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Music is an art form in which the medium is sound organized in time. Common elements of music are pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. The word derives from Greek μουσική (mousike), "(art) of the Muses".
Definition of music
Greek philosophers and ancient Indians defined music as tones ordered horizontally as melodies and vertically as harmonies. Music theory, within this realm, is studied with the presupposition that music is orderly and often pleasant to hear. However, in the 20th century, composers challenged the notion that music had to be pleasant by creating music that explored harsher, darker timbres. The existence of some modern-day music genres such as death metal and grindcore, which enjoy an extensive underground following, indicate that even the harshest sounds can be considered music if the listener is so inclined.
20th-century composer John Cage disagreed with the notion that music must consist of pleasant, discernible melodies. Instead, he argued that any sounds we can hear can be music, saying, for example, "There is no noise, only sound." According to musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez, "the border between music and noise is always culturally defined—which implies that, even within a single society, this border does not always pass through the same place; in short, there is rarely a consensus.… By all accounts there is no single and intercultural universal concept defining what music might be, except that it is 'sound through time'."
The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of music vary according to culture and social context. Music ranges from strictly organized compositions (and their recreation in performance), through improvisational music to aleatoric forms. Music can be divided into genres and subgenres, although the dividing lines and relationships between music genres are often subtle, sometimes open to individual interpretation, and occasionally controversial. Within " the arts", music can be classified as a performing art, a fine art, or an auditory art form.
The development of music among humans must have taken place against the backdrop of natural sounds such as birdsong and the sounds other animals use to communicate. Prehistoric music is the name which is given to all music produced in preliterate cultures.
A range of paleolithic sites have yielded bones in which lateral holes have been pierced: these are usually identified as flutes, blown at one end like the Japanese shakuhachi. The earliest written records of musical expression are to be found in the Samaveda of India and in 4,000 year old cuneiform from Ur. Instruments, such as the seven-holed flute and various types of stringed instruments have been recovered from the Indus Valley Civilization archaeological sites. India has one of the oldest musical traditions in the world—references to Indian classical music (marga) can be found in the ancient scriptures of the Hindu tradition, the Vedas. The traditional art or court music of China has a history stretching for more than three thousand years. Music was an important part of cultural and social life in Ancient Greece: mixed-gender choruses performed for entertainment, celebration and spiritual ceremonies; musicians and singers had a prominent role in ancient Greek theatre
In the 9th century, al-Farabi wrote a notable book on music titled Kitab al-Musiqi al-Kabir ("Great Book of Music"). He played and invented a variety of musical instruments and devised the Arab tone system of pitch organisation, which is still used in Arabic music.
Medieval and Renaissance Europe
While musical life in Europe was undoubtedly rich in the early Medieval era, as attested by artistic depictions of instruments, writings about music, and other records, the only European repertory which has survived from before about 800 is the monophonic liturgical plainsong of the Roman Catholic Church, the central tradition of which was called Gregorian chant. Several schools of liturgical polyphony flourished beginning in the 12th century. Alongside these traditions of sacred music, a vibrant tradition of secular song developed, exemplified by the music of the troubadours, trouvères and Minnesänger.
Much of the surviving music of 14th century Europe is secular. By the middle of the 15th century, composers and singers used a smooth polyphony for sacred musical compositions such as the mass, the motet, and the laude, and secular forms such as the chanson and the madrigal. The introduction of commercial printing had an immense influence on the dissemination of musical styles.
The first operas, written around 1600 and the rise of contrapuntal music define the end of the Renaissance and the beginning of the Baroque era that lasted until roughly 1750, the year of the death of Johann Sebastian Bach.
German Baroque composers wrote for small ensembles including strings, brass, and woodwinds, as well as choirs, pipe organ, harpsichord, and clavichord. During the Baroque period, several major music forms were defined that lasted into later periods when they were expanded and evolved further, including the fugue, the invention, the sonata, and the concerto.
The music of the Classical period is characterized by homophonic texture, often featuring a prominent melody with accompaniment. These new melodies tended to be almost voice-like and singable. The now popular instrumental music was dominated by further evolution of musical forms initially defined in the Baroque period: the sonata, and the concerto, with the addition of the new form, the symphony. Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, well known even today, are among the central figures of the Classical period.
Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert were transitional composers, leading into the Romantic period, with their expansion of existing genres, forms, and functions of music. In the Romantic period, the emotional and expressive qualities of music came to take precedence over the orientation towards technique and tradition. The late 19th century saw a dramatic expansion in the size of the orchestra, and in the role of concerts as part of urban society. Later Romantic composers created complex and often much longer musical works, merging and expanding traditional forms that had previously been used separately. For example, counterpoint, combined with harmonic structures to create more extended chords with increased use of dissonance and to create dramatic tension and resolution.
In the 20th century there was a vast increase in music listening as the radio gained popularity worldwide and new media and technologies were developed to record, capture, reproduce and distribute music. The focus of art music was characterized by exploration. Claude Debussy has become well-known and respected for his orientation towards colors and depictions in his compositional style. Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, and John Cage were all influential composers in 20th century art music. Jazz evolved and became a significant genre of music over the course of the 20th century, and during the second half of that century, rock music and hip hop music did the same.
Performance is the physical expression of music. Often, a musical work is performed once its structure and instrumentation are satisfactory to its creators; however, as it gets performed, it can evolve and change.
A performance can either be rehearsed or improvised. Improvisation is a musical idea created on the spot (such as a guitar solo or a drum solo), with no prior premeditation, while rehearsal is vigorous repetition of an idea until it has achieved cohesion. Musicians will generally add improvisation to a well-rehearsed idea to create a unique performance.
Many cultures include strong traditions of solo and performance, such as in Indian classical music, and in the Western Art music tradition. Other cultures, such as in Bali, include strong traditions of group performance. All cultures include a mixture of both, and performance may range from improvised solo playing for one's enjoyment to highly planned and organised performance rituals such as the modern classical concert, religious processions, music festivals or music competitions.
Chamber music, which is music for a small ensemble with only a few of each type of instrument, is often seen as more intimate than symphonic works. A performer may be referred to as a musician.
Many types of music, such as traditional blues and folk music were originally preserved in the memory of performers, and the songs were handed down orally, or aurally (by ear). When the composer of music is no longer known, this music is often classified as "traditional". Different musical traditions have different attitudes towards how and where to make changes to the original source material, from quite strict, to those which demand improvisation or modification to the music. A culture's history may also be passed by ear through song.
The detail included explicitly in the music notation varies between genres and historical periods. In general, art music notation from the 17th through the 19th century required performers to have a great deal of contextual knowledge about performing styles.
For example, in the 17th and 18th century, music notated for solo performers typically indicated a simple, unornamented melody. However, it was expected that performers would know how to add stylistically-appropriate ornaments such as trills and turns. In the 19th century, art music for solo performers may give a general instruction such as to perform the music expressively, without describing in detail how the performer should do this. It was expected that the performer would know how to use tempo changes, accentuation, and pauses (among other devices) to obtain this "expressive" performance style. In the 20th century, art music notation often became more explicit and used a range of markings and annotations to indicate to performers how they should play or sing the piece.
In popular music and jazz, music notation almost always indicates only the basic framework of the melody, harmony, or performance approach; musicians and singers are expected to know the performance conventions and styles associated with specific genres and pieces. For example, the " lead sheet" for a jazz tune may only indicate the melody and the chord changes. The performers in the jazz ensemble are expected to know how to "flesh out" this basic structure by adding ornaments, improvised music, and chordal accompaniment.
Music is composed and performed for many purposes, ranging from aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, or as an entertainment product for the marketplace. Amateur musicians compose and perform music for their own pleasure, and they do not derive their income from music. Professional musicians are employed by a range of institutions and organisations, including armed forces, churches and synagogues, symphony orchestras, broadcasting or film production companies, and music schools. Professional musicians sometimes work as freelancers, seeking contracts and engagements in a variety of settings.
There are often many links between amateur and professional musicians. Beginning amateur musicians take lessons with professional musicians. In community settings, advanced amateur musicians perform with professional musicians in a variety of ensembles and orchestras. In some cases, amateur musicians attain a professional level of competence, and they are able to perform in professional performance settings.
A distinction is often made between music performed for the benefit of a live audience and music that is performed for the purpose of being recorded and distributed through the music retail system or the broadcasting system. However, there are also many cases where a live performance in front of an audience is recorded and distributed (or broadcast).
"Composition" is often classed as the creation and recording of music via a medium by which others can interpret it (i.e. paper or sound). Many cultures use at least part of the concept of preconceiving musical material, or composition, as held in western classical music. Even when music is notated precisely, there are still many decisions that a performer has to make. The process of a performer deciding how to perform music that has been previously composed and notated is termed interpretation.
