A Brief History of Music

Music is the science of arranging sounds in audible time through the components of tone, melody, harmony, and rhythmic rhythm. It’s one of the most universal aesthetic elements of all human cultures. Even in today’s “singles friendly” society it remains a central part of romantic love, celebration, and other non-verbal communication. Common general definitions of music generally include elements like pitch, beat, rhythm, melodic quality or texture, and the tonal qualities of sound and timbre.


The earliest forms of musical notation were recorded in animal bones from archaic African societies like the ibis, hippo, and crocodile. It was the polyphonic music that became the dominant musical style for most of the western world starting with the 17th century. Early musical styles had no words and were rhythmically based. They often played at least one drumstick per minute. Most early music was sung. The “folk song” was a simple musical composition sung by an instrument like the shamala or yamaha, accompanied by simple background vocal melodies.

The rise of the Greek philosopher Aristotle and his theories of music and rhythm arose from the rise of musicological study in the 2nd century BCE. He did extensive research on all facets of music, including its manufacture, history, description, theory, and process. He claimed that music could be produced by forcing a person to play a musical instrument, like a flute or a guitar, with his voice. Aristotle argued that music had two basic types, either tonal or phanerical, that he described in his two treatises, the Posterior Analytics and the Rhetorics.

He also posited that music was cyclical, with each mode repeating throughout a musical cycle. His idea that each type of music had its own key was later adopted by the Arabic linguists. The riffs of flutes, cymbals, strings, and woods were perceived as the key of a song, just as the scales on a piano are the keys. The Egyptians also saw music as having several types. They thought there were seven elements that compose a song, divided into two sections: the middle section, consisting of thirty-two notes, and the outer section, consisting of chords or other polyphonic tones.

The concept of time signature came from the works of Italian philosopher Aristotle. The idea was that a composer should have a constant tempo, but also vary the tempo according to the point of contact between two voices. The “time signature” is the exact timing and phrasing of each voice in a piece of music. For instance, if we listen to a hand percussionist playing a cymbal beat in a piece of music, the tempo will be different than that of a classical guitarist playing a piano piece using only white keys. The “triadic” approach was further developed by Viennese horn players who could play three or more timbres at the same time.

Many critics argue that the invention of music actually took place during the Renaissance when famous geniuses such as Mozart, Beethoven, horns, and cellists began to use their knowledge of polyphonic scale patterns to develop new melodic ideas. In recent years, a new genre of music called “disco polyphonic” has emerged. This style uses complex rhythmic patterns which require a great degree of coordination between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This results in a form of brain activity not seen since the early days of Western music.