Francesco Landini.

Renaissance music Edit

The beginning of the Renaissance in music is not as clearly marked as the beginning of the Renaissance in the other arts, and unlike in the other arts, it did not begin in Italy, but in northern Europe, specifically in the area currently comprising central and northern France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. The style of the Burgundian composers, as the first generation of the Franco-Flemish school is known, was at first a reaction against the excessive complexity and mannered style of the late 14th century ars subtilior, and contained clear, singable melody and balanced polyphony in all voices. The most famous composers of the Burgundian school in the mid-15th century are Guillaume Dufay, Gilles Binchois, and Antoine Busnois.

By the middle of the 15th century, composers and singers from the Low Countries and adjacent areas began to spread across Europe, especially into Italy, where they were employed by the papal chapel and the aristocratic patrons of the arts (such as the Medici, the Este, and the Sforza families). They carried their style with them: smooth polyphony which could be adapted for sacred or secular use as appropriate. Principal forms of sacred musical composition at the time were the mass, the motet, and the laude secular forms included the chanson, the frottola, and later the madrigal.

The invention of printing had an immense influence on the dissemination of musical styles, and along with the movement of the Franco-Flemish musicians, contributed to the establishment of the first truly international style in European music since the unification of Gregorian chant under Charlemagne. [ citation needed ] Composers of the middle generation of the Franco-Flemish school included Johannes Ockeghem, who wrote music in a contrapuntally complex style, with varied texture and an elaborate use of canonical devices Jacob Obrecht, one of the most famous composers of masses in the last decades of the 15th century and Josquin des Prez, probably the most famous composer in Europe before Palestrina, and who during the 16th century was renowned as one of the greatest artists in any form. Music in the generation after Josquin explored increasing complexity of counterpoint possibly the most extreme expression is in the music of Nicolas Gombert, whose contrapuntal complexities influenced early instrumental music, such as the canzona and the ricercar, ultimately culminating in Baroque fugal forms.

By the middle of the 16th century, the international style began to break down, and several highly diverse stylistic trends became evident: a trend towards simplicity in sacred music, as directed by the Counter-Reformation Council of Trent, exemplified in the music of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina a trend towards complexity and chromaticism in the madrigal, which reached its extreme expression in the avant-garde style of the Ferrara School of Luzzaschi and the late century madrigalist Carlo Gesualdo and the grandiose, sonorous music of the Venetian school, which used the architecture of the Basilica San Marco di Venezia to create antiphonal contrasts. The music of the Venetian school included the development of orchestration, ornamented instrumental parts, and continuo bass parts, all of which occurred within a span of several decades around 1600. Famous composers in Venice included the Gabrielis, Andrea and Giovanni, as well as Claudio Monteverdi, one of the most significant innovators at the end of the era.

Most parts of Europe had active and well-differentiated musical traditions by late in the century. In England, composers such as Thomas Tallis and William Byrd wrote sacred music in a style similar to that written on the continent, while an active group of home-grown madrigalists adapted the Italian form for English tastes: famous composers included Thomas Morley, John Wilbye and Thomas Weelkes. Spain developed instrumental and vocal styles of its own, with Tomás Luis de Victoria writing refined music similar to that of Palestrina, and numerous other composers writing for the new guitar. Germany cultivated polyphonic forms built on the Protestant chorales, which replaced the Roman Catholic Gregorian Chant as a basis for sacred music, and imported the style of the Venetian school (the appearance of which defined the start of the Baroque era there). In addition, German composers wrote enormous amounts of organ music, establishing the basis for the later Baroque organ style which culminated in the work of J.S. Bach. France developed a unique style of musical diction known as musique mesurée, used in secular chansons, with composers such as Guillaume Costeley and Claude Le Jeune prominent in the movement.

One of the most revolutionary movements in the era took place in Florence in the 1570s and 1580s, with the work of the Florentine Camerata, who ironically had a reactionary intent: dissatisfied with what they saw as contemporary musical depravities, their goal was to restore the music of the ancient Greeks. Chief among them were Vincenzo Galilei, the father of the astronomer, and Giulio Caccini. The fruits of their labors was a declamatory melodic singing style known as monody, and a corresponding staged dramatic form: a form known today as opera. The first operas, written around 1600, also define the end of the Renaissance and the beginning of the Baroque eras.

Music prior to 1600 was modal rather than tonal. Several theoretical developments late in the 16th century, such as the writings on scales on modes by Gioseffo Zarlino and Franchinus Gaffurius, led directly to the development of common practice tonality. The major and minor scales began to predominate over the old church modes, a feature which was at first most obvious at cadential points in compositions, but gradually became pervasive. Music after 1600, beginning with the tonal music of the Baroque era, is often referred to as belonging to the common practice period.

The Seikilos Epitaph

Researchers have few clues about the creation of the Seikilos epitaph. What they do know is that the inscription on the stele may translate as “Seikilos to Euterpe.” Historians believe the composer, a man named Seikilos, wrote the song for a woman named Euterpe, presumably his deceased wife, and placed it on this tombstone for her.

However, another possible interpretation of the text could be “Seikilos, son of Euterpe [or Euterpos],” so it is possible the song was actually dedicated to his mother.

The full lyrics don’t clarify things definitively one way or the other:

“As long as you live, shine,
Let nothing grieve you beyond measure.
For your life is short,
and time will claim its toll.”

In addition to the lyrics, another piece of the puzzle is the inscription engraved on the stele that reads, “I am a tombstone, an image. Seikilos placed me here as an everlasting sign of deathless remembrance.”

There is thus no doubt that the composition is a type of mourning song, engraved on a loved one’s tombstone as a reminder of the fleeting nature of life. Much of the rest when it comes to the Seikilos epitaph, however, remains unclear.

But researchers have been able to study the ancient Greek notations for the melody that accompany the text. This type of notation used ancient Greek letters with markings above them to indicate syllables and pitch (because researchers know the period in which this type of notation was used, this also allowed them to date the stele).

By examining the letters and accents, researchers were ultimately able to transcribe the piece into contemporary musical notation.

Thus, people today can hear the Seikilos epitaph, a piece of music composed some 2,000 years ago.

It depends what you mean by "still played today". The earliest known collection of notated music are the Hurrian Songs which contains the Hurrian Hymn No. 6 that was written circa 1400 BC. There is a recording of it here played on a Lyre.

In answering on whether it is "still played today", there is a Lyrist called Michael Levy who performs this piece and other ancient pieces of music. There is a video from 2012 of him playing this piece. That's the most recent recording I can find of it.

Classicism and Romanticism

In a penetrating essay, Friedrich Blume, the eminent music encyclopedist of the twentieth century, has convincingly argued that Classicism and Romanticism were not opposed but rather collateral and complementary tendencies which have guided the arts since the eighteenth century. 1 Both meant a certain return to the ideals of the past. The word classic, which ever since the days of the Roman Empire applied to that which was in a "class" by itself, and hence exemplary, was now applied to the art of antiquity as such, whereas the word romantic harkens back to the "roman," the medieval epic, and thus to a more recent past that had developed a folklore and art born from the mist of northern climates rather than the southern sun. In distinction to classic clarity, equilibrium, and remoteness, its spirit is that of varying immediacy, of emotional changes of mood, of that which is not deliberately measured but passionate and fantastic, dreamlike and mysterious--"romantic."