Different performers' interpretations of the same music can vary widely. Composers and song writers who present their own music are interpreting, just as much as those who perform the music of others or folk music. The standard body of choices and techniques present at a given time and a given place is referred to as performance practice, where as interpretation is generally used to mean either individual choices of a performer, or an aspect of music which is not clear, and therefore has a "standard" interpretation.
In some musical genres, such as jazz and blues, even more freedom is given to the performer to engage in improvisation on a basic melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic framework. The greatest latitude is given to the performer in a style of performing called free improvisation, which is material that is spontaneously "thought of" (imagined) while being performed, not preconceived. According to the analysis of Georgiana Costescu, improvised music usually follows stylistic or genre conventions and even "fully composed" includes some freely chosen material. Composition does not always mean the use of notation, or the known sole authorship of one individual.
Music can also be determined by describing a "process" which may create musical sounds; examples of this range from wind chimes, through computer programs which select sounds. Music which contains elements selected by chance is called Aleatoric music, and is associated with such composers as John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Witold Lutosławski.
Musical composition is a term that describes the composition of a piece of music. Methods of composition vary widely from one composer to another, however in analysing music all forms — spontaneous, trained, or untrained — are built from elements comprising a musical piece. Music can be composed for repeated performance or it can be improvised: composed on the spot. The music can be performed entirely from memory, from a written system of musical notation, or some combination of both. Study of composition has traditionally been dominated by examination of methods and practice of Western classical music, but the definition of composition is broad enough to include spontaneously improvised works like those of free jazz performers and African drummers such as the Ewe drummers.
What is important in understanding the composition of a piece is singling out its elements. An understanding of music's formal elements can be helpful in deciphering exactly how a piece is constructed. A universal element of music is how sounds occur in time, which is referred to as the rhythm of a piece of music.
When a piece appears to have a changing time-feel, it is considered to be in rubato time, an Italian expression that indicates that the tempo of the piece changes to suit the expressive intent of the performer. Even random placement of random sounds, which occurs in musical montage, occurs within some kind of time, and thus employs time as a musical element.
Notation is the written expression of music notes and rhythms on paper using symbols. When music is written down, the pitches and rhythm of the music is notated, along with instructions on how to perform the music. The study of how to read notation involves music theory, harmony, the study of performance practice, and in some cases an understanding of historical performance methods.
Written notation varies with style and period of music. In Western Art music, the most common types of written notation are scores, which include all the music parts of an ensemble piece, and parts, which are the music notation for the individual performers or singers. In popular music, jazz, and blues, the standard musical notation is the lead sheet, which notates the melody, chords, lyrics (if it is a vocal piece), and structure of the music. Scores and parts are also used in popular music and jazz, particularly in large ensembles such as jazz "big bands."
In popular music, guitarists and electric bass players often read music notated in tablature, which indicates the location of the notes to be played on the instrument using a diagram of the guitar or bass fingerboard. Tabulature was also used in the Baroque era to notate music for the lute, a stringed, fretted instrument.
Notated music is produced as sheet music. To perform music from notation requires an understanding of both the musical style and the performance practice that is associated with a piece of music or genre.
Improvisation is the creation of spontaneous music. Improvisation is often considered an act of instantaneous composition by composers, where compositional techniques are employed with or without preparation.
Music theory encompasses the nature and mechanics of music. It often involves identifying patterns that govern composers' techniques. In a more detailed sense, music theory (in the western system) also distills and analyzes the elements of music – rhythm, harmony (harmonic function), melody, structure, and texture. People who study these properties are known as music theorists.
The field of music cognition involves the study of many aspects of music including how it is processed by listeners. Rather than accepting the standard practices of analyzing, composing, and performing music as a given, much research in music cognition seeks instead to uncover the mental processes that underlie these practices. Also, research in the field seeks to uncover commonalities between the musical traditions of disparate cultures and possible cognitive "constraints" that limit these musical systems. Questions regarding musical innateness, and emotional responses to music are also major areas of research in the field.
Deaf people can experience music by feeling the vibrations in their body, a process which can be enhanced if the individual holds a resonant, hollow object. A well-known deaf musician is the composer Ludwig van Beethoven, who composed many famous works even after he had completely lost his hearing. Recent examples of deaf musicians include Evelyn Glennie, a highly acclaimed percussionist who has been deaf since age twelve, and Chris Buck, a virtuoso violinist who has lost his hearing. This is relevant because it indicates that music is a deeper cognitive process than unexamined phrases such as, "pleasing to the ear" would suggest. Much research in music cognition seeks to uncover these complex mental processes involved in listening to music, which may seem intuitively simple, yet are vastly intricate and complex.
