The history of music is a fascinating topic not only because history in general is fascinating, but because knowing about how music has evolved over time and in different parts of the world tells us much about music today. This has a huge impact on how we play, listen to, and learn music.
There is no question that European music has come to define what we think of music as today. When we say “music history,” what we usually mean is “the history of European music”, and when we study different periods of music it is arguably the music of Europe which provides us the richest source and variety of music to study. There are, of course, very rich musical traditions from all around the world but none of them have had the impact that European music has on our understanding and our comprehension of music. What sets European music apart from other traditions is its sheer scope and volatility. Its history is incredibly dynamic and has given rise to a highly diverse range of music styles and genres – far more than any other single tradition.
As with every other aspect of culture, music changes over time and can be divided into different periods. The music of different periods will have certain common characteristics but what really defines music as belonging to a particular period is simply when and where it was written.
Below are links to articles about specific music periods;