Music of the Middle Ages
Disc 1 of 24
Our story begins in 313 AD, as Christianity becomes the religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine the Great. The Catholic Church, served by an amazing administrative network, moved quickly to link the far-flung communities in its domain with music being used as a unifying force. Around 600 A.D., Pope Gregory, although not writing chant himself, specified which existing chants were to be used on any given occasion, thus ensuring his name went down in posterity, with this music bearing his name, Gregorian Chant.
By 800 AD musical notation was beginning to be used. Although only indicating the general shape of a musical line, music was being notated. Monks could take a copy of this music on their journeys, with their congregations hearing the same music from town to town.
Centuries after its composition Chant remains very popular, not only for religious purposes, but for its meditative and serene sensibilities, sensations achieved with consistent tempos, phrases of similar length and unison singing, known as homophony. The melodies themselves move gently in a step by step motion with few leaps.
After listening to the homogeneous chant (tks.1-7), the first moments of the Perotin may come as a shock (tr. 8), with the voices now sounding nasally, almost drone like, with many voices moving about! This is the earliest known example of four part music. The other noticeable difference is rhythm. Where the chant was static, Perotin’s music has a driving force propelling it forward with the use of a small organ to assist harmonically, the drone effect being ever present.
Perotin (ca. 1160 to 1230), wrote in an era known as the Notre Dame period, named after the great Cathedral of that name. With construction of the Parisian landmark beginning in 1153 and taking more than 100 years to complete, it did not take long for an intellectual community to arise, centred around the new church.
Zipping along 100 years we arrive at our next composer, Guillaume de Machaut (c.a.1300-1377). Machaut was the preeminent composer and writer of lyric poetry of the day – and was the writer of the first known setting of the Mass. His motet, Lasse! Comment oublieray (Alas, how can I forget? – Tr. 10)) combines his music and words to form an image of unhappiness in marriage, all from the women’s point of view!
Machaut’s only known instrumental work is Hoquetes David (Tr. 12). In Latin ochetus means hiccup and it is here that Hoquetes derives its name. In English, the word has become hocket. Hocket is a technique of composing in which phrases are not completed by one voice or instrument, but will have another voice fill in the missing parts – somewhat like having someone interject with a word that you are stumbling to find. It is not known why Machaut wrote this – perhaps just to show off that he could - but if we were to create a Greatest Hits of the 14th century playlist, this would be on it.
(Please find our recommended audio excerpts for this CD on the bottom of the "Overview" page.)
- Gregorian ChantEpiphanias (Epiphany/Epiphanie)
- 1. Graduale: Omnes de Saba venient3:56
- 2. Offertorium: Reges Tharsis9:55
- 3. Communio: Vidimus stellam eius2:58
- Dedication of a Church (Kirchweihe/Dédicace d'une église)
- 4. Introitus: Terribilis est locus iste3:47
- 5. Alleluia: Adorabo ad templum sanctum tuum2:50
- 6. Offertorium: Domine Deus, in simplicitate7:51
- 7. Communio: Domus mea4:15Benedictine Monks of the Abbey Münsterschwarzach, Pater Godehard Joppich
- PérotinMusic of the Gothic Era - Notre Dame Period
- 8. Viderunt omnes11:51Paul Elliott, Rogers Covey-Crump, Martyn Hill, The Early Music Consort Of London, David Munrow
- 9. Sederunt principes11:16The Early Music Consort Of London, David Munrow
- Guillaume de Machaut (1300 - 1377)
- 10. Lasse! comment oublieray4:06Paul Elliott, Martyn Hill, Geoffrey Shaw, David Munrow
- 11. Qui es promesses1:56James Bowman, Charles Brett, The Early Music Consort Of London, David Munrow
- 12. Hoquetus David3:18The Early Music Consort Of London, David Munrow
- 13. Christe, qui lux es4:14James Bowman, Charles Brett, The Early Music Consort Of London, David Munrow