Music is experienced by individuals in a range of social settings ranging from being alone to attending a large concert. Musical performances take different forms in different cultures and socioeconomic milieus. In Europe and North America, there is often a divide between what types of music are viewed as a " high culture" and " low culture." "High culture" types of music typically include Western art music such as Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and modern-era symphonies, concertos, and solo works, and are typically heard in formal concerts in concert halls and churches, with the audience sitting quietly in seats.
Other types of music - including, but not limited to, jazz, blues, soul, and country - are often performed in bars, nightclubs, and theatres, where the audience may be able to drink, dance, and express themselves by cheering. Until the later 20th century, the division between "high" and "low" musical forms was widely accepted as a valid distinction that separated out better quality, more advanced "art music" from the popular styles of music heard in bars and dance halls.
However, in the 1980s and 1990s, musicologists studying this perceived divide between "high" and "low" musical genres argued that this distinction is not based on the musical value or quality of the different types of music. Rather, they argued that this distinction was based largely on the socioeconomic standing or social class of the performers or audience of the different types of music. For example, whereas the audience for Classical symphony concerts typically have above-average incomes, the audience for a rap concert in an inner-city area may have below-average incomes. Even though the performers, audience, or venue where non-"art" music is performed may have a lower socioeconomic status, the music that is performed, such as blues, rap, punk, funk, or ska may be very complex and sophisticated.
When composers introduce styles of music which break with convention, there can be a strong resistance from academic music experts and popular culture. Late-period Beethoven string quartets, Stravinsky ballet scores, serialism, bebop-era jazz, hip hop, punk rock, and electronica have all been considered non-music by some critics when they were first introduced.
Such themes are examined in the sociology of music. The sociological study of music, sometimes called sociomusicology, is often pursued in departments of sociology, media studies, or music, and is closely related to the field of ethnomusicology.
The music industry refers to the business industry connected with the creation and sale of music. It consists of record companies, labels and publishers that distribute recorded music products internationally and that often control the rights to those products. Some music labels are " independent," while others are subsidiaries of larger corporate entities or international media groups.
The incorporation of music training from preschool to post secondary education is common in North America and Europe. Involvement in music is thought to teach basic skills such as concentration, counting, listening, and cooperation while also promoting understanding of language, improving the ability to recall information, and creating an environment more conducive to learning in other areas. In elementary schools, children often learn to play instruments such as the recorder, sing in small choirs, and learn about the history of Western art music. In secondary schools students may have the opportunity to perform some type of musical ensembles, such as choirs, marching bands, concert bands, jazz bands, or orchestras, and in some school systems, music classes may be available. Some students also take private music lessons with a teacher. Amateur musicians typically take lessons to learn musical rudiments and beginner- to intermediate-level musical techniques.
At the university level, students in most arts and humanities programs can receive credit for taking music courses, which typically take the form of an overview course on the history of music, or a music appreciation course that focuses on listening to music and learning about different musical styles. In addition, most North American and European universities have some type of musical ensembles that non-music students are able to participate in, such as choirs, marching bands, or orchestras. The study of Western art music is increasingly common outside of North America and Europe, such as the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, or the classical music programs that are available in Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan, and China. At the same time, Western universities and colleges are widening their curriculum to include music of non-Western cultures, such as the music of Africa or Bali (e.g. Gamelan music).
Musicology is the study of the subject of music. The earliest definitions defined three sub-disciplines: systematic musicology, historical musicology, and comparative musicology or ethnomusicology. In contemporary scholarship, one is more likely to encounter a division of the discipline into music theory, music history, and ethnomusicology. Research in musicology has often been enriched by cross-disciplinary work, for example in the field of psychoacoustics. The study of music of non-western cultures, and the cultural study of music, is called ethnomusicology.
Graduates of undergraduate music programs can go on to further study in music graduate programs. Graduate degrees include the Master of Music, the Master of Arts, the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) (e.g., in musicology or music theory), and more recently, the Doctor of Musical Arts, or DMA. The Master of Music degree, which takes one to two years to complete, is typically awarded to students studying the performance of an instrument, education, voice or composition. The Master of Arts degree, which takes one to two years to complete and often requires a thesis, is typically awarded to students studying musicology, music history, or music theory. Undergraduate university degrees in music, including the Bachelor of Music, the Bachelor of Music Education, and the Bachelor of Arts (with a major in music) typically take three to five years to complete. These degrees provide students with a grounding in music theory and music history, and many students also study an instrument or learn singing technique as part of their program.
