I love learning why things are the way they are. In the case of the music we listen to today, I’m always trying to figure out how we got to now. What inventions, innovations and unrelated events led to today? The BBC has narrowed things down to eight ideas that changed Western music forever. They are:
The Scale: Sometime around 500 BC, Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher and mathematician, gave us the musical scale. Although humans had been making music for millennia, it wasn’t until Pythagoras codified discrete tones by using mathematical ratios.
Music Notation: Up until sometime around 1000 AD, there was no standard way of writing down music. Credit Guido d’Arezzo for figuring out a way to plot notes on paper. For the first time ever, music had a storage medium other than human memory.
Everyone starts buying a piano: In the early 18th century, it started to become fashionable for homes to acquire a piano. The Industrial Revolution not only boosted wages but also provided the method for the manufacture of inexpensive pianos. You had to have a piano in the parlour.
Sound recording: Edison + Berliner = The recording industry.
Public radio broadcasting: Before about 1922, radio broadcasting was about as chaotic as the Internet was in 1999: few regulations, poor quality control and almost no technical standards. It took institutions like the BBC to create some semblance of order.
Music charts: Charts are how the industry and the public keep score of what’s popular and what’s selling.
The birth of electronic music: When we finally learned to tame electricity into music, a brand new universe of sound opened up.
The Sony Walkman: Personal, portable music. It didn’t exist before 1979.
Read the full article (and see some interesting video) here.