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Music History

  And what is the point of our hobby anyway? Is it to collect equipment? NO!!! It's to enjoy THE MUSIC. Therefore we have taken great efforts over the years to research such things as how music began, how it evolved over the years, how it differs in parts of our world through geographical, spiritual and cultural differences and experiences (with a good dosage of humor thrown in for good measure). We will also cover the actual instruments used over the years as well. This page will be ever evolving just as music has been ever evolving. Because there seems to be no "end" to music, so there's no "end" to this page. An "unfinished symphony" as it were :-)  After all, over the many long years it seems that we humans have always wanted to...

Enjoy the Music.

What's It All Mean?

Click here to see our music definition page.

 

The History Of Music Itself

The Beginning?

It all began one day when early caveman started to grunt , groan and whine. (Said with humor) Then he got a friend in the "act", thus stereo began. Later he got 3 more cave folks to join in and so the inception of surround sound began. Later Phillips with the help of Sony decided to digitize it, George Lucas began THX, and then DVD came forth and... Ok, just some humor from me. Ya know, all these years of research and you just have to sit back and laugh at times. WHAT WERE WE THINKING?!?!?! Anyway, yes, caveman began with grunts and whatnot followed by the hitting of rocks and logs. As we fast forward quite a bit from here, we humans began a form of language and it wasn't short afterwards that music with voice began. It probably sounded quite similar to the way my drunken percussionist friends do when they've had one drink too many. Just a bunch of grunts, groaning and random shouting to as i tap on something with rhythm. Go ahead, get a percussionist/drummer friend really drunk and try this experiment for yourself. Primitive man LIVES!!!

Various Genre Of Music Over The Years

To make this kinda quick and painless i'll just ramble through the very early years at this point. Later on we'll get into more detail.

 600-1200         Medieval
1400-1550         Renaissance
1600-1750         Baroque
1750-1850         Classical
1850-1900         Romantic

As the 1900's began, the variety of music genre began to grow exponentially it seems. Ragtime, big band, jazz, folk, blues, crooning, scat, country/western, funk, be bop, rock, southern rock, disco, punk, break dance, hip-hop, techno, acid jazz, progressive, alternative, house music and many other types and variables were formed. Rock and country/western spawned southern rock. Progressive and jazz combined to form acid jazz. After disco came break dancing which then followed with hip-hop, techno and house music. So as the instruments and supporting technology changed, the way we expressed ourselves with music also seems to have changed.

Ah, the early years and Medieval times. Where men were men and had to prove themselves. Their "worth" was valued on what they did and their honor. Unlike today, they didn't have lawyers, only the dungeon and the chopping block! The music composed during this era reflects this time well. For example, in Scotland the bagpipe can be traced back to exist in one form or another for about 3,000 years! Meanwhile in ancient Greek living the lyre (an early form of the modern lute) was used to express one's music. Even in 1225 one can read about how the musicians and music lovers argued about which animals guts made the best harp strings! Kinda like the way we argue about interconnects and speaker cable of today! The lyre was played with the right hand plucking the string by hand, or by using a plectrum, while the left hand stopped the strings when wished. Well, of course the lyre is obsolete and closer resembles the modern day lute than the harp.

Music of this period would be described by us today an elegant and simple. Like our present day harp music, it's simplicity and harmonics were of a complimentary order. Very tranquil and romantic. After all, they say music sooths the savage beast. Early Celtic harp music as on the currently available CD titled "The Enchanted Isles" by Carol Thompson (Dorian DOR-90120) should give you a good idea what i'm referring to. Carol Thompson is a VERY accomplished musician who's soul and musical ability is not only steeped with traditional music, but is also valued to to teach other these classic ways of performing music.

Meanwhile the zither was being used by the Austrian Tyrol and the Bavaria people. Variations of this instrument were also used in Japan, Africa, and the Middle East. Like the lyre, the right hand did the plucking, or by using plectrum to start the notes, and the left hand stopped strings from vibrating. The koto is the Japanese equivalent of the zither. This type of "technology" was used in various forms to express ourselves musically. It's easy to trace through the years as it evolved all the way to the electric guitar of our time! ANYWAY, the next takeoff of the lyre was the first bowed instrument called the rebab. The rebab looks kinda like a violin! Yep, as time progresses the rebab was later "improved" and was called the rebec which was later "improved" and was eventually called... YEP, the violin. The more that things change, the more they stay the same so it seems.


     Picture of a zither.
Examples of "modern day" zithers.

