The History of Music

This week I’ve been feeling an impending case of brain rot.  To try and stave this off, I dug some of my theory and music history texts from college.  Nothing too heavy, but a little reading might refresh some of those ideas that are starting to get a little vague.  The book The Development of Western Music by K. Marie Stolba serves as a nice corner stone for basic music history research.  When I say basic, I mean that it covers from pre-history up to about the mid-1990s.  So what does it have to say about the history of music?



The origins of music have been lost to time.  Scientists say that is can be found in space.  Ethnomusicologists can show that the most primitive tribes had it.  Peoples such as the Hebrews have music rooted in their holy scriptures. 


The noun Music is rooted in the Greek word Muse.  A muse was one of 9 goddesses who presided over song, art, literature and science.  Apollo was the guardian of the muses and therefore a god of ‘music.’  The Greek pantheon had many deities that were credited with the development of various musical instruments. 

apollo       Apollo with his lyre.    muses Greek Muses

Mythology, legend and ancient cultures are all credited with influencing the development of western music.

If you have any interest in neuroscience and art/music, you need to check out  This site has loads of interesting articles and great pictures. 

One of my college professors spent time talking about the various relationships of the harmonies and intervals in the universe.  Here is an article that briefly explains some of the ideas.

They Came to Play

Did you know that the Van Cliburn Piano Competition has an amateur division?  The International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs is held in Fort Worth, Texas.  Participants are all over the age of 35 and are nonprofessional pianists.  These musicians hold jobs ranging from physicists to former professional tennis player and even a few doctors. 


Netflix currently has They Came to Play available on streaming.  I highly recommend you add this to your queue. 



Thoughts from and about Franz Liszt

One of my favorite musical reference books is Famous Pianists and Their Technique by Reginald Gerig.  Gerig distills the wisdom of the great performers and composers into a manageable text that benefits the serious amateur and the professional musician.


Chapter 10 is titled Liszt and the Virtuoso Technique.  Below you will find a few quotes from this chapter.


liszt          liszt


“By 1832, (age 21) Liszt had mastered all of the Beethoven sonatas; but when he programmed them, he dared not give the composer’s name because Beethoven was considered dull during the years immediately following his death.”


“Liszt was the first to play complete programs by himself and the first to perform from memory.”


Anton Rubenstein said about Liszt “…in comparison with Liszt all other pianists were children.”


“Have patience with yourself,” Liszt said. “Your future is ahead of you.  Rome was not built in one day.”

Organizational Project

As many of you know, I tend to be an organizational freak.  Keeping up with music can be a challenging task.  Occasionally, I loan music to students while waiting for their books to be ordered.  I’ve also noticed that students are forever ripping the covers off of their method and theory books.  That can create a problem if their name was written in the cover.  Next thing I know a student has left their music and I have no idea who to call to come and collect it.


These minor issues can be avoided by writing the owners name in 2 different places in the book.  I usually write my name on the first page that is attached to the spine of the book.  This way if the cover rips off the name is still in the front.  The second place is that I pick a page number that means something to me and write my name on that page also.  For example, my birthday is on the 23rd so I will write my name on page 23 also. 


Music books are expensive and some are hard to come by so keeping track of them starts with knowing who they belong to.  This is just a little project that could be undertaken to begin keeping your music more organized.  Well, this is only a little project if you don’t own 3 bookcases of music.  I may need a stamp with my name on it before this is over.