Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western culture, generally considered to have begun in Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the late 5th century CE and continuing to present day. Classical music refers to Western musical traditions considered to be apart from or a refinement of Western folk music or popular music traditions. The major periods are the medieval (500–1400), Renaissance (1400–1600), Baroque (1600–1750), Classical (1750–1820), Romantic (1800–1910), Modernist (1890–1975) and Postmodern era/Contemporary (1950–present) eras. These periods and their dates are all approximate generalizations and represent gradual stylistic shifts that varied in intensity and prominence throughout the Western world.
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 Ludwig van Beethoven as a golden age. The earliest reference to "classical music" recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary is from about 1829.European art music is largely distinguished from many other non-European classical and some popular musical forms by its system of staff notation, in use since about the 11th century. Catholic monks developed the first forms of modern European musical notation in order to standardize liturgy throughout the worldwide Church. Western staff notation is used by composers to indicate to the performer the pitches and durations for a piece of music. It includes both sacred (religious) and secular music. In contrast to most popular styles that adopted the song (strophic) form or a derivation of this form, classical music has been noted for its development of highly sophisticated forms of instrumental music such as the symphony, concerto, fugue, sonata, and mixed vocal and instrumental styles such as opera, cantata, and mass.