The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of music vary according to culture and social context. Music ranges from strictly organized compositions (and their recreation in performance), through improvisational music to aleatoric forms. Music can be divided into genres and subgenres, although the dividing lines and relationships between music genres are often subtle, sometimes open to individual interpretation, and occasionally controversial. Within “the arts,” music may be classified as a performing art, a fine art, and auditory art. There is also a strong connection between music and mathematics.
To many people in many cultures music is an important part of their way of life. Greek philosophers and ancient Indian philosophers defined music as tones ordered horizontally as melodies and vertically as harmonies. Common sayings such as “the harmony of the spheres” and “it is music to my ears” point to the notion that music is often ordered and pleasant to listen to. However, 20th-century composer John Cage thought that any sound can be music, saying, for example, “There is no noise, only sound.” Musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez summarizes the relativist, post-modern viewpoint: “The border between music and noise is always culturally defined—which implies that, even within a single society, this border does not always pass through the same place; in short, there is rarely a consensus … By all accounts there is no single and intercultural universal concept defining what music might be.”
Music and theatre scholars studying the history and anthropology of Semitic and early Judeo-Christian culture, have also discovered common links between theatrical and musical activity in the classical cultures of the Hebrews with those of the later cultures of the Greeks and Romans. The common area of performance is found in a “social phenomenon called litany,” a form of prayer consisting of a series of invocations or supplications. The Journal of Religion and Theatre notes that among the earliest forms of litany, “Hebrew litany was accompanied by a rich musical tradition
“While Genesis 4.21 identifies Jubal as the “father of all such as handle the harp and pipe,” the Pentateuch is nearly silent about the practice and instruction of music in the early life of Israel. Then, in I Samuel 10 and the texts that follow, a curious thing happens. “One finds in the biblical text,” writes Alfred Sendrey, “a sudden and unexplained upsurge of large choirs and orchestras, consisting of thoroughly organized and trained musical groups, which would be virtually inconceivable without lengthy, methodical preparation.” This has led some scholars to believe that the prophet Samuel was the patriarchof a school, which taught not only prophets and holy men, but also sacred-rite musicians. This public music school, perhaps the earliest in recorded history, was not restricted to a priestly class—which is how the shepherd boy David appears on the scene as a minstrel to King Saul.
The music of Greece was a major part of ancient Greek theater. In Ancient Greece, mixed-gender choruses performed for entertainment, celebration and spiritual reasons. Instruments included the double-reed aulos and the plucked string instrument, the lyre, especially the special kind called a kithara. Music was an important part of education in ancient Greece, and boys were taught music starting at age six. Greek musical literacy created a flowering of development; Greek music theory included the Greek musical modes, eventually became the basis for Western religious music andclassical music. Later, influences from the Roman Empire, Eastern Europe and the Byzantine Empire changed Greek music.
During the Medieval music era (500–1400), the only European repertory that survives from before about 800 is the monophonic liturgical plainsong of the Roman Catholic Church, the central tradition of which was called Gregorian chant. Alongside these traditions of sacred and church music there existed a vibrant tradition of secular song. Examples of composers from this period are Léonin, Pérotinand Guillaume de Machaut. From the Renaissance music era (1400–1600), much of the surviving music of 14th century Europe is secular. By the middle of the 15th century, composers and singers used a smooth polyphony for sacred musical compositions. The introduction of commercial printing helped to disseminate musical styles more quickly and across a larger area. Prominent composers from this era are Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Thomas Morley and Orlande de Lassus.
20th and 21st century musiC
Double bassist Reggie Workman, tenor saxophone player Pharoah Sanders, and drummer Idris Muhammadperforming in 1978
With 20th century music, there was a vast increase in music listening as the radio gained popularity and phonographs were used to replay and distribute music. The focus of art music was characterized by exploration of new rhythms, styles, and sounds. Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, and John Cage were all influential composers in 20th century art music. The invention of sound recording and the ability to edit music gave rise to new sub-genre of classical music, including the acousmatic and Musique concrète schools of electronic composition.
Jazz evolved and became a significant genre of music over the course of the 20th century, and during the second half of that century, rock music did the same. Jazz is an American musical art form that originated in the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States from a confluence of African and European music traditions. The style’s West African pedigree is evident in its use of blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms,syncopation, and the swung note. From its early development until the present, jazz has also incorporated music from 19th and 20th century American popular music. Jazz has, from its early 20th century inception, spawned a variety of subgenres, ranging from New Orleans Dixieland (1910s) to 1970s and 1980s-era jazz-rock fusion.
Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed in the 1960s from 1950s rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, and country music. The sound of rock often revolves around the electric guitar or acoustic guitar, and it uses a strong back beat laid down by a rhythm section of electric bass guitar, drums, and keyboard instruments such as organ, piano, or, since the 1970s, analog synthesizers and digital ones and computers since the 1990s. Along with the guitar or keyboards,saxophone and blues-style harmonica are used as soloing instruments. In its “purest form,” it “has three chords, a strong, insistent back beat, and a catchy melody. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, rock music branched out into different subgenres, ranging from blues rock and jazz-rock fusion to heavy metal and punk rock, as well as the more classical influenced genre of progressive rockand several types of experimental rock genres.