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Chapter 1- Western Music

When man is under tension be it in battle , love ,  sorrow , prayer or joy, music is able to evoke something from him that he is unable to do by any other means.

What is Music?

Music is sound organised to rhythmic patterns and pitched into melodic and harmonious sequences.

Name some of the aspects of music and the ancient philosophers /musicians who saw in music these attitudes:

PYTHOGRAS -Mathematical


Preparation of the ear for the coming of a discordant interval and the passing of it to a smooth concord (i.e. RESOLUTION)

The increase of the interest of singers and listeners to the occasional pauses (RESTS) of the voice so that it may re-enter with more effect.

The taking up by one voice of some wisp of melody just uttered by another ( i.e. IMITATION)

The close and EVEN exact melodic following of one voice after another ( a more complete form of imitation called “CANON or ROUND.

To the close of the 16c. the phase of pure choral writing rose to its climax and the first group of composers could be said to have lived 30 years this side and that of the turn of the 15th c.

This was the great period of the “a Capella Mass” (in church style)

And “ MOTET” (a type of Church composition) of the Anglican Service, ‘ANTHEM’ (a development of th MOTET) and ‘MADRIGAL” (unaccompanied Lyrical poem)

3.  The Beginning of the Artistic Instrumental Composition.

 At the same time (end of the  16th century and early 17th century) an effort was taking place in devising effective techniques for instrumental performances and composition.

The Initial Introduction of Supporting Instruments:

The VIOL and LUTE families were very popular and so was the RECORDER or end-blown flutes.

Illustrations by Barbara Thomas

REED and BRASS Instruments were in their infancy stages of development as was the ORGAN. However, the domestic keyboard instruments of the CLAVICHORD and HARPSICHORD had attained considerable development. 

The Harpsichord,  then known as the VIRGINAL was in much use.

Illustrations by Barbara Thomas

Music was written as for Voices.  Viol players  would split the composition according to the compass of the instruments and divided themselves according to the voices they were accompanying.  However, it was being realised that certain parts of a composition were more suited to better performance by the instruments rather than the voices and, vice versa.

True keyboard style development was a particular feature of this period and English composers especially distinguished themselves in this, bringing into existence suitable forms of keyboard music.

Two outstanding forms began to emerge:-   

1. The Variation     

2.  Dance Form

Little was understood at that time of the art of combining instruments.  Combinations of varied instruments were brought together but there was no standardised collection like the present day orchestra.

4.  Dramatic Application of Music

The next phase to follow was the application of music to the purpose of drama.  In Opera, music ranks as an essential and integral part, and not as an incidental element as heretofore.  The new styles of solo vocal writing a simple chord accompaniment (Recitative) gave an immediate thrust to the monodic  (a particular type of accompanied solo song) way of looking at music.

The development of stage drams led to a study of instrumental resources and leant towards a standardisation of them, thus leading towards the basis of the standardised modern orchestra.

5.  The New Balance of The Harmonic and the Polyphonic

Polyphony crept back into music, especially into oratoric (extension setting of religious libretto for solo vocalists, choruses and orchestra) with its well-developed chorus-work.

Comparison of 17th c. composers (Bach or Handel) work with that of Palestrina or Byrd (16th c.) from the point of view of the singer – are not unlike.  The listener, however, finds more differences viz. 

 (a) Palestrina emphasises the old modes while Bach clearly brings out every phrase with the well-developed  modulations.

(b) Palestrina has a freer rhythm with voice-parts largely moving in their own rhythms according to word stresses as uttered.

c) Bach’s music can be reduced to a scheme of mere chords which Palestrina’s music will be difficult to do.

Harmony and Counterpoint now begin to emerge on equal terms.  Instrument music was on the same lines as choral music and was beginning to be a well developed force.

The Violin family was now also starting to take precedence over the Viol family.

Illustrations by Barbara Thomas

Though standardisation of the orchestra was yet to take a definite shape, it was being realised that the  new Violin family constituted the most effective basis in the grouping and combination of instruments.

