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The History Behind What We Know as Music

Music is a part of every culture and tradition on Earth. Many people feel that music makes life worth living. We can make music ourselves if we play an instrument or sing.

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So, What Is Music?

Music can be used to express happy, sad, romantic, sleepy and even spine-tingling feelings. But what is it? People have defined music as an arrangement of sounds across time. Our ears interpret these sounds as loud or soft, high or low, rapid and short, or slow and smooth. The sounds need to continue for a time in some sort of pattern to become music.

What we think of music largely depends on where we live. What Nigerians are used to listening to might sound strange to someone from another culture, and vice versa. It might not even sound like music. In Indonesia, game plan orchestras play music on gongs, drums, and xylophones. These aren’t the instruments you’d find in a typical orchestra in North America. Modern means of communications make it possible for us to listen to music from all over the world.

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So, Who Invented Music?

Nobody knows for sure when or how music began. Probably while people were working, they began to sing to make the work go faster.

Over time, people developed musical instruments. They might have started by clapping their hands and stamping their feet. Sticks and objects that rattled could have replaced the human body as early instruments. Both instruments and music became more complex with time.

Today, many cultures divide music into art music and music of the people. Art music, which we call classical music, is more complicated than the music of the people—folk music and popular music. Art music is generally harder to write and perform. Musicians who perform it need a lot of training. Popular and folk styles typically are easier to create, perform, and understand.

Melody and Rhythm

Melody and rhythm are two basic elements of music. Melody is a series of notes. We know it as the tune.

  • Melody is based on notes that vary in pitch—that is, in how high or low they are. When several notes, or pitches, sound together, it’s called harmony.
  • Rhythm is the pattern of the notes. When notes are grouped together, they have a rhythm, or beat. The beat is what we tap our feet to. Rock music is known for its strong beat.

Why Is Music Important?

Music goes along with many of our activities. We dance to music. We sing songs at school. Many of us exercise to music. We hear music in cars and stores. Music accompanies many important occasions. At a wedding, for example, the bride marches down the aisle to music.

Music entertains us. We listen to show tunes, spirituals, pop, opera, and rock. We have favorite performers. We hear music as the background in movies. Perhaps we go to concerts to enjoy music, singing, and often dancing. Music is life.


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