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How did the development of Romantic Music reflect that period in history?

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2018/04/28
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Romantic Music is a period of music that started between the late 18th century and early 19th century, and was a big part of the Romanticism movement for literature and art that took place in Europe in the second half of the 18th century. Before the Romantic music era, Classical music was the most well-known structure and style of music. What caused this transition to happen? This article will focus on non-music influences on the transition between Romantic and Classical Music between 1780-1820. As the evidence will show, the Napoleonic era and French Revolution resulted in the transition from the Classical to the Romantic Music Era as focus on the old regime, church, and nobles shifted to the new regime, secular ideas, and the people.

There are many causes of the French revolution, but the heart and soul of what was in all of the people that supported the revolution, was the rejection of the old regime aka the Ancien regime. During the Ancien regime, the peasant people faced high taxes that most of them couldn’t afford, which resulted to them living in poverty and unhappy.The growing popularity of philosophers that encouraged ideas such as “freedom” and “equality” also made the French people question the Ancien regime’s government system as it was mostly run by nobles, and peasants didn’t really have much of a say. This all resulted in the overthrow of the government by the French revolution that happened between 1789-1799. After the overthrow of the Ancien Regime, the original focus the French people had for the church (as it was a big part of the government) shifted towards more secular ideas. As the church was heavily associated with the corrupted old regime, it was natural for the people to reject and even come up with reforms to “dechristianize” France. Not only did they destroy most-anything that was an external sign and forms of worship, but the new revolutionary leaders ordered the exile and even death of many priests and other worshippers of God. Around the same time, new festivals that celebrate liberty and reason was scheduled, inspired by the philosophers that encouraged secular ideas. The decrease of power of the church during this time resulted in the increase in the popularity of secular ideas, which resulted in the focus of the people shifting from the church to more independent ideas. The key shift the overthrow of the Ancien Regime resulted in, was the change in power from the nobles to the people. As mentioned before, one of the main causes of the revolution itself was the fact that the peasants had no say in France. Therefore the people of France gathered and overthrew the regime and established a new government, which was run by the people. Under the new government, the privileges that the nobles had once had before were taken away, and they were now being treated equally as everyone else in the country (at best).

During the French Revolution, the focus shifted from the Ancien regime, to the new one which had influence over the shifting from Classical to Romantic music. Life for typical French peasants under the Ancien Regime was extremely difficult. The peasants were living under an absolute monarchy led by Louis the XIV, who not only didn’t help improve the peasants’ lives, but established a tax system that only benefited those who were already wealthy: the nobles. Since the peasants were already living under poverty, under Louis XIV’s taxation system, their quality of life decreased even more. Since the wealthy benefited so much under Louis XIV’s rule and the peasants did not, a huge economic class gap formed. The nobles enjoyed extensive privileges including vast lands and extreme wealth: which was maintained by collecting taxes from the peasants who were working on their estates in order to survive. One of the main reasons why the peasants had to endure such hardship was because all of the political decisions were made to benefit the wealthy, and the peasants had no say in deciding these rules. The government had established three estates, in which they asked to vote for or against new laws: the first and second estates consisted of the wealthy and privileged, while the third estate was made up of the peasants, middle class and urban workers. Obviously, the third estate had the largest population, as most of France was made up of underprivileged peasants and workers.   Considering the fact that each estate only had one vote- disregarding the number of people it is representing, the third estate’s opposition towards the laws the only benefited the rich (1st and 2nd estate) was never heard, as the first and second estate would vote against them. As these unfair policies continued to worsen along with their quality of life, the French people was sick and tired of the mistreatment by the Ancien regime, and realized that their life wasn’t going to get any better under this regime, so they started looking for a solution.



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