[ Home  |  FAQ-Related Q&As  |  General Q&As  |  Answered Questions ]

    Search the Q&A Archives

does any 1 know any thing about medieval music between...

<< Back to: [FAQ] Welcome to soc.history.medieval (Mini-FAQ)

Question by megz
Submitted on 7/26/2003
Related FAQ: [FAQ] Welcome to soc.history.medieval (Mini-FAQ)
Rating: Rate this question: Vote
does any 1 know any thing about medieval music between 500AD_1500AD?

Answer by John Nowakowski
Submitted on 10/2/2003
Rating:  Rate this answer: Vote
That's a big question.  Note that from 500-1000 and beyond, most music was monophonic, Gregorian type chants or songs.  There was no standard musical notation, most were passed on directly, so there is little recorded history on the subject.  For the rest, I will cite an earlier answer I gave to the question "What is a motet and what are its characteristics?"  The answer I gave should enlighten you somewhat...


Good question.  The development of the motet as a musical form follows the early development of polyphonic music.  Polyphonic music has more than one voice (melody) while monophonic music has only one voice or melody.  So, the early Gregorian chants are monophonic even though many people might sing them, there is still one melody.  A fugue by Bach might be played on a single violin, but there are multiple melodies going simultaneously, so it is polyphonic.
Popular music on the radio is homophonic- one melody against a backdrop of chords.

Polyphony is a Western innovation in music and can be traced to Notre Dame around the 12th century.  A composer named Leonin was working with monophonic chants in a form called organum.  Like an organ, an organum would have some low bass notes sustained, while a voice would sing the melody over the held notes.  Leonin developed sections of the organum in which there was 'discant clausulae' (which was basically some of the beginnings of real polyphony) where the low voice would move faster than it did in other sections.  Leonin's immediate followers in ND, particularly Perotin, picked up on this innovation and developed polyphony further.

It is really here, at the start of the 13th century in Notre Dame, that the motet was born.  As they were generally composed by affiliated musicians, in the same country, same institution, etc. the characteristics of 13th century motets are generally identifiable.  While the very, very earliest motets were wholly sacred, with Latin voices, they rapidly developed into a newer form.

1) 3 voices are par, sometimes four
2) each voice sings a different melody
3) each melody is singing a different text
4) the lowest voice is in Latin, singing sacred text
5) the upper two voices are each singing a french secular text, usually cheesy love poems
6) there is a compound title, usually:
1st word or two of highest melody, then a dash, then the 1st word or two of the middle melody, then a dash, finally the 1st word of the Latin text in the lowest voice.  Examples would be
Aucun vont-Amor qui cor-Kyrie  or
Pucelete-Je languis-Domino
7) Most were composed anonymously
8) Because of the inclusion of secular texts, motets were performed outside of church services.
9) Composers of the time had a ternary division of the beat, so there is something of a triplet feel to all of the music, a 6/8 or what not.

btw "motet" is from the french word "mot" for "word" (initially referring to the French texts added to the Latin texts)

From here, the story gets more complicated.  The development of polyphony spread from Paris to the rest of Western Europe.  The development of polyphony also required a better method of musical notation than they had at the time, and the current notation system began to evolve at that time.  When 4 voices are each singing a different melody, the musical notation better be precise or it will be a disaster.  Also, more efficient printing methods began to develop.  Nations developed their own styles, and many reliable characteristics (such as the Latin cantus firmus) were modified.  So, once you move from the 13th century to the 14th and early 15th century, there is divergence in meaning.

In some sense, the motet was a narrow and limited form.  The isorhythmic motets of the 14th and early 15th century were a conservative form, keeping the use of different texts in each voice.  However, polyphony was exploding around Europe and being applied to other sacred and secular musical forms.  By 1450, the old-style motet was practically obsolete.  

However, by this time "motet" was being used in a broad sense to refer to almost any sacred or secular composition in a polyphonic form.  This broad form definition is prevailing usage to this time. Today, "motet" frequently refers to most any polyphonic composition on a Latin text other than the Ordinary of the Mass.  From the 16th century, "motet" was applied to any sacred composition in languages other than Latin.

See "History of Western Music" by Donald Grout


Answer by lioz
Submitted on 9/27/2004
Rating: Not yet rated Rate this answer: Vote
what does medievil mean


Answer by amireles
Submitted on 12/8/2004
Rating: Not yet rated Rate this answer: Vote
When was the Polyphonic music first developed in Europe?


Answer by wilz
Submitted on 11/7/2005
Rating: Not yet rated Rate this answer: Vote
love u meg


Your answer will be published for anyone to see and rate.  Your answer will not be displayed immediately.  If you'd like to get expert points and benefit from positive ratings, please create a new account or login into an existing account below.

Your name or nickname:
If you'd like to create a new account or access your existing account, put in your password here:
Your answer:

FAQS.ORG reserves the right to edit your answer as to improve its clarity.  By submitting your answer you authorize FAQS.ORG to publish your answer on the WWW without any restrictions. You agree to hold harmless and indemnify FAQS.ORG against any claims, costs, or damages resulting from publishing your answer.


FAQS.ORG makes no guarantees as to the accuracy of the posts. Each post is the personal opinion of the poster. These posts are not intended to substitute for medical, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. FAQS.ORG does not endorse any opinion or any product or service mentioned mentioned in these posts.


<< Back to: [FAQ] Welcome to soc.history.medieval (Mini-FAQ)

[ Home  |  FAQ-Related Q&As  |  General Q&As  |  Answered Questions ]

© 2008 FAQS.ORG. All rights reserved.