Welcome to Music Through The Ages 1 M
MIDDLE AGES 800-1400 AD
We know a
lot about what music was sung
and played from the time Rome fell in 476 AD
to the time Columbus sailed across the sea a
thousand years later. Most of it is in
manuscripts preserved in churches
tells us that music was then
, as it still is
today, a very important part of worship.
Medieval music for the church was mostly
, (from the chapel) that means sung
were not allowed. The words were always in
Latin and the melodies, called plainsong or Gregorian Chant, were
, just like we sing the National Anthem today. Around
1200 some adventurous musicians tried singing these plainsong
melodies in parts—that is, one voice would start the tune on a high
note, another would join in, or “harmonize”
on a lower
one. This early kind of harmony was called “organum.”
because it sounded very much like an organ—the only
instrument that was permitted in churches in early times.
Most Medieval popular music wasn’t written down, so
we can only guess what it really sounded like by looking at
pictures of singers and instrumentalists that are found in
manuscripts from the period.
With the exception of
the troubadours and minstrels who went from castle
to castle singing songs about love and crusading,
most of the singers shown in the pictures didn’t look
like they were having a very good time! It seems as if singing
was a painful experience for them—wrinkled brows,
pinched noses, squinty eyes.
Were the words they were
singing that unpleasant? We’ll never know for sure.
Those drawings do show that there were many
instruments played during the Middle Ages: flutes,
recorders, drums, bagpipes, trumpets, harps, lutes,
guitars—all similar to the instruments we have today.
Carvings and sculptures
in many churches show those
instruments being played by happy angels. But we are
sure that the people in the towns were very happy as
they made their joyful noises by tooting their flutes and
banging their drums.
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