Classical Music: The 20th Century and Beyond

The twentieth century saw massive change in the world of classical music. One of the first composers to seize upon the advances in recording technology that it brought was the English composer Edward Elgar. In his lifetime he oversaw the recording, and in some cases as technology advanced still further re-recording, of many of his works. Between the ‘wireless’ and the gramophone, for the first time ever people didn’t have to go out to hear orchestral music, or have someone around who could play them the piano – all they needed was the requisite technology. Whereas once you might have heard a favourite piece only three or four times in your life – if you were lucky, and if the piece were popular – now you could play it over and over again to your heart’s content.

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Classical Music: Beyond Romanticism

From the pre-Baroque up until the Romantic period, the history of classical music can be regarded as a pretty straightforward progression: with a little overlap as the avant garde raced ahead and the traditionalists lagged behind it goes Baroque 1600-1750, Classical 1750-1825, Romantic 1825-1875. Now it starts to get a little messy. Romantic music doesn’t simply disappear in the years following 1875 but continues to be composed even as other distinct styles enter the scene. Think of it as being a bit like popular music today. There’s pop. And there’s rock. There’s metal. Alternative. Dance. Trance. Hip-hop. Soul. Rhythm and Blues. I could go on, but you get the idea. Continue reading “Classical Music: Beyond Romanticism”

Classical Music: The Romantic Period

school of philosophy
The School of Athens, by Raphael 1509-1511, captures the Enlightenment ideal of a calm, ordered world dominated by intellectual pursuits.

The eighteenth century fascination with ancient Greek and Roman culture wasn’t limited to the artistic world. The intelligentsia, too, were exploring their ideas through books and scrolls faithfully preserved and copied by the monks of Europe and the scholars of the Near East. In them they found a philosophy and science which had since been overwhelmed in European thought by the squabbling feudal states and the vested interests of Church hierarchies. Invigorated by what they found (and conveniently overlooking the Roman penchant for conquest, oppression, infanticide, mass slavery and execution as sport and entertainment) they championed a world of order, logic and cool rationalism, presided over  in benevolent dictatorship by the kind of philosopher-princes envisioned by Plato. It wasn’t long before the artistic world rebelled. Continue reading “Classical Music: The Romantic Period”

Classical Music: The Classical Period

Not long after I first started primary school in the 1980s my class did a unit study on Pompeii and the ancient Romans. It made such an impression on me that while travelling in Europe in 2005 I finally realised the dream of twenty years before and visited the city famously buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79C.E.

Classical musicians
Musicians preparing to perform during the Classical period.

I am far from the first person to be fascinated by this ancient ruined city. When it was first rediscovered in 1748 the art, architecture and sculpture that emerged sparked a movement in the artistic world that would come to be known as The Classical Period. Continue reading “Classical Music: The Classical Period”