"Medieval Music" refers to the music created and performed during the Middle Ages, a period in European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. It was a time characterized by significant cultural, social, and religious changes, and the music of this era reflects the diverse influences and practices of that time.
During the Middle Ages, music was primarily composed and performed within the context of the Christian Church. The most prominent form of music during this period was Gregorian chant, also known as plainchant or plainsong. Gregorian chant consisted of monophonic vocal melodies without instrumental accompaniment. It was primarily used for religious ceremonies and was sung in Latin.
Aside from Gregorian chant, medieval music also encompassed secular music forms. These included troubadour and trouvere songs, which were popular in France and dealt with themes of courtly love and chivalry. Minstrels and jongleurs entertained the nobility with their songs and instrumental performances.
Instruments played during the medieval period included various types of string instruments, such as the vielle (a medieval fiddle), the harp, and the lute. Percussion instruments, such as drums, tambourines, and bells, were also commonly used. However, instrumental music was generally considered secondary to vocal music during this time.
The notation system used in medieval music was not as developed as the modern Western musical notation we use today. Instead, neumes were used to indicate pitch and general melodic contours. Later in the medieval period, the development of mensural notation allowed for more precise rhythmic notation.
Medieval music is known for its modal harmony, which was based on specific scales or modes rather than the major and minor scales used in later periods. The music often had a monophonic texture, but polyphony (multiple independent melodic lines) also emerged during the late medieval period.
The surviving manuscripts and treatises from the Middle Ages provide valuable insights into the music and musical practices of that time. They offer glimpses into the rich musical heritage of the era and the cultural, religious, and social contexts in which the music was created and performed.