A Brief Survey of Western Music

A Brief Survey of Western Music
800AD - Present
Important Points in this Slide Show
 This multimedia unit on music history, style and form is designed
to be learned and studied on an individual basis.
Any words or names in red italics are important and need to be
memorized.You should write them in your notes as we cover
them in class.
We will take three days to go through this presentation and then
the test will take place on the fourth day.
You are encouraged to review each lesson at home after we discuss
it in class to help learn it. Listen to various music examples given.
You can download the PowerPoint 2007 viewer if you do not have
PowerPoint on your computer:
 Music has evolved continuously over the past thousand years.
 Music styles change, as does clothing, hairstyles, art,
architecture and language, as humans constantly look for
variation and change.
 There is a strong human need for repetition and contrast in
our lives: repetition so that we feel secure and comfortable
with what is going on, and contrast to provide variety.
 There is no “master planner” deciding when music should
change. An innovative composer may try something new, and
if it is popular the new idea catches on, and if not, it does not
Musical Style Periods
 Medieval Period (c.800-1450)
 Renaissance Period (1450-1600)
 Baroque Period (1600-1750)
 Classical Period (1750-1825)
 Romantic Period (1825-1910)
 Modern Period (1910-present)
The Medieval Period
Instrumental Music of The Middle Ages
 Instrumental music was improvised in the Middle Ages.
 Medieval instruments consisted of the shawm, krummhorn,
rebec, sackbut , lute, drums and other ancestors of our
modern instruments.
 Instruments would have been used for dancing, war,
celebrations, although the concept of an organized
orchestra or band is still many centuries away.
Music for the Church
 Unlike today, the Church was a very powerful force in European
medieval society. At a time when most people were illiterate, it was the
monks who could read and write, and therefore controlled most
aspects of society. Universities were founded for the training of priests.
 The great cathedrals were constructed during this time, and musicians
began to compose music for the Church.
Salisbury Cathedral, England
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Gregorian Chant
 Composers developed a type of sacred music that was not like the
secular music found outside the church.
Secular music is worldly, often based on dances, and therefore has
a steady beat.
Gregorian chant (named after Pope Gregory the Great) was
melismatic (many notes to a syllable), monophonic (single line
with no harmony), was very fluid with no steady pulse, and was
sung in Latin.
Chant, or plainsong, was based on the ancient modes. (Mode IV
began on what we would now call fah or Lydian.)
Gregorian chant is the ancestor of our modern music. It was
composed on a four-line staff with neumes, which evolved
eventually into our modern notation.
Gregorian Chant
An example of the beautiful artwork and attention to detail that
was used when this music was copied.
Gregorian Chant – Dies Irae
The Dies Irae is one of the sections of the funeral requiem mass. It means “day of
wrath” in English. Listen for the free-flowing melody which is unaccompanied and has
no steady beat.
The High Middle Ages
 At Notre Dame in Paris, composers began to ornament the chant by
adding a second line of music for embellishment.
Léonin (c.1159-c.1201) was the first composer whose name has come
down to us.
The Latin word for this two-part music is organum.
The two lines never came closer than a fourth to each other.
This harmony of open 4ths, 5ths and octaves gives this music an ancient,
modal sound. When composers today try to give their music an ancient
feel, they will write chords of open 5ths without any 3rds which make
chords major or minor.
Eventually a third line was added, and words were given to the parts.
The words could be in different languages. This new form was called a
motet (from the French mot for word).
Léonin – Organum Duplum
Duplum is Latin for two.You will hear two separate lines of music.
The Renaissance Period
Historical Developments
 The invention of the printing press allowed for the mass
printing of books and music.
 The invention of gunpowder brought to an end the age of
 Astronomers such as Galileo began to observe the stars and
planets, making observations which challenged the Church’s
traditional view of Creation.
 Theologians such as Martin Luther began to challenge the Church
on its beliefs, paving the way for the Reformation and the
fragmenting of the Church into various denominations. One
important change was the use of the vernacular in services.
Vernacular is the native language of the people. (The vernacular in
England is English, and in Germany is German.)
Musical Developments
 The 3-part medieval motet evolved into fully mature motets,
anthems, madrigals and chansons. The use of the third in
chords gives a thicker, more modern-sounding harmony.
These a cappella choral pieces often had thick textures of 5, 6
or more individual lines of music.
They were based on imitation, or polyphonic counterpoint.
The Renaissance period is considered to be the Golden Age
of unaccompanied choral singing.
A motet is a sacred work in Latin, based on imitative polyphony.
The anthem is a sacred work for choir sung in English, a result
of the Reformation in England.
Madrigals and chansons were secular works. Madrigals were
usually in Italian or English, and chansons were in French.
Thomas Tallis – The Lamentations
This is a fine example of a cappella singing in imitative polyphonic style by
the Choir of New College, Oxford, England. You will note that the men are
singing the alto, tenor and bass parts.
Morley – Now is the month of maying
This light-hearted madrigal by Thomas Morley is one of the best-known
madrigals. In this example it is sung by the King’s Singers, an English a cappella
choral group consisting of six male singers.
Important Renaissance Composers
 Thomas Tallis (1510-1585)
 Orlando de Lassus (1530-1594)
 Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594)
 Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)
 Thomas Morley (1557-1602)
 Thomas Weelkes (1576-1623)
 William Byrd (1540-1623)
Renaissance Instrumental Music
 Instrumental music was still improvised, as in the Medieval
 It will not be until the Baroque Period when composers begin to
compose for instruments and ensembles.
