What Defines Classical Music?
- The Origins of Classical Music
- The Characteristics of Classical Music
- The Instruments of Classical Music
- The Composers of Classical Music
- The Legacy of Classical Music
What is classical music? What sets it apart from other genres? In this blog post, we explore the history and defining characteristics of classical music.
The Origins of Classical Music
Classical music is a genre of art music that originated in Europe in the late 18th century. It is characterized by complex structures, usually written in form, that are meant to be performed by trained musicians. The term classical music is often used interchangeably with Western art music.
The Baroque Era
The Baroque era was a period of European history that started in approximately 1600 and ended in 1750. This era followed the Renaissance period and preceded the Age of Enlightenment. The word “baroque” comes from the Portuguese word barroco, meaning “oddly shaped pearl”. The term was first used to describe architecture, but later came to describe music as well.
Baroque music is characterized by its use of counterpoint, or the interweaving of two or more independent melodic lines. This technique gives Baroque music a much more complex texture than the music of previous eras. Other important features of Baroque music include its use of ornamentation and its tendency towards harmonic experimentation.
Some of the most famous classical composers active during the Baroque era include Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, and Claudio Monteverdi. The Baroque era was also a time when many new musical instruments were developed, such as the violin, harpsichord, and organ.
The Classical Era
Classical music is a broad term that usually refers to Western musical styles from the 17th century onwards. However, some people use the term to describe all Western art music from the Middle Ages onwards. The era we’re focusing on in this article is known as the Classical Era, which ran from approximately 1750 to 1820. This was a time of tremendous change in music, with new styles and genres emerging that would have a profound and lasting impact on the course of classical music. So, what exactly defines classical music from this era?
The Romantic Era
Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western culture, including both liturgical (religious) and secular music. While a more precise term is also used to refer to the period from 1750 to 1820 (the Classical period), this article is about the broad span of time from before the 6th century AD to the present day, which includes the Classical period and various other periods. The central norms of this tradition became codified between 1550 and 1900, which is known as the common-practice period.
Western staff notation is used by composers to indicate to performers the pitch, tempo, meter and rhythms for a piece of music. This can affect the timbre of the notes played. In European classical music, art music is “any music for which anything like comprehensive musical notation has been developed”,  either throughout a historyOptimism or locality. This implies that not all western classical music conforms to common-practice tonality; either some works were deliberately composed without tonality in mind, or tonality evolved naturally out of previous musical style without preconceived notions being imposed upon it by composers or theorists. Such classical art musics include Renaissance polyphonyoudoas well as certain avant-garde contemporary classical musics such as revolutionary atonality, serialism and indeterminacy (e.g., John Cage).
During earlier periods of western classical music history, much of it was single-line melody with text or multiple single lines going on at once (polyphony). However, since around 1700 such works have been catalogued as “art music” regardless of their composer’s training or Intentionsy . From about 1800 onwards aesthetic distinctions have also been made between so-called serious or linear (“absolute”) musical works intended for meditation and other more operatic (“relative”) forms intended for entertainment value and perhaps even social functions beyond mere aesthetic onese . In practice such absolute and relative categories are often far from clear-cut.
The Characteristics of Classical Music
Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western music, including both liturgical (religious) and secular music. While a more precise term is also used to refer to the period from 1750 to 1820 (the Classical period), this article is about the broad span of time from before the 6th century AD to the present day, which includes the Classical period and various other periods. Classical music has a lighter, cleaner texture than baroque music and is mainly homophonic, using a clear melody line over a subordinate chordal accompaniment, but counterpoint was by no means forgotten, especially later in the period. It also makes use of style galant which emphasized light elegance in place of the Baroque’s dignified seriousness and impressive grandeur. Variety and contrast within a piece became more pronounced than before and the orchestration of voices and instruments was given greater emphasis.
Classical music is often thought of as calm and relaxing, but it can be exciting and emotional too. It is usually written by one composer and is meant to be performed by an orchestra or other instrumental ensemble.
Classical music typically has a fixed form, which means that the piece is divided into sections that repeat in a predetermined order. The most common forms are sonata form, rondo form, and minuet and trio form.
-Sonata Form: This form consists of three parts: the exposition, the development, and the recapitulation. The exposition introduces the main themes of the piece, the development explores different ways those themes can be used, and the recapitulation brings back the original themes in a slightly different way. Sonata form is usually used in movements that are meant to be lyrical and emotionally powerful, such as the first movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata.
-Rondo Form: Rondo form is similar to sonata form, but instead of having three parts, it has five or more. The main theme (A) is introduced in the exposition, then various other themes (B, C, D, etc.) are introduced in the following sections before the A theme comes back again in the end. Rondo form is often used in movements that are meant to be playful and upbeat, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”.
