Classical Music

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. The major time divisions of Western art music are as follows:

the ancient music period, before 500 AD
the early music period, which includes
the Medieval (500–1400) including
the ars antiqua (1170–1310)
the ars nova (1310–1377)
the ars subtilior (1360–1420)
the Renaissance (1400–1600) eras.
Baroque (1600–1750)
the galant music period (1720s–1770s)
the common-practice period, which includes
Baroque (1600–1750)
the galant music period (1720s–1770s)
Classical (1750–1820)
Romantic eras (c.1780–1910)
the 20th and 21st centuries (1901–present) which includes:
the modern (1890–1930) that overlaps from the late-19th century,
impressionism (1875 or 1890–1925) that also overlaps from the late-19th century
neoclassicism (1920–1950), predominantly in the inter-war period
the high modern (1930–present)
the postmodern (1930–present) eras
the experimental (1950–present)
contemporary (1945 or 1975–present)

European art music is largely distinguished from many other non-European classical and some popular musical forms by its system of staff notation, in use since about the 11th century. Catholic monks developed the first forms of modern European musical notation in order to standardize liturgy throughout the worldwide Church. Western staff notation is used by composers to indicate to the performer the pitches (which form the melodies, baselines and chords), tempo, meter and rhythms for a piece of music.This can leave less room for practices such as improvisation and ad Librium ornamentation, which are frequently heard in non-European art music and in popular-music styles such as jazz and blues. Another difference is that whereas most popular styles adopt the song (strophic) form or a derivation of this form, classical music has been noted for its development of highly sophisticated forms of instrumental music such as the symphony, concerto, fugue, sonata, and mixed vocal and instrumental styles such as opera, cantata, and mass.

The term "classical music" did not appear until the early 19th century, in an attempt to distinctly canonize the period from Johann Sebastian Bach to Ludwig van Beethoven as a golden age. The earliest reference to "classical music" recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary is from about 1829.

Given the wide range of styles in European classical music, from Medieval plainchant sung by monks to Classical and Romantic symphonies for orchestra from the 1700s and 1800s to avant-garde atonal compositions for solo piano from the 1900s, it is difficult to list characteristics that can be attributed to all works of that type.

However, there are characteristics that classical music contains that few or no other genres of music contain, such as the use of music notation[clarification needed] and the performance of complex forms of solo instrumental works (e.g., the fugue). Furthermore, while the symphony did not exist prior to the late 18th century, the symphony ensemble—and the works written for it—have become a defining feature of classical music.

The key characteristic of European classical music that distinguishes it from popular music and folk music is that the repertoire tends to be written down in musical notation, creating a musical part or score. This score typically determines details of rhythm, pitch, and, where two or more musicians (whether singers or instrumentalists) are involved, how the various parts are coordinated. The written quality of the music has enabled a high level of complexity within them: fugues, for instance, achieve a remarkable marriage of boldly distinctive melodic lines weaving in counterpoint yet creating a coherent harmonic logic that would be difficult to achieve in the heat of live improvisation.[clarification needed] The use of written notation also preserves a record of the works and enables Classical musicians to perform music from many centuries ago. Musical notation enables 2000s-era performers to sing a choral work from the 1300s Renaissance era or a 1700s Baroque concerto with many of the features of the music (the melodies, lyrics, forms, and rhythms) being reproduced.

That said, the score does allow the interpreter to make choices on how to perform a historical work.[citation needed] For example, if the tempo is written with an Italian instruction (e.g., Allegro), it is not known exactly how fast the piece should be played. As well, in the Baroque era, many works that were designed for basso continuo accompaniment do not specify which instruments should play the accompaniment or exactly how the chordal instrument (harpsichord, lute, etc.) should play the chords, which are not notated in the part[clarification needed] (only a figured bass symbol in the bass part is used to guide the chord-playing performer).

The performer and the conductor have a range of options for musical expression and interpretation of a scored piece, including the phrasing of melodies, the time taken during fermatas (held notes) or pauses, and the use (or choice not to use) of effects such as vibrato or glissando (these effects are possible on various stringed, brass and woodwind instruments and with the human voice).

Although Classical music in the 2000s has lost most of its tradition for musical improvisation, from the Baroque era to the Romantic era, there are examples of performers who could improvise in the style of their era. In the Baroque era, organ performers would improvise preludes, keyboard performers playing harpsichord would improvise chords from the figured bass symbols beneath the bass notes of the basso continuo part and both vocal and instrumental performers would improvise
musical ornaments. Johann Sebastian Bach was particularly noted for his complex improvisations.

During the Classical era, the composer-performer Mozart was noted for his ability to improvise melodies in different styles. During the Classical era, some virtuoso soloists would improvise the cadenza sections of a concerto. During the Romantic era, Beethoven would improvise at the piano.For more information, see Improvisation.

Instrumentation and vocal practices
See also: Woodwind section, Brass section, String section, Percussion section, and Keyboard section
The instruments currently used in most classical music were largely invented before the mid-19th century (often much earlier) and systematised in the 18th and 19th centuries. They consist of the instruments found in an orchestra or in a concert band, together with several other solo instruments (such as the piano, harpsichord, and organ). The symphony orchestra is the most widely known medium for classical music[not in citation given] and includes members of the string, woodwind, brass, and percussion families of instruments.

The concert band consists of members of the woodwind, brass, and percussion families. It generally has a larger variety and number of woodwind and brass instruments than the orchestra but does not have a string section. However, many concert bands use a double bass. The vocal practices changed over the classical period, from the single line monophonic Gregorian chant done by monks in the Medieval period to the complex, polyphonic choral works of the Renaissance and subsequent periods, which used multiple independent vocal melodies at the same time.

Medieval music
Many of the instruments used to perform medieval music still exist, but in different forms. Medieval instruments included the flute, the recorder and plucked string instruments like the lute. As well, early versions of the organ and fiddle (or vielle) existed. Medieval instruments in Europe had most commonly been used singly, often self accompanied with a drone note, or occasionally in parts. From at least as early as the 13th century through the 15th century there was a division of instruments into haut (loud, shrill, outdoor instruments) and bas (quieter, more intimate instruments).

During the earlier medieval period, the vocal music from the liturgical genre, predominantly Gregorian chant, was monophonic, using a single, unaccompanied vocal melody line.Polyphonic vocal genres, which used multiple independent vocal melodies, began to develop during the high medieval era, becoming prevalent by the later 13th and early 14th century.

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