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Development Of Western Classical Music Essay

1187 words - 5 pages

Current western classical music did not occur overnight. It was a long process that had its beginnings in the sacred music of the Middle Ages. War, disease, famine, political unrest and advancements in science brought changes, to not only how music was perceived, but also in how it was presented, giving modern western classical music its rich history today.
In medieval times the Catholic Church controlled every aspect of life. The church educated the nobles, advised the rulers, presided over judgments and was the spiritual guide for the people. The church itself was usually the only stone building in the village and it was central to the lifestyles of the time as it was where festivals, baptisms, marriages and death rites were held. While there was some secular music in the courts of the nobles, most music was sacred. Plainchant was the official music of the church and each chant had a specific time or condition of use according to the liturgy. The pitch the chant was sung on was referred to as the reciting tone. The simplest form of the plainchant was a short phrase sung before or after a psalm, called an Antiphon. A more complicated plainchant form was the sequence, where a melody is sung twice to different words. An early form of organum, the parallel organum, is where the plainchant was sung to two different melodies at the same time. According to Timothy Dickey, the four-voice organum is generally attributed to Perotin, a twelfth century composer of the Notre Dame School, whose works are recorded in the Magnus Liber located in the Notre Dame Cathedral. The three and four voice organum is referred to as the Notre Dame Organum. An example of this is Perotin’s Alleluia. Diffusa est gratia, which is a song composed to revere the Virgin Mary. The opening plainchant is sung in a low pitch and noticeable are the long melisamas, where more than one note is placed on a syllable and the syllable is drawn out. The opening chant “Alleluia” repeats and then continues during the organum while the three higher voices sing another melody on top of it. At the end of the organum the plainchant repeats ending the song. From this piece a clear understanding of scared polyphony can be had. From the sacred polyphony a new secular music came about, the motet. As new text was added to older music using this method, sacred music found new uses in secular music. Motets became complex as they were written in isorhythm, which was where the same rhythm was used but with different melodies. The words were used to show the emotion rather than the music itself.
The Renaissance era saw a resurgence of the ancient Greek and Roman cultures, which influenced the mental concepts, sciences and arts of the time. With the changes to the arts; architects, painters, musicians and sculptors sought have their creations be simpler, more practicable and relevant to the people’s everyday lives. Josquin Desprez’s Pange lingua, a five section Mass, showcases this. Desprez utilizes...

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