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The Opera and Classical Music Blog - Extras
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On this page, you'll find more fun facts on classical and opera music, composers, and a lot more.
Classical Music Dictionary
Find everything you need to know about music right here!

Musical instrument: An instrument designed to make musical sounds.

Groups of instruments:

Strings:
These are instruments that play music off of vibrating strings, usually when played with a bow, strummed, or plucked. Stringed instruments have dated back to ancient Mesopotamia and have been played since. They are usually made of wood, but nowadays you may see some electric ones.
Instruments include: the violin, cello, viola, guitar, harp, lute, and more.

Woodwinds:
These are instruments that you can blow through and they'll make musical noises. The two instruments in this category are flutes and reed instruments. Flutes are operated by blowing across the edge of an open hole. Reed instruments are operated by using a reed, which vibrates and agitates the column of air, causing musical noises. Woodwinds were one of the first instruments around, and instruments include the flute, piccolo, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, saxophone, bagpipes, recorder, and more.

Brass:
Brass instruments are, well, made of brass! They make sound mainly by sympathetic vibration of air in sync with the vibrations of the player's lips. They are also called labrosones (English:Lip-vibrated instruments) and in order to change notes, pitch, and harmony, they come with slides, crooks, valves, or keys (depending on the instrument, of course). Composer Richard Wagner is well known for his wonderful use of the brass instruments in his pieces and operas, and he even invented some of the instruments himself. Some woodwind instruments are made of brass (like the saxophone). Brass instruments include the trumpet, tuba, euphonium, trombone, various kinds of horns, the Wagner tuba (invented by Richard Wagner, of course), and more.

Voice type: A certain human singing voice that has various qualities to it (e.g. vocal range) that usually only other singing voices of that type have. There are seven main voice types in opera.

Voice types:

Soprano:
Highest of the voice types and arguably the most commonly seen female one (since the main female characters in operas are mostly sopranos). The average range of soprano's voice is usually from middle C (AKA C4) to high C (also known as C6), but at the very most a few soprano roles have the soprano sing F6 (the F note over the high C).

Mezzo-soprano:
The middle female voice type that thus lies in between soprano and contralto. The average range of the mezzo-soprano's voice is usually from the A below middle C to the A located two octaves higher. Some mezzo-soprano roles are known, however, for going as low as the F below middle C and/or as high as high C (C6).

Contralto:
The lowest of the female voice types; the typical range is from the F below middle C to the F located two octaves higher. Sometimes mezzo-sopranos, however, take the place of contraltos in various roles. Since there aren't that many contralto roles, contraltos (and sometimes mezzo-sopranos) often end up taking on "trouser roles" (in other words, they play as a male character).

Countertenor:
The highest of the male voice types; countertenors sing in about the same range as sopranos do and sing in the falsetto register. Countertenors are generally rare, and most countertenor roles are in baroque operas. Sometimes countertenors are referred to as really high tenors or sopranists (male sopranos).

Tenor:
The second highest of the male voice types. Their voice range lies from one octave below middle C (C3) to one octave above middle C (C5).The very lowest a tenor can sing is the second B flat below middle C and the very highest is the second F above middle C.

Baritone:
Lying in between the tenor and the bass, the baritone's normal range is from the second A below middle C to the A above middle C. The baritone is also the most common male voice, and, like all the other voice types, it has subcategories (but we will only delve into the most common baritone-and bass-subcategory). The most commonly seen subcategory is the bass-baritone, which is in between a baritone and a bass.

Bass:
The bass is the lowest voice type, and its normal range is from the second E below middle C to the E above middle C. At the very lowest, a bass can sing the C2 (two octaves below middle C) note, and at the very highest he can sing the G above middle C. It shares a subcategory with the baritone: The bass-baritone.
Classical Music Timeline
HOW long has music been around?!? Music's been around since...forever. But when did classical music truly begin? Find out here!

