Tag Archives: music history

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? 😉

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! 🙂

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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.