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Porsiem Tang

Western Music History

Renaissance Music (1400 A.D. To 1600 A.D.):

The word 'Renaissance' is of French origin and means "a rebirth of interests"
Music play an increasingly important role in daily life. Musicians worked for the
church, courts and towns.
Renaissance vocal music was more important than instrumental music.
Nevertheless, many songs were accompanied by instruments. These instruments
were commonly members of the lute, organ, recorder, or viol families.
There are two basic textures: homophonic and polyphonic.
In Renaissance music, there is a gentle flow, moving away from sharply defined
beats. Melodies are easy to sing as they move along a scale with few leaps. This is
called conjunct motion.

Guillaume Dufay (1397 1474):

Dufay was a Franco-Flemish composer and central figure of Burgundian School. He was ordained a priest but
composed both sacred and secular music. He composed one of the most famous composition, Nuper rosarum flores,
in 1436 which has both the old isorhythmic style and the new contrapuntal style.

Gilles Binchois (1400 1460):

Just like Dufay, Binchois was a Franco-Flemish composer who was influential in Burgundian School. Although
often ranked behind Dufay and Dunstable by musicologists and other scholars, Binchois is debated by others as being
more influential than the other two. His melodies can be sung easily and are familiar to those interested in early
Renaissance music.

Josquin Desprez (1450 1521):

Josquin was an important composer of Renaissance music. He was considered as a master of Renaissance music
and had an international career since he was born in Belgium and had spent most of his life in Italy. He has many
outputs such as masses, motets and secular vocal pieces which strongly influenced other composers.

Baroque Music (1600A.D. To 1750 A.D.):

Opera was emerged for the first time with many opera houses being built.
Baroque era is divided into 3:
+ Early Baroque (1600-1660): This period came the invention of opera and
homophonic texture was favored.
+ Middle Baroque (1660-1710): Instrumental music became very important
and the fully fledged orchestra was developed.
+ Late Baroque (1710-1750): Polyphony once again became most notably of
all in the works of Bach.
Music was the main source of entertainment in Baroque. Music directors were
highly paid with prestigious positions in Baroque society.
A Baroque piece expresses only one basic mood. Composers used musical
language to show particular affective states, specific rhythms and melodic patterns.
The same rhythmic patterns are repeated throughout a Baroque piece of music.
The beat is emphasized very strongly.
The Baroque melodies also create a feeling of continuity. The melody was also
repeated in the same way as the rhythm.
The orchestra changes from piece to piece.
Bach's death in 1750 marked the end of the Baroque period.

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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750):

Bach came from a very long line of musicians. He became an organist when he was 18 years old. Four out of his
nine children who survived became composers. He wrote the Brandenburg concertos in Cothen. Then moved to
Leipzig, becoming municipal director of all four churches. Aside from that, he created masterpieces in every Baroque
genre except opera and even wrote fugues for solo instruments.

Antonio Vivaldi (1678 1741):

Vivaldi was an Italian composer born in Venice. He has a violinist father and is best known for his 400 concerto
grossi and concerti nowadays. He also composed many operas which make him best known in his own time.

Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632 1687):

Lully was a French composer who was born in Italy. His birth name was Giovanni Battista Lulli. At the age of 14,
he moved to France and was very influential in the development of French opera, the French overture and ballad. He
composed many songs and music in these genres.

Classical Music (1750 A.D. To 1820 A.D.)

Public concerts were given for the first time in the Classical era.
The middle class was even more powerful in the Classical era than before as
they're now having an access to music, music lessons, printed music... etc.
There is a much greater variety and contrast in mood compare to the previous era.
The rhythm of the music in Classical era has an enormous flexibility which contain
a wealth of rhythmic patterns, making use of syncopation, or stresses of the upbeat,
changes in note values... etc.
Classical music moves back towards homophonic textures consisting of melody
and accompaniment. The melodies are generally balanced and symmetrical unlike
the ones of Baroque music.
In the Classical period, there is a standard group of instruments constituting the
orchestra such as: strings, woodwind, brass and percussion.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788):

C.P.E. Bach is Johann Sebastian Bach's son who then became more famous than his father. He is regarded as a
key founder of the Classical style and period. Moreover, he composed an immense output consisting of concertos,
symphonies, oratorios, chamber music, and more.

Christoph Willibald von Gluck (1714-1787):

Gluck was a German composer who came from Bavaria. He was known for his contribution to changes in operatic
form of the Classical period. Despite that, he also wrote ballet suites, chamber music, orchestral music, and other

Franz Schubert (1797-1828):

Schubert was a Viennese composer and child prodigy. His has so many outstanding output which consists of over
600 songs, nine Symphonies, eight completed operas, six masses, and an abundance of piano music, string quartets
and other chamber works. Those songs has a wide spectrum of moods, and the melodies range from simple folk-like
tunes to complex lines. He works in both Classical and Romantic era.

