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Music Through The Centuries

"After thirty-five years of research, I discovered that within the European classical music tradition, each century has its own unique expression in its music. In 2005, I wrote "Music Through the Centuries" to document this fact, and I published it online, on"


Music Through the Centuries
by Don Robertson

The goal of the book is to show: 1) How each century began developing a particular musical style at the beginning of the century to find it fully perfected at the end. 2) That great music awaits in still largely undiscovered centuries. 3) How great music exists in other classical music traditions.

This is how I classify each century:

16th Century: "Spirit" - Beginning with the sublime melodies of Josquin Des Prez and culminating with a high spiritual plateau that was reached toward the end of the century with the works of composers such as Palestrina, Gabrieli, and Victoria. This is one of two "forgotten" centuries.

17th Century: "Physical" - In 1600, a spark entered the flowing consonant harmonies of 16th century music and opera and classical songs were born, and sacred music came alive with life force. This is the other forgotten century. Among its great composers are Buxtehude, Monteverdi, Colonna, Viadana, Torelli and Cazzati,

18th Century: "Mind" - I didn't fully understand the classical music of the 18th century until I realized that this was the century of mind, and then it all became clear. This was the century where all the forms where born and developed. The beginning of the century finds Corelli establishing the new major and minor system of tonality. J.S. Bach then brought us perfection in all of the old forms. Finally we have the forms perfected by Mozart and Haydn at the end of the century: the sonata, rondo and concerto forms.

19th Century: "Heart" - Emotions pour into the forms that were perfected during the preceding century. Beethoven's new music opens the heart and the door to an incredible outflow of beautiful music from dozens of composers. A spiritual plateau was reached in the 1880s with the music of Richard Wagner and César Franck.

20th Century: "Dissolution"
- The century of destruction where it all came apart. This is the last century in a cycle that begins again in the 21st. Darkness appeared in music and this music spread to much of the world's population through movies and television.

21st Century: "Rebirth" - The 21st is the beginning of a whole new cycle - Here we, the composers and artists, get to play in a sandbox filled with knowledge from the previous centuries, other cultures, plus our own heaven-sent inspiration. 21st century art pours heart and spirit into the great communication invention of the 20th century: the internet.

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