 

The Renaissance was a rebirth of sorts. Not only for human existence, but also in musical expression too! Out of the chaos came many forms of music in it's time. MANY books have been written about this period of human existence. Ya know, there's just not enough space here to thoroughly cover this period of time. No way, no how, and my most humble apologies my friends. Most of you are familiar with Renaissance music, right? If not, may i humbly suggest you go to your local library and read, read, read. In my humble opinion mankind is right now going through a type of Renaissance. The parallels are quite similar.

So as human lifestyle and the surrounding we are subjected to changed, so has the music we humans create. In the very early years in Europe, classical music was born. The surroundings then were majestic and tranquil. This helped to support artists of all kinds. Imagine how the great grandeur of open fields and countryside brought about the expression of feelings towards these visions and lifestyles. For it was at this time the first clavichord came into existence. Although it wasn't the first instrument to use a keyboard. The very first pipe organ of sorts dates back to the 3rd century! This was the fist combination of an instrument using strings and a keyboard. The first examples of the clavichord dates back to the 14th century. The clavichord could only produce music at low volume levels though, so it made for a more intimate musical enjoyment. Fortunately, you could control the volume and tone of a note(s) by varying the pressure on the corresponding key(s). Next came the harpsichord in the 16th century.

The harpsichord could achieve a louder volume level, yet unlike the clavichord, the musician could not adjust the pitch or dynamic(s) of a note(s) by varying the pressure of the keyboard. Fortunately, the harpsichord COULD play louder as well as used more strings and other devices to offer the composer and/or a musician wider variety of tonal qualities to choose from. Of course soon to follow was the piano. The name piano came from the word "pianoforte" which translates to "soft-loud". It's inventor, Bartolommeo Cristofori, devised the first instrument that used a form of hammer striking action. By the year 1726 he developed all the essentials of what we use today, the modern piano! Beethoven, Hayden, and Schubert wrote music for the earliest version of the piano. As the piano developed by using heavier stringing and sturdier iron frames, the sound it produced was more percussive. Not only in the ability of higher volume levels but also in clarity and sustaining power. So as the piano evolved, composers like Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt's music reflected these changes too. Just as a painter may make adjust to the available colours in his repertoire, so the musical artist also adapts to his available "colors" too. Many times over history we can see that we humans DO adapt to our surrounding and try to make the most of it. These types of actions are repeated throughout history in may ways, shapes and forms.

       
An example of an Italian harpsichord.

 

So when is music MUSIC and not just a random sequence of events? Well, even in the days of Beethoven, Charles Ives and Gustav Mahler it was all subjective (yes, things were subjective even back then). Ya see, all the above music was once considered cacophonous and ugly! Like Beethoven's music, tribal and regional music of Africa and Asia were at one time considered ugly too. Western man could only describe tribal music in a condescendingly way as primitive. In actuality some folks just couldn't grasp the highly refined and multi-layered music at the time (this a mirror of how some describe "progressive music" today perhaps). You see, "normal" Western music's of this time was less complex. Like many things in life, like fashion for instance, it seems history DOES repeat itself!

 

Musical Instruments and Other Items

 

The Human Voice.

Well, it only makes sense to start out with our voice as a musical instrument. After all, it was our first "instrument" used. Basically we humans send a signal to our brain which in turn gets various parts of our body prepared to make a sound. Our diaphragm, or stomach muscles, begin a controlled release of air from our lungs. Up the windpipe this air goes until it reaches our voice box (larynx). At this stage is where the pitch and tone are mainly formed. The air continues upward and as it reaches our mouth, tongue and teeth the process of forming the intend sound is extended. As a singer gets more experienced, they can take advantage of the resonant frequencies of their chest and head to enhance their singing ability and to better project their voice.

 

Music, How It's Written

Early Greeks and Romans began naming their notes by using their alphabetic system. The actual writing of music for others can be traced back to Seventh century neumes. Neumes are basically dots, squiggles, and other types of marks to indicate what the composer wanted the singer to do. Kinda like how we give hand gestures to others which in turn mean something. Later, it was the Christian Church in the Ninth and Tenth century. Did you know that original Gregorian chant music incorporated neumes above the text to indicate the rising and falling of notes? Eventually these neumatic notations evolved to include the creation of the clef sign and starves. The four lined staff is clearly evident during the Eleventh century. Even the duration of the notes was indicated through various, then accepted, methods. More refinement happened over the many long years. During the Thirteenth century writings of music we can see a well formed five-lined staff and notes that closely resemble the system that's universally accepted today. As time moved forward, more refinements were made.

 

In the earliest of years, man used music to celebrate natural phenomena (like rain). As we evolved music also was incorporate into our sacred and secular activities. These secular activities also started the incorporation of writing music for further usage and notation. This way the same music was used for the same event time and time again. This is well documented throughout Europe. Specifically the Jewish, the the Greeks, followed by the Christians.

 

     
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