March 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part I

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Introduction

Welcome to springtime in the northern hemisphere! Starting this month (March 2019), we are about to do something a bit different and embark on a new historical music journey. This isn’t the major writing project that I was going to embark upon this year – the original idea for 2019 requires much more research than I am able to undertake currently and has had to be postponed, probably until 2020 at the earliest. This decision left a bit of a quandary as to what was going to keep me writing this year and then I had this idea to do something a bit different. Little did I know how much work this alternative project was going to take either!!!

 

The story covers approximately 350 years of ‘modern’ musical from the end of the European Renaissance to the current day. To some extent, this music‑centric sojourn also reflects humankind’s broader cultural development. I hope you’ll join me on this ‘new’ melodious expedition and hope you enjoy whatever bits and pieces you want to gain from it over the coming months.

 

If you waded through CRAVE Guitars’ 9‑part exploration of the ‘Potted History of the Guitar’ series throughout 2018, you’ll have some background to the instrument’s development from ancient times to today (and an imaginary look forward into the future). Some learned researchers believe (NB. I don’t) that the story of the guitar and the music produced by this remarkably popular instrument really begins around the end of the Renaissance (c.1600 CE) with the Spanish vihuela. Standardisation of the guitar’s structural form developed over time with the Renaissance and baroque guitars and the Italian chitarra battente. By the middle of the 19th Century during the Romantic period (c.1830-1900 CE), the now‑familiar guitar outline had appeared with the refinement of the aptly named romantic guitar. Read the relevant part here ( A Potted History Of The Guitar Part II) Thereafter, modern classical and folk acoustic guitars became well‑established and its development has been well‑documented during the course of the 20th Century, including the introduction of electric guitars from the 1930s.

 

Having looked at the impact of the instrument itself, it now seems appropriate to look at some of the people, innovations and events that have been directly or indirectly related to the evolution of guitar. As you might expect, what happens in music is closely interwoven with the progress of western civilisation during the same period.

 

In addition, if you’ve been following CRAVE Guitars’ social media output, you’ll know that I have regularly posted ‘Music Facts of the Day’, musician birthdays and other interesting trivia over the last 4+ years. However, trawling back through social media timelines to pick these out doesn’t give a chronological perspective, just an ‘on this day’ one. So, having done most of the hard work (I thought naively) of collecting the data for another use, it seemed to be a straightforward exercise to present this same information as a historical chronology of ‘facts’, over 1,530 of them in all. As it turned out, this was a much more onerous task than originally envisaged.

 

Inevitably, the ‘Story of Modern Music’ arranged in this way, it is just a list of seemingly unrelated things that happened over time. However, stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, the chronology does bestow a sense of how modern music unfolded over the years. Hindsight, it turns out, really is a wonderful thing!

 

The earliest dates in the story are quite scant, so what we’ll do is to cover an extended period of time quite quickly before it starts to get culturally interesting in the 20th Century. The idea of the whole exercise is to present about 3½ centuries of music history largely through the perspective of the guitar, guitarists and guitar music but not comprehensively so, so there is quite a lot of relevant contextual information. Keeping things specific to guitars would, I felt, be too limited, so guitars were used as a starting point and the story broadens out to encompass other musical events.

 

The reason why I use ‘facts’ in quotes is because, during the research, re‑writing and re‑ordering exercise, some errors will inevitably have crept in, despite my best endeavours, and I apologise if this is the case. Also, to keep the overall scale and scope manageable, each ‘fact’ is presented as a short ’snippet’, regardless of whether they are major or minor points. I may also have missed many notable events, as I’m learning continually and adding things to the collective library. However, I hope this new story gives an alternative view of how we got from post‑Renaissance European classical music to the diverse musical landscape of the current day. Most modern musical events tend to focus on developed western countries, that’s just the way it came about. By the time we get to the end of the story, some events along the way may well change, especially more recent happenings, so the story is presented very much as a point‑in‑time.

 

Clearly, recording musical ‘facts’ in isolation can also become a bit exclusive, so at the beginning of each article there will be a short background synopsis of the political, economic, social and technological events that occurred during the relevant period. At this point, The cultural background paragraphs are simply an indicator of what else was going on the world at the same time that musical development was taking place. Before we get going, I have to remind readers that I am neither a historian and nor is this is not an academic exercise. Like ‘A Potted History of the Guitar’ endeavour before it, this series of articles is for entertainment only, based on what I have researched over the years. The nature of the article doesn’t lend itself to images, so for lovers of the pictorial story, apologies, there are is little to look at.

