The Horrifying History of Classical Music

A look at the dark and often terrifying underbelly of classical music. From cannibalistic composers to homicidal violinists, this blog will explore the horror stories of classical music.

The Early Days

Classical music has a long and tortured history, full of blood, death, and disease. It’s a story of greed, power, and passion, of political intrigue and personal rivalry. In the early days, classical music was anything but peaceful and serene.

The first composers

The first composers were unsurprisingly the clergy, and the first notation systems were developed for the purpose of religious music. The earliest known pieces of written music date from the 9th century, and are chants (monophonic pieces with only a single melodic line) used by monks. These were not intended to be performed by a large group, but rather memorized and sung by an individual or small group within the monastery.

The first instruments

The first instruments were probably noises made by animals and humans. Hitting hard objects together, banging rocks on tree trunks, blowing through hollow reeds, and scraping sticks along the ground all made sounds that may have had special meaning. These noises gradually became music as people learned to control the pitch, rhythm, and timbre of the sounds they made.

The Dark Ages

Classical music, as we know it, didn’t exist until around the 11th or 12th century. What preceded it was a period of time known as the Dark Ages. This was a time of great turmoil and upheaval in Europe. There was very little music written down during this time and what little there was, was mostly lost.

The fall of the Roman Empire

The Roman Empire fell in 476 AD, and with it, so too fell classical music—or at least, that’s what most people think. In reality, though, the fall of Rome was just the beginning of a long and dark period for classical music.

The Dark Ages were characterized by political instability, economic decline, and a general deterioration of cultural life. For music, this meant a marked decline in the quality and quantity of works being composed. Fewer people had the time or money to devote to music, and those who did often had very different tastes than their predecessors.

One of the few bright spots during this time was the development of Gregorian chant, a form of religious singing that is still performed today. But even this positive development had a dark side: as Christian churches became more powerful, they began to suppress other forms of music, most notably pagan music and various folk traditions.

It wasn’t until the Renaissance that classical music began to recover from its Dark Age slump. But even then, it would be centuries before the genre regained its former glory.

The rise of the Church

During the Dark Ages, the Catholic Church rose to power and had a major influence on classical music. The Church became the main patron of music, commissioning works for churches, ceremonies, and religious events. Many of the most famous classical composers were employed by the Church, and they composed some of their most famous works for Church events.

The Church also regulated what kinds of music could be composed and performed. In particular, they prohibited the use of certain instruments and genres that they deemed to be too worldly or secular. This had a major impact on the development of classical music, as many popular genres and instruments were effectively banned.

Despite the restrictions imposed by the Church, some classical composers managed to produce truly masterful works of art. Many of these works have stood the test of time and are still performed and admired today.

The Renaissance

The word “Renaissance” is French for “rebirth.” The Renaissance was a period of time in Europe where there was a revival of learning. This period saw a renewed interest in the arts, culture, and science. The Renaissance began in the early 14th century and ended in the late 16th century.

The rediscovery of ancient music

In the early 1400s, a French cardinal travelling through Germany came across some strange-looking musical instruments in a monastery. They were unlike anything he had seen before, and he was so intrigued that he had them shipped back to France.

The cardinal was not the only one interested in these weird and wonderful instruments. Around the same time, a German scholar called Johannes Gutenberg was developing a new printing press, which would allow books and music to be mass-produced for the first time.

One of the first books to be printed was a collection of ancient Greek music. The composer Guillaume Dufay was so excited by this that he decided to write his own music in the same style. This marked the beginning of the Renaissance, a period of great creativity in art and music.

During the Renaissance, composers began to rediscover the lost art of polyphony (multi-part harmony). This had been used extensively by medieval composers, but it fell out of favour during the 14th century. The rediscovery of polyphony led to a whole new style of music, which is now known as Renaissance polyphony.

The invention of new instruments

In the Renaissance, many new instruments were invented. The lute, for instance, was invented in the 14th century. The recorder was invented in the 15th century, and the viola da gamba in the 16th century. New kinds of brass and wind instruments were also developed during this time period.

