Listening Through History, Part 2 (Day Nine of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from music making. To see more posts in this series, click here.

Yesterday I gave you a representative list of historical pieces of music from Ancient times up through the Renaissance to listen to and enjoy. Today, we will listen from the Baroque Period through the Twentieth Century. I have been using my seventh edition copy of A History of Western Music to help me create this list. It is a brilliant and fascinating history for anyone studying music, or for anyone wanting to see how music related to world events and politics of the past.

renoirgirlsatthepianoRenoir, Girls at the Piano (Source)

Today, I will be giving you more playlists to listen to than I did yesterday. This is simply because more people have created “Best of” lists (a.k.a. Best of Beethoven, Best of Bach) out of “modern” music than from ancient music. I have yet to see a “Best of Perotin” playlist. Anyone up for the task? ๐Ÿ˜‰


Remember, the purpose of this list is not to create an exhaustive (or exhausting) listening assignment. Rather, it’s to give you a place to start listening to great music of the past and create a context for your own musical experience. You can also use these lists as resources for your own edification as you listen to and create your own music.

Here we go!

Baroque Period (1600-1750)

  • L’Orfeo (By Claudio Monteverdi, 1567-1643. Monteverdi’s music evolved from late Renaissance into a new style that later came to be part of the Baroque period. He wrote only vocal and dramatic works, including the some of the first operas.)
  • Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643, helped to raise instrumental music up to the same level as vocal music.)
  • Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687, born Italian but lived in France. He created French opera, French overture, and helped to form the orchestra.)
  • Henry Purcell (1659-1695, a great English composer who wrote for the courts and the church.)
  • Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741, an Italian composer who wrote music for children in the orphanage where he was violin master. You will recognize the familiar melody in “The Four Seasons,” the first example in the selected medley.)
  • Jean-Phillippe Rameau (1683-1764, a French composer and music theorist.)
  • J.S. Bach (1685-1750, a German organist and composer who worked for the church and court.)
  • George Frederic Handel (1685-1759, invented the oratorio. Perhaps the most famous is The Messiah.)
  • Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757, a keyboard composer and contemporary of Handel.)

The Classic Period (c. 1750-1825)

  • Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787, managed to bring together the operatic styles of France, Italy, and Germany.)
  • Franz Joseph Haydn (1739-1809, best known for his string quartets and symphonies.)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791, a child prodigy and famed composer of instrumental music, operas, piano music, and church music.)
  • Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827, a highly influential German composer who left a legacy to this day. He began to go deaf in his later years, but continued on composing through it.)

Romantic Period (c. 1825-1900)

Twentieth Century (1900-2000)

  • John Phillip Sousa (1854-1932, The famous American march composer.)
  • Richard Strauss (1864-1949, a German conductor and composer.)
  • Jean Sibelius (1865-1957, composer of “Finlandia”- now the text “Be Still my Soul” is set to this tune.)
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958, an English composer of various musical genres.)
  • Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943 a Russian pianist whose pieces always seem to speak drama and passion.)
  • Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971, a Russian composer. The link is the infamous and energetic Rite of Spring, which was so poorly received at its premiere that it provoked a riot. This video talks about the piece and why it was so infuriating.)
  • Charles Ives (1874-1954, an American composer whose work was not recognized until much later in his career.)
  • Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951, known for his atonal and twelve-tone composer.)
  • Bela Bartok (1881-1945, a virtuoso pianist & ethnomusicologist from Hungary with a passion for folk music.)
  • George Gershwin (1898-1937, The American composer responsible for Rhapsody in Blue and a plethora of popular movie songs that we love to sing along with.)
  • Aaron Copeland (1900-1990, an American composer with a lot of “Appalachia” feel.)
  • Benjamin Britten (1913-1976, an English composer who enjoyed writing music for amateurs and children. We will revisit him later in our 31 Days Series.)
    English, 1913-1976
  • Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990, American, composer of the popular musical West Side Story.)

And that brings us pretty close to the present day. But even in this long list (or at least it felt long to me putting it together!), we have barely scratched the surface of all the great music we could listen to. I’ve skipped a lot of composers that I would love to add to this list. And keep in mind- this is only western art music. I haven’t even glanced at music from other parts of the world, folk traditions, pop music, etc.

It’s impossible to touch everything (especially not in two days), but it IS possible to start somewhere. And that’s just what we’re doing.

Happy listening folks. Come back tomorrow for some tips for listening to music as a family and get ready to start creating some music yourself! ๐Ÿ™‚

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10 thoughts on “Listening Through History, Part 2 (Day Nine of Homemade Music)

  1. Melanie

    As I was reading this I kept thinking about the fact that I married into a musical family. My husbands best memories are of his father playing the piano and them all singing around it. Our kids seemed to have inherited a love of music as well. Me? I don’t have musical talent, but music does move me.
    But I love information and gathering facts and history and words…and what I realized for the first time reading this post was that they can come together.
    Thanks for your words and your heart on these pages!

    Reply
    1. Abi Post author

      Thank you Melanie! I appreciate you stopping by! Sometimes as I’m writing this I wonder if anyone who isn’t already making music will be interested in it- but my hope is to help grow the love of music- even for people who don’t play already. Thank you for the encouragement! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  2. Sarah Lango

    I love music- play and sing some myself. I’m not a big classical music fan, but what I love about this post is the obvious fact that you are passionate about this topic and that you really did your homework on this one! Great job!

    Reply
  3. Sarah

    Awesome. As a music nerd, I LOVE that you are doing this. I adore classical music and so miss playing it (these days, I’m pretty committed to sacred music because when I play, I’m practicing for church). As my littles get bigger and into piano lessons, I look forward to revisiting some of the greats — like ones you’ve listed here! Keep the good stuff alive!!

    Reply
    1. Abi Post author

      Thanks Sarah! It’s so nice to meet other “music nerds!” My best to you as you work at the church music!

      Reply
  4. Bonnie Burgamy

    I appreciate these lists! I homeschool my son, and I am always looking for resources to use to incorporate in our curriculum. I have found it difficult to find musical resources, but I believe music to be a vital and necessary part of education…education in school to meet criteria but more importantly for life-long learning! Thank you!!!!

    Reply
    1. Abi Post author

      Thank you for your kind comment, Bonnie. I really appreciate it! I hope that this post and some of the others in this series can be a beneficial resource to others as well. I plan to homeschool my kids too, so I am always looking for those hard to find resources!

      Reply
  5. Cate

    I don’t really listen to a lot of classical music, but I knew most of the composers you listed and it surprised me that they are so popular even in today’s music. Thanks! Coming by from the 31 days comment thread.

    Reply
    1. Abi Post author

      Thanks so much for stopping by Cate! I don’t always listen to classical music either, but I think there’s a lot of value in them. You’re right, it’s amazing how long some of the music has stuck around!:) Hope you have a wonderful day!

      Reply

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