Week 3 in Review

This Week in Blogging: The posts this week continued to focus on drawing connections between medieval music and the 21st century. Plenty of aspects are still around today, including the actual repertoire (minnesang covered by a metal band), the philosophical debates (closed vs. open styles of music/lyric composition), social practices (competitions between performers), and lyrical topics (romantic love). We also were reminded, through Guido, of the importance of the pedagogical craft to technological advances, and thus to history. At the end of the week, we returned (with a knowing wink from Oswald von Wolkenstein) to one of the major threads of this book: moving away from a progress-laden, self-centered, anachronistic view of history. Here are some other notes from this week’s reading:

End of Chapter 3

  • Guido (pp. 99-104) Includes an explanation of the gamut (the full range of the medieval pitch set), the invention of the staff, and the Guidonian hand (with a large image and very practical explanation of the process of hexachord mutation—DO try this at home!).

Chapter 4: Music of Feudalism and Fin’ Amors

  • Troubadours (106): The repertoire of these Aquitainian musicians is the first glimpse we have of secular music, and heavily dominated by the fin’ amors (“refined love”), also known as amour courtoise (“courtly love”). Performance occurred in a range of situations, although the more august the situation, the more the music resembled chant of the church (in modal fingerprints and performance practice).
  • Minstrels (109): A lower caste of musicians, including jongleurs.
  • Rhythm and Meter (114): The notation systems didn’t indication rhythm or meter in this repertoire, but the currently favored approach is the “isosyllabic” one: all syllables of the text are given equal temporal length, no matter if there is one, two, or three notes to a given syllable.
  • Trobar clus and Trobar clar (115): Two opposing poetic approaches, outlined in this post.
  • Trouvères (116): The northern French counterpart of the troubadour, including several famous nobles, among them Richard I (Lionhearted). We learned about other famous (then and now) trouvères Jehan Bretel and Adam de la Halle, who is considered the last of the trouvères. Contemporary with Adam was the spread of the formes fixes, which were codified ways of dealing with and formally embellishing the basic canso (refrain form, aab).
    • rondeau: [AB] a [A] ab [AB]
    • ballade: R aab R
    • virelai: B aab B (more commonly expressed as A bba A)
  • Geographical Diffusion (128)
    • Cantigas de Santa Maria: important collection of vernacular song from regions in present-day Spain
    • lauda: Italian vernacular song
    • minnesang: continuation of the troubadour tradition in German speaking lands. Minnesinger were knightly poet-composer-musicians.
    • meistersinger: members of a guild of musicians who were an extension of minnesinger. They flourished in the 15th-16th centuries.

Chapter 5: Polyphony in Practice and Theory

  • As we begin in this chapter to read about the flourishing of polyphonic writing in monastic centers, universities, and cathedrals (especially at Notre Dame de Paris), we are reminded that it is the story not of the invention of polyphony (it has always been with us in one way or another), but of its practical, theoretical, and technological revolution.

We have an exciting week ahead: more of the musica enchiriadis, as well as Leonin, Perotin, rhythmic modes, mensuration, and (I’m sure) much more!


  1. Hey Mark and Zach,

    It has been great to follow your progress thus far! I didn’t get a chance to respond to Mark’s comment on one of my amusicology posts, so I thought I’d just chime in here with a “Go, Team Go!”

    I wish you guys had been around when I was prepping for my general exams a few years ago.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. Mark Samples says:

    Thanks for the encouragement Ryan!

  3. Liz Hamill says:

    I’m prepping for general exams and what a service you have offered. Thank you!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s