Classical music

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The terms classical or classical music can have different meanings depending on the context. In a narrow musicological sense, classical music in the German-speaking area refers to the predominant European styles of art music from around 1730 to 1830. In a broader, colloquial sense, classical or classical music are used as terms for the entire tradition of European art music. In compositions, classical music can also denote other musical traditions such as non-European or popular.


European art music differs largely from many other non-European classical and some popular forms of music in its notation system , which has been in use since the 11th century. Catholic monks developed the first forms of modern European musical notation to unify the liturgy throughout the Church. Unlike most popular styles that took the (strophic) form of the song or a derivative of that form, classical music is for the development of highly developed forms of instrumental music such as symphony , concerto , fugue , sonata, and mixed vocal and instrumental styles such as Opera , cantata and mass known.

The term "classical music" did not appear until the beginning of the 19th century to clearly canonize the time from Johann Sebastian Bach to Ludwig van Beethoven as a golden age. The earliest reference to "classical music" recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary is from around 1829.


In its broader meaning, classical music encompasses epochs from Renaissance music to the present day, one of which in turn is called classical music in the narrower sense .

From the 20th century onwards there were recourse to classical music as art music, in instrumentation or directly stylistically in musical impressionism , expressionism , neoclassicism , in new music , neoclassical music and often in film music . These are often seen as the newer directions of classical music itself, there is no clear demarcation.


Given the wide range of styles in European classical music, from medieval Gregorian chant sung by monks to classical and romantic symphonies for orchestras from the 18th and 19th centuries to avant-garde atonal compositions from the 20th century, it is difficult to list characteristics that can be ascribed to all works of this kind. Nonetheless, a universal characteristic of classical music, which emerged from the late thirteenth century, is the invariable application of a standardized system of precise mensural notation (which evolved into modern time notation after 1600 ) for all compositions and their precise performance. Another is creating and developing complex pieces of solo instrumental works (e.g. the fugue ). The first symphonies were written during the actual Classical era, from the middle of the 18th century, the symphony ensemble and the compositions became its outstanding features.

Instruments and vocals

The instruments used in most classical music were largely invented before the mid-19th century, often much earlier, and systematized in the 18th and 19th centuries. They consist of the instruments of a symphony orchestra as well as other solo instruments (such as the piano , harpsichord or organ ). The symphony orchestra includes members of the families of string instruments , wood and brass instruments, and percussion instruments . Smaller ensembles such as a chamber orchestra , a harmony orchestra or an ensemble can be formed from individual groups of instruments or instruments . Especially in early music , however, there are also non-symphonic individual instruments, such as B. theorbs or viols are used.

The practices of chant changed over time, from the single-line, monophonic Gregorian chant of monks in the Middle Ages to the complex, polyphonic choral works of the Renaissance and later epochs, in which several independent chant melodies were used simultaneously.

Other meanings

Even with non-western (more precisely from the western point of view: with originating from outside one's own culture) music cultures are referred to as classical music in order to differentiate older traditions from modern popular music, for example classical Arabic music , classical Turkish music , classical Indian music , classical chinese music .

With classic , the classic instruments can be meant, in contrast to the electronically enhanced pop music . In this case, popular forms such as dance music , brass music , symphonics in film music or upscale light music are also counted as classical music.

Other, for example popular, music is also called classical if it is based on the origins of a certain musical tradition (e.g. classical rock 'n' roll , classical New Orleans jazz ).

See also

Portal: Classical Music  - Overview of Wikipedia content on classical music

Individual evidence

  1. Ulrich Michels: dtv-Atlas Music . 1st edition. dtv, Munich 2001, ISBN 978-3-7618-2120-6 , p. 333 ff .
  2. musical notation | Description, Systems, & Note Symbols. Retrieved February 24, 2020 .
  3. ^ Neume, Staff: Harvard Dictionary of Music (2nd edition, 1972) .
  4. ^ Johnson, Julian (2002). Who Needs Classical Music ?: Cultural Choice and Musical Value . Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ Rushton, Julian, Classical Music , (London, 1994), 10
  6. Kennedy, Michael (2006), The Oxford Dictionary of Music , 985 pages, ISBN 0-19-861459-4
  7. ^ The Oxford English Dictionary (2007). "classical, a." The OED Online. Retrieved May 10, 2007. 1829 V. Novello Diary July 26 in V. Novello & M. Novello Mozart Pilgrimage (1955) 181 This is the place I should come to every Sunday when I wished to hear classical music correctly and judiciously performed.
  8. Kennedy 2006, p. 178.
  9. Willi Apel. "The notation of polyphonic music, 900-1600". Cambridge, Massachusetts: Mediaeval Academy of America. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  10. Laurence Elliot Libin. "Symphony, music". Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  11. ^ Bruno Nettl : The Study of Ethnomusicology. Twenty-nine issues and concepts. University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago 1983, ISBN 0-252-01039-6 , pp. 304 and 350.