Representative Ars Antiqua Composers Leonin (1163-1190) Perotin (early 13th century) Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) Anonymous (?)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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…
This piece is called “Sumer is icumen in” and is the oldest surviving round.
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.