The basic vocabulary of music as we know it has been around for centuries, dating as far back as Medieval times. While we know ancient music existed, it hasn’t been well documented.
Since the early days of documented music, our melodies and harmonies have evolved to the point where virtually any combination of notes is accepted as music. This hasn’t always been the case. Hundreds of years ago, the interval of a simple tritone (C to F#) was shunned and even named diabolus in musica, or “the devil in music”. Nowadays, we wouldn’t think twice about using the tritone interval.
Over the years, musical styles have evolved as well. The simplicity of Gregorian chants from Medieval times transformed into the complex and ornamental lines and counterpoints of the Baroque period. This gave way to the simple melodies and phrasings of the Classical period. This was followed by the Romantic period, when harmonies and melodies emphasized emotion and fantasy. This led to the Impressionist movement, where new, exotic harmonies created dreamy clouds of sound. The response to this was modern music where dissonance and bold gestures knew no bounds.
In recent times, we’ve witnessed the rapid procession of differing styles of popular music. One need only to compare ragtime to techno and big band to hip hop in order to see the dizzying array of recent musical styles. And thanks to our modern age of travel and communications, music of cultures throughout the world are easily accessible to the curious listener.
It’s virtually impossible to create a new musical language or style that hasn’t been heard before. Any new style will simply be a derivation of a previously existing style. That’s why the trend these days is to combine previously existing styles into new sounds. While the individual elements might not be new, the resulting mix is a refreshing change.
By use of imagination and experimentation, any musical style can be bred with any other musical style. One wouldn’t normally think of the electronic sounds of techno music blending with the traditional instruments of a symphony orchestra. But that’s just what we hear in this short musical example.
Notice the contrast between the rich tones of the violins and French horns, and the sharp, energetic groove of the electronic techno instruments. While the electronic instruments play fast musical patterns, the symphonic instruments alternate between slower melody lines and fast, accented ones. In addition to the violins and French horns, we hear from the trumpets, trombones and xylophone. No one instrument sounds out of place. They all work together to create a rich and exciting tapestry of sound.
Experiment with combining totally different styles of music. Even if the genres differ wildly from each other, you can always find elements within a style to complement another style. Enjoy the process. You might be surprised with what you hear.