I think it used to be that there were enough genres that one could count them all and remember them. Now days we have not only the main genres of music, but also new ones and sub-genres, it’s quite prolific. If you really want to get into the weeds, you can go into sub-genres. Believe it or not there are also sub categories of sub-genres! Want to see? Ok, if you are brave enough:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_popular_music_genres and that was just the popular ones!
I thought it would be kind of interesting to take a look at some genres in an etymology and historical way in a sense. I’ll go over some of the genres here. (I’m not doing all of them, otherwise I’d be here typing for a year and you would end up scrolling for 6 months just to read it). I’ll also provide audio samples of some of the sub genres in that section.
So what does this have to do with the expansion of the universe? It’s a metaphor, really.There are so many genres and sub-genres and even sub-genres of sub-genres that it takes a universe to hold them.
First, what is a music genre? A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music as belonging to a shared tradition or set of conventions. It is to be distinguished from musical form and musical style, although in practice these terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Music can be divided into different genres in many different ways. The artistic nature of music means that these classifications are often subjective and controversial, and some genres may overlap. There are even varying academic definitions of the term genre itself.
While it’s not really known down to the exact date these or any genre appeared, the following are the more widely accepted ones:
Rock or Rock and Roll-A genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s,from a combination of African-American genres such as blues, boogie woogie, jump blues, jazz, and gospel music, together with Western swing and country music. Though elements of rock and roll can be heard in blues records from the 1920s and in country records of the 1930s, the genre did not acquire its name until the 1950s. In the earliest rock and roll styles of the late 1940s and early 1950s, either the piano or saxophone was often the lead instrument, but these were generally replaced or supplemented by guitar in the middle to late 1950s. Classic rock and roll is usually played with one or two electric guitars (one lead, one rhythm), a string bass or (after the mid-1950s) an electric bass guitar, and a drum kit. In addition, rock and roll may have contributed to the civil rights movement because both African-American and white American teens enjoyed the music. It went on to spawn various genres, often without the initially characteristic backbeat, that are now more commonly called simply “rock music” or “rock”.
Classical – Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western music, including both liturgical (religious) and secular music. While a similar term is also used to refer to the period from 1750-1820 (the Classical period), this is about the broad span of time from roughly the 11th century to the present day, which includes the Classical period and various other periods. The major time divisions of classical music are as follows: the early music period, which includes the Medieval (500–1400) and the Renaissance (1400–1600) eras; the Common practice period, which includes the Baroque (1600–1750), Classical (1750–1820), and Romantic eras (1804–1910); and the 20th century (1901–2000) which includes the modern (1890–1930) that overlaps from the late 19th-century, the high modern (mid 20th-century), and contemporary or postmodern (1975–2015) eras.
European art music is largely distinguished from many other non-European and popular musical forms by its system of staff notation, in use since about the 16th century. Western staff notation is used by composers to prescribe to the performer the pitches (e.g., melodies, basslines and/or chords), tempo, meter and rhythms for a piece of music. This leaves less room for practices such as improvisation and ad libitum ornamentation, which are frequently heard in non-European art music and in popular music styles such as jazz and blues. Another difference is that whereas most popular styles lend themselves to the song form, classical music has been noted for its development of highly sophisticated forms of instrumental music such as the concerto, symphony, sonata, and mixed vocal and instrumental styles such as opera which, since they are written down, can attain a high level of complexity.
The term “classical music” did not appear until the early 19th century, in an attempt to distinctly canonize the period from Johann Sebastian Bach to Beethoven as a golden age. The earliest reference to “classical music” recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary is from about 1836. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_music
Folk – Folk music includes both traditional music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th century folk revival. The term originated in the 19th century but is often applied to music that is older than that. Some types of folk music are also called world music. This is the hardest of all because it is a product of evolution and due to it being closely associated with communication of story telling and traditions and being from every known and unknown civilization it is hard to pin down a start date.
Jazz – Jazz is a genre of music that originated from African-American communities of New Orleans in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It emerged in the form of independent traditional music and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz spans a period of over a hundred years, encompassing a range of music from ragtime to jazz-rock fusion of the 1970s and 1980s, and has proved to be difficult to define. Jazz makes heavy use of improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation and the swing note, as well as aspects of European harmony, American popular music, the brass band tradition, and African musical elements such as blue notes and African-American styles such as ragtime. Although the foundation of Jazz is deeply rooted within the black experience of America, different cultures have contributed their own experience to the music as while. Jazz music has led intellectuals from around the world to hail jazz as “one of America’s original art forms”.
As jazz spread around the world, it drew on different national, regional, and local musical cultures, which gave rise to many distinctive styles, (which I’ll touch on a few later-*editor’s note).https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz
Blues -Blues is a genre and musical form that originated in African-American communities in the “Deep South” of the United States around the end of the 19th century. The genre developed from a fusion of traditional African music and European folk music, that incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll, is characterized by the call-and-response pattern, the blues scale and specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common. The blue notes (or “worried notes”) which are often thirds or fifths which are flatter in pitch than in other music styles, are also an important part of the sound. Blues shuffles or walking bass reinforce the trance-like rhythm and form a repetitive effect called a groove.
Blues as a genre possesses other characteristics such as lyrics, bass lines, and instruments. Early blues frequently took the form of a loose narrative, often relating troubles experienced within African-American society.
The origins of the blues are also closely related to the religious music of the Afro-American community, the spirituals. The first appearance of the blues is often dated to after emancipation of slavery and, later, the development of juke joints. It is associated with the newly acquired freedom of the former slaves. Chroniclers began to report about blues music at the dawn of the 20th century. The first publication of blues sheet music was in 1908. Blues has since evolved from unaccompanied vocal music and oral traditions of slaves into a wide variety of styles and sub-genres. Blues sub-genres include country blues, such as Delta and Piedmont, as well as urban blues styles such as Chicago and West Coast blues. World War II marked the transition from acoustic to electric blues and the progressive opening of blues music to a wider audience, especially white listeners. In the 1960s and 1970s, a hybrid form called blues rock evolved.
Country – country music is a genre of American popular music that originated in the Southern United States in the 1920s.It takes its roots from the southeastern genre of American folk music and Western music. Blues modes have been used extensively throughout its recorded history. Country music often consists of ballads and dance tunes with generally simple forms and harmonies accompanied by mostly string instruments such as banjos, electric and acoustic guitars, dobros and fiddles as well as harmonicas. The term country music gained popularity in the 1940s in preference to the earlier term hillbilly music; it came to encompass Western music, which evolved parallel to hillbilly music from similar roots, in the mid-20th century. The term country music is used today to describe many styles and sub-genres. The origins of country music are the folk music of mostly white, working-class Americans, who blended popular songs, Irish and Celtic fiddle tunes, traditional ballads, and cowboy songs, and various musical traditions from European immigrant communities.
Pop – Pop music (a term that derives from “popular”) is a genre of popular music that originated in its modern form in the Western world during the 1950s and 1960s, deriving from rock and roll. The terms “popular music” and “pop music” are often used interchangeably, although the former describes all music that is popular (and can include any style).
Pop music is eclectic, and often borrows elements from other styles such as urban, dance, rock, Latin, and country; nonetheless, there are core elements that define pop music. Identifying factors include generally short to medium-length songs written in a basic format (often the verse-chorus structure) as well as the common employment of repeated choruses, melodic tunes, and hooks. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pop_music
Now that we have the foundation exposed, let’s drill down a little deeper to discover some of the less popular and sub-genres.