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Western Art Music Term Paper


Western Art Music describes the musical traditions common in Europe during different periods. In particular, the music was common in areas settled by European and resulted in the development of different musical cultures (Georges 21). Western Art Music provides unique approaches to different forms of music. Moreover, it has experienced the development of unique stylistic devices. The paper traces the stylistic development of Western Art Music in different periods.

Western Music in the Antiquity
Early music in Europe emerged from Greek and included different philosophical commentaries and classic poetry. A major component of Western musical art emanates from the establishment of acoustical physics common in ancient Greek societies (Burkholder and Donald 12). In particular, the early civilization of antiquity and exceptional styles were defined based on cultural beliefs and innate practices resulting in liturgical music.

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The Sumerian musical instruments used during this period, included lyres, harps, and timbrels among other important devices. These instruments supported the development of various poetic genres and unique musical styles that spread in different parts of Europe. In essence, early Greek music was monophonic, observed the laws of harmony, and had complex musical textures (heterophony). Additionally, Greek music portrayed unique rhythmic patterns, poetic feet, and close association with language. The internal structure common in Greek music depicted exceptional melodic counters.

Western Art Music during the Early Medieval Period
Western music during the medieval era emanated from different monophonic chants. The harmony during this period included integration of different and concurrent vocal lines resulting in the creation of polyphonies and expansion of rhythm and textures. During the period, Christian churches increased their employment of professional musicians (Burkholder and Donald 16). However, the increase in the spread of Christianity decreased the performances of Greek and Roman music. Outside churches, the development of secular musical traditions encouraged the strengthening of monophonic music that was spearheaded by itinerant artists. Both Christian and secular forms of music employed the application of string devices such as lyre and psaltery. During a similar period, music experienced new rhythmic patterns and freedom majorly in the composition of lyrics.

However, there were major stylistic changes that occurred in music during the Late Medieval era. The style referred to as ars nova was propagated by Phippe de Vitry, a French prelate. The new style resulted in the development of complex music systems reflecting the human ingenuity in Europe. De Vitry’s invention encouraged new rhythmic freedoms and allowed artists to practice increase their musical compositions. The music composers used rhythmically organized voice parts and intricate polyphonic designs (Burkholder and Donald 18). Secondly, the new era in European music emphasized on the general structure of music targeting the ordinary mass. A distinctive feature during the era was the introduction of un-harmonized melodies.

Western Art Music in the Renaissance Period
The period was a reaction to the complexities the music during the medieval era. During this period, composers introduced smoother-sounding and flowing harmonies (smooth choral styles). The musical composers during the period relied on imitation (succeeding and narrowly spaced restatements) which later became a structural element in music. The choral polyphony was crucial in the development of musical pavers during the renaissance period (Lee 23). The most important event during the period was the development of unique musical compositions.

Western Musical Art during the Baroque Era
New developments in Italy sought to control the prevalence of Renaissance music through various changes on the sound and structure of music. Most composers in Italy did not favor the polyphonic style common during the Renaissance. The music during this era captured the classical Greek compositions and encouraged emotional contrasts (Lee 25). The instrumental music incorporated unique baselines and dance rhythms among other improvisatory styles common in Keyboard instruments. Moreover, the introduction of harmonic relationships (tonalities) signaled the increased domination of western music. The incorporation of an emotional quality (affect) in most of the compositions was a significant shift in mood that favored a unified approach and moderation to social issues.

Western Musical Art during the Classical Periods
During this period, musical composers established that Baroque music was excessively rigid and constricting. The period experienced the development of homophonic textures and melodies that had chordal accompaniments. In addition, the ornamented melodies and abstract forms are some of the musical ideas that supported the progression of classical music (Hanning 12). The formulation of Opera music was the climax of this period. Opera music included diverse instrumental interludes and accompaniments that encouraged characterization and enhanced plot development.

Western Musical Art during the Romantic Era
Musical style during this era encouraged impulsiveness and novelty in composition and progression of chords contributing to the general harmonic directions. The instruments used were more attractive and emanated from Germany and Central Europe. The composers during the period derived important inspirations from literary, pictorial, and nonmusical plans (Hanning 14). The emergence of personal styles of composition resulted from the modification of language and the application of unusual chord progressions to compose different pieces.

Western Music Art during the 20th Century
In the modern era, Western musical style emphasized on individuality and personal expression capturing the social and geographic dimensions. New technologies such as radios and recordings facilitated the spread of music to different places. There were more harmonic characteristics and atonalities, polytonalities, and progression of microtonal music (Hanning 16). However, the period experienced a decline in opera compositions. In general, the period placed more emphasis on sound qualities, music textures, and duration further explaining the decline in opera music and related stage performances.

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Works Cited
Burkholder, J. Peter, and Donald Jay Grout. A History of Western Music: Ninth International Student Edition. WW Norton & Company, 2014.
Georges, Patrick. “Western Classical Music Development: A Statistical Analysis of Composers Similarity, Differentiation and Evolution.” Scientometrics, vol. 112, no. 1, 2017, pp. 21-53.
Hanning, Barbara Russano, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca. Concise History of Western Music. Norton, 1998.
Lee, Deborah. Modelling Music: A Theoretical Approach to the Classification of Notated Western Art Music. Diss. City, University of London, 2017.

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