The Classical Age - A History of Western Music

Classical music is a generalized term that generally refers to the more formal classical musical tradition of this Western world, regarded as more distinct from other forms of Western music. In a broader sense, the word can also refer to music reflecting similar formal qualities in other non-Western cultures. Many of its characteristics are similar to those of classical music, which was a great influence on Western music throughout its history. Classical music theory is important to understand these nuances. Some characteristics are common to all genres of Western music, such as tonal construction and structural complexity. However, classical music shares several other distinctive characteristics, especially in the realm of melodic craftsmanship.

Melodically, classical music has always had a formal structure that has developed throughout time and existed prior to the appearance of music notation. A century after the appearance of notation, composers began writing music for certain instruments as opposed to using the treble and bass instruments that were more common in earlier compositions. The development of scale system and chromatic scales in Western music resulted in the use of numerous diatonic scales. The usage of seven notes (a minor and major seventh) became widespread between the fifth and seventeenth century.

The development of vocal technique became more widespread with the arrival of the Classical period. Vocal chromatic scale invention and use became commonplace. This continued well into the late nineteenth century. Throughout the late Victorian and early twentieth century many different vocalists spoke of their love of classical music and the many different sounds that they could produce by sing ing it, which became known as 'vocal pedagogy'.

The use of stanza writing for the first time in the Western world was a product of the Classical period. After the death of Mozart in 1787, operas and choral compositions started to feature longer, complex plots with dramatic themes. While the popularity of opera and dramatic drama declined in the late nineteenth century, when World War I broke out, music writing and the creation of new operas gained favor with the general public. The popularity of western art music also surged during the same period.

The invention of such diverse instruments as the lute, the violin, and the piano also owed something to the classical era. Lyrical and chamber music grew in popularity with the rise of these instruments. The introduction of electric lighting into concert halls also lent an extra dimension to classical music. With the rise of mass manufacturing, innovations such as the electric saw replaced the manual wood cutting tool. This made the production of many fine wooden instruments possible.

Beethoven is perhaps the most famous classical composer. He is most famous for his enormous musical compositions such as The Night When the Wolf sings and The Sea from the North Sea. Other classical composers who had a profound influence on Western art music are Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig Van Beethoven, and Frederic Chopoll. All three were influenced by the classical era and wrote some of their most memorable works based on themes taken from Greek mythology.

The classical period had a profound effect on the music of our own day. Some of the most popular and influential performers of our time all have something to do with the classical period. performers like Elvis Presley, Simon and Garfunkel, John Denver, The Rolling Stones, and Yngwie Malmsteen are all evidence that the era affected the masses.

Today many different genres of music have emerged from the classical period. Some of these genres are folk, jazz, and hip hop. The styles of today are still influenced by classical composers but modern musicians often use more contemporary styles such as synthesizers, recording techniques, and computer based technology. Many classical composers have made some of their most memorable and beloved works available to modern musicians. Many of these composers continue to be enlivened by the constant challenge of composing new works using their old pieces.


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