The juxtaposition of heterogeneous elements might be seen as the rightful bequest of dramatic art, and in ever new ways music was ruled by drama. Opera itself had developed into two contrasting forms: serious opera, opera seria , and comic opera, opera buffa . The latter had evolved especially in the south of Italy, in Naples, at the hands of Alessandro Scarlatti and his followers Leonardo Leo and Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. It dealt with contemporary types and situations, rather than subjects of history and mythology, and it contributed an enlivening element to opera: ensemble. That which in spoken drama is not possible, the simultaneous expression of different personages and moods, now gave polyphony a novel function which, as we shall see, also greatly influenced instrumental music.

Opera seria was dominated for a long time by its famed librettist, Pietro Metastasio, himself a gifted musician. But the vitality of the traditional form gradually declined, and Romain Rolland has shown that Metastasio's influence heralded much of the impending reform of opera. 2 As we know, it was brought about--in part through the encounter with the aged Handel--by the epochal works of Christoph Willibald von Gluck, whose first reform opera significantly returned to the subject of Orfeo.

The key figure in the rise of opera buffa was Pergolesi, who in his short life veritably changed operatic history. His famous miniature, La Serva Padrona (The Servant as Mistress), was designed, in the prevalent manner of early opera buffa, as intermezzo scenes to be presented between the acts of an opera seria. But its title was symbolic the young subsidiary form was destined to assume a ruling role. We sense here the dawn of the Age of Revolution. And it was similarly reflected in another fundamental development of eighteenth-century music. The concerto which, in the works of such Italian masters as Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi as well as in the works of Bach and Handel, had risen to leadership in instrumental music, began to share this leadership with a new genre. Alessandro Scarlatti transformed the old opera overture of Lullian style, with its ceremoniously slow- paced beginning (often resumed for the ending), reversing its slow and fast sections. His overtures, for which he adopted the age-old term sinfonia , opened and closed in a lively (allegro) tempo, and the new form eventually gained independence in the Classical symphony. Its independence became complete. What the small introduction had assimilated from the drama acted out by the singers took on a new dramatic guise. It rose from the orchestra pit (or its equivalent) and conquered the stage. Its hero and heroine were themes and instrumental timbres, and, aided by the operatic ensemble technique, a new and purely instrumental form arose that dominated musical life for the era to come.

One of the first important symphonists was C. P. E. Bach, and in the legacy of J. S. Bach's work we recognize again the oscillating roles of classic and romantic orientation. Though Bach had close to a hundred students, his posthumous recognition grew slowly, but to those who recognized and understood his greatness, his work assumed the stature of an ideal model described in words that are born of the spirit of Classicism. Johann Philipp Kirnberger, court conductor in Berlin who had been Bach's foremost disciple in later years, published a two-volume treatise, The Art of Composition (Die Kunst des reinen Satzes, 1774/1779)--an art to be obtained by reducing, as he said, "the method of the late J. S. Bach to principles." And Kirnberger's Berlin colleague, Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg, prompted by the appearance of Bach's Art of Fugue to issue a Manual of Fugue (Abhandlung von der Fuge, 1753/54), speaks of "principles of an art" in dedicating his work to Bach's two oldest sons.

Johann Friedrich Reichardt, Berlin court conductor in later years, extolled Bach's chorales as "the highest achievement of German art" and referred to Bach as "the greatest harmonist of all times and nations." This statement is all the more interesting because it came from one of the principal representatives of the modern form of singspiel, the German counterpart to opera buffa. But the new and old worlds of music met and crossed in many ways Johann Adam Hiller, also active in Berlin as a singspiel composer, became one of the successors to Bach's Leipzig office.

Thus we are dealing with a greatly widened array of musical personalities and trends, and it is a characteristic phenomenon of eighteenth-century music that it produced the first music historians offering an overview of the development of different styles. The learned Padre Giambattista Martini, author of a three-volume history of the music of antiquity and teacher of Bach's youngest son, Johann Christian, and of Mozart, spoke again of "the world famous Bach." The English historian Charles Burney, whose History of Music (1776-1789) stands out among the similar works of the period, failed to deal with Bach's work, but his praise of Bach was reported by a contemporary. Samuel Wesley, the eminent organist who was the first to make Bach's works known in England and who in veneration of the Leipzig master had named his son Sebastian, related in a letter to a colleague that, in conversation, Burney "evinced the most cordial veneration for our Sacred Musician."

In the end, the Romantics claimed Bach as their own and made his works known to the whole world. We know of Mendelssohn's epochal revival of the St. Matthew Passion, aided by his teacher Karl Friedrich Zelter who had revived Bach's motets with his Berlin Singakademie, and it was also Mendelssohn who gave the first recital entirely devoted to Bach's organ works. His influence brought about a decisive change, for while the name Bach had remained known to everyone throughout the eighteenth century, it had referred generally to one or the other of Bach's famous sons, and to works which were quite removed from the sphere of Johann Sebastian Bach. When Mozart said in a letter to his father from Paris in 1778 "Kapellmeister Bach is about to arrive . . . as you know, I love and revere him with all my heart," he spoke of Johann Christian Bach and when Haydn acknowledged his great debt to Bach, he referred to Philipp Emanuel.

It was the domain of the sonata, the string quartet, and the symphony--the last amply paying back to its parent form what debt of origin it owed--that had taken over the music of the later eighteenth century. In the narrower sense, the classic era of music is understood to mean Viennese Classicism, the style that arose in the works of Haydn and Mozart. Yet the critical phase in the evolution of Haydn's symphonic work has become known as the "Romantic crisis" in his creative career.

Haydn's long life extended from the first third of the eighteenth to the beginning of the nineteenth century. He wrote his greatest compositions in old age. One might say that the secret of his art was his remarkable power of rejuvenation. One of the strongest influences upon his work was the encounter with Mozart who, in turn, was profoundly influenced by Haydn, almost a quarter of a century his senior. The work of both masters embraced all genres. While Haydn virtually created the string quartet, his church music goes back to strong roots of the Baroque, and his indebtedness in the oratorio unequivocally to Handel. In his operas he followed such Italian composers as Giovanni Paisiello and Domenico Cimarosa in his piano works he was the disciple of C. P. E. Bach but in his symphonies, taking their point of departure from such works as those by the Imperial court composer Georg Christoph Wagenseil, he was at his most Viennese. All of these forms he led to consummate heights. Yet posterity has almost forgotten that, like Bach's, Haydn's name held a dual meaning in its time. It is in the a cappella music of Michael Haydn, who served with Mozart at the court of Salzburg, and whose work has been overshadowed by that of his older brother, that the Classic image was most truly revealed to the young Schubert. As a student, Schubert noted after a vocal trio (preserved only in fragmentary form) "written in the manner of Haydn"--by which he meant the style of Michael Haydn-­ and in a letter he wrote in later years to his brother, Schubert described his thoughts in visiting a monument erected to Michael Haydn: "May your calm, clear spirit be imparted to me, cherished Haydn though I can never be so calm and clear, no one on earth reveres you as dearly as I."

