What Is Music & How Did Music Begin

Music has been defined in hundreds of ways, including: “An art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.” “The art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a continuous, unified, and evocative composition, as through melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre.” “Vocal or instrumental sounds possessing a degree of melody, harmony, or rhythm.”

These are all accurate definitions. But where did music come from? When and where did it begin? If you think of music as communication, perhaps it started with all creatures, including humans, communicating. To this day, we hear birds communicating with distinct melodies and tones and consider it music. Even today we refer to music as the “universal language.”

In ancient Israel a thousand years before Christ, King David composed and sang hundreds of poetic songs called psalms. A few of them are cataloged in the old testament in the book of Psalms. But music as we know it now, as having structure and form, may have begun in the 10th century with the Gregorian chants. These chants were organized and detailed with soloists and small groups singing distinctive parts. This lead to the need to notate and write down particular tones and passages. Common rhythm notation began around the year 1200 and soon after, troubadours singing “folk” music starting to appear in parts of Europe.