instruments used to perform Medieval music are largely still
in existence, in different forms. The Medieval cornett differed
immensely from its modern day counterpart, the trumpet. Cornetts
in medieval times were quite short, either straight or somewhat
curved. The flute was once made of wood rather than silver,
and could be made as a side-blown or end-blown instrument.
The recorder, on the other hand, has more or less retained
its past form. The gemshorn was similar to the recorder, or
ocarina. One of the flute's predecessors, the pan flute, was
popular in medieval times, and is possibly of Greek origin.
instrument's pipes were made of wood, and were graduated in
length to produce different pitches. Many medieval strings
were most alike to the modern-day guitar, such as the lute,
mandolin, psaltery, and zither. The dulcimer, similar in structure
to the others, was not plucked but hammered. The hurdy-gurdy
was played with a rosined wheel of wood attached to a handle,
as opposed to a modern day bow. String instruments without
sound boxes, such as the harp and Jew's harp were popular
also. Early versions of the organ, fiddle (or vielle), and
trombone (called the sackbut) existed as well.
the early Medieval period, the chant (or plainsong), a monophonic
sacred form, was popular in the Christian church. The Jewish
Synagogue tradition of singing psalms was a strong influence
on Christian chanting. Chant developed separately in several
European centers. The most important were Rome, Spain, Gaul,
Milan, and Ireland. These chants were all developed to support
the regional liturgies used when celebrating the Mass there.
Each area developed its own chants and rules for celebration.
In Spain, Mozarabic chant was used and shows the influence
of North African music.
Mozarabic liturgy even survived through Muslim rule, though
this was an isolated strand and this music was later suppressed
in an attempt to enforce conformity on the entire liturgy.
In Milan, Ambrosian chant, named after St. Ambrose, was the
standard. Celtic chant was used in Ireland. Around 1011, the
Catholic Church wanted to standardize the Mass and chant.
At this time, Rome was the religious center of Europe, and
Paris was the political center. The standardization effort
consisted mainly of combining these two (Roman and Gallican)
regional liturgies. This body of chant became known as Gregorian
musical tradition of Europe originated during the early Middle
Ages was the liturgical drama. In its original form, it may
represent a survival of Roman drama with Christian stories--mainly
the Gospel, the Passion, and the lives of the saints--grafted
on. Every part of Europe had some sort of tradition of musical
or semi-musical drama in the middle ages, involving acting,
speaking, singing and instrumental accompaniment in some combination.
Probably these dramas were performed by traveling actors and
musicians. Many have been preserved sufficiently to allow
modern reconstruction and performance (for example the Play
of Daniel, which has been recently recorded).
the middle period of the Medieval era, the music of the troubadors
and trouvères was a vernacular tradition of monophonic
secular song, probably accompanied by instruments, sung by
professional, occasionally itinerant, musicians who were as
skilled as poets as they were singers and instrumentalists.
The language of the troubadors was Occitan (also known as
the langue d'oc, or Provençal); the language of the
trouvères was Old French (also known as langue d'oil).
The period of the troubadors corresponded to the flowering
of cultural life in Provence which lasted through the twelfth
century and into the first decade of the thirteenth. Typical
subjects of troubador song were war, chivalry and courtly
love. The period of the troubadors ended abruptly with the
Albigensian Crusade, the fierce campaign by Pope Innocent
III to eliminate the Cathar heresy (and appropriate the wealth
of a defenseless people) which effectively exterminated the
entire civilization. Surviving troubadors went either to Spain,
northern Italy or northern France (where the trouvère
tradition lived on), where their skills and techniques contributed
to the later developments of secular musical culture in those
often seen at the end of any musical era, the end of the Medieval
era is marked by a highly manneristic style known as "Ars
subtilior." In some ways, this was an attempt to meld
the French and Italian styles. This music was highly stylized,
with a rhythmic complexity that was not matched until the
20th century. In fact, not only was the rhythmic complexity
of this repertoire largely unmatched for five and a half centuries,
with extreme syncopations, mensural trickery, and even examples
of augenmusik (such as a chanson by Baude Cordier written
out in manuscript in the shape of a heart), but also its melodic
material was quite complex as well, particularly in its interaction
with the rhythmic structures.