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Romantic Music (1820 A.D. To 1900 A.D.):

The Romantic can be characterized by the individuality of style, where there is an

emphasis of self-expression and individuality in compositional style.
The music is generally programmatic. Instrumental music depicts a story, idea or a
poem. The programmatic style can also be seen in titles (usually very descriptive.)
Composers created music using folk song, history and dances of their homelands.
There are variety of mood, atmosphere and tone color.
The size of concert halls and opera houses started to grow, making the orchestra
There are huge technological improvements in musical instruments. This make
them more musically flexible and accurate. All instruments were required to play
with more virtuosity during this period.

Robert Schumann (1810 1856):

Schumann was a very conservative composer, whose works are mostly about the nature. He was the founder of
the first musical journal called The New Journal of Music. One of his most famous Art Song is In The Lovely Month
Of May which makes use of Strophic form.

Johannes Brahms (1833 1897):

Brahms was a German composer who's influenced by Schumann. He created masterpieces in all forms except
opera. His music embraces a wide range of moods and uses intricate and dense polyphonic textures. Brahms is very
fond of mellow instruments or tone colors such as Viola, clarinet and french horn.

Giuseppe Verdi (1813 1901):

Verdi was an Italian Romantic composer who's known for his operas. He changed opera so that it didn't have to
obey old-fashioned rules and made the drama the most important thing with music helping the drama. His operas are
fast moving, and involve characters who are quickly plunged into extremes of hatred, love, jealousy and fear.

Modern Music (1900 A.D. To 1960 A.D.):

Music experienced a great deal of experimentation and changes.

Many of the old music methods that had formed the basis of classical music for
centuries were challenged.
A number of distinct movements in classical music was developed.
They started to use impressionist techniques which is a visual means of recording.
In short, music started to be recorded visually since Modern Music era.
Modern era is also the time where Atonal music (the music which is characterized
by the absence of a key or tonal center) and serialism is used.

Claude Debussy (1862-1918):

Debussy was a French composer which was one of the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist
music and one of the most influential composers of the late 19th and 20th centuries. He made his music very different
from the Romantic style and had wrote some songs, chamber music and one opera (most are for orchestra or for

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951):

Schoenberg was an Australian composer who was known for his twelve-tone system of writing music in 1923.
Schoenberg's significant compositions in the repertory of modern art music extend over a period of more than 50 years
and was divided into 3 periods. The first period span from 1894-1907, the second span from 1908-1922 and the last
one is from 1923 onward.

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George Gershwin (1898-1937):

Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. He got interested in music when he heard another boy
playing violin in a concert at his school as he began taking piano lessons. His first song was published when he was
only 18 years old. Gershwin also composed a piece for piano and orchestra which had shown that jazz music could be
both serious and popular.

Contemporary Music (1945 A.D. To present):

Contemporary music is generally based on originality.

Contemporary artists use dissonances and tried to disobey the laws that music
had followed for many years.
Contemporary music is divided into a lot of sub-categories like minimalism.
The music contains non-western melodies and leaves out romanticism. It also
introduces new scales (whole-tone, modes) and chord uses.
Some general characteristics are:
+ Fewer lyrical melodies than other periods.
+ Dissonant Harmonies
+ Complex rhythms
+ Percussiveness
+ Greater use of percussion, bass and wood wind.
+ Uses synthetic and electronic sounds.

John Adams (1947):

Adams is an American composer who was born in 1947. His music often uses minimalism with large
orchestras and lots of different sounds. The piece that made him famous was called Harmonium. Aside from that, he
composed many other different music including piano, chamber music and operas. His violin concerto has been
performed over 100 times by many of the world's famous violinists.

John Williams (1932):

Williams is an American composer and conductor. He has composed many soundtracks for blockbuster movies
such as Star Wars, Superman, Jaws, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and Harry Potter. He also created theme music for
four Olympic Games, NBC Sunday Night Football... etc.

Steve Reich (1939):

Reich is an American composer of music in the style of minimalism. He is known for his music made with tape
recordings, instrumental music with a steady beat such as Music for 18 Musicians. Also, he wrote pieces that used the
phasing technique for piano, violin and, again, for tape recording.

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Guillaume Dufay

Antonio Vivaldi

Franz Schubert

Claude Debussy

Gilles Binchois

Jean-Baptiste Lully

Robert Schumann


Josquin Desprez

Carl Philipp
Emanuel Bach

Johannes Brahms

John Adams

Johann Sebastian

Willibald von

Giuseppe Verdi

George Gershwin

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John Williams

Steve Reich

Work Sites:
"Western Music History/Baroque Music." - Wikibooks, Open Books for an Open World. Web. 01 Mar. 2015.