The Western music is the popular Musique, or erudite, practiced in the European countries or of European influence, since Charlemagne at our days. Its main features are:
its seniority (approximately thousand years),
- its polyphonic dimension ,
- its marking system and the importance which is attached to him in opposition to the music of oral tradition ,
- finally, the dominating place that the Western music ended up occupying on the scale of planet, often with the detriment of the other musical currents.
The various ramifications of the Western music will be approached by the chronology of their appearance.
The Middle Ages
The origins of the Western music go back to the Antiquité: the scales of the ancient Greece will influence, directly or indirectly, the medieval musicians and theorists. The range S used being dominated by the mode, this music is described as modal music.
Hegemony of the plainsong
With the fall of the Roman Empire, the Église tries to regulate the liturgical music in order to unify and to strengthen the Christian world . It is on this occasion that is born the Plain-chant, collective hymn with only one voice and without instrumental accompaniment - also called Gregorian chant, of the name of the pope Gregoire Ier, who initiated this movement at the end of the 6th century. The music is then dominated by the installation of a new religious order: it is all at the same time crowned Musique and erudite music , since at that time, in fact the religious congregations constitute principal the arts centres and musical .
Birth of the notation and the polyphony
In the middle of the the Middle Ages, the medieval erudite music knows a double change: it obtains a very precise marking system - the future Solfège: it is at that time that is born the concept of Partition from music -, as well as technique including deliberated simultaneities: the Polyphony, with its process of composition associated, called counterpoint. These two phenomena, polyphony and musical theory, which cost the Western erudite music the loss partial of its dimension of improvisation, are inextricably dependant.
Modal traditional musics
Parallel to the evolution of the erudite music, there exist traditional musics, rather associated to the rural, also modal, but private populations of any marking system. These musics are transmitted orally, and were sometimes also written by clerks or thereafter of the musicologists.
The modern period sees the completion of the evolution of the musical theory, the impoverishment of the modes - only the major mode and the minor mode will remain -, the multiplication of the Tonalité S, the replacement of the polyphony by the harmony: the music becomes gradually tonal music. During the modern period, one notes an opposition, which will not cease growing, between public “listener of music”, and Musicien S “specialists in the music”, and at the latter, between the Compositeur S and the interpreters .
The erudite music of the Rebirth escapes partially the absolute power of the religion and becomes aristocratic: one notes the birth of an opposition between the sacred music (or spiritual music ) and the Musique profane. The works created during this period are it initially for the voice, but the left can also be about it interpreted on various instruments or gathered to be played on an instrument alone - Guitare, Luth, Virginal, etc From a point of view organologic, a discrimination takes place gradually enters, on the one hand the traditional instruments - Biniou, Cornemuse, hurdy-gurdy, Chabrette, etc -, on the other hand instruments resulting from the erudite music - virginal, Harpe, Orgue, Théorbe, etc
The erudite music baroque - 17th century and first half of the 18th century - knows an expansion of musical forms and the partitions grow rich by many ornaments. In addition, the production, until primarily centered there on the voice, subdivides in vocal Musique and Instrumental music. The instrumental invoice knows an important development and a certain standardization. The question of the temperament worries the theorists.
The erudite music of the traditional period - in a strict sense: end 18th century - simplifies the diatonic scales by adopting the system of the equal temperament. This one makes it possible from now on to play, to modulate and to transpose in all the tonalities of the system. During this period, the instrumental music will be divided into symphonic Musique and Chamber music. The works start to be maintained with the repertory: the music profits from now on from an uninterrupted tradition through generations of musicians, it becomes “traditional” in the literal sense. This period will last roughly of 1750 to 1800.
With the 19th century, period of the Romanticism and birth of the national schools, the erudite music - romantic Music and post-romantic music - becomes the mark of the middle-class class. They is at that time that the Westerners take the practice to define the other musical currents according to the Western erudite music, the latter being simply regarded as “ the music ”: this ethnocentric frame of mind will attenuate at the next century, without however disappearing completely.
