To celebrate the publication of DK’s Music: The Definitive Visual History Conductor and Musician Robert Ziegler has chosen what he believes to be the most important moments that have shaped the history of music. Do you agree?
1. The first musical instruments:
Though shrouded in mystery, the first musical instruments required new skills, new inspiration and new thought. Around 60,000 years ago, bone flutes and primitive trumpets were made from conch shells and were an integral part of everyday life, and accompaniment to work and leisure, religious rituals and popular festivities.
2. Music and speech combine to make song:
The ‘Tonal’ languages of Africa and Asia use pitch to distinguish different words. Song uses tones to emphasise and colour the words. A whole world of expression opened up when these were combined.
3. A new system of musical notation:
In c.1000 the monk, Guido of Arezzo devises a system musical notation through his use of a four line stave, which consists of dots written on several horizontal lines based on the fingers or the hand.
4. The Birth of Opera:
The first flowering of an art that captures the essence of drama, music, singing and acting and becomes the pinnacle of sophistication for the courts of Europe.
5. Stradivari makes his string instruments:
The instruments of Antonio Stradivari are regarded as being close to perfection. His violins, viols, mandolins, guitars and harps are prized for their elegance, craftsmanship and the beauty of their sound.
The above image is of a mandolin made by Antonio Stradivari in 1680. The table is made of one piece of medium-grained spruce with a small wing added to the bass side. The back has 7 ribs of Italian native maple with bog oak bands separating the ribs. Although best known today for his bowed stringed instruments, the surviving patterns and relics now housed at the Civic Museum in Cremona show that Stradivari made all kinds of other stringed instruments, as well. This choral mandolino is one of only two that are known.
6. Beethoven revolutionises what music is capable of expressing:
Ludwig van Beethoven’s titanic talent transforms our understanding of music forever. An individual who cared little for conformity, he believed himself to be a ‘Tondichter’ – a poet in sound. He epitomised the Romantic artist for whom the expression of emotions was more important than the observations of traditional structures.
7. Stravinsky’s explosive talent:
In 1913, Igor Stravinsky premieres Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) and changes the course of music history and composition. The radical score provokes disturbances in the audience and the scandal confirms Stravinsky as a leader of the musical avant-garde.
8. Recording and listening to music:
Technology makes its first slow steps towards global domination of the world’s living rooms with the wax cylinder, gramophone and 78 rpm shellac discs.
9. Early musicals:
In the early 20th century, a really new art form is created, which Robert calls ‘a kind of rude offspring of the opera and popular song.’
10. The Electric Guitar:
Les Paul and Leo Fender perfect the iconic instrument of pop music which dominates the world for decades to come: the electric guitar.
Efired (c) Fotolia
Hear Robert Ziegler talk further about the history of music and in specific writing music for film in our DK Chats series on Soundcloud:
Music: The Definitive Visual History is available for purchase Monday 21st October 2013. Pre-order your guide now from DK.