Music is found in every known culture, past and present, varying wildly between times and places. Scientists now believe that modern humans emerged from Africa 160,000 years ago. Around 50,000 years ago these humans began to disperse from Africa reaching all the habitable continents. Since all people of the world, including the most isolated tribal groups, have a form of music, scientists conclude that music must have been present in the ancestral population prior to the dispersal of humans around the world. Consequently music must have been in existence for at least 50,000 years and the first music must have been invented in Africa and then evolved to become a fundamental constituent of human life.
A culture’s music is influenced by all other aspects of that culture, including social and economic organization and experience, climate, and access to technology. The emotions and ideas that music expresses, the situations in which music is played and listened to, and the attitudes toward music players and composers all vary between regions and periods. “Music history” is the distinct subfield of musicology and history which studies music (particularly western art music) from a chronological perspective.
Music Literature has continually evolved throughout history, with particular changes making themselves evident through the division of music periods. Following the Rennaissance, the musical periods are as follows: Baroque 1600 – 1750, Classical 1750 – 1825, Romantic 1825 – 1900, and Contemporary 1900 – present. Each of these periods are covered in the piano literature I present to my students, with explanations of the stylistic trends and relationship to other art forms from the same time frame.