 

So, getting to the point… The first part of our story begins in the latter part of the 17th Century and concludes at the end of the 19th Century. So, let the voyage of discovery begin with a quick look at some global non‑music events…

 

Historical Context 1650-1900

1650-1700

In 1653, Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of England until 1660 when Charles II restored the monarchy. The Great Plague and the Great Fire of London took place in 1665 and 1666 respectively. Europe was being ravaged by war, particularly against France. In America in 1681, William Penn obtained a land grant from the King of England, which led to the formation of modern‑day Pennsylvania. Sir Isaac Newton published his scientific masterwork, the ‘Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica’ in 1687. A year later, in 1688, the Glorious Revolution ended four years of Catholic rule in England. Although written anonymously in 1660, in 1689 the English philosopher John Locke published the ‘Two Treatises of Government’, which presented the theory of a limited monarchy and stated that a social contract existed between those governed and those being governed, thereby influencing the development of democratic government. In 1692, the infamous witchcraft trials were held in Salem, Massachusetts. The Bank of England was founded in 1694.

 

1701-1800

Queen Anne of England was crowned in 1702 (and died in 1714). Five years later in 1707, England and Scotland become the United Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1719, Daniel Defoe wrote the novel, ‘Robinson Crusoe’. 1720 saw Sir Edmund Halley become Astronomer Royal. In 1721, Sir Robert Walpole became first British Prime Minister, the same year that Peter the Great became Emperor of Russia. In 1727, physicist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton died. In 1751, China annexed Tibet. In 1755, English writer Samuel Johnson publishes his landmark ‘Dictionary’. In 1770, Captain James Cook laid claim to New Zealand and Eastern Australia on behalf of Britain. 1773 was marked by the Boston Tea Party, which marked the start of the American Revolution. In France, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette succeeded to throne in 1774. America finally declared independence from Britain in 1776. In the same year, Scottish economist Adam Smith published his masterpiece, the ‘Wealth of Nations’. In 1783, the French Montgolfier brothers became the first people to fly using their hot air balloon. By 1787, the American Constitution was drafted and two years later George Washington became the first American President in 1789. The first British convicts were deported to settle Australia in 1788, a practice that continued until 1867. 1789 saw the start of the French Revolution when the Bastille fortress in Paris was stormed and by 1793 the French Republic was declared after Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had been beheaded.

 

1801-1900

The 19th Century began with Thomas Jefferson becoming American President in 1801, the same year that British inventor Richard Trevithick developed the high‑pressure steam engine. Napoleon Bonaparte declared himself emperor of France in 1804. A year later, in 1805, Lord Horatio Nelson defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar. In 1807, the slave trade was abolished in Britain. The new technologies of the industrial revolution ignited the Luddite riots in 1811 England. By 1812, Napoleon’s army was defeated and forced to retreat from the siege of Moscow. In 1814, Robert Stephenson built the early steam locomotive. The Duke of Wellington finally defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The precursor to today’s computers, the Difference Engine was created by English mathematician Charles Babbage in 1820. The first railway from Stockton to Darlington in England was opened in 1825. By 1829, Sir Robert Peel established the London Police Force. In 1834, the Tolpuddle Martyrs were persecuted to discourage the formation of trade unions in England – unions were finally legalised in 1871. Queen Victoria came to the British throne in 1837, the same year that French artist Louis Daguerre pioneered photography. In 1848, German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published the ‘Communist Manifesto’. In 1857, American industrialist Elisha Otis introduced the first elevator. English naturalist, Charles Darwin published his ground‑breaking theory of evolution, the ‘Origin of Species’ in 1859. Abraham Lincoln became American President in 1861, the same year that the American Civil War began, which lasted until 1865. Thanks to French biologist and chemist Louis Pasteur, pasteurisation was introduced to milk and beer in 1864. The United States of America abolished slavery in 1865. In 1869, the Suez Canal was opened in Egypt. The telephone was developed by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, a year before Thomas Edison invented the first phonograph in 1877 and the electric light in 1878. The bloody Zulu war took place in South Africa in 1879. Work began on the Panama Canal in Central America in 1880. The world’s first real skyscraper was the Home Insurance Building in Chicago, completed in 1885. By 1886, German engineers, Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz produced the first automobiles. In 1896 the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece. Between 1888 and 1991, Jack the Ripper was carrying out a campaign of murder on women in London. In France, the Eiffel Tower was built in Paris for the ‘Exposition Universelle’ in 1889. One year later, in 1890, the famous London Underground subway system was opened. Also in 1890, the French Lumière bothers developed motion picture film. New Zealand became the first country to give women the vote in 1893. In 1895, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi sent the first radio message. Toward the end of the Qing dynasty, the brutal nationalist Boxer Rebellion in opposition to Western colonialism and Christian missionary activity uprising started in China in 1899, which lasted until 1901.