Tonal traditional musics
For the modern period also, the traditional music continues to evolve/move, sometimes by using the technical contributions of the erudite music - tonal Système, instruments, musical forms, notation… -, other times while dissociating itself more clearly from this one - maintenance of the modal system, exclusively oral transmission of certain repertories, particular techniques vocal or instrumental. The exchanges between erudite music and modal traditional music took place permanently, in particular thanks to the itinerant musicians. This music tends to disappear with rarefaction from the rural populations; however the Collectage S - collections of the musics in situ - make it possible to keep the trace of it, in particular thanks to the folklorists of the 19th century then to the will of vaster organizations ( Dastum in Brittany, for example).
Since the twentieth century
At the 20th century, the Western music starts to exert an influence increasingly marked on the music of the others Culture S, so much so that it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to find on the surface of the sphere a musical tradition which is not influenced by that of the Western companies, that is to say by the use of instruments or the writing using the moderate range.
Various the technical of recording - discs, tape recorders, data processing… - come to compete with the Solfège, traditional process of notation which formerly was, with the oral transmission, the only means of preserving the musical memory. Thus, profiting from formidable technological advances in the field of the reproduction and the sound diffusion of mass, the Western music became a commercial object like another. In spite of that, it remains with the crossroads of the following influences.
The erudite music loses its dominant position partially: it is not really any more associated with a specific social class, as it was the case previously, and is placed from now on at the disposal of the whole of the company - at least, theoretically. The tonal music remains, but must cohabit with other systems: one assists with a redécouverte modal ranges and, especially, with the birth of new musical systems, even of constraining theories, whose main feature is to dissociate tonal harmony deliberately: Modern music, Serial music, atonal Music, random Music, Concrete music, etc the technical processes of the erudite music - notation, harmony, organology, etc - is preserved and applied to others standard of music, sometimes even, with the nonWestern types.
At the beginning of the 20th century, within the black populations of the the United States, is born the Jazz, of a combination of Christian hymns - Negro-spiritual S, then gospel songs - of Blues and rates/rhythms of African origin. This Musical genre, which grants a greater place to the improvisation and with the rate/rhythm will exert a very great influence on the contemporary musical currents of the whole world - the musics known as “popular”, but also, erudite music.
The term “popular musics” gathers in fact a very great number of currents which are neither “traditional”, neither “jazz”, nor “traditional”: Song, java, Music of varieties, pop, Rap, Reggae, Rock'n'roll, Rock'n'roll, Tango, Salsa, Drunk, Waltz haversack, etc Certains appeared well before the jazz, but most recent are interbreedings of kinds and cultures which preceded them. All use the contributions of the Classical music - tonal or modal -, and sometimes those of various nonWestern musics.
The traditional musics - Celtic Flamenco, , etc - coexist and often precede the currents and the kinds described above. They are characterized by an acculturation with a soil or an identified civilization, by a primarily oral transmission, an old tradition, and sometimes by a rejection of the elitism associated with the erudite music. Because of their simplicity connect , these musics seem often easy access to the experienced musicians, although a thorough study can reveal complex structures and a variety of kinds similar to that which is up to all the tricks erudite. By the play of the exchanges, they influenced authors of classical music - for example, Dvořák or Moussorgski - but are subject to in return the influence of the erudite music.
Folklore or tradition ? The term of folk music was at the 19th century Synonyme with traditional music . Today, the term is in charge of a condescending connotation even pejorative; also this synonymy is usually challenged by the traditional musicians in the search of a certain authenticity in their musical practice. The latter estimate indeed that the music described as folk is a more or less edulcorated version of a traditional current recovered by the uses of the erudite music, and that consequently, it must be regarded as a kind with share, an hybrid of traditional music and Classical music. In many cases, it is however difficult to distinguish “tradition” and “folklore”, either because the music known as “folk” at the time of the Collectage was transcribed in the respect of the tradition, or that the sources disappeared, or that the “folk” music gave itself birth to a new tradition. In the same way, as it is called folk or traditional, this music is in constant evolution. One can quote for example the striking down evolution of the Irish traditional Musique and even the creation of new musical genres like the Celtic Musique, containing various traditional musics of the west of Europe.
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