A similar sense of affection, absent from documents of earlier periods, is expressed in the letter of dedication to Joseph Haydn that accompanied the collection of Mozart's six string quartets subsequently published as Opus X, his masterwork in the genre. The wide range of Mozartiana in this collection attests to an equally wide range of close personal attachments. Mozart biography has given honored places to Leopold Mozart, the composer's father who provided the child prodigy with a uniquely rich education and who remained an important figure in later phases of his professional life to his sister Maria Anna ("Nannerl") who shared his appearances in the early travels throughout Europe with their father to Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Mozart's pupil who is believed to have finished his teacher's last work, the Requiem and to Thomas Attwood, whose course of studies under Mozart represents the most extraordinary didactic document from the waning eighteenth century. It is indicative of these associations that Mozart's handwriting has been confused with his father's, with Süssmayer's, and with Attwood's, and that it has taken scholars a long time to establish clear texts in the instances concerned.

Elation and tragedy were intermingled in Mozart's short life--less than half the span of Haydn's. It has been difficult for posterity to understand fully that the ingratiating, romanticized rococo idol grew to a heroic figure, the classic master, in very young years, and that, in fact, utter seriousness permeated the life of the playful artist at all times. The Age of the Revolution here, too, cast its shadow over the career of the composer who failed to obtain the traditional supportive court or church position, and who was less suited to take on the lot of an independent position in society than Handel before and Beethoven after him.

Whereas he was the student of Haydn in his string quartets, his symphonies influenced the work of the older master, and the latter clearly admitted Mozart's superiority in the genre of opera. Yet the encounter with Haydn remained the turning point in his artistic orientation it guided him to a new exploration of polyphony and an assimilation of styles of the past with which he became acquainted through the eminent music collection of Haydn's later oratorio librettist, the imperial court librarian Gottfried van Swieten.

Mozart's blending of Italian melody and German counterpoint, his power of synthesis and miraculously fertile imagination, and in particular his power of characterization raised opera buffa to a dramatic form that spoke to the audience in earnest. Mozart had the good fortune to find an accomplished librettist in the Vienna court poet Lorenzo da Ponte, who provided him with his most important opera buffa texts. With Figaro, the work in which Pergolesi's theme of the superiority of the servant is carried to new heights through the text of Beaumarchais that da Ponte adapted, opera buffa became a truly human drama, though this drama never denies the parentage of comic opera. The demonic story of Don Giovanni was entitled dramma giocoso. With the The Magic Flute, written for a lowly suburban theater of Vienna, Mozart transformed the buffoonery of the German singspiel to what became the foundation of German grand opera.

The three generations of the masters of Viennese Classicism overlap in striking manner. By the time Haydn wrote his last symphonies and quartets and Mozart wrote his last operas, the young Beethoven had journeyed to Vienna in order to study with Mozart. His early works had already reached the international market, but he still felt the need for a concentrated course of study. This fact, which found a parallel in Schubert's career, is indicative of the greatly widened perspective from which a modern generation of composers viewed the craft. Beethoven was called back to his hometown, Bonn, where he was in service at the Electoral court. When he was able to return to Vienna, several years later, Mozart had died Beethoven turned to Haydn for instruction, and his studies have been preserved. Impatient about his progress, he secretly supplemented his lessons in consultation with the Viennese singspiel composer Johann Schenk, a student of Wagenseil. But once again, the facts were romanticized by posterity. The document that combines the handwriting of Beethoven with that of Haydn shows a very deliberate survey of the technique of strict counterpoint. The exchange of the aged master and his student was anything but superficial or--as has often been asserted--a failure, and it is characteristic of the situation that when Haydn left on his second journey for engagements in England (a journey on which Beethoven originally was to accompany him), Beethoven embarked on further contrapuntal study with Haydn's friend Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Master of the Cathedral Chapel in Vienna at the same time he took up studies in the Italian vocal style with the Viennese court composer Antonio Salieri.

The enlarged scope of didactic commitment reflects the musical crosscurrents at the turn of the century. Salieri, whose role in music history has come down mainly (and unjustly) as that of Mozart's antagonist, represented a tradition that remained of great importance to a generation no longer readily conversant with it--Italian opera. His eminent pedagogical influence is reflected in the fact that it led from his training of the choirboys as Master of the Imperial Chapel to the establishment of the Vienna Conservatory. He was the teacher of the young Schubert and, in later years, of Meyerbeer and Liszt. Several of his contemporaries are remembered principally through their teaching manuals and collections of methodical studies. In the case of Stanislao Mattei, the student of Padre Martini, and that of Luigi Cherubini, Inspecteur and subsequently director of the Paris Conservatory, it was the contrapuntal legacy that was handed down in their works in those of Ignaz Pleyel, Muzio Clementi, and Karl Czerny, it was the new pianistic art and in Rodolphe Kreutzer's famous Etudes, that of classical violin virtuosity.

We tend to forget that these preceptors of compositional and instrumental technique were composers in their own right and of deserved recognition. Kreutzer's operas, though relegated to oblivion, were not without influence upon the works of later generations, and Cherubini's sacred and dramatic works were highly regarded by Beethoven (who also honored Kreutzer with the dedication of his Sonata Opus 47). Clementi was ranked next to Mozart in his time Pleyel next to Haydn (whose devoted student he was). But the fame of Czerny, whom Beethoven had singled out as a piano pupil and whose guidance as a teacher became decisive upon the young Liszt, rested solely, as it does now, on his genius of piano pedagogy.

A new situation arose in music history by which the domains of creative and interpretive arts were beginning to be separated. Nor did performance remain limited to interpretation more than ever before, it now took on a role of its own. It is epitomized in the thoroughly Romantic figure of the travelling virtuoso, for which Niccolò Paganini, the demonic violinist, stands as a symbol for all times. And it extended into all spheres of performance. A particularly arresting example is the career of Domenico Dragonetti, the "Paganini of the double bass," whose stupendous proficiency on his instrument evidently influenced the design of passages in the fifth and ninth symphonies of Beethoven, with whom he was on friendly terms.

A counterpart to the specialized performer became the specialized teacher. The theorists of past ages, such as Zarlino, Artusi, or Kirnberger, were active and appreciated as composers and performers in the first place. But Simon Sechter, the leading Viennese theorist in the first half of the nineteenth century, to whom Schubert still turned for advice in his last days, represented a new profession, that of "Professor of Thoroughbass and Composition," at the Vienna Conservatory, while his allegedly more than 8,000 compositions remained unknown. But the pervading influence he exerted in his time is characterized by the fact that toward the end of his long tenure he became the trusted mentor of Anton Bruckner who, in fact, succeeded him in his professorship at the Conservatory. Whereas Sechter is remembered as a famous teacher, the memory of the English composer Thomas Attwood lives on as that of a famous student. Son of a British court musician, the gifted young member of the Chapel Royal had received a stipend from the Prince of Wales to take up studies in Italy. Though pursued under two noted Neapolitan maestri, they proved in the end not satisfactory, and Attwood, "perceiving the declineof the Italian school and foreseeing the ascendancy of that of Germany . . . proceeded to Vienna and immediately became a pupil of Mozart." 3

We owe it to the association with Attwood that Mozart's work as a teacher is fully documented. The course of studies he designed for the student, who became a close friend, covered the better part of two years the manuscript was carefully preserved by Attwood and has been published. 4 Attwood, in later years organist at St. Paul's and composer-in-ordinary of the Chapel Royal, became the guardian of the legacy of Viennese Classicism. It was he who was principally responsible for introducing Mozart's and Beethoven's symphonic work in England. But in equal measure he became the advocate of the young German Romantics and of the nineteenth-century Bach renaissance. The year in which Mendelssohn gave his epochal performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion also marked his first journey to England, on which he was warmly welcomed by the sixty-four-year-old Attwood. The two composers, though of unequal stature, found themselves devoted to some of the same ideals. Britain, as we know, became Mendelssohn's second homeland, and a remarkable association developed between the representatives of the old and young generations--of what we have to come to call the Classic and Romantic ages of music.

