The formal study of music began with the ancient Greeks and has continued, without pause, into modern times. Music history, or musicology, is an incredibly broad field that can be broken down into any number of subjects and specialties: medieval music, Renaissance music, opera, jazz, popular music, instruments, and ethnomusicology. It can be helpful to narrow your search parameters before you begin research, and there is a page of the American Musicological Society website that has a lot of helpful links, broken down by topic.
Music, along with poetry and literature, is considered to be a fine art form. One of the earliest discovered art forms, we believe that the auditory art of music has its roots in prehistoric Indian and Chinese culture.
The early development and production of music differs greatly from what we know and recognize as music today. The earliest incarnation of music seems to have been in the form of flutes carved from the bones of animals, and archaic versions of drums.
To many, music is the production of sound. Contemporary definitions of music, however, describe it as the combination of silence and sound. Music utilizes common elements such as pitch, rhythm, cadence, and rests to create harmony and rhythm.
The history of music is a study of the development of music, as well as its societal, religious and cultural contributions. How did music initially develop, and for what purpose? What drives us as human beings to create beautiful sounds, and what stimulates us to intuitively understand concepts such as tempo, rhythm and pitch? For students looking to gain a deeper understanding of the world of music and the role it has played in our development, music history is the first step to take on this journey.
To begin your learning, we recommend the resource below.
All students interested in music history should check out MIT's free online courses. Start with Early Music and go from there.
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