Classical music generally refers to European music composed from approximately 1000 to the present.
Characteristics of Classical Music
There are many characteristics that define classical music and differentiate it from other genres of music. For example, classical music is mainly a written tradition, instead of being passed down orally or in recordings.
Also, unlike some types of music that are auxiliary components of other forms of entertainment, classical music is intended to be experienced by itself.
Additionally, older compositions are traditionally played and revered above contemporary pieces, instead of a focus on current music of today as in many musical forms.
Classical music has developed over time as technology and culture grew and changed. Usually, the history of classical music is roughly divided into seven time periods.
Medieval Era in Music
The Medieval era spanned several centuries, from about 1000-1450. Until about 1100, the most common form of music was chanting, which is also referred to as plainsong or Gregorian Chant.
Medieval composers did not always sign their compositions, so many of the composers of this era are unknown to us; moreover, few details remain about the lives of the composers of which we are aware.
However, some composers we do know of include Abbess Hildegard von Bingen, Perotin Magnus, and Guillaume de Machaut.
Renaissance Era in Music
The time between 1450-1600 is usually called the Renaissance era. Gutenberg’s 1450 invention of the printing press made printing music possible, and acted as a catalyst for the development of music theory and practice.
Renaissance music is characterized by greater use of instrumentation and multiple melodic lines. Also, secular madrigals, dramatic works and the first operas emerged during this era.
Notable Renaissance composers include Giovanni Palestrina, Claudio Monteverdi, William Byrd, and Roland de Lassus.
Baroque Era in Music
After the Renaissance era was the Baroque era. Music of the Baroque era, which occurred from 1600-1750, is less severe than Medieval and early Renaissance music and is distinguished by its splendor and magnificence.
By this time, secular music was now as common as liturgical music. François Couperin, Jean-Philippe Rameau, George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli, and Johann Sebastian Bach are some of the most famous Baroque composers.
Classical Era in Music
Next is the Classical era, occurring roughly from 1730-1820. Classicism employed a greater concern for and attention to the clarity and brevity of melodic expression. Presentation and style were also important during this era.
Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are noteworthy Classical composers, as well as the early music of Ludwig van Beethoven.
Romantic Era in Music
1815-1910 is considered the Romantic era. During this era, music became more important and prominent in cultural life; for example, institutions were created to teach, perform, and preserve music.
In Romantic music, a new emphasis developed on emotion, imagination, and effect, comparable to the characteristics of Romantic art and literature. In addition, developments in technology, such as improvements on the piano, affected Romanticism.
Romantic composers include Ludwig van Beethoven and Gustav Mahler.
20th Century and Modern Music
After 1910 comes 20th century music and the Modern era; the 20th century era is difficult to define, and is sometimes meshed with Modern music as one era.
It is generally believed that 20th Century era music is more similar in style and outlook those of earlier eras than those in the Modern category.
For example, modern music includes divergent styles as Serialism, Minimalism, Chance and Electronic music. Modern composers include Schoenberg, Babbitt, Boulez and Stockhausen.