Nowhere are Classic form and Romantic expression more powerfully blended than in the work of Beethoven. Popular appellations have somewhat superficially attached the defiance of fate to his Fifth Symphony and the serene tranquillity of moonlight to his Piano Sonata op. 27, No. 2. But the designation Grande Sonate Pathétique for his Piano Sonata op. 13, written before his first quartets, concertos and symphonies, and that of Sinfonia Eroica for his Third Symphony, are his own. One of his biographers called Beethoven the "man who freed music," a dictum which is again of flimsy nature. Yet Beethoven was totally a son of the Revolutionary Age. He tore up the dedication of his Third Symphony to Napoleon when Bonaparte declared himself emperor. He was devoted to the revolutionary ideas of liberté and egalité and the ideal of fraternité is glorified in the ode that concludes his Ninth Symphony. It is the rebellion of the artist that placed Beethoven in his era. He wrote to Count Lichnowsky, soon after dedicating the Sonate Pathétique to him, "Prince, what you are you are by the accident of birth what I am, I am of myself." But no artist ever wrestled more intensely with law and order, with classical discipline, than Beethoven. Whereas the Romantics were to claim him as theirs, his life work proceeded along the lines of the Classic forms. It is no mere accident that the Beethoveniana of this collection include, with samples from his sketches--his ubiquitous detailed working material--his copy from one of Mozart's works. Beyond the classical genres of sonata, quartet and symphony, he even turned to opera, though it represented a world essentially foreign to him, and his vocal works attest to some of the greatest triumphs of his symphonic language.

When Beethoven undertook the composition of Fidelio (originally Leonore), the genre of opera had undergone wide proliferation. We have seen that the two prototypes, opera seria and opera buffa, were interrelated from the beginning: the latter arose in intermezzo performances from the former. By and large, it was to opera buffa that the future belonged. But its original subject matter, the antagonism of master and servant, had lost its significance, or rather, the human and social implications had widened to the point where comic elements were intermingled with genuine drama and tragedy. Nevertheless, in Gioacchino Rossini's Barber of Seville, whose story came from the same literary source as Mozart's Figaro, the old opera buffa found a lasting monument whose quality remained unattained in any of the works by his contemporaries.

Opera seria was, one might say, buried with Mozart's last opera, La Clemenza di Tito, commissioned for the coronation of Emperor Leopold II. While the score contains some of Mozart's finest writing, the work has suffered, from the outset and in the reception of posterity, because the genre itself was beginning to be superseded by what became "Grand Opéra," the genre that, more than any other, reflected the Revolutionary Age. Thus we speak of "Heroic Opera" and the type of work based on the theme of liberation, "Rescue Opera," the latter owing its nature particularly to subjects favored in French literary models of the time. It was this type that caught Beethoven's interest. Fidelio is a genuine rescue opera, its text going back to a work by the French librettist Jean Nicolas Bouilly, but arranged for Beethoven by the Viennese opera manager Joseph von Sonnleithner, member of a prominent family to whose influence the development of Vienna's musical life in the activities of opera, concert stage, salon, and conservatory was indebted in many ways.

It is of significance that Beethoven's copy of portions from Mozart's Don Giovanni are adapted to German text. Fidelio, though of French origin, and though its plot is set in Spain, is a German opera, adhering even to the spoken dialogue of the singspiel tradition. After the delayed starts of its history, German opera developed rather slowly. The German-born Giacomo Meyerbeer experienced his first triumphs in Italy, where he became one of the foremost followers of Rossini. But his success carried him to France, and as a representative of Grand Opéra, he became the most celebrated French opera composer of his time. A national school of German opera found its beginning with the work of Carl Maria von Weber, a fellow student of Meyerbeer under Georg Joseph (Abbé) Vogler, court conductor in Darmstadt, whose adventuresome career developed under Italian and French, as well as German, influence.

Wagner was to call Weber "the most German of all musicians." In his masterpiece Der Freischütz (the title, difficult to translate, describes the figure of a marksman whose marksmanship is given free reign through a pact with the devil) Weber created what he himself called a "Romantic opera." The typical elements of German poetic Romanticism, the world of the German fairy tale, the folklore and superstitions of German forest country, the horn calls, peasant dances, village lyricism are all there, as well as demonic motifs of Romantic saga. They are merged into a musical language that was as fresh and sound in its dramatic originality as it was responsive to the trends of the time, and Weber's work had a large following. Heinrich Marschner, whose name is remembered, though his operas are all but forgotten, worked in close collaboration with Weber as conductor at the Dresden court opera. With Marschner, opera entered into a German middle class milieu characterized by the word Biedermeier (a type of honest but somewhat humdrum citizen). It represented a welcome reaction to the increasing shallowness and mannerism of heroic librettos. But the works it produced owed their place in history to popularity rather than vitality. Thus the slightly later operas by Albert Lortzing likewise remain mere names. Yet in the work of Lortzing, who returned with his Undine to the field of grand opera, we also find the seeds of Wagnerian music drama.

The German-born Friedrich von Flotow, whose works have retained a somewhat uneasy place in the repertory, partly because of their sentimental appeal, transplanted the Biedermeier opera to France it was left to a later German-born French opera composer, Jacques Offenbach, to produce some lasting works derived from the genre. With Offenbach, however, the opera of bourgeois society was transformed to the entertaining and satirical operetta, though his great lyrical and dramatic gifts are revealed in the work that took its point of departure from the stories of the poet-artist-musician who was the embodiment of the German Romantic--Tales of Hoffmann.

While the opera of German Romanticism had surrendered, in the end, to styles of French entertainment, the genre of operetta was to be glorified in the work of a Viennese composer, Johann Strauss. His popular operettas, above all Die Fledermaus (The Bat) were born of dance. Like his father, Johann Strauss the elder, he was the master of the waltz that dominated the imperial court of Vienna-­ and Europe--as its ancestral dance form, the minuet, had dominated the royal French court--and Europe--in the Age of Absolutism.

Italian opera, unlike German opera, always had solid traditions on which to draw and they are evident in the works of the two principal opera composers Italy produced next to Rossini, neither, however, reaching his greatness--Gaetano Donizetti and Vincenzo Bellini. Donizetti's comic operas are the last fine examples of opera buffa, and they outshine his works in the serious vein, whereas Bellini's operas are entirely devoted to the glories of the human voice, though they do not measure up to the glories of the old bel canto. But both composers eventually forsook the Italian stage, turning to France. It was in Verdi's work that Italy finally recovered its leading role in operatic tradition, while Wagner's work established a totally new one in Germany.

Almost completely obscured by the great and lesser names of Classic and Romantic music is that of Johann Rudolf Zumsteeg, Swabian court conductor at the turn of the eighteenth century. Yet it deserves to be singled out, as it stands for a genre that, despite its own relative obscurity, marked a fresh departure of significance--the ballad. In its original meaning, the "dancing song," the ballad had a long and distinguished history, and the song as such is obviously the oldest of musical forms. But in the merging of musical Classicism and Romanticism, the term song--in its German version lied--acquired a new meaning. Greatly influenced by the poetry of Goethe and Schiller, Classical figures of German literature, the decisive phase in the history of the art song was heralded in works of such composers as Reichardt and Zelter (as well as in isolated examples by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven).

