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Classical Music of Ages

to a study from the University of Notre Dame, published in journal Poetics, classical music is becoming
increasingly disliked by “high status” young people. The study found that
classical music is facing more obstacles in trying to reach college-educated
young people, the demographic that orchestras and concert presenters covet the
most. The most common excuse as to why young people do not like classical music
is that they find it boring. After taking this class, I find this excuse to be
inadequate. It is much more likely that young people today don’t know what
classical music is.

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is classical music? According to the Oxford Dictionary, classical music is
defined as serious music following long-established principles rather than a
folk, jazz, or popular tradition. Classical
music spans the course of hundreds of years, including music from Medieval
times through today. Many people are unaware that classical music is still
being composed today, although it is very different to the music that was
created several hundred years ago. In fact, one of the most interesting things
I learned in this class was how classical music has evolved over time.

music began during the Medieval Period which lasted from the 5th
century to the 15th century. It consisted of liturgical music used
for the church, secular music, and non-religious music. Medieval classical
music included vocal music such as Gregorian chants, choral music for groups of
singers, instrumental music and music that was a combination of both vocal and
instrumental. It
was during this time frame that the groundwork was laid out for methods that
would shape the future of Western music. The most significant advancement was
the music notational system, which used visual symbols to convey several
melodic lines of music for others to perform. Other advances regarding rhythm
and polyphony, were noteworthy as well. 

In 1517, Martin Luther set in motion events that led to the Christian
church splitting into two major divisions: Catholic and Protestant. This
period, known as the Renaissance lasted up until 1600 and led to a surge of
interest in scholarship, exploration and music. Renaissance music had a
significant impact on the history of music. Sacred music was still predominant,
though secular music became more prevalent and more sophisticated. The
repertory of instrumental music also began to expand significantly. New
instruments were invented, including the clavichord. The increased value of individuality
in the Renaissance is reflected by the changing role of the composer in
society. Unlike most of their Medieval predecessors, the great prodigies of the
Renaissance were esteemed in their own lifetimes, including composers such as
Palestrina and Gabrieli whose music remains widely performed today. (Chapter 9 from the book)

the years 1600 through 1750, music evolved into the Baroque period. The Baroque
period featured many famous composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric
Handel, Johann Pachelbel, and Antonio Vivaldi. Music during this period was
highly ornate, colorful and richly textured compared to its precursors.
Composers sought to express human emotions and illustrate events through their
music. An increased interest in drama and theatrical elements led to the
origination of opera. Although imitative polyphony remained essential to
musical composition, homophonic music featuring a clear distinction between the
melody and an accompaniment became ever more important. The orchestra evolved
during the early Baroque period, beginning as an accompaniment for vocal music
and developing into multimovement orchestral pieces. The concerto which
featured a solo instrumentalist or small ensemble playing with the orchestra,
created interesting contrasts of volume and texture.

 The next evolution of music was the Classical
period from 1750 to 1820, which introduced composers such as Ledwig van
Beethoven, Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Although the nobility
would continue to play a significant role in classical music, public concerts
became popular during the Baroque period. Composers started organizing concerts
featuring their own music and attracted large audiences. The increasing
popularity of the public concert had a major effect on the orchestra. Orchestral
concerts were intended for large public spaces resulting in composers expanding
the size of the orchestra to accommodate the expanded space. While the end of
the Baroque period consisted of music that was complex and melodically
elaborate, the composers of the Classical period shifted their purpose and
began writing music that was much simpler in texture. New forms of composition
were developed to accommodate this change, such as the sonata, concerto and
concerto grosso.

Romantic period from 1820 to 1915 showcased composers such as Johannes Brahms,
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Frederic Chopin, and Felix Mendelssohn. During this
period, the aristocratic system fell into decline and composers and performers
had to sell their music to the public instead of performing for the royal
courts. Displays of technical skill and a dynamic personality became a must for
composers. Composers rejected the inflexibility of the Classical period and
relished in their newfound artistic freedom. New instruments were added to the orchestra and composers
experimented with ways to get new sounds from existing instruments. During this
period, composers began to explore the music of their native countries,
primarily in Russia and Eastern Europe. Nationalism became a driving force in
the late Romantic period as composers wanted their music to express their
cultural identity. The Romantic period saw an admiration for the composer that
has had an influential impact on our own culture.

            Modern classical music, from 1915 to
the present, is diverse and complex and includes recognized
composers such as Claude Debussy, Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, Igor
Stravinsky, and Charles Ives. The twentieth century has been an age of
experimentation in which composers tend to express their emotions, try new
techniques, and create new notations. Artistic integrity is valued above the
need to sell music or appeal to the public. Twentieth century composers are
more inclined to emphasize timbre and rhythm than melody and harmony. Melodies
are longer, phrases are less clear, and form became more difficult to
distinguish. In the 1950’s, the development of sound generating equipment and
synthesizers established electronic music. With these tools, composers could control
every detail: rhythm, dynamics, pitch organization, timbre, reverberation, and
even the way a tone was begun and released.

more recent years, performers such as 2Cellos and the Piano Guys have begun to
mix classical music with other genres. By mixing classical music with other
musical influences, classical music becomes more in tune with younger
demographics. It opens the doors for classically trained musicians to be
welcomed in a variety of places, from concert halls to underground clubs. Mixing
genres gives a new and unique flavor to music that would have otherwise gone
stale. As Luka Silac of 2Cellos expressed, “We try to make a revolution, not
only with cello playing but with classical music. Presenting it to a younger
generation in a different light, showing how cool it can be.”

            In conclusion, classical
music is considered the music that evolved over time and many composers have
influenced many of the formation of music. The classical music’s foundation
that was established is still used today and will continue to be used in the
future. That is why it is important for people to understand the music because
it is the music that will survive and continue to change over time.

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