The middle ages


Representative composers:  Hildegard of Bingen, Leoninus, Perotinus, Machaut, Countess of Dia, Dufay, Binchois

MELODY:  Moves mostly by step within a narrow range; uses diatonic and not chromatic notes of the scale.

Diatonic:  pertaining to the seven notes that make up either the major or the minor scale.

Chromatic:  moving fret to the very next fret…1/2 steps

HARMONY:  Most surviving medieval music is monophonic Gregorian chant or monophonic troubadour and trouvere songs—hence there is no harmony.

Medieval polyphony (Mass, motet, and chanson) has dissonant phrases ending with open, hollow-sounding chords

Monophonic:  a musical texture involving only a single line of music with no accompaniment.

Gregorian chant (plain song):  a large body of unaccompanied monophonic vocal music, set to Latin texts, composed for the Western Church over the course of fifteen centuries, from the time of the earliest Fathers to the Council of Trent.

Troubadour songs:  a kind of secular poet-musician that flourished in southern France during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

Trouvere songs:  a kind of secular poet-musician that flourished in northern France during the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.

Polyphony:  a musical texture involving tow or more simultaneously sounding lines; the lines are often independent and create counterpoint.

Mass:  the central religious service of the Roman Catholic church, one that incorporates singing for spiritual reflection or as accompaniment to sacred acts.

Motet:  a composition for choir or larger chorus setting a religious, devotional, or solemn text; often sung a cappella.

Chanson:  a French term used broadly to indicate a lyrical song from the Middle Ages into the twentieth century.

Dissonance:  a discordant mingling of sounds vs. consonance where pitches sound agreeable and stable.

RHYTHM:  Gregorian chant as well as troubadour and trouvere songs sung mainly in notes of equal value without clearly marked rhythms; medieval polyphony is composed mostly in triple meter and uses repeating rhythmic patterns.

Triple meter: three beats per measure emphasizing every third beat--ONE two three, ONE two three.

COLOR:  Mainly vocal sounds (choir or soloists); little instrumental music survives.
:  Mostly monophonic-Gregorian chant as well as troubadour and trouvere songs are monophonic melodies

Medieval polyphony (two, three, or four independent lines) is mainly contrapuntal.

Contrapuntal:  counterpoint is simply the harmonious opposition of two or more independent musical lines.  Because counterpoint presupposes polyphony the terms “contrapuntal texture” and “polyphonic texture” are often used interchangeably.

FORM:  Strophic form of troubadour and trouvere songs; ternary form of the Kyrie; rondo form of the French roudeau.

Strophic form:  a musical form often used in setting a strophic; or stanzaic, text, such as a hymn or carol; the music is repeated anew for each successive strophe.

Ternary form:  consists of 3 sections where the second is a contrasting unit, and the third is a repeat of the first…ABA  Handel’s Water Music is a Minuet and Trio, where the Minuet is A, Trio is B, and return to the Minuet A. 

Kyrie:  the first portion of the Ordinary of the Mass and hence usually the opening movement in a polyphonic setting of the Mass.

Rondo form:  an ancient musical form (surviving into the twentieth century) in which a refrain alternates with contrasting material ex. ABABA or ABACA. 

Listening: 4 Machaut’s Kyrie of the Mass of Our Lady

*Best known work of medieval music      *Kyrie eleison = “Lord have mercy upon us”

*4 voice polyphony     *Only men and boys were allowed to sing in medieval cathedrals

                5 Countess of Dia’s I Must Sing (Troubador Song)

*Troubador’s = “finders” or “inventors” of words   *women did sing/perform in court

*Form = ABABCDE                  *no clear articulated rhythm