In the development leading to the Romantic lied, the special form of the ballad assumed an important role. The dancing character of the ballad had early receded to the choral refrain with which the narrative of a solo singer was rounded out. This narrative, dealing predominantly with ancient and medieval sagas and valiant stories of feudal times, turned in the works of Classic German poetry more and more to folklike renditions of adventuresome, mysterious, and not infrequently gruesome scenes. The new form of solo song whose accompaniment was determined by the ascendancy of the modern keyboard instrument, the piano, lent itself especially well to the ballad. In its terse structure, it served the dramatic tendencies of the time more directly than the elaborate opera, and thus the ballad holds a key position in a transitional phase of vocal styles.

Zumsteeg, who had become a friend of Schiller's in school days, became the prime representative of the ballad, and the direct way in which his work influenced that of Schubert can be gathered from the fact that Schubert's first song, "Hagar's Lament" (Hagars Klage), was modeled on Zumsteeg's ballad bearing the same title. Schubert's ballad Erlkönig, on a poem by Goethe and published four years later as his Opus 1, opens the literature of the Romantic song, and Schubert's more than six hundred contributions to the genre remained the chief component of the nineteenth-century song literature. The ballad, however, retained its own life and reached a high point in the works of Karl Loewe, a student of Zelter's and strongly influenced by Reichardt. Through these two early lied composers, Loewe had become acquainted with the world of Goethe and Schiller, but it is most characteristic of his work that as his Opus 1 he published settings of Erlkönig and Edward, the latter on the text of an old Scottish ballad that had served Schubert for one of his last songs.

Schubert has always been seen as a Januslike figure, "at times called the classicist of romanticism, at others the romanticist of classicism." 5 While this observation, germane to our discussion, is so convincingly true to the facts of stylistic analysis, it does not provide a key to the understanding of Schubert's creative nature. The same duality (which we have observed earlier in connection with the work of Beethoven) can be and has been ascribed to Brahms. Yet the blending of stylistic bequests must in each case merely be understood as an element characterizing, in different ways, overwhelmingly individual artistic personalities. Similarly, the epithet "Father of the Song" is as unjustly applied to Schubert as it does an injustice to the genre itself: it is the individuality of the Schubertian lied that explains the inception of a new literature.

The house in which Schubert was born, unchanged over the centuries, offers the visitor a most touching impression--the tiny dwelling of a schoolmaster's family, in which Schubert grew up as one of nineteen children. Salieri discovered the talent of the boy and accepted him into the Imperial Chapel. But Schubert's existence moved with remarkable directness into circles far removed from his background. His deep sense of literary values determined his work from the beginning, and he spent his short life in the company of highly cultivated young artists and poets. In the immense wealth of his songs, he grew to maturity immediately. But though the form of the song remained his own until his last composition, one might say that he departed from it to an extent often not fully realized. His genius sought expression in the Classical forms of the symphony and string quartet, and while he labored consciously and with unabating discipline under the shadow of Beethoven, he rose to equal the stature of the giant as did no later composer. His symphonies in B Minor (the "Unfinished") and C Major (the "Great"), his quartets in A and D Minor, and his last chamber music work, the String Quintet in C Major, mark the end of Classic instrumental literature. It is characteristic of Schubert's earnestness and modesty that toward the end of his life he became conscious of the fact that he had not mastered one particular form, the fugue. And it is well known that, two weeks before his death, he turned to Sechter for the discussion of some sketches of fugal compositions--the last music manuscript we have from his hand.

The forms of Classical chamber music and symphony remained the challenge for composers throughout the nineteenth century. Yet the Romantic song, as the century's most original creation, dominated the era to the extent that Mendelssohn wrote his famous "Songs without Words." Though they inaugurated the Romantic symphony, both Mendelssohn's and Schumann's best known major instrumental compositions are their concertos in which classic form was united with Romantic virtuosity. But the lives of these two masters, tragically short like Schubert's, produced a broad spectrum of highly original works. Schumann, barely in his twenties, also founded the first modern journal of music criticism that heralded the careers of Chopin and later Brahms. His many-sided work, guided by a wide vision of the Romantic scene, favors the fantastic element yet shows genuine lyrical strength. He was the greatest exponent of the German lied after Schubert. In his songs, the brilliance of the accompaniment often rises to leadership, and in extended postludes he tends to develop the poet's text to a level not reached by the voice but reflecting the finesse of his pianistic art and his power of interpretation.

There is something admirably sound about the gentle and refined figure of Mendelssohn. His work burst into maturity with his Overture for A Midsummer Night's Dream when he was seventeen, but he harnessed his great gift with elegant assuredness, and his amiable music exhibits true mastery. An intellectual by background and upbringing, he was always earnest, sincere, and wholly artistic in his work. More clearly devoted to the bequest of past generations than any other composer of his time, he yet remained entirely original. The Protestant chorale and the Handelian oratorio became all-important models for him, and though it was not given to his era to recover their original strength, this era was ennobled by Mendelssohn's historical orientation. Yet there is none of the historian in his brilliant violin concerto, his octet, or the First Walpurgis Night. Later ages, in turn, were unable to recover his finely controlled expression. He fully shared the problems of a post-Classical age, but he mastered them with the grace of his art.

Schubert, Schumann and Mendelssohn were composers for whom the range of Classic forms remained a natural working basis. But while their masterpieces were thus distributed over various genres, the emphasis of nineteenth-century music turned to composers devoted to a single form or medium--as if history were to acknowledge with a grand gesture that the opulence it had produced began to elude a comprehensive grasp. The career of the traveling virtuoso, writing works for his own appearances, was an isolated phenomenon in the time of Vivaldi in the nineteenth century, however, it tended to dominate the musical scene. The triumphs of Paganini were paralleled in the appearances of the young Liszt, who became the greatest pianist of all times, and Liszt's activities as a composer were determined at first by his international success on the concert stage.

The most typical representative of the composer whose creative work was so closely focused on his own performance medium was Frédéric Chopin, whom Liszt hailed as his equal. Chopin's piano works mirror the world of the Romantic virtuoso to the extent that his concertos for piano and orchestra were almost completely neglected--by the composer who gave them the most sparsely developed accompaniment, as well as by posterity which knows the composer merely by his finely wrought preludes, polonaises, mazurkas, impromptus, nocturnes and waltzes. These compositions combine frail detail and intensely poetic expression with a passionate virtuosity that makes them a unique achievement in the keyboard literature, and Chopin's life work, once again prematurely ended, raised soloistic composition to a level unattained ever after.

The violin literature fared differently and though the nineteenth century is studded with spectacular violin concertos, we are dealing here by and large with mere show pieces. The exceptions came from composers committed to the symphonic rather than the soloistic ideal, and it is characteristic of the merging of Romantic virtuosity and Classic form that one of the most popular violin concertos of the era bears the title symphony--the Symphonie Espagnole by Edouard Lalo, a French composer of Spanish ancestry.

