The Development of Western Music

Western music originated as folk music traditions of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, composed by people who settled and worked in both the western part of Canada and the United States. Western music celebrates the life of the cowboy on the open ranges and prairies of the United States. Mexican music also had an impact of the beginnings of this genre. The composers listed below will give you a better resource on how the development of western music took place. Some of these composers' careers extended beyond the general historical periods they're listed under.

Medieval/ Renaissance Period

The musical era for the renaissance period extended from 1400 to the beginnings of the 1600's. This period featured the rebirth of humanism and the revival of cultural achievements. The Renaissance labeled a time for rebuilding and reconstructing. The musicians and artists of this time produced work based on individualism and freedom. This era took place after the medieval period, a period known to be the longest and most remote period of music history from 800 to 1400. Early music in this time was different than present music, where during this time a musical notation consisted of one note to be sung. This didn't change until later in the middle ages when two or more melodic lines were sung called polyphony.

  • Adam de la Halle - also known as Adam the Hunchback, a French poet and musician whose works include chansons and poetic debates.

  • William Byrd - English composer of the Shakespearean age who is best know for his development of the English madrigal.

  • Jean de Castro - artist who wrote polyphony in a European prospective.

  • John Dowland - English composer best known for his melancholy songs.

  • Guillaume Dufay - Franco-Flemish composer, who became famous for his knowledge of all the elements of composition.

  • Giovanni Gabrieli - Italian composer best known for the culmination of the style of the Venetian School.

  • Vicenzo Galilei - Italian composer who became an influential member of the Florentine Camerata, an informal meeting where literature, science and arts were discussed.

  • Hans Leo Hassler - German composer and one of the first to bring the innovations of the Venetian style across the Alps.

  • Guillaume de Machaut - French composer who helped develop the motet and secular song forms.

  • Hildegard von Bingen - Christian mystic female composer, who wrote theological, botanical and medicinal texts.

  • Tobias Hume - English composer and viol player who published music based on the viol instrument.

  • Johannes Ockeghem - famous composer of the Flanco-Flemish School in the last half of the 15th century.

  • G.P. da Palestrina - Italian composer that became famous through his output of sacred music. He had a major impact on the development of Roman Catholic church music.

  • Josquin des Prez - Franco-Flemish composer, known to be the central figure of the Franco-Flemish School and known by music scholars to be the first master of polyphonic vocal music.

  • Salamone Rossi - Italian Jewish violinist and one of the first composers to apply to instrumental music the principles of monodic song.

  • John Taverner - English composer and first organist and master of the choristers at Christ Church and his best known mass is based on a song called, "The Western Wynde."

Baroque Period

The Baroque Era was a type of music genre from 1600 to 1750 based on European classical music. During this period, musicians and artists used more musical ornamentation, developed new instrumental playing techniques and made changes to musical notation. This is the period when the opera genre made its debut. The first operas were private affairs for Italian courts. In 1637, the first public opera house opened in Venice, Italy and became a commercial industry, allowing composers to try new techniques of composition and new ideas.

  • J.S. Bach - German composer who drew attention because of his secular works for choir, orchestra and solo instruments.

  • Dietrich Buxtehude - German-Danish organist whose works comprise a major part of the standard organ repertoire.

  • Francesca Caccini - female Italian composer and singer, which her stage work "La Liberazione di Ruggiero," was best known as the first opera by a woman composer.

  • Francesco Durante - one of the best church Italian composers of his time with his style and technique.

  • George Frideric Handel - German-English composer who was famous for his operas, oratorios, and concertos.

  • Johann Adolf Hasse - German composer best know for his prolific operatic output and developer of opera seria and 18th-century music.

  • Johann David Heinichen - German composer who brought the musical concept of Venice to the court of Augustus the Strong in Dresden.

  • Jacques Martin Hotteterre - French composer who was most celebrated of a family of wind performers and wind instrument makers.

  • Jean-Baptiste Lully - French composer whose music playing the guitar and violin is known for its power and its deep emotional character in its sad moments.

  • Marin Marais - French composer who was the master of the basse de viol and leading French composer for the instrument.

  • Claudio Monteverdi - Italian composer who developed two styles of composition: the new bass continuo of the baroque period and the heritage of Renaissance polyphony.

  • Johann Pachelbel - German composer whose contributions to the development of the chorale prelude and fugue techniques allowed him to be one of the greatest composer's during the middle of the era.

  • Henry Purcell - English composer and organist of sacred and secular music.

  • Johann Joaquim Quantz - German flautist, flute maker and composer who is best known for his piece called, "Versuch einer Anweisung die Flote traversiere zu spielen," which expresses the techniques for flute playing.

