I am procrastinating with writers' block, trying to write about Books of Hours, and so to try and give myself another way to think about the texts I've been listening to a lot of medieval liturgical music, which has made me aware of how painfully little I know about the history of music. Here's more or less what I know:
Way-back-when BC: people made instruments? Do we know about them? Greek-Roman times: they had lyres and shit early medieval: plainsong and no polyphonic music (though I am not entirely clear what polyphony is ) [long gap] Abba. And Madonna.
Can you help me fill in the gaps (and I know it's all Western-centric, sorry!)?
Oh, Mrscog, I just clicked on your middle one. Zadok, yep, fab. I had that on a cassette to play in my cassette player in 1983 when revising for finals. That and Handel's Water Music and loads of other baroque stuff. Lovely!
There is some amazing mediaeval music too - both sacred and secular. Check out feminist pin-up Hildegard of Bingen.
Maybe worth putting on Radio 3 for a couple of days and seeing what appeals to you? Late Junction is good for more offbeat stuff (early music, folk, contemporary) as opposed to the 'purer' classical music discussed above.
Classic FM has a series of links about music history; this one is about the Baroque period, and clicking at the top of the page will take you to the others. Haven't looked at it properly myself yet, but it looks like a good starting point. < Vows to take own advice >
I just wanted to say, I went silent to go and listen to all these things!
Thank you all so much. I'm feeling a tiny bit better educated and much less clueless about looking things up. I do usually have the radio on at some point during the day but instead of letting it wash over me and thinking 'ooh, that's lovely', I've been making a real effort to look it up so I know what I'm listening to.