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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Periods of European art music
Medieval   (500–1400)
Renaissance (1400–1600)
Baroque (1600–1760)
Common practice
Baroque (1600–1760)
Classical (1730–1820)
Romantic (1815–1910)
Modern and contemporary
20th-century (1900–2000)
Contemporary (1975–present)
21st-century (2000–present)

Early music is commonly defined as European classical music from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, sometimes also including the Baroque.



The general discussion of how to perform music from ancient or earlier times did not become a subject of interest until the 19th century, when Europeans began looking to ancient culture generally, and musicians began to discover the musical riches from earlier centuries. The idea of performing early music more "authentically", with a sense of incorporating performance practice, was more completely established in the 20th century, creating a modern revival that continues today.

Performance practice

In the early-music revival of the 20th century, the concept of historically informed performance—that is, using available documentation and other contextual evidence to recreate as closely as possible the original ways of playing the instruments used in early music—became an important facet of the performance of early musical notation.

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 the key in which to play. There is thus a speculative element to all modern performances of Medieval and Renaissance music.

See also


  • 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 0-8153-2388-3.
  • Judd, Cristle Collins. "Introduction: Analyzing Early Music" in Judd, Cristle Collins (ed.) (1998). Tonal Structures of Early Music. New York: Garland Publishing. ISBN 0-8153-2388-3.

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