When did classical music begin?

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Adambassador
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When did classical music begin?

Post by Adambassador » Fri Jan 05, 2007 10:44 am

When did classical music begin? What century?

lmpower
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Post by lmpower » Fri Jan 05, 2007 10:48 am

It depends on how you define classical music. For me it begins with Gregorian chant fifteen centuries ago. Others would say it starts in the eighteenth century with Haydn. This entails labeling Bach and his friends as Baroque rather than classical. The broader definition of classical would be serious European music which was not folk music.

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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Jan 05, 2007 11:15 am

lmpower wrote: For me it begins with Gregorian chant fifteen centuries ago.
For me, too, but it does raise the question of when Western music became art music. At some point between fifteen hundred and only just a thousand years ago, Gregorian achieved a level of high art, which I assume was not cut out of the whole cloth in the early Middle Ages. But since we only have it in written form that is reproducible by others from the latter part of the period in question, we can't quite be sure when or how inanimate matter became life, so to speak.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jan 05, 2007 1:57 pm

lmpower wrote:It depends on how you define classical music. For me it begins with Gregorian chant fifteen centuries ago.
Me too. That's why I sometimes am dismayed that I have a speaking familiarity with 1500 years of Western music and all I can think of is the Oscar Mayer weiner song.
Others would say it starts in the eighteenth century with Haydn. This entails labeling Bach and his friends as Baroque rather than classical.
You must here be referring to the actual period called Classical, roughly 1750 to roughly 1800. I know of no authority who starts the entire field at 1750. Indeed, an argument could be made that the entire field of classical music began with the invention of polyphony c. 1150. Much of what has entered the standard classical (small c) concert repertoire over the last 40 years has resulted from conductors and audiences pushing the horizon even further back to settle somewhere around 1600, the putative beginning of the Baroque period.

John is right about Gregorian chant (c. 750) having a background, specifically in the eastern and western chant practices supporting a variety of church rites that existed in the Christian world in the early middle ages, c. 400. The Franks adopted the Roman rite as a means of enforcing cultural hegemony over their lands and named the chant Gregorian after the 6th Century pope who set the order of the rite. The choice of name has been controversial ever since but it is the name by which the chant is known.The less well known Ambrosian chant is considerably older than the Gregorian and for many centuries co-existed with it.

If you are sort of heading in the direction of looking for a general history of music to supplement your listening, I recommend Crocker's History of Musical Style, which I always have within arm's reach and which is readily available for a pittance in hb or pb used from Amazon. I prefer that to others, but Grout's History of Western Music is also good.
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Post by Ken » Fri Jan 05, 2007 5:12 pm

lmpower wrote:Others would say it starts in the eighteenth century with Haydn.
Or with C.P.E. Bach! :wink:
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Post by lmpower » Sat Jan 06, 2007 10:29 am

I was, of course, referring to the classical period in music when I mentioned Haydn (or CPE Bach). There is a lot of confusion in this terminology. I don't even agree with people who lump Beethoven and Schubert in the same school with Haydn. They are going by form rather than content. Why did Haydn declare Beethoven to be an atheist on hearing the younger man's mature style? To me content is far more important than form. By that I mean the expression of the zeitgeist. Beethoven was the spokesman for the revolutionary period. Haydn represented an older and more stable society. The fact that they both wrote symphonies and quartets in roughly the same form distracts one from the profound difference in attitude. Many people probably believe that anything that isn't rock and roll is classical. My dental assistant identified Andrea Bocelli on the muzak as being opera. Let's face it all this terminology is imprecise and subjective. Two people can have a legitimate disagreement on how to use the terms. Here's another good question for you. What is the difference between opera, operetta and musicals? Aren't they all plays set to music? Franz Lehar's Giuditta was premiered at the Vienna State Opera rather than at Theater an der Wien. That would suggest that the lines between categories cannot be sharply drawn. Porgy and Bess would be another example.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Jan 06, 2007 5:54 pm

