Music History Mid Term Essay

1. To understand how polyphony and rhythmic theory developed through the Middle Ages, one needs to understand how both music practices were created. Before these styles was monophonic structure. Deriving from Gregorian chant, music was primarily based on one melody only singing through chant style. Based mostly on religious uses, monophonic structure moved forward to polyphonic structure (adding another line of music to the existing chant/text).

This step was one of the most important music history moments of Western music. A style of polyphony that was created was organum. This style meaning a plainchant melody with adding at least one more voice to enhance the harmony was never done before. Leonin was one of the first polyphonic composers to create this new style of music. One of his most important pieces was the Viderunt Omnes. The original Viderunt Omnes from the Christmas Gradual demonstrates a mellismatic style meaning many syllables per text/chant.

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Taking from the Gradual of the Mass, Leonin kept the one of the voices the extending the chant while having a solo voice adding new complex rhythms. He also began using repeating sections throughout the piece. The speed and complex rhythms was just one of many new musical devices through the Middle Ages. For the next 200 years, polyphonic and rhythmic theory began to develop more into a more complex style. Rhythmic Modes began to change the way music was performed. Rhythmic modes were six different modes changing the use of notes lengths.

This kept progressing to Ars Nova. This type of polyphonic and rhyme theory was transforming increasingly from religious to secular music. Two important composers through this musical change were Machaut and De Vitry. Philippe De Vitry, In Arborist demonstrates a polyphonic style that is similar to Leonins Viderunt Omnes. This new style of music was called a motet. A motet is a polyphonic vocal composition. In Arborist takes a new approach of adding tones never herd before in music.

This is refereed to musica ficta. The use of isorhythms (repeating rhythmic patterns) had a drastic effect on Ars Nova style music. The use of hockets; a rhythmic pattern is broken up into two voices giving it a style of jumps and leaps/burping effect). De Vitry wasn’t the only composer influenced on the news Ars Nova style. The most prolific composer during this time was Guillermo de Machaut. He was known for using musica ficta, isorhythms, and composing his pieces in form fixes (virelai, ballade, and rondeau).

Machaut began to not use Gregorian chant in the Tenor (the reciting tone of a piece based on medieval chants). His composition, Rose, Liz, printemtps used many of the same examples as De Vitry’s, In Arboris. Rose/Liz is very structured and metered, but always ending in unusual cadences (open fifth/octave). The use of isorhythms throughout the piece in switching from male and female voice defines the Ares Nova new art approach to polyphonic and rhythmic theory that developed from a simple monophonic approach doting the beginning of Western music history.

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