 

Let the Music Story Begin

To ease us gently into the long story of modern music, we’ll begin with just a few – a mere 44 – ‘facts’ for now.

 

This portion of the musical timeline (1650‑1900) is broadly known as the ‘common practice period’ and covers late Baroque (c.1600‑1750), Classical (c.1750‑1810) and Romantic (c.1810‑1900) periods of music. This period is often associated with the birth of the classical music orchestra as we know it today and the rise of the tonal system that leads to the development of modern music theory, focusing on harmonic progression, rhythm and duration.

 

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…

Henry Purcell

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

10

September

1659

Famous English baroque classical composer Henry Purcell was born in London (died 1695).

4

March

1678

Famous Italian classical composer and virtuoso violinist Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice (died 1741).

23

February

1685

Famous German classical composer, George Frideric Handel was born in Duchy of Magdeburg and worked extensively in London, UK (died 1759).

31

March

1685

Famous classical composer and musician, Johann Sebastian Bach was born in the Duchy of Saxe-Eisenach (died 1750).

31

March

1732

Famous Austrian classical composer Joseph Haydn was born in Rohrau (died 1809).

27

January

1756

Famous Austrian classical composer and musician Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg (died 1791).

17

December

1770

Famous German classical pianist and composer, Ludwig Van Beethoven was baptised (birth date not known) in Bonn (died 1827).

27

October

1782

Famous Italian violinist, guitarist, and composer Niccolò Paganini was born in Genoa (died 1840).

31

January

1796

The visionary who founded guitar maker C.F. Martin & Company in 1833, German/American luthier Christian Frederick Martin (1796-1873, 77) was born in Markneukirchen, Germany.

31

January

1797

Famous Austrian classical composer Franz Schubert was born in Vienna (died 1828).

11

December

1803

Famous French Romantic classical composer Hector Berlioz was born in La Côte-Saint-André (died 1869).

1

March

1810

Famous Polish romantic classical composer and virtuoso pianist Frédéric Chopin was born in Warsaw (died 1849).

22

May

1813

Famous German classical composer and conductor Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig (died 1883).

16

September

1814

The American National Anthem, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ (originally titled, ‘Defence of Fort McHenry’) was written by Francis Scott Key and set to the tune of ‘Anacreon in Heaven’.

25

October

1825

Famous Austrian classical composer, nicknamed ‘the waltz king’, Johann Strauss Jr was born in St Ulrich near Vienna (died 1899).

7

May

1833

Famous German romantic classical composer and pianist Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg (died 1897).

25

April

1840

Famous Russian classical composer of the romantic period, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in Votkinsk (died 1893).

1

May

1856

Legendary American luthier, guitar innovator and founder of Gibson guitars, Orville H. Gibson (1856-1918, 62) was born in Chateaugay, New York.

2

June

1857

Famous English classical composer Sir Edward Elgar was born in Lower Broadheath, Worcestershire (died 1934).

7

July

1860

Famous Austro-Bohemian late-Romantic classical music composer and conductor Gustav Mahler was born in what was then the Austrian Empire (died 1911).

22

August

1862

Famous French classical impressionist composer Claude Debussy was born in Paris (died 1918).

11

June

1864

Famous German classical composer Richard Strauss was born in Munich (died 1949).

24

November

1868

African-American composer and pianist, the ‘King of Ragtime’, Scott Joplin was born in Texarkana, Arkansas.

21

September

1872

Famous English classical music composer, arranger and teacher Gustav Holst was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire (died 1934).

