There is an old expression; “MUSIC
SOOTHES THE SAVAGE BEAST”. What that expression
really means is that music has the unique ability to alter
one’s mood, to calm the heart, stir the emotions, lift the
spirit, change the mind and move one to action! Very little
can compare with the impact that music has on mankind as a
Music started millenniums ago even before
men had any way of recording history. They had music before
they knew how to read or write. One can consider that the
voice was the first musical instrument, along with the
clapping of hands and the stomping of feet. And, one might say
that music and the human body go “hand in hand”, for the
human body itself is a rhythmic thing. The pulse of the
heartbeat and chanting or beat of a drum in song both have
rhythm. It is something that people the world over can
understand and it conveys a message almost like language
All music has two things in common---sound
and movement, as does nature. There is the sound and movement
of the wind, of brooks and oceans, of falling rain as well as
the sounds of many living things. The birds sing songs, the
rooster crows and the dog barks, all of which have sound and
movement in rhythm that are “in order”. And that is the
way it is with music.
Therefore, music has a history all of its
own, and it can be discussed in many ways. There is music for
the voice, be it solo or choral. And there is music produced
from many various forms of manmade instruments. Then, there is
the music produced from the combination of the two. Operas are
a special form of vocal and instrumental music combined with
the dramatic show of acting. In instrumental music, we find
several categories: music for solo instruments, music for
small groups of instruments and music for orchestra, or many
In the history of ancient nations, we have
much diversity. Early Egyptians loved the great size of chorus
and orchestration which sometimes numbered more then six
hundred people playing harps, lyres, lutes, pipes, tambourines
and trumpets. They used music in their festivals and armies.
The ancient Hebrews used their many musical instruments and
vocals almost entirely for religious purposes. The olden
Greeks primarily used two instruments, the lyre and the pipe
and their music was involved in everyday life---from the
teaching of their children to the rhythm of their work and
sports festivals. Their famous music was poetic and also used
in their renowned plays. The early Roman music was primarily
what they learned from their Greek conquests, and enjoyed
playing music rather than composing it. Ancient Hindus, Arabs,
Chinese, Japanese Burmese, Javanese and Siamese have all
enjoyed music for hundreds of years---music with little in
common with the Western world and their instruments, but
nevertheless magnificent as well. Early English music was said
to have developed slowly. But the development of printing in
the 1400’s influenced the evolution of music profoundly.
Madrigals, which were fine, poetic, non-religious choral
verses were popular and musical composers wrote beautiful
accompaniments for them in the late 1500’s and 1600’s.
Later, instrumental music became popular in England and its
composers worked out thousands of compositions for
harpsichords, virginals, recorders, and viols. The
well-educated Englishman was known to play a variety of
instruments and composed music as well. Queen Elizabeth 1 was
said to have granted two gifted composers---Thomas Tallis and
Byrd a monopoly on the printing of music and music paper for
some time. But, as music spread to the plain folk, they
created music for their “folk dancing”.
The invention of better instruments called
for the composing of more “refined” music as well, and
these composers blossomed in Italy, France, England and
Germany. Three Italian families from Cremona made the violin
and their work has not been surpassed even to this day. Violin
sonatas were written in Italy. Also, harpsichords and
clavichords had been perfected which were the forerunners of
the piano or pianoforte (meaning soft-loud).
In 1685-1750 Johann Sebastian Bach became
one of the most famous musicians the world has ever known.
This man was an organist, violinist, and player of both the
harpsichord and clavichord. He composed music, taught it and
directed choirs in Leipzig; wrote over 300 cantatas and
numerous accomplishments for the organ, harpsichord,
clavichord and for small orchestras!
George Handel (1685-l759) was a composer,
as Bach, but was most well known for composing Italian operas
and English oratorios.
Their style of composing was an era unto
itself, and thereafter came the classical music. Bach’s sons
and others composed sonatas.
Joseph Haydn (l732-1809) was often called
the father of the symphony and string quartet.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) who was
considered to be the greatest musical genius of all time by
many was a classical writer as well as Ludwig Van
Beethoven (1770-1827) who wrote Classical and Romanticism.
