What made music what it is today?
5. The Electric Guitar is invented
United States, 1931. The Big Band is in full swing, and guitars are having to compete with monstrous brass sections. Early amplification attempts (including those by Les Paul, guitar maverick) were met with lukewarm success at best. All this changes when Adolph Rickenbacker and co. mass produce the first electric guitar as we'd know it today. This enables small bands to sonically fill huge spaces, leading to a proliferation of music groups of all genres.
4. Romanticism: Music for the People
In the late 18th, early 19th century, the balance of power is shifting all over Europe. The Industrial Revolution has dislodged the aristocracy's hegemony, disrupting monarchies and traditional power structures in favour of capitalist models. Music, once relying so heavily on patronage - be it from the wealthy elites or from the Church - begins to be experienced by the emerging middle classes. Music starts being created for its own sake, and explores themes such as nature, love, the supernatural and nationalism. This shift gives rise to musical giants like Paganini, Chopin, Schubert and Beethoven.
3. The Beatles' first single
Britain, 1962. After three years of playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg, the Beatles release their first hit single, Love Me Do. Overnight, music changed for good. The new sound heralded an explosion of rock and roll bands on both sides of the Atlantic, and solidified 'pop' music as a cultural concept. They didn't stop there - consolidating their status as pop icons, they began pushing boundaries by exploring psychedelica, Eastern influences and heavier styles.
2. Bach, inventor of modern theory
Some people say music wouldn't exist without Johann Sebastian Bach. Or, at least music as we know it. Yes, there were composers before him. Yes, the musical forms (preludes, chorales etc) he worked with existed before he used them. But the fact remains that music theory, with its major and minor keys, harmonic structure etc wouldn't be consolidated without him. Just as they saying goes that 'all philosophy is footnotes of Plato', one could argue that all classical music is footnotes of Bach.
1. The African Diaspora: jazz, blues, rock and beyond
Out of an international travesty came the greatest quantum leap in the history of music as a human art form. The synthesis of the Western sound of Bach and the Romantics with that of Africa - catalysed by the slave trade - created all modern music. From Spirituals to Gospel; through Jazz, Blues, Country and Western, Ragtime and Creole; to Rock and Roll, Ska, Reggae, Hip Hop, Heavy Metal... you name it, it came from a direct smash-up of the African Diaspora and classical. Outside of the West, Latin music and significant swathes of South and East Asian pop is informed, one way or another, by this union.