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Music History

Class Overview

How old is music? Does every culture have music? What is the oldest musical instrument? When and how was the saxophone invented? Were musical instruments ever used for anything else other than musical entertainment? How did composers and musicians earn a living centuries ago? What is a neume? Who invented music notation? Why do old notes look like squares? What is a wax cylinder and what does it do? What is the harmonic series?

We will watch a lot of videos in (and out of) class in order to help music history come alive, and because immersing ourselves visually, aurally, mentally, and emotionally is the best way to learn about the past!

We are studying the history of music (performance), the history of notation, and the history of musical instruments. Who are your favorite composers and what do you want to know about them? We need to know the dates of the major musical eras to be intelligent and literate musicians, but we will focus on other areas, too, because they are sometimes not studied much in detail and are just as fascinating!

Classes and Levels

This class is an interesting overview of music history, spanning more than 2000 years. Students may enroll in this class multiple years, as the musical examples and composer focus may be different each year.

Ages and Prerequisites

Because this class requires students to look at musical scores, as well as have a basic understanding of world history, students should be of high school age and have at least an intermediate level of proficiency on any instrument or voice.

Class Size

This class can hold unlimited students, but has a minimum enrollment of 6. If fewer than 6 students enroll for the class, the class may be cancelled.


This class has minimal homework, but students are expected to compile and keep a 3-ring binder notebook during class which will contain handouts, illustrations, and notes. At the end of the semester, students should have a completed history timeline, or journal, of our exploration of music through the centuries. Assignments may include watching videos or listening to recordings. These assignments need to be completed before the next class.

Required Books and Materials

Students should bring a 3-ring binder (one inch) with a few pockets to keep handouts, materials, and illustrations. Include a small amount of notebook paper for taking notes.

A required text, if any, has not yet been determined. There will be a materials fee of $5 added to your account for the handouts, materials, and illustrations.

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