History Of Music

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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 ...

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...tury. However, since most artists thrived on the emotional and irrational abstract that they were writing about, there was no specific category that this mode of thinking could fall into. This was a strength since the freedom to explore nature was infinite and without any restriction based on rules or laws. This invariably led to a reintroduction into religion and mysticism; people wanted to explore the unknown spiritual side of things.

Music as a whole has had a gradual evolution throughout history. The tie between Man’s search for the unknown, quest for Truth and longing for spiritual fulfillment and the Arts is undeniable. Reactionary, or ‘pro-actionary’ music ties us tight to places or events both in our lives and in those of others. While architecture and artifacts can give us clues to what society was like in the past (Roman ruins tell us much about life two thousand years ago), it is only the music that can communicate what our predecessors were thinking or feeling. It is the poets, the dreamers and artists of old who were the architects of their future, which allow us to glimpse our past. And it has been said, to know where one is going, you must know where you came from.

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