  • Thomas Ravenscroft - English composer of rounds and catches and known for a series of collections of British folk music.

  • Johann Theodor Romhild - German musician composer of the baroque era.

  • Johan Helmich Roman - Swedish composer who is known as, "the father of Swedish music," who best known compositions is the, "Music for a Royal Wedding," which consists of 24 short pieces.

  • Domenico Scarlatti - Italian composer whose music influenced the development of the classical style. His 555 sonatas were almost all written for the harpsichord.

  • Heinrich Schutz - German composer and organist and he is thought to be the one who wrote the first German opera.

  • Antonio Soler - Spanish composer who is best known for his keyboard sonatas.

  • Barbara Strozzi - female Italian composer and singer who is said to be the most prolific composer of printed secular vocal music in Venice.

  • Giuseppe Tartini - half Italian and half Venetian composer and violinist who's most famous work is the "Devil's Trill Sonata."

  • Georg Philipp Telemann - German composer and multi-instrumentalist who has more than 800 credited works according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

  • Antonio Vivaldi - Venetian composer and famous virtuoso violinist whose best known work is, "The Four Seasons," a popular series of four violin concerti.

  • Sylvius Leopold Weiss - German composer and lutenist who is considered to be one of the most prolific composers of lute music in history who wrote around 600 pieces for lute.

Classic Period

The Classical Era took place between 1750 and 1820 and artists and musicians in this period moved away from the ornamented styles of the baroque period and moved towards more of a clean, uncluttered style they thought would be reminiscent to Classical Greece such as architecture, literature, and arts. This was a period where artists geared more towards a style where a melody over a subordinate harmony, a combination called homophony was preferred instead of the styles of the baroque period. The musicians who played chords, even if they interrupted the melodic tone of the song, became a new style feature for music. The sonata form of music began in this period and became the most important form which was used to build up the first movement of large-scale works.

  • Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach - German musician and composer who was one of the founders of the classical style who composed the rococo style.

  • P.D.Q. Bach - fictional composer invented by musical satirist Professor Peter Schickele, an American composer.

  • Ludwig van Beethoven - German composer and pianist who was a crucial figure between the classical and romantic eras.

  • Luigi Boccherini - Spanish composer who is known for one particular minuet from his String Quintet in E and the Cello Concerto in B flat major.

  • Domenico Cimarosa - Italian composer who wrote more than 80 operas during his lifetime.

  • Muzio Clementi - Italian composer who is credited to be the first to write specifically for the piano.

  • Jose Mauricio Nunes Garcia - Brazilian composer who wrote sacred and secular pieces.

  • Franz Joseph Haydn - Austrian composer also known as the "Father of Symphony," and "Father of the String Quartet," for the works during the classical period. He also helped developed the piano trio.

  • James Hook - English organist and composer.

  • Joseph Martin Kraus - German composer also known as, "the Swedish Mozart," whose music pieces is classified as dramatic contrasts in in register, character, and harmony.

  • Friedrich Kuhlau - German-Danish composer who wrote a piano concerto, a string quartet, and several works for the piano.

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - prolific and influential composer of the classical era who composed over 600 works dealing with pinnacles of symphonic, piano, chamber, concertante, operatic and choral music.

  • Sigismund Neukomm - Portuguese composer who wrote a clarinet quintet, several organ voluntaries, 10 operas, 48 masses, 8 oratorios and plenty of other small works.

  • Anton Reicha - French composer who is best remembered for his contribution to the wind quintet literature and his role as a teacher.

  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau - Genevois philosopher writer and composer whose political philosophy influenced the French Revolution.

  • Antonio Salieri - Italian composer who developed the late 18th century opera.

  • Fernando Sor - Spanish guitarist and composer who is best known for his guitar compositions.

  • Johann Wanhal - prolific writer and composer who works includes 100 quartets, approximately 73 symphonies, 95 sacred works and a numerous of other small works.

  • Carl Maria von Weber - German composer and one of the first composers of the Romantic school.

Romantic Period

As time went by and life began to convey, composers in this time period from 1820 to the 1900 began using intense feelings in their music since in the classical era, artists and composers had strict laws of balance and restraint to consider. This was the period where melody became the dominant feature and artists and musicians used their artistic developments to portray nationalism. The length of compositions, tonal relationships, and new harmonies began to be experimented by composers. There was an increased use of dissonance, chromaticism, and color in artists' pieces. One of the new forms was the symphonic poem, an orchestral work that told a story. Another new form was the art song, a vocal musical work with tremendous meaning on the text. These two forms allowed opera to become even more popular.

  • Isaac Alb - Spanish Catalan pianist and composer best known for his piano works based on folk music.

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