-Minuet and Trio Form: This type of piece usually has two sections (the minuet and the trio) which are both played twice. The minuet is a lighthearted dance while the trio is a more subdued section that provides contrast. Minuet and trio form pieces were very popular during the Classical period but they fell out of fashion after that.
Classical music is often complex and layered, with many different parts working together to create a unifying whole. But at its heart, classical music is all about the melody. The word “melody” comes from the Greek melos, meaning “song,” and it is the most basic element of any piece of music, whether classical or otherwise. Everything else in a classical piece — the harmony, the rhythm, the form — exists to support and enhance the melody.
As with most things related to classical music, the definition of harmony is a complex one. In general, harmony refers to the vertical sound of multiple notes played together. This can be as simple as two notes played at the same time, or it can involve upwards of 10 or more notes sounding simultaneously. The study of harmony is called harmonic analysis and often forms a central element of music theory courses.
Classical music is usually built around a steady, predictable beat, called the meter. This underlying pulse gives classical music a feeling of being orderly and organized. The rhythm might be fast or slow, but it is almost always even and steady. This reliable pulse is one of the things that makes classical music so easy to identify.
The Instruments of Classical Music
There are four main instruments in classical music: the piano, the violin, the viola, and the cello. These instruments have been around for centuries and are still used in classical music today. Each instrument has a unique sound that contributes to the overall sound of classical music.
The String Instruments
Classical music is often thought of as tranquil, calming and even boring by today’s standards. But what exactly defines classical music? And where did it come from?
The word “classical” is derived from the Latin word “classicus,” meaning first class or highest quality. In the world of music, the term “classical music” refers to the period from 1750 to 1825 when composers sought to imitate and perfect the style of Haydn and Mozart. This period is also known as the Viennese Classical period because many of the great composers such as Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms hailed from Vienna, Austria.
One of the most distinguishing features of classical music is the use of string instruments. While other instruments such as woodwinds, brass and percussion are used, strings take center stage in much of classical repertoire. The string family includes instruments such as the violin, viola, cello and double bass. These instruments are played with a bow (or sometimes plucked with the fingers) and are capable of a wide range of emotions and expressions.
In addition to their melodic capabilities, strings provide the backbone or “foundation” for most classical pieces. This is due to their ability to sustain a note for a long period of time. For example, a piano can only hold a note for a few seconds before it decays whereas a string instrument can hold a note indefinitely (provided the bow or fingers stay in contact with the string). The sustaining power of strings allows them to provide a consistent harmony or background drones against which other instruments can play more delicate or fast-moving melodies.
The wide range of emotions that strings are capable of is also an important factor in their prominence in classical music. From light and airy orchestrated sections to driving and forceful showpieces, strings can do it all. This versatility has made them one of the most popular instrument families in all genres of music, not just classical.
The Woodwind Instruments
The woodwind instruments are a category of musical instruments within the more general category of wind instruments. There are two main types of woodwind instruments: flutes and reed instruments. The flutes are the oldest type of woodwind instrument; they were used by ancient civilizations around the world. The first flutes were probably made of bone or wood. The reed instruments include the clarinet, saxophone, and oboe. These instruments are relatively new; they were invented in the 18th century.
The term “woodwind instrument” is a somewhat misleading term, as many of these instruments are not made entirely of wood. For example, the body of a flute is typically made of metal, with only the head joint (the part you blow into) being made of wood. Similarly, the reed instruments have metal pipes with wooden or metal mouthpieces. However, the name “woodwind instrument” persists because these instruments have a clear tone that is produced by airstreams passing through vibrating sections of wood (or metal, in the case of flutes).
The Brass Instruments
The trumpet, trombone, and French horn are the most well-known brass instruments, but there are many more. Trumpets and trombones are part of the symphony orchestra, while French horns usually play in smaller ensembles. All brass instruments are made of metal, with a mouthpiece and tubing that the player blows into. The tubing is wrapped around to form a coil, which the player presses down with his or her hand to change the pitch.
The trumpet is a popular brass instrument with a bright sound that can be heard over an entire orchestra. Trumpets are used in all kinds of music, from classical to jazz. The modern trumpet has three valves that the player presses with his or her fingers to change the pitch.
The trombone is a brass instrument that has a sliding tube instead of valves. Trombones can play very low notes that other instruments can’t reach. They are often used in symphony orchestras and jazz bands.
The French horn looks like a large trumpet, but it has a much softer sound. French horns have four valves that the player presses down with his or her fingers to change the pitch. They are often used in symphony orchestras and smaller ensembles.
