Part II: The Middle Ages

Middle Ages (450 – 14 50)
• Rome sacked by vandals – 455
• Beowulf – c.700
• First Crusade – 1066
• Black Death 1387 – 1400
• Joan of Arc executed by English – 1431

The Middle Ages
• A thousand years of European history
• Early – a time of migrations, upheavals, and wars
• Later – a period of cultural growth
• Romanesque churches and monasteries; Gothic cathedrals

Class Distinctions
• Nobility sheltered in fortified castles; knights in armor; amused themselves with hunting, feasting, and tournaments.
• Peasants: vast majority of population; lived miserably; subject to freudal overlords.
• Clergy: Roman Catholic Church, exerted power; monk held a virtual monopoly on learning. Most Powerful.

Music in Middle Ages
• Church was the center of musical life
• Important musicians were priest
• Women were not allowed to sing in church, but did make music in convents.
• Only Sacred Music Was Noted
• Music was primarily vocal and sacred
• Instruments were not used in church (very uncommon)
• Few medieval instruments have survived
• Music manuscripts did not indicate tempo, dynamics, or rhythm (only pitched noted)










Gregorian Chant
• Official music of the Roman Catholic Church
o No longer common since 2nd Vatican councils (1962-1965)
• Characteristics
o Monophonic texture (Always)
o Always set to Latin text
o Melodies tend to move by steps (avoid skips and leaps)
o Relatively narrow range
o Flexible rhythm: without meter and sense of beat
o Named for Pope Gregory 1st (r. 590-600)

 Anonymous, Alleluia: Vidimus Stellam, N/A
 Hildegard of Bingen, O Successores, N/A

Secular Music in the Middle Ages
• Composed by French nobles who were poet-musicians
o Troubadours (Southern France)
o Trouveres (Northern France)
• Performed traveling minstrels
o Jongleurs
• Song Topics
o Love
o Crusades
o Dancing
• Instrumental Dances
• N/A, Estampie, N/A
o Strong beat (For Dance)
o Single melody is notated
o Performers improvised
 Instrumental accompaniment
The Development of Polyphony
• The first example of polyphony is called organum (organi)
• Between 700 & 900, a 2nd melody line was added to chant
o Additional part initially improvised, not written
o Paralleled chant line at a different pitch
• 900 to 1,200, the added line grew more independent
o Developed its own melodic curve (no longer parallel)
o C.110 note-against-note motion abandoned
 2 lines with individual rhythmic and melodic content
 New part, in top voice, moved faster than the chant line



The Development of Polyphony
• The School of Notre Dame (Paris)
o Leonin and Perotin
 2 main composers of organum who developed a system of notating precise rhythms
 Their music was among the first to have measured rhythm
o Medieval theorist considered interval of 3rd as dissonant

 Perotin, Alleluia Nativitas, N/A
o Cantus firmus: based on existing chant melody

14th Century Music
• Italy and France experienced significant changes
• Changes in musical style known as the ars nova (latin for new art)
• Secular music more important than sacred
o Secular music was now commonly notated
• New music notation system evolved
o Beats could be subdivided into 2 as well as 3
• Previously divided only by 3 to reference holy trinity
o Divided by 3, perfect notation
o Divided by 2, imperfect notation
• Syncopation became an important rhythmic practice
 Landini, Ecco la primavera, N/A

Guillaume De Machaut
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