History of Western Music - Timeline

"The history of music is primarily the history of musical style and cannot be grasped except by first-hand knowledge of the music itself. It is therefore essential to become acquainted with the sound of the music [...]" (Donald Jay Grout)

The Classical Antiquity

Music from the Ancient World

Classical Antiquity is the period of history between the 8th century BC and the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the year 476 AD.

It was centered on the Mediterranean Sea, in the Greco-Roman world.

The history of Western music thus finds its main sources in the ancient Greek civilization, in Ancient Rome and in the early Christian Church

The Middle Ages

Music of the Middle Ages

The Medieval period begins with the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century, and extends to the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

The Middle Ages saw the parallel development of both Gregorian Chant and secular song.

In the history of Western music, the Medieval period was followed by the Renaissance period.


The Age of the Renaissance

Music of the Renaissance

In the history of music, the Renaissance period approximately extends from 1453 to 1600It thus comes after the Medieval period and is followed by the Baroque period.

One of the most famous of all English Renaissance songs is without any doubt the beautiful and sad song Greensleeves.

Baroque Music

Baroque Music

In the history of music, the Baroque period approximately extends from 1600 to 1750.

It thus comes after the Renaissance period and is followed by the Classical period.

During the Baroque period, composers further developed the concept of functional tonality.

Both composers and performers made a lavish use of ornamentation.

Performers developed new and more complex instrumental playing techniques.

It is also during the Baroque period that opera was established as a musical genre.

The Classical Style

Music of the Classical Period

In the history of music, the Classical period approximately extends from 1730 to 1820.

It thus comes after the Baroque period and is followed by the Romantic period.

The main characteristics of the Classical period are :

  • Perfection of form
  • Beauty of melodic line
  • Elegance of phrasing
  • Use of dynamic contrasts


Music of the Romantic Period

In the history of music, the Romantic period approximately extends from 1815-1910.

It thus comes after the Classical period and is followed by the Modern & Contemporary period.


Modern & Contemporary Music

Modern & Contemporary Music

In the history of music, the Modern & Contemporary period approximately extends from 1900 to the present time.

It thus comes after the Romantic period.