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   Through the Centuries
        Gregorian Chant
        15th Century
        16th Century
        17th Century
        18th Century
        19th Century
        20th Century
        21st Century
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(no longer operational)
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Music Through the Centuries
An Online book
by Don Robertson

© 2005 by Rising World Entertainment

-> About "Music Through the Centuries"

-> About Don Robertson

by Don Robertson

The content of Music Trough the Centuries presents my musical reality, one that I began developing in 1961. I share it with you and you may find it rewarding and revolutionary, or you may disagree. However, I believe that what I am writing about will become the basis for our classical music of the 21st Century.

At first I assumed that I would publish Music Through the Centuries as I had always published my books, in standard 20th century publishing format, represented by a hard- or soft-cover book. I soon realized, however, that the new publishing model was the internet. Therefore, I integrated the book in with the content of DoveSong.com, the website I have been building since January, 1997. This makes this book different from a printed book because it will continue to grow. Why write a book and make 5,000 copies when anyone can read a free on-line book if they have a computer, or perhaps even a cell phone?

The goal of the book is to show: 1) How each century began developing a particular musical style near the beginning of the century to find it fully perfected at the end. 2) That great music awaits in still largely undiscovered centuries. 3) How great music exists in other classical music traditions.

This is how I classify each century:

  • 16th Century: "Spirit" Beginning with the sublime melodies of Josquin Des Prez and culminating with a high spiritual plateau that was reached toward the end of the century with the works of composers such as Palestrina, Gabrieli, and Victoria. This is one of two "forgotten" centuries.

  • 17th Century: "Physical" In 1600, a spark entered the flowing consonant harmonies of 16th century music and opera and classical songs were born, and sacred music that was still spiritual came alive with life force. This is the other forgotten century.

  • 18th Century: "Mind" - I didn't fully understand the classical music of the 18th century until I realized that this was the century of Mind, and then it all became clear. This was the century where all the forms where born and developed. The beginning of the century finds Corelli establishing forms in the new major and minor system of tonality. J.S. Bach brings forth a perfection of the old forms, then the final forms are perfected by Mozart and Haydn at the end of the century.

  • 19th Century: "Heart" - Emotions pour into the forms that were perfected during the preceding century. Beethoven opens his heart and then there is an incredible outflow of beautiful music and another spiritual plateau was reached with the music of Wagner and Franck.

  • 20th Century: "Dissolution" - In order to round out the cycle more fully, we had to experience a century where it all came apart. Darkness appeared in music and became integrated into much of the world's population through movies and television.

  • 21st Century: "Rebirth" - The book ends with a discussion of the music of the 21st Century. This chapter is more high level than the rest as I am addressing it directly to musicians and theorists. The rebirth is not only a centenary rebirth, but a millennial rebirth, so it is special. In this century, composers will not just build on what was presented in the century before, but begin a study, as had been proposed 100 years before by the great French composer and education Vincent d'Indy, from Gregorian chant forward. 

The 21st is a whole new cycle - Here we, the composers and artists, get to play in a sandbox filled with knowledge from the previous centuries, other cultures, plus our own heaven-sent inspiration. 21st century art pours heart and spirit into the greatest communication invention of the 20th century: the internet


The European tradition of classical music began in the Roman and Eastern church during the first 800 years AD. It was called plainsong, which is melody in its simplest form. There were many varieties such as Ambrosian, Gallican, Gregorian, and Mozarabic   chants, but Gregorian chant became the norm for the Roman Catholic church. The first polyphony, or music with multiple voice parts, was called organum. It emerged in liturgical music in or around the late 9th century.

The Thirteenth Century - 1200 to 1299

Léonin (1135 - c1190-1201) was the first known significant composer of two-voice organum. The creation of three- and four-voice organum occurred around 1200 and Perotin was the most important composer of this expanded form. (please listen to this music!). He made an important step in the development of polyphony.

Much of the music written before 1300 has been lost. This was a dark time, when ignorance, sickness and death cast its shadow over Europe. 

The Fourteenth Century - 1300 to 1399

Guillaume de Machaut emerged at the end of the so-called dark ages as the first composer to put his name on the music that he wrote. His was the primary influence of the 14th Century.

Medieval.org has this to say about Machaut: "Guillaume de Machaut (d.1377) is one of the undisputed pinnacle geniuses of Western music, and the most famous composer of the Middle Ages. Today his four-voice Mass of Notre Dame is a textbook example for medieval counterpoint, and has served sufficiently to maintain his reputation across shifts in fashion. However Machaut's work is extensive, with his French songs & poetry dominating the fourteenth century by both their quality and volume."

-> Back to the Table of Contents

-> Proceed to Part One

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