Musical Eras - what are they?

2 April 2021

Although opera was born in the Renaissance it has kept up with the changes in classical music through the periods with contemporary operas still being composed to this day.

Musical genres throughout time have sprung up and developed over the years, these are what we call musical eras. But what are the particular characteristics of each era? How do you find your favourite? We break it down for you here. For example, if the flute and the recorder mixed with plucked string instruments are your bag, Medieval music with its plinky and plonky jams is the era for you. If you like your music uncomplicated and your chants long and, well, very long, give the godfather of all chants; the Gregorian chant a listen.

If the chanting didn't quite do it for you and you want more harmony and choral work, the  Renaissance era which ran from roughly the 1400s to 1600s might just do the trick. Along with the introduction of brass instruments and the harpsichord popping onto the scene it was a major turning point for a more melodic musical outpouring.

That leads us onto Baroque; a certain type of music that will immediately bring scenes of Rowan Atkinson playing a Tudor Lord in Blackadder II into your head. With instruments like an early version of the oboe and the beginnings of the piano it was quite something to behold.  Although if you didn't like the music of the time you were sort of stuck with it as the Baroque period lasted for the next 300 years.

For all the lovers out there, the Romantic period might be your musical era of choice; think dreamy piano sonatas and whimsical violins - it does exactly what it says on the tin. Harmonies straight from heaven, virtuoso piano playing and expressive symphonies was what Romantic composers Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Mahler, and Verdi loved most.

Which brings us nicely up to the 20th and 21st century music, which can be divided into the following - Impressionist: 1890 – 1925, Expressionist: 1908 – 1950, Modern: 1890 – 1975, Postmodern: 1930 – present and, lastly, Contemporary: 1945 – present. But there might have to be a whole other article to get into those.

So if today's cheery pop isn’t suiting your mood at the moment, head back in time and see what pleasures await you. Whatever you choose, happy listening.