MUS 103 READINGS

MUS 103 READINGS - MUS 103 READINGS Week 2 The Middle Ages...

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MUS 103 READINGS Week 2 The Middle Ages Before Notation Since sound is a thing of sense it passes along into past time, and it is impressed on the memory. For unless sounds are held in the memory by man they perish, because they cannot be written down. So automatically did medieval thinkers associated music and singing with the processes of memory. The lack of a musical notation became a stumbling block when the Frankish king Charlemagne sought alliance with the Pope as part of his strategy to bring about the political unification of Europe under his throne. One of the conditions of that unification was the standardization of the liturgy of the church and its attendant music according to the use of the Roman rite. In order to persuade the northern churches that the Roman chant was in fact better than theirs, it was claimed that Pope Gregory I wrote the entire body of “Gregorian” chant directly inspired by the Holy Spirit. As a divine rather than a human creation, then, the Roman chant was lent the prestige it needed to triumph eventually over all local opposition. Music in Courtly Life Like the music of the Church, the poetry and music of the noble troubadour were somber and reflective, and served to elevate and memorialize the permanent values of life, such as were worthy of commemoration in writing. These values included service to lord and lady, the idealization of love, and the fervor of the Crusades. The songs of knighthood are found in rich manuscripts known as chansonniers . Raimbaut de Vaqueiras was not of noble birth, but managed to advance himself by his art. He knew well the art of song and could make shapely stanzas and praise his master in verse. The Prince of Orange rewarded him with substantial favors and great honors and brought his poetry into high esteem among great personages. There were intimate bonds between song and dance in knightly times. A retrouenge, the form of the dance described in the text, is a song with refrain, a popular genre that was just beginning to find a place in written-down “art music” sources. The Emergence of Polyphony The early history of polyphony is very difficult to trace. The evidence suggests that early polyphony did not consist of “compositions” at all but was a way of amplifying monophonic chants in performance. To “improvise” polyphony, of course, no notation is needed, and its practice in oral tradition was presumably widespread. The earliest polyphonic schools were centered around monasteries in France, England, and Spain. The first classic period of Western polyphonic music was reached with the school of Notre Dame in Paris in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Parisian musicians were the first to use a notation that specific rhythm as well as pitch. Their leaders were among the first composers to be honored as “personalities”.
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