Music History: Creating The Rule Book and Throwing It Out

Kids who appreciate and understand the world they live in do better in life. Our kids will form a strong sense of identity, express more empathy toward others, and appreciate diversity when they understand culture and history. 

This week, I am teaching about the four significant periods of modern music history. Modern music starts around the year 1600 and continues until now. In my last post, I discussed the characteristics of the Baroque and Classical era, and today, I will help you understand the previous 200 years of music.

The Romantic Period:

The romantic period of music history starts around the year 1820 and lasted 90 years. Music from this time is known for its extremes. Orchestras got larger, symphonies became longer, emotions grew bigger, quiet sections got quieter, and loud parts of the music became even louder. Music from the romantic era is frequently easy to enjoy today because we use many of its rules today for popular orchestra music and movies.

There are a few composers that stand out. The first is Beethoven. He was a prominent musician in the classical era but helped music transition to the emotionally charged romantic period. A couple of his later works stand out in this way. I have included the final movement from his ninth symphony, which consists of the well-known Ode To Joy. When listening, help your kids realize how stormy the first notes are and contrast them to the beauty of the melody when the singers enter. In this, you can hear the broad changes of emotion that take place in romantic era music. I have also included a movement from his C-sharp minor string quartet. This is one of my favorites, if not the favorite work of all Beethoven’s compositions. 

Another great composer from this era was Johannes Brahms. I’ve included the first movement to his first symphony. All I have to say is it’s dramatic.

Finally, I am including a piano concerto by Claira Schumann, one of the most prominent female composers before the 1900s. For hundreds of years before Claira Schumann, women enjoyed careers as musicians, but Schumann is one of the first female composers who rose to fame as a composer. Another notable female composer during the 1800s was Fanny Mendelssohn, although many of her works were attributed to her brother, Felix Mendelssohn. 

Modern Period:

The modern era is the last period of music to discover. This period starts around 1911 and continues through today. It is challenging to create a list of characteristics because so much was happening at the same time. One common element is that the rules of music were completely changed or even thrown out. Composer Arnold Schoenberg did this first, and I’ve included a short piano piece he wrote. You’ll probably think it is very chaotic and the notes don’t sound like they go together. If so, you’re right because that is what he wanted. On the other hand, maybe you’ll like it. Either way, it is only 25 seconds. 

Another piece that sounds almost as harsh but more organized is the Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky. This was a ballet premiered in Paris in 1913. It was written over 100 years ago, but still sounds modern to ears.

Finally, I’ve included a work by contemporary composer John Adams titled, “A Short Ride In A Fast Machine.” John Adams uses rhythm as the primary means of propelling the music forward and creates an enjoyable story along the way.

This week was a short ride through history, and I hope you appreciate each of these pieces for what they are, a glance back in time helping us understand how people once enjoyed music and embraced life and culture.

Leave some comments below and let me know how you and your kids react to this music. Also, be sure to share this post with your friends. You are teaching your kids more than you know by helping them listen to classical music.

Next week, I will start taking you around the globe to explore how classical music is expressed through particular cultures. Be sure to follow M3 Creative Academy on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube so you’ll be notified when new content is available. Also, sign up for my email list on my website, and new posts will be delivered to your inbox.