A gigantic rapprochement took place, more or less curiously brought about, by which the genres of opera, symphony and song met in new forms. In the case of Hector Berlioz, it was not the single instrument but their sum total--the vastly enlarged and technically perfected orchestra--that was the adopted "specialty." His Grand Traité d'instrumentation et d'orchestration (1844) became the classic of orchestration manuals, and in his works he explored the resources of the Romantic orchestra to their fullest. He called his symphonies, headed by the Symphonie Fantastique, "instrumental dramas," and in them he raised the concept of program music--purely instrumental music based on a literary source--to a new ideal. They embraced, once again, the genre of the concerto--the solo part in Harold in Italie was written with Paganini in mind. The monumental works of Berlioz include church music (his Requiem Mass and Te Deum), oratorios and operas, but in all of them he remained at heart the orchestrator. Despite their originality, his sacred works, in their grandiose sonority, negate the essence of the spiritual element, while staged drama negated, in fact, the artistic creed of program music.

Liszt, in the end dissatisfied with the career of the virtuoso and with compositions determined solely by the scope (albeit greatly widened) of his instrument, was inspired by the concept of program music in the work of Berlioz. At the height of his fame, he took up this new challenge and, turning now entirely to his creative work, arrived at a new symphonic form that became the model for a "New German School" whose influence actually extended well beyond Germany, the Tone Poem. His mastery of the Romantic orchestra was entirely beholden to symphonic principles of elaboration, and rather than following a "program," his works arose from a total conception that did not rely on descriptive details. In later years he wrote sacred oratorios and liturgical compositions, and just as his symphonic language stands in contrast to that of Berlioz by a thoroughly poetic approach, these choral works differ from those of Berlioz by a genuinely religious attitude. Liszt was a devoted Roman Catholic and, in later years, took minor orders as an abbé. His interests in all aspects of the music of his time developed on a wide scale throughout his life, and a host of students followed him to his centers of activity in Germany, Italy and Hungary.

Liszt was closely associated, both through his work and family ties, with Wagner (who married his daughter Cosima), and the extensive literary work of both composers provides revealing commentary on the ideals which they shared and which dominated the musical scene of the waning nineteenth century. Nevertheless, the two great exponents of the New German School were worlds apart. Whereas Liszt solved the challenges of over-ripe Romanticism by blending symphony and poem, Wagner announced that the time had come for a blending of all the arts and, in no way hesitant to suggest that the total artistic effort of past generations led to his own work, inaugurated a new concept, the Gesamtkunstwerk or Universal Art Work. That he could maintain such a claim is, in the end, due to his musical genius that triumphed over the problems posed by his complex artistic personality.

Wagner, in whose family the theater governed professional life, grew up under the influence of Weber and the early Romantic opera of Germany, but soon reached for the grand opera of France. A revolutionary to the core, he found himself fleeing from one country to another between successes and failures. It was in Switzerland that he wrote the text for his most towering work, the Ring of the Nibelung, and it bespeaks the magnitude of his planning that this work, originally designed as a single drama, grew into a cycle of four, as each text required the preface of a new one. The vastness of his conception becomes fully evident when we consider that, in setting the finished libretto to music, he stopped in the middle and, over a number of years, interspersed two of his most decisive, yet totally unlike dramatic works--Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger--before completing the Ring. The choice of his subject matter, ranging from romantic fairy tale and Nordic myth to the solid burgher milieu of the late medieval guild, was determined in different ways by a pervading idea of redemption, to which in his last work, Parsifal, he gave final form.

It is equally characteristic of Wagner's extraordinary career that he salvaged its perilously disintegrating fortunes by what had become an anachronism--princely subvention--and that this subvention came from a mentally ailing king, Ludwig II of Bavaria. The king, who built the fantastic castles in the Bavarian Alps, enabled Wagner to establish a shrine for the Universal Art Work--for what Wagner had termed the "Music of the Future"--in Bayreuth, formerly the residence of the rulers of a Franconian principality, and a place of pilgrimage for an international opera audience ever since.

While Wagner appears as the most powerful figure of nineteenth-century music, he was destined to share this place with a composer whose work was the very antithesis of Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk-­ Giuseppe Verdi. Born in the same year as Wagner, Verdi was, like Wagner, politically involved in his younger years, and his name became for a time the very symbol of the risorgimento, the rise of a free Italy. But unlike Wagner, he freed his own work in later years from national connotations. He became a national hero through the sheer power of his music, and the performance of Aida, commissioned to mark the historic opening of the Suez Canal, stands as the first truly international musical event.

It remains problematic to compare the two great representatives of nineteenth-century opera, the egocentric Wagner and the philanthropic Verdi: the creator of the new "music drama" who-­ mistakenly--considered himself first and foremost a literary figure, and the consummate master of traditional Italian opera which Wagner considered superseded. While the aims of their art were so diverse as virtually to defy comparison, their techniques show some surprising similarities. Wagner considered himself the heir of Beethoven, and the Beethovenian symphonic development of musical ideas assumed in Wagner's scores the role of the narrator who, like the ancient Greek chorus, interpreted dramatic continuity and meaning. His well-known orchestral device of using recurring and "guiding" melodies (leitmotives), however, was not his own invention. It appears in Verdi's works as well as those of other composers of the time. Yet while in Wagner's language the orchestral comment became the primary agent in conveying dramatic situations and philosophical concepts, in Verdi's works the human voice and human drama rule throughout. His roles eschew the supernatural and the saga the brooding elements of Wagner's poetry and music were foreign to him. He was the supreme operista, and his last two works, Otello and Falstaff, written when the composer was at a very advanced age, are lasting monuments to the old opera seria and opera buffa.

There is only one nineteenth-century opera that has equaled the stature and popularity of Wagner's and Verdi's works: Bizet's Carmen in fact, this work has become the most popular opera in history. Georges Bizet, a highly educated musician, was by no means what history made of him: the composer of a single work. But Carmen became a world success because here the composer's great gifts merged with the tendencies of his time in a unique manner. The characterization of a heroine who is also the villain and murdered on stage in the final scene took unusual dramatic skill. It reflected the fin de siècle trend of Realism, a strong reaction to the gentleness of early Romanticism, and the choice of setting, drawing on Spanish and gypsy themes, was guided by another typical expression of the declining Romantic age, Exoticism. Bizet treated the subject with a surprisingly light hand, and his delicate and invariably interesting orchestration borders on the finesse of chamber music. He did not live to witness his triumph the work was initially a failure that may have contributed to the composer's untimely death.

Bizet's Carmen, despite the enduring qualities of the work, signals a moribund epoch. Realism was met immediately with yet another reaction, Impressionism. The Romantic world withdrew into its most refined utterances, and in the last of the famous French operas, Claude Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, music no longer presents, it merely suggests the drama. Its frailty has a wonderful strength of its own, and its miraculously enriched palette of subtle colors heralds a new century and a new age.

As in all phases of history, what appears as a deltalike disintegration of a major era actually carries the seeds of significant rejuvenation and integration. A final reconstruction of Romantic expression and Classic form entered the music of the declining nineteenth century in the work of several major symphonists who, like the symphonists of Viennese Classicism, contributed to a large array of musical genres while being especially committed to the instrumental idiom. Vienna again claimed its place as a European musical capital in the works of Johannes Brahms and Anton Bruckner--as in the twentieth century it was to see the rise of a "Second Viennese School." The concept of a "School," however, would in no way fit the work of the two composers who dominated the Viennese musical scene in the last decades of the nineteenth century, because of the radical difference in their styles and because of a renewed emergence of the symphony at the hands of such entirely heterogeneous composers as Tchaikovsky, Dvorák, and César Franck. But that the traditional symphonic structure was by no means exhausted was amply borne out by their work and their influence that lasted well into the twentieth century.