Mozart was known throughout Europe as an infant prodigy and
died very young, leaving behind numerous compositions for
symphony, sonatas, string quartets, concertos, Masses, and
operas. Beethoven started writing music that sounded like that
of Haydn and Mozart (classical in style) but lived through
times of revolution and war, thus reflected more emotion or romanticism.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) was another
musical genius. He wrote symphonies, chamber music, piano
sonatas and short romantic pieces. He actually wrote more than
600 romantic songs.
Karl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) is named
the Father of German Opera, and was the first to write them in
German romantic as opposed to Italian style.
From 1809 to 1813 there were five marvelous
composers who really influenced the history of music. Felix
Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (l809-l847) was famous for his piano
writings and orchestral music.
Robert Schumann (l8l0-l856) wrote romantic
piano with descriptive titles.
Frederic Chopin (l8l0-l849) was of Polish
origin and wrote outstanding piano music.
Franz Liszt (l8ll-l886) from Hungry wrote
orchestral works---shorter symphonies with descriptive titles;
and known to be one of he greatest pianists in the entire
world. He and Hector Berlioz (l803-l869) a Frenchman, aided
the development of music with at title (program music) which
was inspired by a story, legend, event, picture or scene. It
was the opposite of the sonata, suite, fugue or symphony.
Berlioz is sometimes called the Father of modern orchestra.
Richard Wagner (l8l3-l883) was the greatest
German opera composer music reflected the great drama it
Johannes Brahms (l833-l897) His music
reflected that of Beethoven, but was called a neoclassicist
that disapproved of romanticism. He was one of the
greatest writers of the l800’s.
In the late l800’s, Brukner, Mahler,
Wolf, Strauss, and Sibelius were great composers of various
styles and Sir Arthur Sullivan, Sir William S. Gilbert and Sir
Edward Elgar and Frederick Delius wrote important music. In
the United States, MacDowell, Chadwick, Kelley, Beach, Parker,
Fooze and many others wrote fine compositions. In Russia,
Scriabin created beautiful piano works.
Since the beginning of the l900’s, there
have been many musical changes and trends. Polytonality (writing
in two or more keys at one time) and atonality (writing
in the chromatic scale without a tonal center) are titles that
have been given to newer music that has been developed.
Claude Debussy, a Frenchman tried to put
into musical feeling what the poets and painters were
expressing and it was called impressionism. There were
a group of others who did the same: Chausson, Vincent d’Indy,
Faure, Franck, Satie, Honegger, Milhaud and Poulenc.
British composers became renowned in the
1900’s including, Sir Arnold Bax, Britten, Williams and
Europe gave many composers such as
Spain’s Falla, Italy’s Dallapiccola, Bartok, Bloch, Enesco,
Manuel d Falla, Hindemith, Janacek, Kodaly, Martin, Martinu
Arnold Schonberg developed a severe style
based on the twelve tones of the chromatic scale. Russian
born, Khatchaturian, Prokofieff and Shostakovich have received
musical recognition. And in the United States, composers such
Samuel Barber, Bernstein, Cage, Carpenter, Copland, Harris,
Ives, Menotti Piston, Schuman, Sessions, and Thomson have
written in all styles and musical thinking. Latin-American
composers of the l900’s include Villa-Lobos of Brazil,
Carlos Chaves of Mexico, and Lecuona of Cuba.
Has reviewing the list of composers above
"boggled" your mind? Well, many men of genius
through the ages have pleased and inspired mankind, and are
too numerous to mention! But one thing is certain, life
without music in our hearts would
certainly be ever so bland and monotonous. To this day in the
21st century, we have an explosion of all kinds of music. And,
the fact that so many men of genius have spent their whole
lives involved and devoted to it shows what a vital part it
plays in our lives. We can also be assured that because of its
very existence in nature and the heart of men, it is beyond a
doubt the product of a magnanimous creator who has given his
gift to us. Therefore, please learn to appreciate its value;
hence, choose it and use it to motivate you wisely!