The history of music is a particularly rich and complex subject, mainly because of its characteristics : the difficulty lies first of all in the antiquity of music, a universal phenomenon dating back to prehistory, which has given rise to the formation of traditions that have developed separately throughout the world over millennia. So there are a multitude of very long histories of music according to cultures and civilizations. Western music (classical or pop-rock music in a very broad sense) only took on the character of international reference in the 16th century, and still very partially.

The difficulty also arises from the diversity of musical forms within a single civilization : learned music, elite Music, Official Music, religious music, popular music. These range from very elaborate forms to popular forms such as lullabies. A cultural heritage of a particularly wide diversity, in contrast to other arts practised in a more restricted or elitist manner. Finally, with music, art of the moment, there is the particular question of the sources : the absence of a system of notation of a part of World Music, prevents to really know the extent of the music of the past time, the tradition having probably saved only a limited number.

The realization of a universal synthesis appears very difficult because many history of music deal essentially with the history of Western music. It is generally only possible to refer to works and articles specialized by civilization or by type of music. Music is an art and a cultural activity consisting of combining sounds and silence over time. The main ingredients are rhythm (how to combine sounds in Time), height (combination in frequencies), nuances and timbre. It is now considered a form of modern poetry.

Music gives rise to Creations (works of art created by composers), performances. It uses certain rules or systems of composition, from the simplest to the most complex (often musical notes, scales and others). It can use various objects, the body, the voice, but also specially designed musical instruments, and increasingly all sounds.

Music has existed in all human societies since prehistory. It is at the same time a form of individual expression (especially the expression of feelings), a source of collective gathering and pleasure (party, song, dance) and a symbol of a cultural, national or spiritual community.