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Early music

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Early music

Medieval music | Renaissance music | Baroque music

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Eras of European art music
Ancient music 1500 BCE - 476 CE
Early music 476 - 1600
Common practice period 1600 - 1900
20th century classical music 1900 - 2000

Early music is European classical music before the Classical music era and after Ancient music. The common range given is from the end of Ancient music to the beginning of the Baroque era in about 1600, and so roughly corresponds with the European Middle Ages period.



For information on early music post-Antiquity, see the following articles:

Authentic performance

The term "early music" is closely associated with the concept of authentic performance. The authentic performance movement began with the performance of early music, and in general, the earlier the music, the more likely it is that its performers will show an interest in authentic performance as it becomes more difficult for the reason listed below and others.

Notation and performance

According to Margaret Bent (1998), Early music notation, "is under-prescriptive by our standards; when translated into modern form it acquires a prescriptive weight that overspecifies and distorts its original openness." Before about 1600, written music did not consistently state which instruments are used when. A century earlier, people who wrote down music did not always specify whether lines of polyphony were to be sung or played on an instrument. Similarly, the notation frequently does not indicate what key to play the music in, if any. Accidentals were not necessary. Notations for rhythm go back only to about 1200. There is thus a speculative element to all modern performances of Medieval and Renaissance music. However, Renaissance musicians would have been highly trained in dyadic counterpoint and thus possessed this and other information necessary to read a score, "what modern notation [now] requires [accidentals] would then have been perfectly apparent without notation to a singer versed in counterpoint" (ibid). See the article on Renaissance music and its section on notation and performance.


  • Judd, Cristle Collins. "Introduction: Analyzing Early Music" in Judd, Cristle Collins (ed.) (1998). Tonal Structures of Early Music. New York: Garland Publishing. ISBN 0815323883.
  • Bent, Margaret. "The Grammar of Early Music: Preconditions for Analysis" in Judd, Cristle Collins (ed.) (1998). Tonal Structures of Early Music. New York: Garland Publishing. ISBN 0815323883.

External links

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.