by Alex Cosper (3/9/17)
While it's plausible to believe music has been around for thousands of years, it's difficult to research the topic since audio recordings did not exist until the late 19th century. The earliest music theory was believed to be developed by Greek philosopher/mathematician Pythagoras, who lived from about 570 to 495 BC. Not only did his ideas help shape western philosophy, they also helped shape western music.
Prior to Pythagoras' discovery that music related to math, various musical instruments had been used for centuries. The earliest music notation appears to be from around 1500 BC on clay tablets in the Sumerian and Akkadian regions of Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Turkey and Iran. Some of the known instruments of Ancient Mesopotamia were harps, lyres, lutes, reed pipes and drums. Silver pipes with finger holes in the area trace back to 2500 BC. Written history in general dates back to 3100 BC in the same region.
It would not be a stretch to speculate that the oldest musical instrument on the planet invented by humans is the drum. Since the drum is a percussive instrument and can be made out of multiple materials to achieve the sound of a steady beat without much regard to specific tones, it's plausible that the first musical instrument appeared in the stone age and was made of sticks and stones.
The idea of melody has probably been around music longer, since the human voice itself is a musical instrument. Furthermore, birds have inhabited the earth longer than humans and may have been the first true singers on the planet.
Credit must be given to the Greeks for at least inventing the word "music," which is derived from the term mousike, which means "art of the Muses." In Greek mythology, there were nine goddesses also known as muses that inspired science and art, which included music, poetry and song lyrics.
The phrase "ancient history" in a scientific context usually refers to the era of recorded Greek history from 776 BC, which was a decade before the founding of Rome, through the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD. The "Dark Ages" also called the "Middle Ages," usually refers to the subsequent period from about the 6th through 14th centuries. The "Renaissance" era was from the 14th through 17th centuries in Europe, which marked the rise of classical music and orchestras. The invention of the printing press in 1455 by Gutenberg helped popularize sheet music.
Whatever you want to call these eras, they were long ago, yet still have somewhat of an influence on modern music. Scales used in western music began to appear around 1100 AD. For many centuries leading up to the commercialization of music in the 20th century, a lot of cultural music was based on religious hymns that originated in churches, orchestral music commissioned by royalty, percussive marches used by military and folk songs that came from the common people.