12

August

1877

American inventor and businessman, Thomas Edison developed the phonograph and effectively started the sound recording industry.

17

June

1882

Famous Russian-born composer, pianist, and conductor Igor Stravinsky was born in Saint Petersburg (died 1971).

3

April

1886

Great innovator in guitar history, Swiss/American inventor and founder of Rickenbacker guitars, Adolph Rickenbacker (1886-1976, 89) was born in Basel, Switzerland.

20

January

1888

American folk and blues legend, as well as being a great guitarist, Huddie William Ledbetter (a.k.a. Lead Belly) (1888-1949, 61) was born in Mooringsport, Louisiana.

23

May

1888

One of the greatest American Broadway and cinema songwriters of all time, Irving Berlin was born in Tolochin, Russia (now Belarus).

20

October

1890

American ragtime and jazz pianist, bandleader and composer Jelly Roll Morton was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.

April

1891

American guitarist and ‘Father of the Delta Blues’, Charley Patton (c.1891-1934, c.43) born. Sources suggest he was born in April in Hinds County, Mississippi.

27

April

1891

Famous Russian composer, pianist and conductor Sergei Prokofiev was born in Sontsovka (died 1953).

9

June

1891

Highly acclaimed American Broadway composer and songwriter Cole Porter was born in Peru, Indiana.

8

March

1892

Reputed country blues singer and guitarist, Mississippi John Hurt (1892-1966, 74) was born possibly 8 March or 3 March (or several other disputed dates) in Teoc, Carroll County, Mississippi.

21

February

1893

Spanish virtuoso classical guitarist, often called the ‘godfather of the classical guitar’, Andrés Segovia (1893-1987, 94) was born in Jaén.

24

September

1893

American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, the ‘Father of Texas Blues’, Blind Lemon Jefferson (1893-1929, 36) was born in Coutchman, Texas.

1896

American blues and ragtime guitarist and singer Arthur ‘Blind’ Blake (1896-1934, 38) was born in either Florida or Virginia.

15

August

1896

The Russian inventor of the strange electronic musical instrument, the Theremin (1928), Léon Theremin was born in Saint Petersburg (died 1993).

6

December

1896

American lyricist who worked closely with his younger brother George, Ira Gershwin was born in New York City.

3

June

1897

American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Memphis Minnie (1897-1973, 76) was born in Algiers, Louisiana.

5

May

1898

Influential American blues and ragtime guitarist and singer, Blind Willie McTell (1898-1959, 61) was born in Thomson, Georgia.

26

September

1898

American composer and pianist who worked closely with his older brother, Ira, George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York.

29

April

1899

American jazz composer, pianist, and bandleader Duke Ellington was born in Washington D.C.

16

July

1900

Record company RCA Victor registered the famous ‘His Master’s Voce’ logo, featuring the iconic dog Nipper, with the U.S. Patent Office.

RCA Victor Nipper The Dog

Wow, that’s 250 years, from Henry Purcell to Nipper the dog, covered in a flash! Of course, there was much more to this era than covered here, so this is just a teaser of what is to come. Only 120 years to go! As always, readers are encouraged to explore areas of particular interest beyond the scope of this article.

 

You may be wondering at this point what many of the ‘facts’ shown above have to do with guitars. Well, let’s dip into some relevant quotes to illustrate how interdependent music through the ages can be:

 

“The violin is my mistress, but the guitar is my master” – Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)

 

“The guitar is a wonderful instrument which is understood by few” – Franz Schubert (1797-1827)

 

“Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, except, possibly two” – Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)

 

“All the good music has already been written by people with wigs and stuff” – Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

 

Without doubt, the classical composers have had a tremendous influence on modern day music and many of today’s musicians borrow heavily from classical theory, music styles and techniques.

 

Tailpiece

Next time, hopefully next month, we’ll kick off with the 20th Century, as the twin pillars of modern music, jazz and blues, allied to new‑fangled recording technology, really begin to play their significant part in shaping where today’s music came from. I hope you will continue to partake in this passage of exploration over the next few months.

 

In the meantime, I’m getting back to the latter part of the 20th Century and my ‘Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric’ Guitars. Until next time…

 

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Unlike doing, thinking and imagination have no geographical boundaries or physical limitations.”

 

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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