The first fully acknowledged era in classical music was the Renaissance period, beginning in around 1400. There was, however, all sorts of music before that, much of it laying the foundations for the composers who were to come – and this all sits under the umbrella of what we refer to today as the Early period.
The fall of Ancient Rome (in other words, the decline of the Roman Empire) began around 190 AD, running all the way up to 476 AD, when the last Roman emperor in the West, Romulus Augustulus, was removed from power. The Early period is generally seen to begin at this point, running up to 1400 – so it encompasses the best part of a thousand years.
Pretty much everything composed during this period was for the human voice: partly because of the influence of the church, and also because a great many musical instruments had yet to be invented.
Instruments that WERE put to good use during the Early period included the recorder, the trumpet and, would you believe, the bagpipe. An instrument called the shawm was also rather popular; it was a sort of primitive oboe. And, towards the start of the Renaissance, early versions of keyboard instruments like the harpsichord began to appear.
Developments in printing during this period hugely helped the spread of musical instruments. For the first time, manufacturers were able to disseminate descriptions of their instruments, meaning it became much easier for others to make their own versions.
Prominent composers during this time included Guido d’Arezzo (born c.991) Hildegard of Bingen (born c.1098) and Guillaume de Machaut (born c.1300).
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