lmpower wrote:Let's face it all this terminology is imprecise and subjective. Two people can have a legitimate disagreement on how to use the terms.
Well, there is general agreement on the meaning of the terms among specialists in the field of classical (small c) music. The imprecision among them spans an extremely narrow range. The general public might not know that what Bocelli sings is not necessarily opera, but the classical music fan and professional have no doubt and can decide in a nanosecond which is which.
Here's another good question for you. What is the difference between opera, operetta and musicals? Aren't they all plays set to music? Franz Lehar's Giuditta was premiered at the Vienna State Opera rather than at Theater an der Wien. That would suggest that the lines between categories cannot be sharply drawn. Porgy and Bess would be another example.
Traditionally, an opera is a music drama that has no spoken dialog. An operetta (it goes by different terms in other nations, e.g., singspiel, zarzuela, opera bouffe, musical) is a music drama with spoken dialog, usually on a light or comic subject, and which coincidentally carries a stamp of somewhat national character. Carmen was originally such and debuted at the Theatre de l'Opera-Comique, not the Paris Opera. It wasn't performed at the latter until it was thru-composed by Guiraud to tranform the spoken dialog into recitative. Musicals is basically the English-language version of the German/Austrian operetta.
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Post by burnitdown » Sun Jan 07, 2007 10:38 pm

This type of music may have been around longer than is recorded presently, given the political/religious instability that afflicted Europe after the arrival of the middle eastern religion, Christianity.

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Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jan 07, 2007 11:08 pm

burnitdown wrote:This type of music may have been around longer than is recorded presently, given the political/religious instability that afflicted Europe after the arrival of the middle eastern religion, Christianity.
It is generally accepted that there are a variety of ancient inputs into early Western monody, including from Heberew "chant." Unfortunately, we have not the slightest idea what any of that music sounded like. We barely know what any ancient music sounded like at all, but the best conjecture, in my opinion, is that it was on a par with the "classical" music of many cultures, including a number of non-Western cultures that still maintain their own (very fine) traditions.

When I worked for the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington a number of years ago, there was a large contract on Southeast Asian refugee acculturation (among other things, they employed the distinguished Pho Ba Long who had been the Secretary of Labor in South Vietnam, and who was happy to be friends with a lowly administrative assistant). Once, we invited a group of recent refugees from Laos which included, according to Mr. Long, the chief scholar of Lao classical music of the time. The poor (they were destitute) man sat and unrolled his instrument, which he had preserved in his hair-raising boat escape. It resembled a xylophone on a bed of leather. He played it in an improvisatory way while his granddaugther (about 12) did the most exquisite dance.

That is music at its best outside the western context, and probably exactly where western music was in, say, 700 AD, just prior to the Carolingian Renaissance. Sometime in the span of a couple of centuries, a few genius monks realized other possibilities. It became (relatively) quickly obvious that we were now talking about an art that could no longer be realized by trained instinct on the spot but had to be written down for more or less literal reproducibility. Thus was born, in the kind of mystery that enshrouds the beginning of life and the evolution of humans, the unique tradtion of Western art music. We must never allow any considerations of political correctness to force us to take one iota away from this unique human accomplishment, for two reasons: We are not personally or in a current sense culturally responsible for its existence, but/and we are responsible for its propagation.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by greymouse » Mon Jan 08, 2007 10:23 am

I think classical music never really began but just evolved into existence. I agree with the posts above that Gregorian chant counts, but to the average person on the street they would most likely only identify early 17th century and on as classical. Everything else would be labeled as "religious" or "medieval" or something.

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Post by piston » Mon Jan 08, 2007 10:40 am

And how did Baroque music emerge from all these centuries of Gregorian music, you might ask?! Well, this BBC site apparently intended for rebellious teenagers places emphasis on castration as the greatest musicological development at the time. :roll:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/alabaster/A512056
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Jan 08, 2007 3:17 pm

greymouse wrote:I think classical music never really began but just evolved into existence.
Of course you are right. But there are "watersheds" in the evolution after which everything is different, like the 1150, 1600, 1700 (roughly), 1800, etc.
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