Harpsichords were also popular as accompanying instruments.  Germany became a strong force in musical production.

The Instrumental formation of music of this period was Binary with Dance.


A  Tonic sequence moving into Dominant

B  Dominant now moving back into Tonic

Rhythms forming the basic vocal form was however harmony.***


A     1ST Section     (Tonic Key)

B      2nd Section    (Dominant Key or Tonic  minor *** )

A      1st Section     (Tonic Key)

Added to these forms the Fugue form was Very Common in Instrumental and choral music and in Bach’s hands reached a near stage of perfection.

6. The Sonata & Symphony;  The Pianoforte & the German “Lied”

The next period was that of perfecting 

a) The Classical Sonata (for one instrument or two)

b) String Trio and quartets

c)  The Symphony  

(b) and c) all these being merely the various types of sonatas performed on different media)

Towards the end of the century Beethovan (17.10.1827) began to infuse a very diamatic and forceful quality into such music.

The orchestra was now a fully standardised body and the harpsichord background was gradually abandoned.  Wind instruments were greatly improved and style of composition for  all instruments became finely developed.

The Piano forte  (invented during the previous period but only slowly perfected), now superseded the Clavichord and Harpsichord.  This instrument showed itself to be more versatile in producing music of stature and grandeur, which was now coming into force.

Beethovan’s and Schubert’s music were ideal material for performances by Pianoforte.   German Lyrical poetry of that period was treated musically in a type of Solo Song  called the “Lied”.

7.   The Romantic Period (19th century)

From Beethoven onwards music expressed emotion in that direct, detailed and powerful manner that marks all the painting and literature of the Romantic Period.  Later developments saw the nationalistic music and Musical Impressionism Wagner added to both the variety of instruments in the orchestra and the number of players of each individual instrument with the result that from then onwards till to date, orchestra music of every type is much more highly coloured than before.

Strauss followed and continued under Wagner’s influence.  Brahms a typical German Romantic inclined, however followed in Beethoven’s footsteps.

Application of Wagner’s System to orchestra music led to the introduction of Symphonic Poem.

Romantic Composers:


Weber (1786-1826)
Wagner  (1813-83)
Mendelsohn  (1809-47)
Schuman (1810-56)
Brahms (1833-97)
Strauss  (1864-1949)



Liszt (1811-86)


Chopin (1810-1849)


Smetana (1824-84)
Dvorak (1841-1904)


Glinka (1804-57)
Balakiref (1837-1910)
Mussorgsky (1839-81)
Rimsky Korsoko (1844-1908)
Tchoci (1840-93)
Scriabin (1872-1915)


Berlioz (1803-69)
Franck (1822-90)
Debussy (1862-1918)
Ravel (1875-1937)



Verdi (1813-1901)
Puccini (1858-1915)
Malipiero (1882-1973)
Casella (1833-1947)


Albeniz (1860-1909)
Granados (1867-1916)
Falla (1876-1946)
Turina (1882-1949)


Elgar (1857-1934)
Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Holst (1874-1934)
Bax (1883-1953)
Walton (1902-    )
Britten (1913-     )

8. The Neo Romantics and The Revolt against Romanticism

The texture of music of the latent “neo Romantics” is in places almost totally different from anything possibly imagined by composers 30 years before they began their work.

a) The old distinction of concord and discord seems to be abandoned.

b) The old Key system has gone.

c) Old “forms” are only seen as underlying the composition in a general sort of way.

d) In an orchestra piece instruments are used in such a manner that would seem intolerably harsh to the older Romantics. However, one can sense the old Romantic ideals and sometimes these works seem to be overcharged with emotional content.

Along with these Neo Romantics another school of musical thought took shape. This school deliberately attempts to discard Romanticism. These rebels against Romanticism assert that their music is NOT meant to express human feeling, but is merely a pattern of sounds.

Neo Romantic

Schonberg (1874-1951)

Anti Romantic


Bartoli (1881-1945)

Hindemuth (1895-    )


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