History of Music
History of Music
It can be argued that the vanguard of development
has always been reflected in the arts of a culture. It is the poets, the
dreamers and artists who are the architects of the future; the ones who
‘build the world they want to live in, the ones who dream out loud’1. Music
is an elaborate art form, tempered by the emotions of those who create
it and as such the dreams, creations and inventions are partly the products
- or at least artifacts - of the world around them. As such, the social,
economic and technological changes in society reflect themselves in the
arts of the time also. The common question "Does art imitate life, or does
life imitate art?" when inspected proves rhetorical: they are parallel
mirrors which reflect each other.
W.H. Auden best expressed this when
he said, "A verbal art like poetry is reflective; it stops to think. Music
is immediate, it goes on to become."
Tracing the course of musical development
through history shows how closely music (of all the art forms) in particular
represents the time in which it was written. The "immediacy" Auden speaks
of is evidenced in music’s ability to associate itself with a specific
point in time or event and always remind the listener of that time or place.
It is impossible to analyse individual interpretation of music, however
it is interesting to examine what caused musicians to write what they did,
when they did. The personal interpretation or association of a work is
superimposed; it is the music "going on to become."
By correlating musical developments
with historical events or conditions, we can see not only why certain styles
of music were written when they were, but also how the times dictated the
styles as much as the styles dictated the times.
The exact origin of music is unknown.
We can only form educated guesses from the evidence that remains today:
pictures on fragments on broken vases of musical instruments, or cave paintings
of dancing figures. It is generally accepted that music was first used
in prehistoric times in spiritual or magical rituals. This knowledge comes
from the fact that music still forms a vital part of most religious ceremonies
today. Whereas with ancient pictures, we can imagine missing pieces, or
envision brighter colours, when it comes to music we have no idea of what
instruments were used, or the sounds they made. Our relationship with the
music of the time is as intangible to us as if we had only smelled the
dyes of the paintings we see.
Greek music is just about the first
artifact, chronologically speaking, of record which can begin to make sense
to us. Although there is evidence that music and music performance played
a large part in Greek culture in the manuscripts discovered from their
civilisation, there are very few actual artifacts of the music itself,
either vocal or instrumental that have survived. It is impossible to fully
understand what little notation that has been discovered to properly reproduce
an accurate performance or even imagine what it could sound like.
Greek civilisation was heavily reliant
on mythology. According to Greek mythology, music was considered divine;
a creation of the gods. It was believed that the gods themselves invented
music and musical instruments. Music and religion (mythology) played an
integral part in both the public and private lives of the Greeks. Many
early myths were those which explained the powerful forces of music. The
Greek were perhaps the first to iterate music’s powerful effect on human
In Greek history, music was a much
debated topic. Philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle both had very different
views on the power and importance it had. Pythagoras developed the numerical
octave system still used to represent music today. This was critical in
helping us to understand today what we find in artifacts of the past. Entertainment
in Greece was highly regarded and prioritised, as it represented wealth
and status. The Greeks developed most of their music in theatre and by
the time Greece became a province of the Roman Empire, music dominated
most dramatic performances as well as social activities.
We have far better evidence and
examples of the music played in the society of the Roman Empire. Most of
the music created in the Roman Empire originated in the music of the Greeks.
Despite this, there was definite musical activity in the later Roman Empire.
An ample amount of evidence survived for instruments and a good deal of
theory also. But by and large, Greek music remained the most popular in
society in the Roman Empire. It developed as early Christian