Classical Music Classical Music, popular term for the Western tradition of art music that began in Europe in the Middle Ages and continues today. It includes symphonies, chamber music, opera, and other serious, artistic music. More narrowly, the “classical” style refers to the work of the Viennese classical school, a group of 18th-century composers that includes Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven, which is the epitome of what is called classical music. Choral Music, music sung by a group of people, using two or more singers to perform each musical line. The term part-song is used for vocal music having one singer for each part.
Choral music is written for choruses, or choirs, consisting either of adults, children, or both. Although complex genres of choral music developed in Western music, part-singing practices were also established in folk, tribal, and non-Western cultures. Such singing often accompanies manual labor, expresses joy or sorrow, or forms a part of religious ritual. Among the world’s many singing traditions are the polyphonic (multipart), polyrhythmic choruses of African music; the relaxed harmonies found in the Alpine and northern Slavic areas of Europe; the tense-voiced women’s canons of the Balkans; the unison choral singing that sometimes accompanies an Indonesian gamelan orchestra; and the unison and polyphonic choruses of Oceania. In ancient Greece, religious feelings were expressed in drama by a chorus. Although the chorus memberslike those of modern operawere dancers and actors as well as singers, the term chorus eventually came to indicate only singers. Chant, unaccompanied sung melody, the rhythms and melodic contours of which are closely tied to the spoken rhythms and inflections of the text.
Chant texts can be either sacred or secular, but the term usually refers to sacred liturgical music. Chant has been used in religious ceremonies since ancient times. In terms of present-day chant styles in the Western world, the most important of the early repertories is Jewish liturgical chant, or cantillation (see Jewish Music). The early Christian church borrowed not only its modes, or scales, but also some Hebrew melodies and melodic fragments. Most of the texts in Christian chant are taken from or based on the Psalms, a biblical book shared by Jews and Christians. Several types of Christian chant, which is often called plainsong, developed during the first 1000 years of the Christian era.
A repertory called Ambrosian chant developed at Milan, Italy; named after St. Ambrose, it is still used in some Roman Catholic services in Milan. In Spain, until about the 11th century, there was a chant repertory called Mozarabic chant, named after the Mozarab Christians who lived in Arab-dominated Spain during the Middle Ages. Today Mozarabic chant survives in a few Spanish cathedrals. Until the 9th century, France had its own chant repertory, called Gallican chant; a few traces of it remain today in the Gregorian repertory. In Rome a separate repertory developed that eventually spread throughout Europe and superseded the others.
It is now called Gregorian chant after Pope Gregory I, known as the Great, who was active in collecting Roman chants, having them assigned specific places within the liturgy, and seeing that they were adopted by churches in other cities and countries. Today about 3000 different Gregorian melodies are known. The Eastern Christian churches developed several types of chant before AD 1000, variants of which are still used. The Armenian, Byzantine, Russian, Greek, and Syrian repertories are the most important. Many of the original melodies in these repertories were incorporated into the Gregorian repertory.
Among Protestant denominations only the Church of England has encouraged an extensive use of chant; its repertory, which is harmonized, is called Anglican chant.