Medieval (5th-15th century)



After the fall of the Roman Empire, things started to change drastically. At the time, the Catholic Church was the center of everything, including music. Music during the medieval era was basic. It didn't have as much feeling or tune and was mostly monophonic. The majority of medieval music was religious music and Gregorian chanting. Gregorian chanting was mostly learned by ear and written down.It was sung primarily in Latin, the language of the day. Not everything was sacred, though. There was quite a bit of village music as well.
Instruments:The psaltery, the dulcimer, the hurdy-gurdy, the viol, the flute, the pipe, the shawn, drums, and much more.
Notable Composers:
Hildegard von Bingen- When mentioning medieval music, Hildegard is often the first composer mentioned. Hildegard was born in 1098 in Bermershiem, Germany. Hildegard was a nun, and other than being a composer, she was an author, counselor, linguist, naturalist, scientist, philosopher, physican, herbalist, poet, chenneller, and visionary. In 1136, she was elected magistra by her fellow nuns and founded 2 monastaries: Rupertsberg in 1150 and Eibingen in 1165. Hildegard wrote many pieces, and her most famous one is "Ordo Vitutum". Hildegard died on September 17, 1179, in Rupertsberg Germany.

Moniot d'Arras- Moniot d'Arras was a French composer. He was a monk in the abbey of Arras, France. All of his songs were monophonic songs in the style of courtly love and pastoral romance. He also wrote religious songs. Out of his songs, only 15 of his secular songs and 2 of his religious songs remain. His most famous work is "Ce fut en mai".

Adam de la Halle- Adam de la Halle, AKA Adam le Bossu (translated to "Adam the Hunchback") was born in between 1245-1250 in Arras, France. He was a French-born trouvere, poet, and musician who did not write religious music, but was possibly one of the first founders of secular theater in France.

Guillaume de Machaut-
An important French composer as well as poet, Machaut was born in 1300 in Rheims, France. He is one of the earliest composers who has significant biographical imformation. Machaut was considered "the last great poet who was also a composer", and his works were greatly admired and imitated in the 15th century by many poets. Machaut died on April 13, 1377 in Rheims.

Guido d'Arezzo- Guido was born in 995 (AD) in Paris, France. In 1025 he traveled to Arezzo, Italy, where he worked for Bishop Theobald. When he arrived in Italy, Guido discovered a new form of music notation. The new system replaced letters with notes and would be written on 4 parallel lines. Guido came up with many more theories, and though he was not a composer, Guido was a major contributor to music. He died in 1050.
Renaissance Music (1400-1600)



The Renaissance, meaning "rebirth", was a time of change. During the Renaissance, people became interested in Ancient Greece and Rome, and especially learning. Science and the arts flourished, and exploration was becoming immensely popular. Thanks to the invention of the printing press, music would be written down and preserved for years to come. Big changes in the Church happened too. New religions were being formed, and not everything was centered around the Catholic Church, like it was during the medieval era. This meant more musical freedom instead of strictly religious. Polyphonic music evolved, replacing plain monophonic. Timing in music also came to be, and music for all purposes was created, from courtly dances, to galliards to sheer enjoyment. Music had definitely taken a turn during the Renaissance.

Instruments: the lute (incredibly popular during the Renaissance), the recorder, the shawm, the crumhorn, the cornett, the viol, and the harpsichord.

Notable Composers:

Thomas Tallis- Thomas Tallis was an English composer born in 1510. Tallis was a church musician, and is considered one of the best early church composers. Tallis was served under 4 monarchs and was treated well. He was even granted special permission from Queen Elizabeth I to use the printing press to publish his music. Tallis composed many styles of music, but mostly wrote music for choir. Tallis died in 1585.

William Byrd- Byrd is considered perhaps the greatest English composer of all time. With over 100 compositions, Byrd wrote every style of music and mastered it. William Byrd is thought of as the first "genius" of the keyboard. He was born in 1543 and died in 1623 at age 70.


John Dowland- John Dowland was a composer, lutenist, and singer. Dowland was born in 1563 in London, England. Many works of his are pieces for lute. Among his many works are "Flow My Tears", "Come Again", and "I Saw My Lady Weepe". John Dowland died in 1626 in London.

Giovanni Gabrieli- Giovanni Gabrieli was a composer who bridged Renaissance music with Baroque music. Gabrieli was born in 1553 and lived until 1612. He preferred to write religious works, and was able to create extraordinary musical effects by the layout of the San Marco Church. Gabrieli precisely planned and created the use of antiphone, a choir or group of instruments first heard on the left side, followed by the other choir or group of instruments on the right.
Baroque Music (1600-1750)



To put it simply, baroque means "elaborated". The word fits-everything was grand and overly done during the Baroque era, from architecture to art and music. The development of counterpoint, in which different melodic lines were blended into a composition, was a new style used in many pieces. Composers in the Baroque era had to write their music a certain way, an unusual enforcement. The baroque era saw many musical accomplishments, such as the sonata, suite, and concerto grosso. Most Baroque pieces uses continuo, or an accompanying part.

