Song-Writing Timeline

  • Period: Jan 1, 600 to

    Early Church to Present

  • Feb 1, 600

    Gregorian Chant

    Pope Gregory begins to collect and codify plain chant, which is then named "Gregorian Chant" to honor his efforts and position as pope within the Roman Catholic Church that was previously established.
  • Dec 4, 650

    Early Church Music

    Early forms of music began to form in a structured pattern that fit within the church service. These songs took ques from the Jewish Rite, but employed new strucutures and musical shifts. An example would be cantillation, or the rise and fall of pitch in spoken vocal parts or sung verses.
  • Dec 5, 1000

    Polyphonic Rise

    Polyphony takes hold with specific voicing of parts broken up into duplem, triplem, and quadruplem. The cantus firmus is often used as the drone, or tenor voice in the part to construct the full polyphonic effect. This music was used in churches like the Notre Dame Cathedral as a large and grandeur element in the service, giving glory to God in a very ornate fashion.
  • Dec 5, 1163


    Composers such as Leonin and Perotin wrote polyphonic music in works such as "The Great Book of Organum."
  • Dec 5, 1300

    Guillame de Machaut

    Musicians such as Machaut worked in the 14th century to set music to the church mass in entricate and detailed ways. He wrote pieces for four voices to be performed as their own piece with complex parts.
  • Dec 5, 1450

    Josquin des Prez

    Josquin des Prez wrote with double imitation to rework polyphonic parts that mirrored eachother. An example of this style was further implemented as the Kyrie in the mass.
  • Dec 31, 1450

    The Renaissance Period

    At the close of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance Period begins with the Reformation. Luther and Calvin played a large role in influencing music in hymn form and psalter forms, respectively.
  • Dec 5, 1550


    Music began to shift from polyphonic forms to different styles as the culture naturally moved from the Renaissance Period to the Baroque Period. Giovanni Garielli was an Italian composer during this time who began to write for instruments and singers which was an early influence in the Operatic style soon to follow.
  • Baroque Period

    When the Baroque Period came along, there was a large shift in the musical styles that the culture was drawn to all throughout Europe. Composers such as Camerata wrote in reaction to the large scale and grandeur styles of music that preceeded their time. The birth of Operatic music took place during this period and a completely new form of song occurred. This style utitlized voice textures with instruments that was a strong influence on our modern day orchestras.
  • Opera

    Opera music became known for the expression brought through the vocal lines and performers portrayed scenes with strong inflections in their recitation. This story-like form became very popular among the people and composers began to form arias. This influenced today's call and response forms that were also developed in field-holler music.
  • Opera

    Opera music influenced church music in this time by giving way to two different styles known as cantata and oratoria, which were based on hymns and biblical stories respectively. Recitative form was more declaratory while the aria style remained more intact with emotional drive and required an emotional response.
  • The Late Baroque

    During the later part of the Baroque Period, two composers had a large influence on church music. Bach and Handel were both inspirational writers who redefined the way that music was set in a church service for this period. Bach wrote more from the Cantata style while Handel preferred the Oratorio.
  • Birth of Hymn

    At the end of the 17th Century, a new form of music broke through, known as Hymn form. The very first hymns were reserved for the aristocracy and rich, but composers like Isaac Watts soon wrote a great deal of hymns that began to be circulated into more and more church settings.
  • The Classical Period

    With the coming of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart during the mid 18th Century, the Classical period began to be more and more defined and seperated from the previous Baroque Period. There was a large shift from linear melodies to homophonic vertical textures in their music.
  • Romantic Period

    A large departure was made from the Classical Period with the rise of composers such as Wagner who strayed away from the very rigid and vertical textures of the previous period. Chopin was another composer who helped to greatly define the Romantic Period. Great hymns began to take root in the hearts of the church as writers such as Fanny Crosby wrote gospel hymns.
  • American 19th Century

    As the American people moved more and more into their Freedom, they began to form their own musical ideas and the political shifts and cultural shifts played into a very new sounds rising from America. A large part of the music of this period was heavily influenced by the slave trade that existed between the Americas and Europe. African-American music along with European music were the most influential inputs into an entirely new form of song.
  • Call and Response

    African American music implemented a new style of sound known as call and response that was so effective because of its tie to the African American slaves that worked in fields. This gave way to field-holler styles, where slaves used song as a form of communication that was easyily teachable, memorable, and meaningful.
  • American 20th Century

    With the rise of the 20th Century, new forms of music naturally followed the trends of the time with new composers writing in reaction to the music that preceeded them. Claude Debussy was such a composer who wrote in a very impressionistic style that was rather common in form and came across as an understatement, as opposed a large an ornate feature.
  • Modern Period

    The Modern Period of music began to take form from the African American and European influences, which both helped shape the rise of field-holler, blues, jazz, and early rock 'n roll music. All of these forms were implemented outside the church setting, but became cultural norms rather quickly.
  • Merging Styles

    With the culmination of the modern period of music, the various styles that were formed from the early gospel songs influence during the mid 19th Century through 1950 began to come together and form new styles. These styles included gospel music, popular music, and traditional organ and piano styles used in many church settings.
  • The church and secular world

    While the secular world progressed in it's musical exploration, the church remained somewhat distant from the culture, seeming to be about 20 years behind the newest forms such as funk music brought about by musical groups like Tower of Power and James Brown. Church music slowly followed along as artists like Keith Green, Petra, and Phil Keaggy modeled secular artists who drew upon rock and pop styles.
  • Hip-Hop

    As funk music began to withdraw from culture, hip-hop quickly took it's place as artists such as RUN DMC wrote about current and relevant issues in their environment such as poverty, racial injustice, abuse, and hate.
  • Rise of CCM

    Church music took a large turn into a new direction with the rise of Contemporary Christian Music at the close of the 20th Century. New music groups were formed as the result of the out pouring of the Holy Spirit in movements such as the Jesus Movment in California. Maranatha Music was formed so that artists could get their music to the culture that needed a clear truth to hold onto in the midst of the free willed rock 'n roll movement of the secular world.
  • The Mass

    The catholic mass was developed as a way to provide a clear form for a church service to follow, and specific music accompanied the various sections of each service accordingly. The parts of the mass included the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.
  • Middle Ages - Polyphony

    Polyphonic music is introduced into the church setting with horizontal medlody lines moving in the same motion, layered over eachother. The use of organum is implemented as well. This is a departation from the strictly homophonice music that preceeded it.