The personalities of Brahms, the pianist, and Bruckner, the organist, strongly exemplify the contrast of Northern Protestantism and Southern Catholicism. They found their way early to choral works inspired by the new role of choral music in society--both of them conducted various amateur choral organizations. In Bruckner's work, however, the choral medium remained closely tied to the service of worship, and religious mysticism was to be carried into his symphonic work. The symphonic bequest of Brahms, on the other hand, is entirely Beethovenian, and the model of Beethoven remained a fundamental challenge throughout his life. As he embarked upon the large form, he found himself immediately in a crisis what was to be his first symphony turned into a piano concerto. But from the young composer's crisis arose works marked both by overwhelming beauty and a conscientious working procedure that produced abundant, though always highly integrated, proportions. Like Beethoven, he returned to the piano concerto but against Beethoven's five stand only two against Beethoven's nine symphonies stand four. Like Beethoven, Brahms wrote one violin concerto that has remained a lasting work in the repertoire, as did Tchaikovsky (and as had Mendelssohn before him) and we might add to this list the G Minor Violin Concerto by Max Bruch, a composer close in orientation to Brahms, though he did not reach his stature.

Bruckner's symphonic work towers over the orchestral music of the late nineteenth century by its sheer monumentality. It is a monumentality seemingly inconsistent with the touching naiveté of a composer who dedicated one of his symphonies "to the dear Lord," and who pleaded with the emperor to call a halt to the bad reviews his works were receiving--but indeed only seemingly so. His simple soul was imbued with genius. His nine symphonies are related to one another in a vast cycle not unlike Wagner's tetralogy. Wagnerian is the language of his harmony and orchestration. But his work is the antithesis of Romantic music drama it reaches back beyond the world of Schubertian lyricism to that of the great Catholic past, yet in epic dimensions that bring the history of the nineteenth-century symphony to a close.

The reconciliation of Romantic spirit and Classic tradition was a universal phenomenon that pervaded the music of Europe. When we speak of national "schools," in Russia, Bohemia and Scandinavia, we actually refer to individual expressions in the same process, although individuality defies such a generalization, as we are reminded in the cases of some bold innovations. Yet in a certain way even France, with its glorious legacy of music, developed a "school" that, on the whole departing from opera, reflected the age of Brahms and Bruckner. Like Bruckner, arriving at the symphonic form through his work as an organist, César Franck dealt in new ways with the old form. Like Brahms, Franck and his followers returned to a variety of classic genres which met with fresh interest and the support of a Societé Nationale de Musique established through the initiative of Camille Saint-Saëns, a composer versed and successful in veritably all musical forms. The most colorful of a group called the "Russian five," Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was also the first Russian composer to write a symphony. Standing apart from this group, Tchaikovsky, the single nineteenth-century Russian composer of truly European training and orientation, was essentially a traditionalist, though of eminent stature. But in the last of the "five"--Modest Petrovitch Musorgsky--Russia gave to nineteenth-century music a totally original and overpowering figure. A number of nineteenth-century composers such as Bruch, Saint- Saëns, and his student Gabriél Fauré, saw the Classic-Romantic tradition into the new century--Dvorák, significantly, into the New World.

In concluding our survey of the epochs of musical Classicism and Romanticism, we must pay tribute once more to the role of the interpreter. As we have observed, composer and performer, creative and interpretive art, tended to claim individually defined domains at the rise of the nineteenth century. In the process, the role of the interpreter gained in originality and importance. A new key figure now took command of the concert stage and the opera pit: the professional conductor. Liszt and Wagner, like earlier composers, were professional conductors in their own right--the premiere of Wagner's Lohengrin was conducted by Liszt. But the premiere performances of Tristan and Die Meistersinger were in the hands of an acknowledged specialist, Hans von Bülow. A student of Liszt, whose daughter Cosima was espoused to him in first marriage, von Bülow became the chief interpreter of Wagner's and later of Brahms's work. He set the model for the modern career of the orchestral disciplinarian and virtuoso conductor. Public attendance at civic concerts had grown considerably, and the works of the masters, interpreted by professional conductors, became subject to further interpretation through daily reviews in which the public was served by professional critics.

Eduard Hanslick, prototype of the powerful and domineering critic, is known for his relentless attacks upon Wagner's and Bruckner's work (it was he who prompted Bruckner's plea for the emperor's protection) as well as for his loyal support of the work of Brahms. But posterity has unjustly judged this knowledgeable guardian of classic principles a belligerent misanthrope. Though seemingly conservative, he was ahead of his time in sensing in its musical grandeur the dangers of a decline. Hanslick was the first to be appointed to the faculty of the University of Vienna to represent music as an integral part of the academic curriculum, and chairs of music had meanwhile been established also at other universities. The professorship at the University of Berlin was held in Hanslick's time by Heinrich Bellermann, a scholar whose influence was of a more broadly didactic, rather than polemic, kind. Devoted to the a cappella ideal that had been reawakened in the early part of the nineteenth century, he freshly interpreted the roots of its pedagogy and issued the first modern textbook of counterpoint. It was of decisive influence on numerous subsequent courses of instruction in a period in which composer, performer, and audience alike began to obtain a more clearly defined view of past musical styles.

When Liszt gave the first performance of Lohengrin, the concertmaster of the orchestra was the nineteen-year-old Joseph Joachim. One of the finest interpreters of the era, Joachim was a musician of comprehensive command. It was he who called Schumann's attention to the young Brahms. His artistry inspired the violin concertos of Mendelssohn, Brahms, and Bruch. He was the first to free Bach's solo violin works from contemporaneous arrangements and over a period of forty years, as director of the newly founded Berlin Academy of Music, he led the string quartet that established the classic works of chamber music in the modern concert repertoire. Like that from Liszt, a direct line of descent leads from Joachim to yesterday's and today's great performers on the concert stage.


  1. Friedrich Blume, Classic and Romantic Music (New York: Norton, 1970). [Return to text]
  2. "Metastasio: The Forerunner of Gluck," op. cit., pp. 166ff. [Return to text]
  3. Quoted from the obituary published by William Ayrton, Director of the London Philharmonic Society, in the Gentleman's Magazine (May 1838). [Return to text]
  4. Neue-Mozart-Ausgabe, X/30/1 (Kassel and Leipzig: Bärenreiter, 1955). [Return to text]
  5. See Paul Henry Lang, Music in Western Civilization (New York: Norton, 1941), p. 776. Lang speaks of Schubert's D-Minor Quartet as the triumph of the reconciliation of Classicism with Romanticism. [Return to text]

Earliest known piece of polyphonic music discovered

The music was written around the year 900, and represents the earliest example of polyphonic music intended for practical use. Credit: MS Harley 3019. Reproduced with the permission of the British Library Board

New research has uncovered the earliest known practical piece of polyphonic music, an example of the principles that laid the foundations of European musical tradition.

The earliest known practical example of polyphonic music - a piece of choral music written for more than one part - has been found in a British Library manuscript in London.

The inscription is believed to date back to the start of the 10th century and is the setting of a short chant dedicated to Boniface, patron Saint of Germany. It is the earliest practical example of a piece of polyphonic music – the term given to music that combines more than one independent melody – ever discovered.

Written using an early form of notation that predates the invention of the stave, it was inked into the space at the end of a manuscript of the Life of Bishop Maternianus of Reims.

