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			       Examination of Music History
"A verbal art like poetry is reflective; it stops to think.  Music is
immediate, it goes on to become." - W.H. Auden.  This quote best explains
the complex art of music.  Music is an elaborate art form that will always
remain ever changing.  Music developed  drastically from itÕs beginning in
the Prehistoric era to the 14th Century.
The exact origin of music is unknown.  It is known that music was used in
prehistoric times in magical or spiritual rituals but no other use is
known.  This knowledge is borne out of the fact that music still forms a
vital part of most religious ceremonies today.
The history of Greek music is problematic.  Although there are frequent
references to musical performance in Greek manuscripts, there are less than
twelve fragments of actual Greek music, including both vocal and
instrumental music,  that have survived.  It is impossible to fully
understand  the notation to make an authentic performance.
For the Greeks, music was of divine origin.  According to Greek mythology,
the gods themselves invented music and itÕs instruments.  Many of the early
myths told of the powerful effects of music.  Music played an important part
in both the public and private lives of the Greeks.  They believed it could
deeply affect human behavior.  Greek music was built up of a series of
distinct modes, each with itÕs own name.  According to the doctrine of
ethos, each mode was so powerful that it gave music the ability to influence
human actions in a precise way.  The Phrygian mode expressed passionate and
intimate emotions, where as the Dorian mode produced forceful, rigid
In later Greek history the doctrine of ethos was widely argued by the most
philosophical of men.  Plato and Aristotle both had broadly different views
on the power and importance of music.  The persocratic philosopher
Pythagoras was even interested enough in music to develop the numerical
octave system that we still use today.  The Classical Greeks used music in
much of their drama and by the time Greece was made a Roman province, music
dominated dramatic performances and social activities.
There is not a great deal of original Roman music.  Most of the music that
did come out of the Roman era was derived from the Greeks.  Despite this,
there was  definite musical activity in the later Roman Empire.  An ample
amount of evidence survived for instruments and a good deal of theory also.
But by in large Greek music remained the most popular in the Roman Empire.
Early Christian music drew off of Jewish sources.  The custom of singing
sacred verses at services was an ancient Jewish tradition that goes back to
Mesopotamian  sources.  As the Church grew the music fell more into the care
of professionals and it became greatly complex.  Soon the church officials
became fearful that the music was overpowering the worship and music was
regulated in worship services.
The beginnings of Byzantine music was mainly based on Syraic and Hebrew
music. Most music of this time was written for religious purposes and was
strictly regulated by church officials.  By 386 AD Saint Ambrose of Milian
began the use of vernacular hymns in the church worship services.
The development of the music of the Early Middle Ages was intertwined with
the grow the of the Christian church.  Chanting of scriptures and prayers
was practiced earlier.  By the sixth century AD modalchant, known as
plainchant, had increased so greatly that Pope Gregory I had it collected
and organized, and it came to be called Gregorian chant.  The chant did not
have a regular rhythm but was fitted to the natural accents of the Latin
words.  Like all previous music, each chant consisted of a single melody,
and all the singers sang the same notes.  This type of music is called
monophonic, or one-voiced.
Nonreligious, or secular, music was composed by wandering poets who sang of
chivalry and courtly love in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.  In
France they were either jongleurs, itinerant minstrels who made a living
from their songs, or troubadour and troueres, aristocrats who sang for the
love of music.  In Germany the poet-musicians were called minnesingers.
Some two thousand minnstrel melodies are preserved in old manuscripts.
The discovery that two voices could sing two separate melodies at the same
time and still produce a pleasing sound occurred sometime around the ninth
century.  This discovery was called Polyphony.  The genesis of polyphony
occurred in France, first in very basic notation lacking precise pitch.  By
the twelfth century, polyphony was developed into elaborate forms in two
centers: Paris and St. Martial de Limoges, the latter preceding the former.
By this time, precise pitch notation is given, and so the footing is fairly
The first experiments in polyphony were called organum.  A secong voice or
voices sang the chant melody at perhaps an interval of a fourth or fifth
above the original, or tenor.  Sometimes the two moved in opposite
directions.  Above the tenor a more elaborate part might be sung.  As the
two parts become more independent, often two distinct melodies proceeded at
the same time.  When the third and fourth parts were added, the music became
truly polyphonic.
Sometime after the mid-twelfth century, a new Notre Dame Cathedral was being
built in Paris, and with it grew a school of composers.  Two names have been
preserved from that school- Leonin and Perotin.  They  stretched the organum
to unheard-of lengths and embellished it with flourishes of long melismas,
or many notes sung to one syllable.  New rhythmic patterns developed, as did
repetitions of motifs, sequential patterns, and imitation.
Out of this developed the motet, originally in Latin on a sacred text.
Unlike the organum, the text was sung in the upper voices as well as the
tenor.  Bilingual motets (French-Latin, English-Latin) arose, and secular
texts or combinations of sacred and secular texts were used.  Tenors were
sometimes chosen from French popular songs instead of from plainchant.
Instruments played lower parts, making the motet an accompanied solo song.
The period culminated in the works of Guillaume de Machaut.  He left 23
motets, more than 100 secular songs, and a mass.  They are characterized by
excellent craftsmanship with colorful melodic and harmonic inflections and
constantly shifting rhythms.
The later fourteenth century was a period during which the French style
dominated secular composition throughout Europe.  It modified to reflect
local tastes in Italy and England, but remained largely French in
inspiration for some decades.  However, Italian composers continued to
develop a more native idiom, combining French Ars Nova ideas with indigenous
Music as a whole progressed slowly through the many years itÕs been around,
taking itÕs time to perfect itself.  It can be seen that in just the last
few hundred years,1300- 1500AD, that the styles in music took a dramatic
leap towards the future.  It will be interesting to see how swiftly music
will accustom  itself to the next thousand years.
Works Cited
Cunningham, Lawrence S., Reich, John J.  Culture and Values; A Survey of
Western Humanties.  New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers,  1994.
McComb, Todd Michel.  http://www.music.indiana.edu  The Origin of
Polyphony:  1996
McComb, Todd M.  http://www.music.indiana.edu  A Selection of Medieval
Music:  1996
McComb, Todd M.  http://www.music.indiana.edu  Early Music:  1996
"Music,Classical."  ComptomÕs Interactive Encyclopedia, Inc.  1995.
Stinson, John  music14.html @ www.lib.latrobe.edu.au  The Music of the 14th
century:  1997
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