Updated: May 23
History started when humans invented writing. Though music has been written as long as history, the music that we can actually read and know how it sounds goes back only to six hundred years ago. Here we are picking ten pieces from after music notation as we know it today was being used.
So when we want to pick ten of the most influential piece of music in history, we are talking about the last six hundred years, when the familiar music notation was being used.
Here’s our pick, but keep in mind that our picks are not ordered according to their importance, but based on their composition time.
1- The year c.1364: Masse de Notre Dame by Guillaume de Machaut.
This piece is one of the most important compositions of Medival ages as well as one of the most important religious pieces of music in history. t is historically notable as the earliest complete setting of the Ordinary of the Mass attributable to a single composer, in contrast to earlier compilations such as the Tournai Mass.
2- The Year 1600: Euridice (Opera) by Jacopo Peri.
Jacopo Peri is known as the inventor of opera by his composition Dafne (around 1597). Unfortunately, this piece has not survived, but three years later in 1600, he composed his second opera which also marks the end of the renaissance era and the start of the Baroque era in music.
3- The Year 1607: L’Orfeo (Opera) by Claudio Monteverdi
No ten years after the invention of the Opera, Claudio Monteverdi composed a masterpiece which stands up in case of modernity to this day. Monteverdi defined a standard for Opera that lasted for more than 160 years after that. The combination of Aria and Recitative that still is being used in Operas, is first seen in this masterpiece.
4- The Year 1680s: Twelve Concerti Grossi, Op.6 by Arcangelo Corelli
The Twelve Concerto Grosso’s by Corelli is one of the first and finest examples of the concerto and also instrumental music in history. Concerto Grosso later changed to Solo Concerto and Symphonies that has changed the course of music history in later years.
5- The Year 1733: La Serva Padrona by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
This short Opera that has been played as an Intermezzo between large serious Operas in his own time actually was ahead of its time in terms of compositions. Although history books mark the year 1750 (death od J.S Bach) as the end of the Baroque era, technically this piece has all the composition qualities to be considered as a classical piece. Therefore marking the year 1733 as the end of the Baroque era is more logical.
6- The Year 1824: Symphony No.9 in D minor, Op.125 by Ludwig van Beethoven.
This piece of music has changed the course of music history forever. The manner of using the orchestra, using Choral in the symphony for the first time, using program music elements in order to develop the melodies and harmonies are just part of the innovations in this fantastic piece. Beethoven’s 9th is marked as the end of the Classical era and the start of the Romantic era in music history.
7- The Year 1865: Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner.
This Opera masterpiece starts with a new kind of development in a chord progression that later changed the Romantic era music and caused the riots of modern music. This piece is based on Wagner’s theory of “gesamtkunstwerk” which can be translated to all-inclusive artworks, meaning a work of art that needs all the feelings of the audience to be focused on it. Opposite of the Ambient music that has started by Erik Satie in the same years.
8- The Year 1913: The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky.
The primer of this masterpiece Ballet caused a riot in the audience, they even tried to burn the saloon over this piece. What Wagner started in his Operas, finished by Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. This piece along with other masterpieces by Arnold Schoenberg marked the death of the tonal system in music theory. Though later on in post-modern and contemporary music, composers went back to tonality, the modern era is known as then the tonality died. And this piece was one of the most important and first examples of it.
9- The Year 1917: Songs “Livery Stable Blues” and “One Step” by Dixieland Jass Band.
On February 26, 1917, the Original Dixieland Jass Band released the world’s first jazz record. The record’s two songs, “Livery Stable Blues” and “One Step,” became instant hits and introduced millions of people to the new genre of music. Like jazz itself, the Original Dixieland Jass Band (they later changed the spelling) got its start in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dixieland jazz combined traditional African rhythms, as well as earlier musical styles like ragtime, blues, and marches. It also included new aspects like improvisation, which remains a standard in jazz music today.
10- The Year 1951: Rocket 88 written by Ike Turner, sung by Jackie Brenston and Recorded by Sam Philips.
The most widely held belief is that the first rock'n'roll single was 1951's Rocket 88, the genre that ended the mainstreaming of classical music for five centuries and started the era of popular music.
"I've had this argument with many many people over the years, but when people talk about rock'n'roll, my own personal view would be Rocket 88," says Wildcat Pete, who has been a rock'n'roll DJ since his schooldays in the mid-50s, and has the sort of phlegmatic manner that presumably comes with a lifetime spent playing records to audiences of baying teds. Some, however, feel that Rocket 88's reputation may have more to do with Sam Phillips's vociferous later claims he had discovered rock'n'roll long before he discovered Elvis than with its actual sound. Despite featuring a distorted guitar and a lyric which, in true rock'n'roll style, conflates the power of the singer's car with his virility, it apparently lacks those all-important snare accents.
We know that there are lots of other important pieces of music and composers that we did not mention here. It really bothers us too. What we tried to gather, was ten pieces of music that changed the way musicians composed, after their premiers. We didn’t choose them by their social impacts, the music here is chosen only according to their compositions.
Let us know what are your top ten picks by commenting on this post.