The piece was discovered by Giovanni Varelli, a PhD student from St John's College, University of Cambridge, while he was working on an internship at the British Library. He discovered the manuscript by chance, and was struck by the unusual form of the notation. Varelli specialises in early musical notation, and realised that it consisted of two vocal parts, each complementing the other.

Polyphony defined most European music up until the 20th century, but it is not clear exactly when it emerged. Treatises which lay out the theoretical basis for music with two independent vocal parts survive from the early Middle Ages, but until now the earliest known examples of a practical piece written specifically for more than one voice came from a collection known as The Winchester Troper, which dates back to the year 1000.

Varelli's research suggests that the author of the newly-found piece – a short "antiphon" with a second voice providing a vocal accompaniment – was writing around the year 900.

As well as its age, the piece is also significant because it deviates from the convention laid out in treatises at the time. This suggests that even at this embryonic stage, composers were experimenting with form and breaking the rules of polyphony almost at the same time as they were being written.

"What's interesting here is that we are looking at the birth of polyphonic music and we are not seeing what we expected," Varelli said.

"Typically, polyphonic music is seen as having developed from a set of fixed rules and almost mechanical practice. This changes how we understand that development precisely because whoever wrote it was breaking those rules. It shows that music at this time was in a state of flux and development, the conventions were less rules to be followed, than a starting point from which one might explore new compositional paths."

The piece is technically known as an "organum", an early type of polyphonic music based on plainsong, in which an accompaniment was sung above or below the melody.

The fact that it was an early example of music for two parts had probably gone unnoticed because the author used a very early form of musical notation for the polyphonic piece, which would have been indecipherable to most modern readers. "When I tried to work out the melody I realised that the music written above was the same as the one outlined by the notation used for the chant and that this sort of 'diagram' was therefore a two-voice piece based on the antiphon for St Boniface", Varelli said. "The chant notation essentially gives the direction of the melody and when it goes up or down, the organum notation consistently agreed, giving us also the exact intervals for the chant."

Who wrote the music, and which monastic house it came from, remains a mystery, but through meticulous detective work Varelli has been able to pin its likely origins down to one of a number of ecclesiastical centres in what is now north-west Germany, somewhere around Paderborn or Düsseldorf.

This is partly because the type of plainchant notation – sometimes known as Eastern Palaeofrankish – was most used in Germany at that time. In addition, however, an unknown scribe had added a Latin inscription at the top of the page which when translated reads: "which is celebrated on December 1".

This odd comment, a reference to the Saint's Day for Maternianus, alludes to the fact that unlike most monastic houses, which celebrated Maternianus on April 30, a handful of communities in north-western Germany did so on December 1. Combined with the notation itself, this makes it likely that whoever wrote the music was based in that region.

"The music was added some time after the main saint's life was written," Varelli added. "The main text was written at the beginning of the 10th century, and on this basis, we can conservatively estimate that this addition was made some time in the very first decades of the same century".

"The rules being applied here laid the foundations for those that developed and governed the majority of western music history for the next thousand years. This discovery shows how they were evolving, and how they existed in a constant state of transformation, around the year 900."

Nicolas Bell, music curator at the British Library, said "This is an exciting discovery. When this manuscript was first catalogued in the eighteenth century, nobody was able to understand these unusual symbols. We are delighted that Giovanni Varelli has been able to decipher them and understand their importance to the history of music."

Pop Music History Facts and Timeline

The definition of pop music is purposefully flexible as the music that is identified as pop is constantly changing. At any particular point in time it may be easiest to identify pop music as that which is successful on the pop music charts.

For the past 50 years the most successful musical styles on the pop charts have continually changed and evolved. However, there are some consistent patterns in what is identified as pop music.

Pop music (a term that originally derives from an abbreviation of "popular") is usually understood to be commercially recorded music, often oriented towards a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short, simple songs utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.

Pop music has absorbed influences from most other forms of popular music, but as a genre is particularly associated with the rock and roll and later rock style

In the history of music, the term 'pop music' was first used in 1926. It was used to describe 'a piece of music having popular appeal'. Commercially recorded music, consisting of relatively short and simple love songs is known as 'pop music'.

It is associated with the 'rock and roll' style, often tailored for the youth market, which utilizes technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.

Pop music history states that the term 'pop music' originated in Britain in the mid-1950s which implied 'concerts appealing to a wide audience' or 'the non classical music, usually in the form of songs', performed by such artists as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Abba, etc.

If you go through 80's pop music history, you will notice that pop music, throughout its development has been influenced by most other genres of popular music.

Pop music picked up instrumentation from jazz and rock music, vocal harmonies from gospel music and soul music, formed from the sentimental ballads, tempo from dance music, support from electronic music and spoken passages from rap.

In 1950s television was introduced and visual presence of pop stars helped to gain more popularity. In 1960s, cheap portable transistor radios were introduced, which helped the teenagers to listen to music outside of the home.

By 1980s MTV favored the artists such as Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna who had a strong visual appeal. Widespread use of the microphone, multi-track recording, and digital sampling were the other technological innovations which were responsible for the increasing popularity of pop music.

Though pop music had been dominated by the American music industry, most regions and countries have their own form of pop music. In 1980s video technique was introduced and pop albums became still more popular.

The American pop music history provides us information about the fact that the 1960s and '70s saw a number of important changes in American popular music, for instance, the development of a number of new styles, including heavy metal, punk, soul and hip hop.

1. Pop Music History Timeline:

Apr 4, 1964 - During the week of April 4, 1964, two months after their arrival in the US, the Beatles set a record that is likely never to be broken when they occupied all five of the top positions on Billboard's Top Pop Singles chart, with "Can't Buy Me Love?

Jun 1, 1967 - June 1, 1967, is arguably the most important landmark in the history of pop music. The Rock'n'roll era commenced with 'Rock Around the Clock', with its opening up of the whole world of African tribal music and the unfettered emotion that went with it.

Mar 27, 1970 - She was born Mariah Angela Carey on Long Island, New York, on March 27, 1970. Her mother, an Irish-American opera singer and vocal coach, Patricia Hickey, named her after the song "They Call the Wind Mariah" from the Broadway musical Paint Your Wagon.

Aug 1, 1981 - MTV went on the air on August 1, 1981, and produced its first Video Music Awards just three years later. That makes for almost three decades of marrying the most popular pop music with televised spectacle.

Nov 30, 1984 - Gergana was born in 30th of November, 1984 in Dimitrovgrad. In fact Dimitrovgrad is the house of Payner Music, and the place where producer made its first steps. This helped for the singer to realize her dream and to sing pop-folk music.

Aug 1995 - single "You Are Not Alone", released in August 1995, is the second single from Michael Jackson's album History. The song was the singer's final Number 1 single of his career. The song was a significant success.

Jul 15, 1998 - Both quoted in N. Strauss, "Japan's Pop Music Scene: Tomorrow, the World?"

Aug 14, 2006 - It was said that on the 14 August 2006 Ryan would release "Je t'adore" in the UK for which exclusive mixes by Credheadz were commissioned, but the release was shelved, close to the release date. It did however enjoy heavy rotation on the UK's music channels .

Jun 7, 2007 - The Italian singer Adamo mainly made his career in Belgium. 2010
Mar 9, 2010 - "Pop", The Oxford Dictionary of Music. Accessed online on March 9, 2010.

Article about: History of Pop music, Timeline of pop music history events

Watch the video: PYX LAX - Ήμουν κι Εγώ εκεί Live at Athens Olympic StadiumHQ Sound,HD (July 2022).


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