The Baroque Era

Music from the Baroque era is characterized by its ornate and dramatic style. This was a time when composers were starting to experiment with new ways to create and communicate emotion in their music. Many of the pieces from this era are still performed today and are some of the most well-known classical pieces.

The birth of opera

The earliest operas, which were called “intermedii” and were performed between the acts of spoken plays, date back to the late 1500s. One of the first, and most important, operators was Jacopo Peri, who composed “Euridice,” widely considered to be the first opera, in 1597. Opera quickly became popular in Florence and Rome, and soon spread throughout Italy. The form began to change in the early 1600s, becoming more dramatic and using recitative, a style of singing that was halfway between speaking and singing and helped advance the plot. Around this time, opera began to move away from its roots in religious stories towards more secular ones. This new style of opera was called “opera seria,” or serious opera.

The rise of the virtuoso

The early 1700s saw the rise of the virtuoso—a musician who, because of their exceptional skill, was able to performing complex pieces that ordinary musicians couldn’t. This period also saw the rise of public concerts, where people would come to listen to music performed by these virtuosos.

While the virtuosos were able to show off their skills in these public concerts, they also popularized a new style of music that was much more emotional and dramatic than anything that had come before. This style came to be known as the Baroque period, and it’s characterized by its ornate melodies, complex harmonies, and use of contrapuntal techniques.

Some of the most famous composers of the Baroque period include Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, and Claudio Monteverdi. The Baroque period saw a renewed interest in Ancient Greek culture, which spurred a revival of interest in the works of Aristotle and Plato. This led to a new wave of scholarship on subjects like music theory and philosophy.

The Classical Era

The Classical Era of classical music was a time of great innovation and grandiose music. It was a time when composers were influenced by the greats such as Bach and Beethoven. The Classical Era was also a time when classical music was at its most popular with the general public.

The age of reason

Classical music is often seen as the embodiment of Western high culture. It is prized for its complex harmonies, beautiful melodies, and lively rhythms. But classical music has a dark side too. Its history is full of stories of rivalry, betrayal, and murder.

The Classical era was a time of great change in music. Composers were breaking away from the traditional forms of the Baroque era, experimenting with new melodic and harmonic ideas. Theresult was some of the most beautiful and moving music ever written. But not everyone was happy with the new direction that music was taking.

One of the most famous feuds in musical history began during this time. Antonio Salieri was one of the leading composers of his day, but he became obsessed with the young Mozart, who he saw as a talentless usurper. Salieri plotted against Mozart, spreading rumors that he was a vulgar drunkard who slept with prostitutes. He even tried to sabotage one of Mozart’s operas by getting a rival composer to write a negative review of it. But in the end, it was Salieri who lost his mind, not Mozart. He spent the last years of his life in an insane asylum, raving about how he had poisoned Mozart with envy.

The Classical era was also a time when women were beginning to make their mark on music. One of the most famous composer’sof the time was Maria Theresa von Paradis, who wrote beautiful piano pieces and sang like an angel. But she was hiding a dark secret – she was blind. Von Paradis refused to let her disability stop her from doing what she loved, but she always felt like an outsider in the world of music. She eventually gave up composing altogether and retreated into a life of seclusion.

The stories of these composers show that even in its earliest days, classical music could be a cut-throat business. But it also shows that there has always been room for innovation and experimentation in this most traditional of genres.

The age of Napoleon

The Classical period saw the creations of both the Symphony and Opera. It was during this time that the piano truly came into its own as a leading instrument in classical music, as it is today. The period is generally said to have begun around 1750 and ended around 1830, although some scholars extend the beginning date back to 1685, when France’s King Louis XIV founded the Royal Academy of Music, and the end date to 1835, when Italian composer and educator Gioachino Rossini wrote his last great opera.

