There are several types of music in the world. Some of them are religious and others are secular. Aside from classical music, you will find rock and pop, jazz, blues, country, and folk songs. The history of secular music is complex. In fact, some scholars claim that the origin of music began in the ancient times. Unlike religious music, however, secular music is not used for worship purposes. Instead, it is used for entertainment.
Secular folk music is a form of music that is performed for pleasure and does not use religious lyrics. It is characterized by polyrhythms, deep timbres, and demonstrations of “heavy” emotions. During the Middle Ages, enslaved people developed secular folk music. This type of music served as a source of strength and community for slaves. As a result, many African American communities adopted this style of music.
Early forms of secular folk music included minstrelsy. These performers were often very talented and utilized well-known instruments. Among the common instruments were flutes, bagpipes, and fiddles. They told entertaining stories and gained attention from royalty. Often, the songs were fiction.
Troubadours were more serious performers, who sang about loss and relatable themes. While they were not as popular as minstrels, their music did influence several genres. Most of these musicians were African Americans. They were popular in the late 19th century. Their music is still a part of the African cultural continuum.
Blues, another form of secular folk music, was created by African Americans in the early 20th century. Originally created in the South, it developed into an influential form of popular music in the 1960s. Typically, blues songs are lyrical, expressive, and narrative.
One of the most notable examples of the oldest secular songs is Summer is Icummen In. In this song, the tenor performs a dance-like melody while the bass singer maintains a steady rhythm. With each singer’s performance, new layers are added. Another example is The Wife of Usher’s Well.
Although the majority of the music from this period is composed in a secular manner, there are examples of sacred and sacred-inspired music. For example, there is the opera, Song to the Moon, by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak. Despite being later than Rossini in the Romantic Era, Dvorak’s opera is a masterful example of the transition from the early to the late twentieth century. Featuring abrupt emotional about-faces and falling sixths, this piece is a precursor to the famous secular song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
Another important contributor to the development of Spanish secular music was Villancicos. He contributed to the fusion of European and African traditions. Besides his secular song, he also wrote sacred music.
Though secular music was not widely studied in the medieval period, it was documented. During this period, the norms of counterpoint were strict. Consequently, it is unlikely that this music would have any significant influence on contrapuntal styles.
However, during the Renaissance, many studies have been done on the art song forms of Europe. Studies of the chansons of France, the solo madrigals and arias of Italy, and the airs and lute songs of England have all been extensively researched.