A Brief History of Music

Music is all around us. It comes in every form, in every language, from everywhere. It’s one of the most versatile and varied forms of expression to exist. But where did music come from?

The simple answer is that music, or a primitive version of music, has always existed. But the music we know today is very different to that. This is because, even in early music, different cultures affected the way music grew and changed. Some examples include Native American music, and Australian Aboriginal music, two very similar but very different styles of music. Mostly played on drums or other simple instruments, the styles are quite distinct, and easy to tell apart, but if you listen closer, you’ll find there are many similarities to contemporary music.

Many hundreds of years later, music had changed significantly. Most music was in the forms of hymns and mantras, from most religions across the world. Still, music varied wildly between cultures and religions, due to differences in the music they stemmed from. These hymns were the first music to be officially recorded, and this is the reason we still have access to them today.



Fast-forward to the 1600s, and we arrive at classical music. With the invention of new instruments, music had progressed from simplistic to something more elaborate. Classical composers had the advantage of a wider range of sounds to work with, and so the change in style occurred. The key features of classical music include orchestral instruments, long pieces of complex music, and often, a section of music played by strings.

Moving into the 1950s, music had changed form yet again, this time into a style everyone knows about – rock and roll. These new songs could be recorded and transferred onto vinyl discs, thanks to important advances in technology. The songs had gone from long symphonies to shorter, three to five minute songs, with a fast tempo and energetic lyrics. This is where modern music evolved from, and the similarities are obvious now.



Modern music is difficult to define, due to the sheer range of different styles. With new streaming services such as Spotify, it’s easier than ever before to share music globally, and this leads to a diversity that it would otherwise be impossible to replicate. Music from everywhere is now readily accessible to anyone who wants to listen. And, with new synthesizers, music has become something else entirely, and it will continue to develop into the future.


So that’s where music comes from, and how it became what it is today – summarized.


By Isobelle Milton-Forsyth

Images courtesy of Spencer Imbrock, Omid Armin, and Manuel Nageli @unsplash.com

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