The Percussion Instruments
Percussion instruments are important in classical music, providing the rhythm and often the melody as well. The percussion section is made up of a variety of instruments, from the simple drum to the complex xylophone.
Most percussion instruments are played with the hands or with some type of stick. The percussionist must be able to control the loudness and softness of the sound, as well as the length of time it is sustained. Percussion instruments are often used to provide color or special effects in music.
The most common percussion instrument is the drum. Drums come in all shapes and sizes, from small hand drums to large bass drums. They can be made of wood, metal, or skin (stretched over a frame). The sound of a drum is produced by hitting the skin with a stick or your hand.
Other common percussion instruments include cymbals, gongs, bells, xylophones, and timpani (kettledrums).
The Composers of Classical Music
The composers of classical music were some of the most skilled musicians of their time. Many of them were classically trained and had a deep understanding of music theory. This allowed them to create works that were complex and beautiful.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer of the Baroque period (1600-1750). He is considered one of the greatest Western composers of all time. Bach wrote hundreds of pieces for solo voice, choir, orchestra and keyboard instruments. His most famous works include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations and the Mass in B Minor.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a German composer and pianist, who is arguably the defining figure in the history of Western music. During his lifetime, Beethoven created some of the most well-known and loved classical works the world has ever known. His music spans across numerous genres, including symphonies, concertos, piano music, string quartets and solo pieces. Many of Beethoven’s works are still performed regularly today – his 9th Symphony is perhaps the most famous example.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) was a composer of the Classical period. He was born in Salzburg, Austria, and is considered one of the most influential composers of all time. His music is characterized by clarity, elegance, and balance. Mozart composed over 600 works, including symphonies, concertos, operas, and chamber music. He is best known for his operas The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni, and his symphonies No. 40 and No. 41 (“Jupiter”).
The Legacy of Classical Music
Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western music, including both liturgical (religious) and secular music. While a more precise term is also used to refer to the period from 1750 to 1820 (the Classical period), this article is about the broad span of time from before the 6th century AD to the present day, which includes the Classical period and various other periods.
Its Influence on Other Genres of Music
Other than the Baroque period which is the foundation for all future Western art music, no other era in classical music has had as much of an influence on other genres of music as the Classical period. Many of the chord progressions, melodic phrases, and harmonic ideas that are prevalent in nearly all styles of music today can be traced back to this period in history.
Some specific examples include:
-The introduction of the major and minor scale
-The establishment of tonality (the use of a tonic or key note as a center around which a piece is written)
-The use of counterpoint (the simultaneous use of two or more different melodies in a composition)
-The development of variation form (a compositional structure based on the repetition and alteration of a theme)
In addition to these formal musical elements, the Classical period was also marked by a number of important cultural shifts that helped to shape the course of Western music. These include:
-The rise of public concerts as a popular form of entertainment
-The emergence of professional composers who wrote primarily for commercial purposes
-A growing interest in classical music among people from all social classes
Its Influence on Modern Culture
How has classical music influenced modern culture?
It is no exaggeration to say that the legacy of classical music has been profound and far-reaching. For centuries, this genre of music has been a huge part of the social fabric of many cultures around the world. It has been used as a tool for political propaganda, as a form of religious worship, and as a way to express personal emotions. Today, its influence can still be seen and heard in many aspects of modern culture.
One of the most obvious ways that classical music has left its mark on modern culture is through its influence on popular music. Many of the world’s most famous pop songs have been inspired by or directly based on classical pieces. The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” is based on Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Air on the G String,” while their song “Yesterday” was inspired by Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Für Elise.” Other well-known examples include Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” which was based on Pablo Casals’ arrangement of the folk song “No Nos Moveran,” and Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” which features an unmistakable homage to Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”
In addition to its direct influence on popular music, classical music has also had a more indirect impact on contemporary culture through its role in film and television soundtracks. Many of the most iconic moments in cinematic history have been accompanied by stirring classical pieces. The shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho famously used Bernard Herrmann’s `String Quartet No. 3` as its backdrop, while Ennio Morricone`s score for The Mission is widely considered to be one of the greatest film soundtracks ever written. Classical music has also been used to great effect in television commercials, with advertisers often choosing to use grandiose pieces such as Richard Strauss` Also Sprach Zarathustra or Johann Pachelbel`s Canon in D Major to convey a sense of luxury or sophistication.
It is clear that classical music continues to exert a powerful influence on modern culture, even though it may not always be immediately obvious. Its legacy can be seen and heard in many different aspects of our daily lives, from the pop songs we sing along to on the radio to the film scores that tug at our heartstrings. It is a genre that has truly stood the test of time and looks set to continue inspiring future generations for many years to come.