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Music. Fascinating both by it’s diverse individual styles and the inevitable fusion of different genres which in turn have created other completely new and unique styles of music. Classical music is a perfect example. The earliest forms of classical music were composed in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and displayed a very complicated and sophisticated form of writing incorporating a wide range of instruments and used the principle of multi instrumentation which achieved a very full symphonic sound which in turn led to the creation of specially designed halls to facilitate the sound. The origins of the music were also diverse, many compositions having been written for the stage, composers such as ‘Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’ who is responsible for the remarkable musical compositions of ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘The Nutcracker’ wrote his music for Ballet in a style which was not only captivating and enchanting, but also told a story. Tchaikovsky was not the only composer to do this, ‘Richard Wagner’ who was a composer of Opera’s also wrote his music in a style that told a story. Wagner changed the concept of opera by viewing it as a ’total art work’ He wanted the Conductor to control all the elements of the dramatic production and to put them to work in projecting the drama through the Music. In the same diversified way the composers of the time wrote for dances to be performed on the stage, others wrote for dances that were popular at the time, such as the waltz, in this instance Composers such as ‘Josef Lanner’ and ‘Johann Strauss’ gave the waltz a whole new life. With their compositions the waltz gained sophistication and superiority Along with a distinctly Viennese light-hearted spirit. But not all classical music composers wrote for the stage or even for dance. Some composed music for the things they felt were important. ‘Johann Sebastian Bach’ was amongst this group, he was a very religious man who composed for the church, primarily, he was a man of God, and often he would concentrate on the depth of his religion and put it back into his music, as an intense personal statement of faith. But where Bach wrote for the church composers such as ‘George Fredric Handel’ wrote for the general public he was a man of the world who loved to travel and who put this across in his music. Handel’s compositions varied where some were simple others were a lot more vigorous.
Another composer who’s compositions were often very contradictory was ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’ who is probably one of the most popular composers of all time. Even in the Nineteenth century Mozart was one of the leading Classical composers and was a master at all genres of classical music, his music was often cheerful and disorderly, but yet he could write outstanding melodies that were simple and unpretentious, which contained an unforgettable, haunting beauty. His music was greatly influenced by ‘Franz Joseph Hayden’ who was one of the main influences which transformed the classical genre from little more than a divertimento of strings to music with an almost chamber music style but which gave all parts of the orchestra an equal role. His ideas not only influenced Mozart they also went on to influence ‘Ludwig Van Beethoven’ who’s music is not only astonishing and remarkable but is still very popular. But for what ever influential reason these composers wrote, all their musical compositions often had significant similarities, as with all classical music they were written for an orchestra, mainly full and often symphony. Many composers of the classical genre wrote music with flexible rhythm, and the symphonies they wrote were full of complicated and complex key changes, modulations and movements. As classical music did not have lyrics the music needed to be a lot more complicated, so composers would give the music movement to make it more interesting, and although the compositions were often very repetitive they were performed in such a way that made it very pleasing to the ear, this was one of the expertise that Beethoven possessed. His symphonies were so powerful that they continued to be popular through to separate genres for example his 9th symphony was used in the play ‘Clockwork Orange’. and his 5th symphony in the prisoner of war series ‘Colditz’ and in popular music in the song ‘Roll over Beethoven’ by Chuck Berry.
