Listening Through History, Part 1 (Day Eight of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade music! If you want to find more posts in this series, click here. This post contains an affiliate link. This means that if you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your support!

I’ve spent a whole week giving a defense for how anyone can benefit from studying and making music. There is much more that could be said, and many who have gone before me who have said it much better. But, for better or worse, it is now time to get listening and start enjoying the actual music.

Medieval-Musicians1-300x234(Image Source)

Today we are going to go for a little jaunt through music history from ancient music up through the Renaissance. Tomorrow I will be back to complete the list from the Baroque Period through the Twentieth Century. Below are listed the musical eras and corresponding major composers/compositions. I used my college copy of A History of Western Music (They since have made newer editions) to help majorly refresh my memory and create this list.

How should you use this list? Merely as a starting point. It’s meant to be a resource for you to return to when you are looking to listen to something new. It is certainly not complete- it is simply meant to be representative of different eras throughout history. If you don’t know what a word means, don’t fret! I’ve included links so you can look up the terminology at your leisure. However, a thorough understanding of motet vs. organum is certainly not necessary to enjoy the pieces featured in this list. Right now the most important thing is to listen, not to memorize technical terms.

Additionally, this list will help you to start forming an idea of how music has sounded throughout the ages. You will find that each era has similar strains throughout, with differences from composer to composer and genre to genre. But again- today, just listen. After Part 2 we will talk more about ways to actively listen.

Are you ready? Here we go!

Ancient Music (Through 4th Century)

  • Epitaph of Seikilos (Ancient Greek, inscribed on a tombstone around 1st Century C.E.)
  • Euripides’ Orestes (Greek, around 200 B.C.E., a plead to the gods for mercy on Orestes, who murdered his mother for infidelity to his father.)

Middle Ages

The Renaissance (1400-1600)

  • Se la face ay pale, ballade (By Guillaume Du Fay, about 1433. Showing both Italian and English influences.)
  • Missa Prolationum (Kyrie) (by Johannes Ockeghem, c. 1420-1497, an influential French composer.)
  • Missa Pange lingua (Kyrie) (By Josquin Des Prez- 1450-1521, worked in many courts and churches in France and Italy.)
  • Ein feste Burg (By Martin Luther, 1483- 1546, the famous German reformer. This song today is still sung in many churches as “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”)
  • Sing joyfully unto God (By William Byrd, c. 1540- 1623, an English composer who wrote for the Catholic church, Anglican church, secular music, and instrumental music.)
  • Pope Marcellus Mass (By Giovanni Pierluigi Da Palestrina, 1525- 1594, an extremely important composer from Rome. He was most well known for his masses and motets, though he did write some secular madrigals.)
  • Oy comamos y bebamos (By Juan del Encina, 1468-1529, a Spanish playwright. This song is a villancico- a Spanish secular polyphonic song.)
  • Various Madrigals & Canzonets (by Thomas Morley, 1557-1602)
  • Sonate e Canzoni (By Giovanni Gabrielli, 1555-1612, part of the rise of instrumental music in the Renaissance.)

I hope you get a chance to listen to at least a few of these! It will be an exercise in perspective, appreciation, and variety. Come back tomorrow for musical examples from the Baroque Period to the present day.

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