Can you help me with a speculative projection about music based on the following notes? I have to take this bit of background information and, from it, figure out what might come to be 100 years...

Can you help me with a speculative projection about music based on the following notes? I have to take this bit of background information and, from it, figure out what might come to be 100 years from now, and I don't know how to do that.

Question: Project forward 100 years to 2100 AD – what is today’s major/minor tonal system a step towards? What’s after melody and harmony or major and minor?

Background Information:  

Music developed from monophony (one unison sound), to polyphony (many sounds = many melodies), to homophony (like sounds = melody/harmony).

The Renaissance Era is fraught with polyphony – many melodies coexisting. Then, during the Baroque Era, we discover the stacking of thirds (i.e.: C E G) to get the modern day major chord.

However, our first attempts at chords are primitive, as is audible in the music of the Baroque Era where the harmony is in the form of the ubiquitous basso continuo. The continuo, while it is boring in its droning presence, is a necessary step as composers made the transition from 4+ simultaneous melodies (polyphony) to today’s music with 1 melody and harmonic structures underneath.

1 Answer

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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What appears as gradual steps from monody to chord-and-melody arrangements was in fact a progression of almost philosophical understandings of Man’s relationship with the universe. By that I mean that early music represented a “voice,” a human utterance to the magnificence of God’s created universe. Gregorian chant, for example, rejected harmony on the religious/philosophical grounds that each human “soul” stood alone, individually, before God, and that we were all “heard” or judged as singular penitents. But as social forces (communities, families, parishes, etc.) became more and more important in our identification, we were seen to be “measured” by how we fit in to those social structures. Rather than simply answering to the Ten Commandments, for example, we were answering to social interpretations of those commandments. (A simple example might be “Thou shalt not kill” – how does that fit into soldiery or law enforcement?)

    Baroque and harmonic music, then, reflected those complexities; in variations and dual melodies and similar complexities, musicians were reflecting the complexity of all human creations. Music answered as well to to natural human impulse toward “newness” itself – that is, there was significant value in innovation itself. Mozart, for example, is renowned even toward for doing “new” things with harmonies, variations, etc. Someone like Arnold Schoenberg, introducing atonal music to the world, was in fact demonstrating this tendency by writing a “contradiction” – atonal music could only emerge as a response to “tonal music” – at the time a redundancy.

     So, in speculating where music will “go” in the next 100 years or so, we must understand how music is defined today. Order, progression, development, a relation among parts (“movements”), etc. – all these will be explored, in fact, are now being explored in such ideas as minimalism, improvisation, etc. Just as jazz moved beyond melody, composers such as John Cage and Philip Glass have moved past prescriptive music to improvisation, accident, non-reproducible, etc. music, all of which expands the actual definition of “music.” The term “dissonance” is almost to tame, too convention, to label the next century’s progress, but the human ear will be challenged to absorb the complexities of the next century’s “music.” Just as electronic/internet communication could not have been predicted before the twentieth century, tomorrow’s music is beyond today’s imagination.