Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The History Of Music

Music has existed for as long as I can remember, which easily dates back to at least 500,000,000 B.C., when the very first Neanderthals picked up their clubs and beat them rhythmically against the heads of other Neanderthals to produce the sixteen-minute psychedelic hit "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida."

Some time later, God created the universe and nothing musically happened for a while because God sent His Chosen People to wander around in the desert being persecuted, and no one felt like singing about it since angsty rock wouldn't be popular until the early 1990's. Later, David wrote the Book of Psalms, (a Hebrew word, meaning "more than one Psalm"), which recommended praising God with instruments such as the "psaltery" and the "lyre," which are, clearly, made-up words.

Not much is known about the development of ancient music directly following the Biblical period of recorded history, which spans from the Creation of the Universe through the End of the World. The Middle Ages were littered with wandering minstrels traveling the hillsides, singing ballads of brave knights and fair maidens until someone would throw a shoe at them and tell them to shut up. Eventually people decided to give various musical concepts names like the note, the tune, the tone, the chord, the powerchord, the bass, the treble, the flat, the sharp, the flarp, the scale, the rhythm, the timbre, the tenor, the baroke, the lute, the pitch, the whistle, and the electric slide.

Applying these terms and many more, classical composers spent the next four centuries composing music that, as near as anyone can tell, did not contain the slightest hint of a guitar solo. Instead, orchestral musicians would perform these songs using instruments with comical names like the "oboe" and the "bassoon." ("Look at that oboe player! What a bassoon!") Some of these pieces are still played to this day on that one station at the bottom of the dial that no one listens to because each song is over an hour long and followed by several more minutes of dead air while the deejay wakes up.

The classical period produced many composers with names like Fritzhanz Lupidus Van Halen II, and peaked when Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Symphony No. Infinity" was bumped from its Number One spot on the Billboard Charts by Ludwig Kamikaze Beethoven's immortal masterpiece "Symphony No. Infinity Plus One." Toward the end of the 1800s, the pioneering spirit of the American West was captured with sweeping orchestral compositions that expressed such important aspects of frontier life as "Beef. It's what's for dinner."

Fresh off the heels of the classical period came the big band era of the 1920s because people decided they wanted to dance to their orchestral music without looking like some sort of twit. Big band possessed an incredibly upbeat sound created by a rhythm section and about 50,000 horn players, or "hornists" as they're called in the music world. Big band fell out of popularity with the onset of the Great Depression when nobody felt like dancing anymore.

Following the Great Depression, music split into two major categories: "jazz," a highly technical form that borrowed many elements from big band except that you couldn't dance to it, and "blues," which stripped music down to its basic components of one guitar and a four lines repeated over and over. Jazz and blues combined to give us the music we know and enjoy today, namely: rock, pop, classic rock, heavy metal, dance, R&B, rap, country, folk, bluegrass, ska, punk, new wave, funk, synthpop, bubblegum, alternative, ambient, golden oldies, Motown, world beat, techno, disco, grunge, opera, nu metal, progressive rock, and the electric slide, none of which anybody's parents ever liked.

Modern recording equipment, created in the early Twentieth Century by genius inventor Benjamin Franklin, who was already quite old when he discovered America and when he painted the "Mona Lisa," makes the creation and distribution of music easier than ever before. Beethoven, for instance, only wrote maybe ten songs in his entire lifetime, and you had to lug an entire symphony orchestra around with you if you wanted to hear one of his songs, say, while you were driving. Modern artists can easily double that output on each album, and you can listen to it anywhere, whether you want to or not. By the time Benjamin Franklin invented the Internet in 1996, people had grown tired of the recording industry gouging (literally, "poking with sharp sticks") prices and started "downloading" music for "free." This upset a great number of Metallica's Lars Ulrich and deregulated the music industry, forcing musicians to compete by creating music that no sane person would ever want to hear, a trend that still continues to this day.


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