Instruments: Many new instruments were invented during the Baroque period, including the violin, viola, cello, double bass, trumpet, horn, suckbut, recorder, flute, oboe, bassoon, and especially the harpsichord.

Notable Composers:

Johann Sebastian Bach- Bach is often referred to as the father figure of all music, and indeed, Bach was truly a musical master. Bach was an excellent keyboard and organ player, and an excellent composer all around, composing for almost any instrument in any popular baroque style. Bach was born on March 21, 1685 in Eisenhach, Germany and died on July 28th, 1750 in Leipzig. Bach had many sons, most becoming composers. Some of Bach's most notable works include Air on the G, Double Violin Concerto, The Well-Tempered Clavier, St. Matthew Passion, and much more.

George Frideric Handel- Yet another notable composer during the baroque era and in all of music history, Handel was born in 1685 in Halle, Germany. Handel eventually moved to England and became a citizen there. Handel is famous for his oratorios, operas, organ concertos, and, like Bach, wrote all different styles of music. Handel died on April 14, 1759, in London. Among his famous works is the oratorio The Messiah, Music for the Royal Fireworks, Water Music, and much more.

Antonio Vivaldi- Vivaldi was born on March 4, 1678 in Venice, Italy. Before becoming a composer, Vivaldi was a priest. He was often called "the red priest" because he wore red robes. Eventually, Vivaldi chose to follow his passion for music. During his time as a composer, Vivaldi wrote over 500 concertos and is believed to have invented ritornello, a theme playing throughout a piece. Vivaldi died on July 28, 1741 in Vienna, Austria. His famous works include The Four Seasons, Gloria,Stabat major dolorosa, Con Alla Rustica in G, and more.


Georg Philipp Telemann- Telemann was born in March 14, 1681. Telemann was a distinguished composer as well as musician during his time. It's no wonder, as Telemann was a good friend of Handel and Bach. Telemann's unusual instrumentation in his concertos is what made him a unique composer. He died on June 25, 1767 in Hamburg, Germany. Some of Telemann's popular works include Viola Concerto in G, Trio Sonata in C minor, and the Paris Quartets.

Arcangelo Corelli- Corelli was born on February 17, 1653 in Fusignano, Italy. He was a composer, as well as teacher and violinist. Corelli's mastery of the tone of the violin, new at the time, earned him great praise from all around Europe. He is credited as the first person to come up with the basic violin technique. Corelli died on January 8, 1713 in Rome, Italy. Famous works of Corelli include Concerto Grossi, Christmas Concerto, and Sonata de camera in D minor.

Henry Purcell- Henry Purcell was born on September 10, 1659, in Westminster, England. He was considered England's greatest at the time, as well as the most original composer. Purcell was talented with word-setting and composed successful works for stage. He died on November 21, 1695 in Westminster, England at only 35 years old. Famous works include Dido and Aeneas, The Fairy Queen, and Sound the Trumpet.

Domenico Scarlatti- Darmenico Scarlatti was born on October 26, 1685 in Naples, Italy. He was the son of Alessandro Scarlatti, another well-known composer. Domenico wrote 555 known harpsichord sonatas, half of them being written in the last few years of his life. Domenico spent much of his life in the service of Spanish and Portuguese royal families, and included many Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian dance rhythms in his music. He died on July 23, 1757 in Madrid, Spain. Famous works of Domenico include Essercizi per Gravicembalo (sonatas for harpsichord) and more.

Johann Pachelbel- Pachelbel was born in 1653 in Nuremburg, Germany. Pachelbel taught Johann Christoph Bach (Johann Sebastian's older brother) music. Johann Sebastian greatly admired Pachelbel's works, according to his older brother. In fact, Pachelbel's music is said to have been quite similar to Johann Sebastian Bach's works. Pachelbel died on March 3, 1706 in Nuremberg, Germany. His famous works include Canon in D, otherwise known as "Pachelbel's Canon", Chaconne in F minor, and Toccata in C minor for organ.



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The Opera and Classical Music Blog - Extras (Music - Opera)    -    Author : Brunnhilde, Paige, and Joan - USA



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Last update : 2015-11-10

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