The PhD, which is required for students who want to work as university professors in musicology, music history, or music theory, takes three to five years of study after the Master's degree, during which time the student will complete advanced courses and undertake research for a dissertation. The DMAis a relatively new degree that was created to provide a credential for professional performers or composers that want to work as university professors in musical performance or composition. The DMA takes three to five years after a Master's degree, and includes advanced courses, projects, and performances. In Medieval times, the study of music was one of the Quadrivium of the seven Liberal Arts and considered vital to higher learning. Within the quantitative Quadrivium, music, or more accurately harmonics, was the study of rational proportions.
Zoomusicology is the study of the music of non-human animals, or the musical aspects of sounds produced by non-human animals. As George Herzog (1941) asked, "do animals have music?" François-Bernard Mâche's Musique, mythe, nature, ou les Dauphins d'Arion (1983), a study of "ornitho-musicology" using a technique of Nicolas Ruwet's Language, musique, poésie (1972) paradigmatic segmentation analysis, shows that bird songs are organised according to a repetition-transformation principle. Jean-Jacques Nattiez (1990), argues that "in the last analysis, it is a human being who decides what is and is not musical, even when the sound is not of human origin. If we acknowledge that sound is not organised and conceptualised (that is, made to form music) merely by its producer, but by the mind that perceives it, then music is uniquely human."
Music theory is the study of music, generally in a highly technical manner outside of other disciplines. More broadly it refers to any study of music, usually related in some form with compositional concerns, and may include mathematics, physics, and anthropology. What is most commonly taught in beginning music theory classes are guidelines to write in the style of the common practice period, or tonal music. Theory, even that which studies music of the common practice period, may take many other forms. Musical set theory is the application of mathematical set theory to music, first applied to atonal music. Speculative music theory, contrasted with analytic music theory, is devoted to the analysis and synthesis of music materials, for example tuning systems, generally as preparation for composition.
In the West, much of the history of music that is taught deals with the Western civilization's art music. The history of music in other cultures (" world music" or the field of "ethnomusicology") is also taught in Western universities. This includes the documented classical traditions of Asian countries outside the influence of Western Europe, as well as the folk or indigenous music of various other cultures.
Popular styles of music varied widely from culture to culture, and from period to period. Different cultures emphasised different instruments, or techniques, or uses for music. Music has been used not only for entertainment, for ceremonies, and for practical and artistic communication, but also for propaganda in totalitarian countries.
There is a host of music classifications, many of which are caught up in the argument over the definition of music. Among the largest of these is the division between classical music (or "art" music), and popular music (or commercial music - including rock and roll, country music, and pop music). Some genres don't fit neatly into one of these "big two" classifications, (such as folk music, world music, or jazz music).
As world cultures have come into greater contact, their indigenous musical styles have often merged into new styles. For example, the United States bluegrass style contains elements from Anglo- Irish, Scottish, Irish, German and African instrumental and vocal traditions, which were able to fuse in the United States' multi-ethnic society. Genres of music are determined as much by tradition and presentation as by the actual music. Some works, like George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, are claimed by both jazz and classical music. Many current music festivals celebrate a particular musical genre.
Indian music, for example, is one of the oldest and longest living types of music, and is still widely heard and performed in South Asia, as well as internationally (especially since the 1960s). Indian music has mainly 3 forms of classical music, Hindustani, Carnatic, and Dhrupad styles. It has also a large repertoire of styles, which involve only percussion music such as the talavadya performances famous in South India.
Robert Burton wrote in his 17th century work, The Anatomy of Melancholy, that music and dance were critical in treating mental illness, especially melancholia. He said that
But to leave all declamatory speeches in praise of divine music, I will confine myself to my proper subject: besides that excellent power it hath to expel many other diseases, it is a sovereign remedy against despair and melancholy, and will drive away the devil himself.
Burton noted that
...Canus, a Rhodian fiddler, in Philostratus, when Apollonius was inquisitive to know what he could do with his pipe, told him, "That he would make a melancholy man merry, and him that was merry much merrier than before, a lover more enamoured, a religious man more devout."