When we learn history in school, all too often, we are taught it through a framing of politics first. We learn about kings and queens, prime ministers and presidents - and we learn about war. We see the two most important events of the 20th century as being the World Wars. It's very sad, really, to consider that we learn about times that humans got enthusiastic about killing each other before we learn about ways we began helping each other, developing better ideas, or making great art.
If we're lucky, we get to hear about history in terms of technology and social justice next - but somehow, culture is left until last. This is a shame, as the culture of an era is one of the ideal ways to study its history.
Music may be left out of the official lessons, but we all know that it is the soundtrack of history - and more than that, it helped to convey messages, to change minds, and to move history as well as illuminate it. If you hear a harpsichord, you may not even know what it is, but you'll immediately be transported back to Medieval times. A trumpeter will tell you of a cavalry charge, and church bells dominating a village announce which religion has the cultural reins there.
A Baroque lay conjures its own period, with its social mores and weaponry and technology. Gospel music and later jazz, blues, tap, and hip-hop developed out of the culture of Black spirits persisting in the face of unbearable oppression. Rock 'n' roll helped to level a hierarchical society.
History is the story of us, and the music that appeals to us tells us everything about the parts of it to which we are drawn. Which are yours?