 Common instruments during this period were the shawm,
lute, cornett (made of wood), flute, sackbut, slide trumpet,
viol, and harpsichord (keyboard instrument with plucked
 Instruments would have been used for dancing, military
purposes, celebrations, fanfares, and so on.
Renaissance Dance Music
The Baroque Period
Baroque Characteristics
 Baroque is a Portuguese word meaning an unrefined, rough jewel. It
was first used as a derogatory description of the music of this
 Baroque music, like Baroque architecture, painting and
clothing, tends to be highly ornamented and decorated and
Baroque Music
 Composers were now writing for instruments, and from this point
on instrumental music overshadows choral music.
The bar line was developed as a means of keeping instruments
Music developed a steady, pulsating, relentless beat, like a motor
which never stops.
The use of trills and other forms of ornamentation becomes
Baroque music sounds majestic, pompous and regal to our ears, and is
commonly used for ceremonial occasions in our day.
There was often a harpsichord in the orchestra, which leads to the
development of terraced dynamics (loud or soft, but no crescendos or
Opera was developed in Italy, which is a dramatically different form of
music. This leads to the use of Italian descriptive terms for music.
Important Baroque Composers
 Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
 George Friderich Handel (1685-1759)
 Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
 Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
 Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto #3
It was quite common for performers to stand when playing during the Baroque
period. Note how the harpsichord is placed in the centre of the ensemble. The
composer would often lead the group while playing.
Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks
Pachelbel: Canon in D
The famous Canon in D is not a real canon at all, since the melody occurs in the
bass only. You will recall that a canon is a musical form in which the melody is
imitated in sequence by all of the parts or voices. The Canon in D is the most
famous canon in the world that is not a canon! It is actually a passacaglia. A
passacaglia is a form in which a melody is repeated over and over in the bass,
overtop of which are other parts providing variety. The performers here are
playing on period instruments, which means they are made with the same sort
of materials as they would have been in Pachelbel’s day.
The Classical Period
Classical Music
 Music of the Classical era has a completely different feel than the
Baroque era which preceded it.
Music from this era sounds light, refined, elegant and
sophisticated to our modern ears.
The String Quartet and Symphony were developed by Haydn. He is
considered to be the “Father of the String Quartet” and “Father of the
A symphony is a major work for orchestra divided into four
The piano-forte was invented, making the harpsichord obsolete. The
piano-forte could play loudly and softly as its name implies, and
could play crescendos and decrescendos which greatly enhanced the
development of expressive music. It could also sustain notes while
the harpsichord could not.
The clarinet as we know it was developed.
Mozart – Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
This is the first movement of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music), one
Mozart’s most best known and well-loved pieces. It was written for string orchestra.
Important Classical Composers
 Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
 Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
 Beethoven was a transitional composer straddling the
Classical and Romantic eras. He is considered to be the first
of the Romantics.
 Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven were all closely associated
with the city of Vienna in Austria, and are sometimes
referred to as the Viennese School.
The Romantic Period
 To be Romantic is to be expressive.
 When a composer attempts to express an emotion or non-musical idea
through music, he/she is being romantic.
There was so much expressive music being composed in the 19th century
that it is now referred to as the Romantic era, even though all composers,
past and present, are expressive.
Orchestras became very large to be able to handle the large dynamic
Romantic music tends to be dramatic, with plenty of crescendos and
Rubato was common, wherein the tempo deliberately speeds up and slows
Program music is instrumental music that tells a story. An example is music
that is composed for a play (or in our time, a movie) which becomes so
popular that it is performed separately, without the original play. This type
of program music is called incidental music.
Some Important Romantic Composers
 Ludwig van Beethoven
 Franz Schubert
 Hector Berlioz
 Johannes Brahms
 Felix Mendelssohn
 Robert Schumann
 Frédéric Chopin
 Richard Wagner
 Giuseppe Verdi
 Giacomo Puccini
 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Wagner: The Ride of the Valkyries
This is an example of a “big”, exciting, Romantic piece for large orchestra.
It is from the opera Die Walküre, which itself is the second of the four operas
which comprise the epic Der Ring des Nibelungen. For more information, see
Chopin - Nocturne Op.9 No.2
This piano piece by Chopin is the opposite mood of Wagner’s, yet it is still Romantic.
It is quiet, delicate and sensitive. It demonstrates the use of rubato and is very expressive.
The pianist is Arthur Rubenstein, one of the great pianists of the 20th century and a
renowned interpreter of Chopin’s piano music.
The Modern Era
Characteristics of Modern Music
 Much modern music reflects the hustle and bustle of modern
life, as we race around in our vehicles on asphalt, and live and
work in buildings made of concrete, glass and metal and
other unnatural materials.
Modern composers often use irregular rhythms and metre,
such as 5/4, 5/8, 7/8, and 11/8.
The use of dissonant harmonies is common.
Shifting time signatures (frequent metre changes Eg
Polymetre – 2 different metres at same time.
12-tone music – Music based on tone rows instead of scales.
Bernstein – Chichester Psalms
This work for choir and orchestra opens with dramatic, dissonant harmonies, and then
breaks into 7/8 time. It is a wonderful example of modern choral music that uses new
styles of composition yet remains appealing to the average listener.
Important 20th Century Composers
 Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
 Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
 Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
 Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
 Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
 John Cage (1912-1992)
 Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)