Classical Music Information


Classical music has changed throughout time and can be divided into different periods such as the Middle Ages and 20th Century periods. Classical music began life in the churches of Europe and expanded as an art form in this arena. Societal changes brought about cultural and technological advances in the world of classical music, with these changes usually marking the beginning and end of certain periods of music.

Middle Ages

  • The first named composer of music, Leonin, was trained at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Born in 1135 towards the end of the Middle Ages, Leonin was at the forefront of the first change in musical style to take place in almost a century. The Middle Ages period of classical music began around 400 AD and ran to 1400 AD. The first half of the Middle Ages period was dominated by monophonic music, using only one melody line. Eventually, composers such as Leonin developed polyphony as a style of music. Polyphony was based around the Gregorian chant, used in churches. A second voice, or descant, was added to the chant, creating the polyphonic style.

Renaissance Period

  • The Renaissance period of music lasted from the year 1400 to 1600, covering the invention of the printing press in the 15th century. During this period, people began to move from living as serfs in the country to the cities, bringing greater freedom and the expansion of literacy away from just the ruling class of Europe. Sheet music became widely available, inspiring more people to learn to read music and play musical instruments, and bringing classical music to a larger audience.

Classical Period

  • The Classical period of 1750 to 1820 is also known as a period of absolute music. As the previous system of patrons employing composers to create pieces for dancing and formal occasions began to die out, composers began writing with a greater freedom. This greater freedom saw a return to a simpler style of classical music becoming fashionable with titles such as "Symphony No. 1." Vienna became the center of the musical world, boasting composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.

The 19th and 20th Centuries

  • During the 19th century, the greater freedom of the Classical period was taken to extremes by composers such as Richard Wagner--operas composed by Wagner often lasted up to six hours. Other classical pieces of the period such as Beethoven's "9th Symphony" required a full choir, oversized orchestra and vocal soloists. This expansion of style spread into the 20th century, when composers such as Peter Schickele created classical pieces that featured the orchestra gargling water, while Philip Glass created classical works with electronic sounds and instruments.

Orchestral Instruments

  • The classical orchestra can be split into six different groups or families. These families are string, woodwind, brass, percussion, keyboards and harp, and voice. These groups have become blurred as the 20th century period began to include electronic and nontraditional instruments.

Classical Music and Babies

  • Various studies have indicated links between classical music and brain stimulation in babies and young children. The effect of classical music on fetal development and on young children was first reported by the University of California in 1993, and further studies replicated the findings of the study in 1995. States such as Florida require state-funded preschools to play classical music, while some hospitals have begun playing classical music in maternity units.

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