Because music notation wasn’t perfected before let’s say the 1400, we have very little ideas what the Greek listened to, or the Romans, for that matter. By the way, the music notation we have is French. Just saying. Anyway, besides the lack of music notation, there’s another obstacle: the instruments. Very few, if any of those have survived the centuries. We can guess their texture, of course, but it will be at best an approximation.
We have pictures of people partying and musicians leading the dancers, but a picture is silent.
So, the other day, someone was telling me that music during the middle age must have been austere and dark, you know, just like the times themselves. And I told him (let’s say the person was a man, let’s call him Bob. There, we have a man called Bob. Onward to the story), I told Bob that I didn’t think so. I thought that the church was the one keeping the records of the times, from literature to tapestry, but that wasn’t representative of the kind of music the population got married to, for example. The music sheets we have from the church are of Gregorian chant. Now, it’s beautiful, for sure, but it won’t rock anyone’s world. I doubt that was what the good people of Europe would dance to when the spring came every year (Saint John’s celebration was as big as Christmas at the time). If you feel spiritual and in a sober mood, Gregorian chants are your best friends. But if you want to ingest a large amount of ale until the night turns to day, that won’t do.
Look, I am no historian, but I know this: whether it was the egyptians building their pyramids or the peasants toiling their ungrateful soil, they had to have some kind of swinging genre of music to let loose to. That much I am sure of. The church didn’t keep a record of those songs, too bad. It doesn’t mean they didn’t exist.