0,000 BC and earlier
Mixing of music, drama, dance, costume, healing rituals in hunting-gathering cultures
ca. 3,000 BC
Depictions of masked dancers in Tassili (Sahara, Africa)
5th century BC
Era of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes in Greek theatre
ca. 5th c. BC – 3rd c. AD
Natya Sastra, South Asian treatise on drama-dance-music
7th – 9th century AD
Ambush from All Sides (China, Tang dynasty), Musical composition for pipa (Chinese lute) describing a famous battle in Chinese history. "It is as if thousands of warriors and their horses were thrown into battle, the ground red with blood and the sky exploding with terror" (commentary from the Tang period)
Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi; considered to be the most important early Italian opera
The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi; four concertos, each attached to a sonnet about a season
Don Giovanni by W. A. Mozart; considered to be a landmark in dramatic opera
Symphony No. 6 (The Pastoral) by Ludwig van Beethoven; each movement is attached with a picturesque story-caption
Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz; Berlioz supplied a storyline for the symphony
William Tell by G. Rossini; this was Rossini’s last opera; its famous "Overture" has a section musically depicting a storm; the closing theme of the Overture later became the theme for The Lone Ranger (1949)
Faust Symphony by Franz Liszt; Liszt is credited with the first use of the term "programme music": "a preface added to a piece of instrumental music . . . to direct attention to the poetical idea of the whole or to a particular part of it."
Period of mature operas by Giuseppi Verdi (Italy) and Richard Wagner (Germany)
Swan Lake by Piotr I. Tchaikovsky; one of the most popular dramatic ballets emerging from the repertoire of Romantic-era mid-to-late 19th century ballet
Don Juan, by Richard Strauss. Strauss became the greatest exponent of orchestral "program music" ("symphonic poems") beginning with this composition, a musical interpretation of a famous character from Spanish literature (the same as in Mozart’s Don Giovanni)
Five Pieces for Orchestra by Arnold Schoenberg. These compositions bear descriptive or suggestive musical titles ("Summer morning by a lake"; "Premonitions"), and introduce a complex harmonic system into Western music, a system that makes free use of chromaticism and dissonant intervals, and which is sometimes called "atonality." Atonal or chromatic harmony will be heavily drawn upon for science fiction and horror films.
The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky. Stravinsky’s famous ballet music also added, like the music of Schoenberg, new elements of harmony and rhythm into Western symphonic music.
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