Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” – Plato (c. 428 BC – c. 348 BC)
How did Plato manage to encapsulate music so eloquently long before it evolved into the many pleasing genres of today? In a brief history of classical music, Jeremy Nicholas says “fixing a date for ‘the beginning of music’ is as elusive as pin-pointing the millennium in which dinosaurs became extinct. 1000 AD merely provides a convenient starting point for the birth of modern Western music.” According to Nicholas, the term classical music refers to supposedly ‘heavy’ music (as opposed to, say, pop or jazz) and to its advancement during the Classical period between 1750 and 1820.
Skipping ahead in time, an article in The Telegraph celebrates seven key genres that developed in the USA from the early 20th century:
- A street guitarist in Tutwiler, Mississippi played the first ever blues in 1903.
- In the early 1910s New Orleans became known as the cradle of jazz.
- Country arose in the ’20s as a multicultural blend of English folk balladry, Mississippi Delta blues, Irish fiddle tunes, French/Cajun music and vaudeville.
- In the ’40s, Afro-American expressions of gospel, blues, and rhythm and blues converged to form rock ’n’ roll.
- Soul sprang up in the ’50s from blues clubs, churches and street corners across the country.
- Hip hop came from the block parties of the Bronx in the early ’70s.
- EDM (Electronic Dance Music) has grown into a popular genre since 1990.
Other histories give nods to ragtime, swing, folk, and punk rock. No one seems to think much of disco as a musical form, but I still like its iconic movie, Saturday Night Fever (1977).
My earliest memory of music is “The Yellow Rose of Texas”, a song made popular by Mitch Miller in 1955 and featured in the epic Western Giant (1956). I also heard the favourites of my older siblings: Laurie loved “Que Sera Sera”, the rendition by Doris Day that won an Oscar in 1956 for Best Original Song. (Can any reader name the movie in which she sings it? A clue: the director is among the most famous filmmakers in the history of cinema.) Rick introduced me to legendary Elvis Presley and Tim to Jefferson Airplane, a pioneering band of psychedelic rock. In the ’60s, Dad tried to bribe me into learning about classical music. I could earn $5 per record from a box set of 12 by identifying the composer, the composition and the movement or theme after listening for several seconds. I remember mastering Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” whether he dropped the needle in the ‘Overture’, ‘March’ or ‘Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy’. Years later the professor in a classical music appreciation course at university used Dad’s same method for the final examination.
In the ’70s I became enamoured with jazz, investing regularly in vinyl from my travel agent’s salary of $165/wk. (Would a sounder investment have been a RRSP, created in Canada in 1957?) The owner of an independent music store in Toronto recommended the albums: for example, Kind of Blue (1959) by Miles Davis, one of the most influential albums ever recorded, Ella and Louis (1956), one of jazz’s greatest duets, Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert (1975), Satch and Josh (1974) with Canada’s own Oscar Peterson and Count Basie on the piano, and many more.
The ways of listening to music have changed, in my time from radios, record players, and cassette and CD playing stereos to personal portable devices and cell phones. Somewhat recent technological breakthroughs include the Sony Walkman, which went on sale July 1, 1979 for $150; the Apple iPod, a portable media player released in 2001 for $399; and YouTube Music, a free music streaming service unveiled in October 2015.
We listen to music during workouts, on walks, in stores, elevators and cars, at concerts, in movies and at home. Music constitutes a vital part of everyday living.
- Our response to music activates regions of the brain that generate positive emotions and rewards. However, we must choose music suited to our tastes. Grunge bands, such as Seattle born Nirvana and Pearl Jam, may have the reverse affect on our generation.
- Music has the capacity to transport us, distract us from daily anxieties, calm us and thus reduce stress.
- Enjoying familiar music with our loved ones can be a good way of engaging with them, especially if they’re ill or suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
- Music can promote physical activity such as dancing, skating and jogging.
- Studies show children improve their memory, attention and concentration through music. Adults can too.
- Soothing music in the evening puts us to sleep; fast-tempo music in the morning rousts us.
To borrow the words of English composer Edward Elgar (1857-1934): “My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us, the world is full of it, and you simply take as much as you require.” ♥
P.S. In the comments below, take a guess at my movie trivia and/or share some of your preferred music.