Roll over Beethoven is a classic example of 50’s/60’s Rock and Roll music. Rock and Roll music is unique in the fact that is probably the first musical genre formed exclusively around youth culture. The roots of which developed from blues music, jazz and various other influences, and pioneered by artists such as Bill Hailey and the Comets, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and on this side of the Atlantic, artists such as Cliff Richard, Marti Wilde, and Billy Fury. With such other influences as the likes of Lonnie Donegon blending American roots music with an English slant and developing the sound of skiffle. From these early beginnings the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling stones, and other groups drawing on influences from both sides of the Atlantic developed pop and rock music. Many people would consider ‘The Beatles’ the greatest pop stars of the 20th century not only because of their popularity and commercial success but also because of the incomparable impact their song writing and recording techniques had on the music industry. But they are not the only pop act of the time to have had such an impact on the music industry, the Bee Gees who are undeniably the most successful sibling act in the history of pop, are often described as the purveyors of cheesy pop and 70’s glitter ball disco. Along with Abba, whose Eurovision success led them to become the most commercially successful group of the 70’s who with their dense, multi-layered productions and perfectly matching lead vocals transformed themselves from Eurovision Euro-trash to cherished musicians. Then there were ‘The Beach Boys’ who will forever be associated with the sun, sea and surfin' lifestyle of California. But the band became much more than background music for the surf, and grew to be America's finest pop group, they soon became the one and only challenge to the Beatles success. This was because of the simplicity of their early hits. but simplicity was replaced in later work by anguish, loss of innocence and wistful harmonies. Their experimental approach, was highly influential. Even musical peers The Beatles were influenced by the astounding ‘Pet Sounds’ album, which continued to inspire groups for many generations to come. But even with Eurovision and surfing being the source of pop music at the time, no one could have predicted that a wonky eyed former mime artist from Bromley would revolutionise rock and roll? David Bowie was the first post modern pop star. In an age of long haired, serious grunters. Bowie's extravagant theatrics would prove the incentive for a host of stars from Morrissey to Boy George and the New Romantic movement of the '80s. in 1975 when he underwent an image change, mutating from sci-fi rocker to white soul boy and while proving commercially unsuccessful his highly influential albums were among the first rock albums to feature experimental, synthesising, ambient sounds. Next came Michael Jackson who moon walked his way to becoming the biggest superstar of the '80s. Who had an electrifying stage presence, and the biggest selling album of all time. Thriller was unique with varying styles including rock, funk and ballads. And his inspiring musical talent led him to become the first black artist to feature on MTV. But undoubtedly one of the most influential groups of all time were Nirvana, whose talented front man Kurt Cobain, brought Grunge with its particularly incessant strain of loud guitars and angst into the main stream Kurt Cobain's gritty, inflexible pursuit to be 'real' with his music, fans, and ideals, paved the way for what is currently referred to as Alternative music. Without Kurt and Nirvana, there might not have been Britpop - Blur, Oasis or Green Day. Simply because all of these bands draw on Nirvana's peculiar blend of the musically grating and wild along with the beautiful; the dangerous mixture of introspection, anxiety and the feeling that something is not quite right with the world. Nirvana’s music was thrilling, emotional and ultimately self-destructive.
Folk music has often run hand in hand with pop and rock music and has even helped shape and influence much of today’s music, from the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, John Denver and Joni Mitchell to artists form this side of the Atlantic like Fairport convention, Nick Drake, and the Pogues. Drawing their influences from traditional folk music. Folk music is probably one of the most inappropriately labelled forms of music. Although folk music in its most basic form really represents the traditional ethnic music of any country it is usually taken to mean traditional English Celtic music as performed in folk clubs. Based on traditional stories mixed with sea shanties and often accompanied by traditional folk dancers like Morris men and played on instruments such as whistles, fiddles, banjos, mandolins, accordions and the like. Artists like the Dubliners helped to bring traditional Irish music to the attention of the mainstream record buying public with songs like Seven Drunken Nights and other artists like the Furies and the Cheifdans who attracted mainstream artists such as Van Morrison and Bono to guest with them drawing on their own traditional roots. British folk clubs of today tend to have split in to two categories those that stick to the original principals of hosting traditional music and ceiledhs and those which class themselves as acoustic clubs which tend to host a broader range of music and are instrumental in giving singer songwriters openings, artists such as Simon and Garfunkel, Perhaps one of the greatest recording acts of the last forty years, served their apprenticeship on the British folk circuit. Summertime is always a great time for this form of music with the various folk festivals held throughout the country often taking over the pubs and halls of many towns up and down the country, festivals like Cambridge, Sidmouth and Cropredie are now huge events drawing in not only artists who big on the folk circuit but also headlining acts in the world of rock, blues and country. And along with this the many unknown artists who are glad to turn up and perform floor spots whenever the opportunity arises.
What really constitutes folk music is what has now come to be termed world music encompassing the traditional songs and beats from around the world in particular South America, Asia and Africa. Thanks to dj’s like Andy Kershaw, many wonderful forms of music have been bought to the attention of the masses. From the haunting and complex harmonies of Lady Smith Black Mombassa originating in Africa to the complicated rhythm patterns found in the music of South America. Artists such as Paul Simon have integrated many of these ethnic sounds in to there work. Also with the likes of sting and his involvement in the saving of the equatorial rainforests, the music of this region has been incorporated into his and other peoples works. back in the 60’s Indian music such as played by sitarist Ravi Shankha would probably have remained virtually unknown in this country were it not for the Beatles and in particular George Harrison travelling to India and working and recording with such artists. Many forms of world music can be found in our city centres where traditional players from many countries can be found busking and can be a great attraction at folk festivals as well as large venues.