Music in Western Civilizations
December 12, 2011
Secular Music in The Middle Ages
Popular music, usually in the form of secular songs, existed during the Middle Ages. This music was not bound by the traditions of the Church, nor was it even written down for the first time until sometime after the tenth century. For this reason it often presents many challenges in study of early secular music. Having said this, hundreds of these songs were created and performed by bands of musicians that went across Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries, the most famous of which were the French trouvères and troubadours. The monophonic melodies of these musicians, to which may have been added improvised accompaniments, were often rhythmically lively. The subject of the majority of these songs is love, in all its manifestations of joy and pain. Although secular music was undoubtedly played on instruments during the Middle Ages, instrumental dance music didn't come into its own until the later Renaissance.
Most of the music that people heard in the Middle Ages was in church. Outside church only a few people read or played music. Secular music was also written with only a few actual instruments. Medieval music was shaped by currents in the wider society, such as political developments, linguistic regions, economic growth, social class and support for the learning the arts and music. Before the age of secular music Gregorian chant was the type of music that was listened to. Gregorian Chant was Psalms and songs that were very diverse and also used in church. After the Gregorian chant came the secular music period.
One type of Latin song was called a versus, which was normally sacred and sometimes attached to the liturgy. In a versus, the poetry was rhymed and usually followed a regular pattern of accents. Monophonic versus were composed from the eleventh century through to the thirteenth and they influenced others to make different music. A...