Friday, April 8, 2011 at 2:38 AM

HMAD IZHAM OMAR talking about the brief history of music is/was a memorable moment for me this morning. The meeting was meant to be a discussion about how to make money in music but it turned out to be a history class. It was quite gratifying to uncover how music had evolved from a mono note sound to the various genres we hear today. He was very fast and for that, I may have not recorded his teachings accurately. So, if I make any errors in this blog post, it must be because of my lack of shorthand skills rather than his miseducation. Being a music lover myself, getting tuitioned from a very well known composer like Izham is truly a chance of a life time that means a lot. So, to all of you music lovers out there, I would like to share with you "The Brief History of Music":


The Beginning

In the beginning, music was nothing other than mono notes being sustained. During the Gregorian era, multiple notes were introduced, and there was "Harmony". This is believed to be the start of writing music on paper, ie. music notations. I did some research on this Gregorian era and found the below at

There are arguments concerning the proper use of the term "Gregorian" in reference to chants. Generally the term refers to any chants written in the church modes, often employing texts from the psalms or the gospels. They developed during the papacy of Gregory the Great (d.604) but generally refer to the Church music of the 11th through 13th centuries. The Gregorian chant contained phrases that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye often in the form of arches. Musical strains were often related to the text in the context of the contours of the musical line and what the text is addressing.

The Classical Era

Gregorian music evolved into Classical music. This is when names such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven came to light. They were the pioneers of Baroque music that was classified as Classical. Back then it was considered weird (or even diabolic), but of course, it gained popularity later against the ancient folk music. Baroque means extravagant, complex or bizarre. Yup, "Bizarre". Subsequently, a genius by the name of Richard Wagner emerged with theatrette expression sounds - the sounds in movies that enforce feelings of what is intended (Example, the scarry sound in horror movies). But of course during Wagner's time, the 1800's, it was the operas rather than movies.

The Band Era

Classical music later evolved into Marching Bands which used mostly percussion and wind instruments. It was originally used in the military as troops marched from one location to another. Marching Bands then evolved into Swing Bands. Swing uses a strong rhythm section of double bass and drums as the anchor for a lead section of brass instruments such as trumpets and trombones, woodwinds including saxophones and clarinets, and sometimes stringed instruments such as violin and guitar, medium to fast tempos, and a swing time rhythm. This is when name like Louis Armstrong and the whole bunch of musicians from New Orleans emerges. They call it Dixieland, a style of instrumental music associated with New Orleans and characterised by a relatively fast two-beat rhythm and by group and solo improvisations. Naturally, my next sentence would be ".... and there was Jazz". Dizzy Gillespie being one of the pioneers of Jazz and Charlie Parker took Jazz further into Bebop, a jazz style emphasising aggressive, energetic playing, especially rapid and difficult chord change. Of course Jazz also did evolve on its own into Acid Jazz and Electric Jazz Fusion like that preached by Chick Corea.

The Vocals Era

Returning back to Swing, it did not only gave birth to Jazz. There were also other derivatives of Swing that set the foundations of the modern day music. They are Blues and Crooners. Crooners tends to highlight the importance of vocals. Human voice(s), which was initially "rhythm" in nature (eg. choir in church), had now received the world's attention. One of the famous crooners is Frank Sinatra. Many came after him but one Crooner who significantly change the world's acceptance from a slow tempo to an up tempo music is none other than the King, Elvis Presley. His unique performance that introduced the element of "glam" and rushing tempo earned him the title King of Rock and Roll. The "glam" bit was the catalyst for the emergence of Disco type genre which of course, now evolved into a more stable genre known as Pop. Some other significant genres that emerged from vocal-centric music would be Hip Hop (eg. Will Smith) and New Wave (eg. Duran Duran).

...and all hell broke loose

As you may very well know, Elvis was the start of Rock via his Rock and Roll gift to humanity. However, it wasn't him who broke the hell loose for Rock music. The Beatles came down to Earth from the sky and opened the flood gate to offsprings of Rock genre to an unprecedented level. The widespread of new sub-derivatives of Rock simply came to existence at biblical proportion. You have Blues (that came from Swing Band) with names like John Lee Hooker and B.B. King, whose influence is merged with Rock, magically producing fantastic musicians/bands like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Dire Straits and of course the guitar legend, Jimi Hendrix.

Rock was then broken into pieces like broken glasses. Too name a few:

1. Rock and Roll
2. Glam Rock
3. Blues Rock
4. Freakish Blues Rock (Only Hendrix)
5. Hard Rock
6. Heavy Metal
7. Speed Metal
8. Black Metal
9. Alternative Rock
10. Grunge
11. Indie
12. Punk
13. Funk
14. Progressive Rock


So, Yeahhh. My session with Izham basically went through the brief history of music from the Gregorian era to the current Barrack Obama's era. I hope this has been an informative read for those who love music,... especially the rockers!


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