by Margaret Richer
The study of music history generally refers to the development of Western music and is divided into various periods. The Monophonic period dates back from the ‘beginnings’ to about 1300 A.D. During this time, pre-Christian music was mainly developed by the Greeks. There is little surviving, although it is evident that music played an important part in Greek drama. The rise and spread of Christianity saw the development of liturgical music such as Gregorian chant and the use of the church modes.
From about 1300 A.D., the Polyphonic period began. Music was composed in parts called voices which supported each other, known as counterpoint. The period of music written in this style after 1600 is called Baroque. Two major composers of the time were Bach and Handel.
In music after 1750, there is a marked change in style to homophonic writing. Instead of interwoven melodies, a melody is supported by chords. This period is call the Classical era and includes such composers as Haydn and Mozart.
Yet a different style of composing began around 1820. It is called the Romantic era, the music being described as subjective and impressionistic. Key composers include Brahms, Schumann and Debussy.
Since the start of the 20th century, music has developed in a variety of ways, incorporating a wide range of ideas from the past and combining them in new, innovative ways. There have been new chord structures, hybrid scales and the mixing of folk or jazz elements with contemporary music.
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