Backstory (It's important, I promise!)
While the origins of music are generally unknown, the oldest known song in the historical record was written in Ancient Syria about 3400 years ago on clay tablets, and was polyphonic (composed for more than one singer or instrumentalist to play different parts of the music at the same time).
Every culture on Earth creates music, using it in celebration, mourning, teaching, and for enjoyment. Over the last few thousand years, people have organized pitches into various different scales, modes, and rhythms, and have used different instrumentation. With the invention of new instruments come new music written for those instruments. The most common types of instrument classifications are strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion.
Modern Music (OK, We're Getting There)
Music has developed over thousands of years and many iterations of instruments. The more types or families of instruments used in one song, the more complex rhythms, the quicker the pace, and the more dynamic (volume) contrast, the more breadth and energy that song has the potential for. For instance, the "rhythm section" as we know it (commonly piano, drums, and bass) consists of a stringed and percussive group of instruments that provide the drone over which the melody instrument plays. This has become a very popular combination of instruments because of it's range.
What That Means (The Good Stuff!)
Remember how we talked about how every culture creates music for different purposes? It's incredibly important to match the energy of the event with the music. It would probably be super confusing to hear a triumphant march during a Christening service, or a funeral march at a football game. This confusion is caused by the energy discrepancy. Because music so powerfully affects emotion, it's important to use it to complement the desired energy of an event.
“Music is the shorthand of emotion.”
― Leo Tolstoy
Compositions Are a Reflection of Their Time
Formal events tend to favor music written between 1700-1900.
Upbeat parties today tend to favor music written after 1940.
Music commonly used for events today were composed from around 1700-Present, simply because that's when the "rules" of music composition were established (it's one of the things that made Bach so famous). As society has transformed, the music throughout history has developed to reflect these changes. Formal events for example, where decorum and specific, regimented behavior is expected, tend to find music written between 1700-1900 more appropriate since the musical structure reflects the decorum and regimented behavior of the time during which they were written. Upbeat parties today tend to favor music written after 1940.
The turn of the 20th century saw strong societal shifts, and a new form of music emerged: Jazz. Implementing poly-rhythms and polyphonic structure, heavy improvisation, and taking inspiration from earlier forms of music, this led to the development of other popular genres such as Hip-Hop and Rock. And those musical genres are themselves drawing inspiration from the genres that came before! Did you know that the chord progression for Pachelbel’s Canon in D (I – V – VI – III – IV – I – IV – V) is surprisingly common in rock music?
Music is an incredible feedback loop:
it encapsulates characteristics of the time during which it was written
it affects the emotions of the listener in real time
it inspires the development of new and different genres which:
encapsulate characteristics of the time during which it was written
affect the emotions...
So you're planning an event and you need music. What does this all mean to you, anyway?
It's important to work with a professional musician and discuss the details of your event. Everything from the flow, to the purpose of the event, the duration, size of the guest list, and the mood you want to set will guide the musician to the appropriate musical selections for your event.
Christie Becker is a professional violinist and owner of Christie Becker Violin, where she specializes in setting the tone for her client's perfect memories. For more information, or to work with Christie on your unique event, visit:
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