The Classical period was one of great change in music. The systematic development of tonality–the notes of a scale related to each other by fixed intervals–by such composers as Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart created new possibilities for melody, harmony, and expressive contrasts. The invention of instruments such as the metronome and tuning fork around the turn of the nineteenth century allowed for greater control over pitch and rhythm, further expanding the composer’s palette. And advances in music notation made it possible to write down ever more complex works, ensuring their survival for future generations.

The Romantic Era

The Romantic era was a time of great upheaval and change. Classical music was still the dominant form, but it was being challenged by a new genre: romantic music. This new music was characterized by its emotional intensity and its emphasis on personal expression. It was also often quite dramatic, and it sometimes pushed the boundaries of good taste.

The rise of the symphony

The Romantic Era was without a doubt one of the most important periods in classical music history. It was during this time that the symphony as we know it today began to take shape, and some of the most famous symphonies ever written were composed during this era. But while the Romantic Era gave us some of the most beautiful music ever written, it was also a time when some truly horrifying things happened in the world of classical music. Here are just a few of the most terrifying stories from this dark period in musical history.

The age of the virtuoso

In the early 1800s, a new type of musician began to emerge: the virtuoso. Virtuosi were instrumentalists or singers who were so skilled at their art that they could perform complex works that had previously been considered unplayable. They were often celebrities in their own right, and their concerts were thrilling events.

The most famous virtuosi were often men, but there were some women who managed to make a name for themselves in this male-dominated world. One of the most famous was Maria Malibran, a soprano who was known for her dramatic performances and her died-too-young lifestyle. She was one of the first singers to regularly command fees of $1000 or more per concert, and she was also one of the first classical musicians to have her own line of branded merchandise.

The age of the virtuoso was an exciting time for classical music, but it had its darker side as well. The competitive atmosphere among musicians could be cutthroat, and young women like Maria Malibran were often taken advantage of by older, more established stars. The pressure to live up to one’s reputation could be overwhelming, and many virtuosos ultimately succumbed to mental or physical illness as a result.

The Modern Era

Classical music, like any other genre, has its share of horrifying history. The modern era is no different, with its own set of composers who have been known to cross the line. Here are some of the most horrifying moments in classical music history.

The birth of jazz

Though its exact origins are unknown, jazz emerged at the turn of the 20th century in New Orleans, a city with a unique mix of cultures. African Americans had been brought there as slaves, and their music—including work songs, spirituals, and the blues—was infused with African rhythms and sounds. Meanwhile, European Americans brought over their own styles of music, like ragtime and Dixieland. Jazz was a blend of all these influences.

The earliest jazz musicians were often playing in marching bands or in brothels (places where prostitution was legal). They improvised—made up their own melodies and changes to songs on the spot—because sheet music didn’t always reflect how they wanted to play. This spontaneity was a key part of jazz and helped set it apart from other genres.

Jazz soon spread from New Orleans to other parts of the country, especially Chicago and New York City. By the 1920s, jazz was becoming popular all over the world. Some people thought it was revolutionary; others considered it evil. But there was no denying that jazz was here to stay.

The age of the avant-garde

The 20th century was an age of progress and experimentation in all walks of life, and classical music was no exception. In the early years of the century, composers began to experiment with new harmonic (= new ways of using chords) and melodic (= new ways of using notes) ideas which had a profound effect on the sound of classical music. This period is sometimes known as the “modern” or “avant-garde” era.

One of the most famous composers from this period is Arnold Schoenberg, who developed a new technique called “atonality”. This involved writing music which wasn’t based around a central “key”, making it sound very different from traditional classical music. Schoenberg’s approach was controversial, and many composers (including some of his own students) took it in different directions.

The Second Viennese School, which included composers such as Alban Berg and Anton Webern, took atonality even further, developing highly complex musical textures and harmonies. This style became known as “serialism”, because the composers often used mathematical systems to control every aspect of their pieces.

In the mid-20th century, composers began to explore more lyrical, emotional styles of music again. This is sometimes referred to as the “neo-romantic” era, and includes British composers such as Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett. These composers often used elements of folk music and popular culture in their works, giving them a much more approachable sound than the atonal music of the earlier part of the century.

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