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Music of the Middle Ages From Gregorian Chant to the Renaissance.

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Presentation on theme: "Music of the Middle Ages From Gregorian Chant to the Renaissance."— Presentation transcript:

1 Music of the Middle Ages From Gregorian Chant to the Renaissance


3 On the Misery of the Human Condition, c. 1200 z inspiring words from Pope Innocent III... man was formed of dust, slime, and ashes: what is even more vile, of the filthiest seed. He was conceived from the itch of the flesh, in the heat of passion and the stench of lust, and worse yet, with the stain of sin. He was born to toil, dread, and trouble; and more wretched still, was born only to die. He commits depraved acts by which he offends God, his neighbor, and himself; shameful acts by which he defiles his name, his person, and his conscience; and vain acts by which he ignores all things important, useful, and necessary. He will become fuel for those fires which are forever hot and burn forever bright; food for the worm which forever nibbles and digests; a mass of rottenness which will forever stink and reek.




7 There were two schools of music during the Middle Ages Ars Antiqua - 1100-1300 & Ars Nova - 1300 - 1450

8 Ars Antiqua began in Paris at the Cathedral de Notre Dame


10 Representative Ars Antiqua Composers Leonin (1163-1190) Perotin (early 13th century) Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) Anonymous (?)

11 What is Ars Antiqua? Literally means “old art” Stemmed directly from Gregorian Chant This style of music can be characterized as adding hollow sounding harmonies(perfect 4ths & 5ths) to existing chants. This type of music is called organum. Originally, one voice would be added above the existing chant. The chant would be sung very slowly - it was called the cantus firmus.

12 Early Polyphony Polyphony means more than one pitch played at the same time - what we typically call harmony. The first type of polyphony was called parallel organum. Here the cantus firmus and the higher harmony mirrored each other. Eventually composers like Leonin and his student Perotin began adding a third and fourth part above the cantus firmus, and moved away from the eerie sounding parallel organum.

13 Parallel Organum

14 Meanwhile, in Germany… Hildegard von Bingen, who herself was a nun with reported mystical powers, began composing music different from the Notre Dame school. Von Bingen wrote music that sounded wildly different than plainchant, which some attributed to her lack of musical training. Her melodies, even today, seem contemporary.


16 What kind of music was happening outside of the church? Secular music, or popular music, has existed throughout history, especially during the Middle Ages. Secular music of the Middle Ages was the first to be written down on paper and preserved. Today, performances of secular music is possible using these surviving pieces of music.

17 Troubadours Troubadours were French musicians who traveled across Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries. They sang mostly love songs. They accompanied their love songs with instruments, unlike the church.


19 Adam de la Halle (1237- 1286) The most famous troubadour ever Wrote the first ever musical theater piece Le Jeu de Robin et Marion Inventor of the Motet Motet - a piece of music where two or more different verses are fit together simultaneously, without regard to harmony

20 Medieval Instruments Instruments in early secular music were used to accompany songs. Musicians usually improvised the simple accompaniments. While the accompaniments were melodically simple, they were rhythmically lively. Let’s take a look at the many different instruments used in these accompaniments…

21 Harp

22 Krumhorn

23 Lute

24 Muted Cornett

25 Psaltery

26 Sacbut

27 Serpent

28 Shawm

29 Hurdy-Gurdy

30 Drum or Tambor

31 Recorder

32 Viol

33 Ars Nova 14th & 15th century France The invention of modern notation The creation of the Ordinary of the Catholic Mass The popularity of the motet

34 Representative Ars Nova Composers Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377) Francesco Landini (1325-1397) Anonymous (?)


36 Guillaume de Machaut A poet & a musician Created the first Ordinary for the Catholic Mass Created many of the musical forms of today (rondos and ballades) Master of counterpoint

37 Examples of Ars Nova Music Music from this period was the first to add stems to the nuemes, thereby creating our modern system of notation.


39 This piece is called “Sumer is icumen in” and is the oldest surviving round.

40 Conclusions Most Medieval composers wrote mainly for the church and remained anonymous. These early composers did not take the art of composition seriously. It was more a necessary function, or duty. Most secular musicians had day jobs. Full time musicians were poor. While music itself was held in high regard, those who made it were not. This is very different today.

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