The first known significant composer of polyphonic organum. All that is known about him comes from the writings of a later student at the Notre Dame cathedral known as Anonymous IV, an Englishman who left a treatise on theory and who mentions Leonin as the composer of the Magnus Liber, the “great book” of organum.
He was the most famous member of the Notre Dame school of polyphony. He was one of very few composers of his day whose name has been preserved, and can be reliably attached to individual compositions; this is due to the testimony of an anonymous English student at Notre Dame known as Anonymous IV, who wrote about him and his predecessor Leonin.
Franco of Cologne
A German music theorist and possibly composer, Franco’s most famous work was his “Ars cantus mensurabilis”. The topics covered in the treatise include organum, discant, polyphony, clausulae, conductus, and indeed all the compositional techniques of the 13th century Notre Dame school. The central part of Franco’s treatise, and by far the most famous, is his suggestion that the notes themselves can define their own durations. This came to be known as “Franconian Notion”.
Petrus de Cruce
The significance of Petrus de Cruce is his implementation of a greater selection of rhythmic choices. Before the end of the thirteenth century, all composers were limited to either perfect prolation or imperfect prolation. He expanded upon the subdivision of the breve. Until his point each breve could be divided into two seibreves or three semibreves. Petrus de Cruce declared that any number of semibreves, up to seven, could occupy the space of one breve. His notational innovations were an important precursor to the development of the Ars Nova style.
Guillaume de Machaut
Machaut was and is the most celebrated composer of the 14th century. He composed in a wide range of styles and forms and his output was enormous. He was also the most famous and historically significant representative of the musical movement known as the ars nova. Machaut wrote the “Messe de Nostre Dame”, the earliest known complete setting of the Ordinary of the Mass attributable to a single composer.
Philippe de Vitry
Vitry has been most famous in music history for writing the “Ars Nova” (1322), a treatise on music, which gave its name to the music of the entire era. In some ways the “modern” system of rhythmic notation began with the Ars Nova, during which music might be said to have “broken free” from the older idea of the rhythmic modes, patterns which were repeated without being individually notated. The notational predecessors of modern time meters also originate in the Ars Nova.
Francesco Landini
Landini was the foremost exponent of the Italian Trecento style, sometimes also called the “Italian ars nova”. Landini is the eponym of the Landini cadence (or Landino sixth), a cadential formula whereby the sixth degree of the scale (the submediant) is inserted between the leading note and its resolution on the tonic.
Notre Dame
The group of composers working at or near the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris from about 1160 to 1250, along with the music they produced, is referred to as the Notre Dame school, or the Notre Dame School of Polyphony. The only composers whose names have come down to us from this time are Leonin and Perotin.
Rhythmic modes
In medieval music, the rhythmic modes were patterns of long and short durations (or rhythms) imposed on written notes which otherwise appeared to be identical. Modal notation, which was developed by the composers of the Notre Dame School from 1170 to 1250, replaced the even and unmeasured rhythm of early polyphony and plainchant with patterns based on the metric feet of classical poetry, and was the first step towards the development of modern mensural notation.
Musica enchiriadis
The earliest examples of actual written counterpoint appear in the late 9th-century treatise Musica enchiriadis. Here a plainchant melody, or “principal voice” (vox principalis), is combined with another part, “organal voice” (vox organalis), singing the same melody in parallel motion a perfect fourth or fifth below.
Vox principalis
“Principal Voice” was combined with the “Organal Voice” to create to first examples of counterpoint.
Vox organalis
“Organum voice” was combined with the “Principal Voice” to create to first examples of counterpoint.
Winchester Troper
The Winchester Troper includes perhaps the oldest large collections of two-part music in Europe, along with the Chartres Manuscript which is approximately contemporaneous or a little later.
Magnus liber organi
The Magnus Liber or Magnus Liber Organi (Latin for “Great Book of Organum”) is a compilation of the medieval music known as organum.
Cantus firmus
In music, a cantus firmus (“fixed song”) is a pre-existing melody forming the basis of a polyphonic composition.
Isorhythm (from the Greek for “the same rhythm”) is a musical technique that arranges a fixed pattern of pitches with a repeating rhythmic pattern. It consists of an order of durations or rhythms, called a talea (“cutting”, plural taleae), which is repeated within a tenor melody whose pitch content or series, called the color (repetition), varied in the number of members from the talea.
In music, the Trecento was a time of vigorous activity in Italy, as it was in France, with which there was a frequent interchange of musicians and influences. Distinguishing the period from the preceding century was an emphasis on secular song, especially love lyrics; much of the surviving music is polyphonic, but the influence of the troubadours who came to Italy, fleeing the Albigensian Crusade in the early 13th century, is evident.
Ars nova
Ars nova was a stylistic period in music of the Late Middle Ages, centered in France, which encompassed the period roughly from the preparation of the Roman de Fauvel (1310 and 1314) until the death of Machaut (1377). Developments in notation allowed notes to be written with greater independence of rhythm, shunning the straitjacket of the rhythmic modes, which prevailed in the thirteenth century; secular music acquired much of the polyphonic sophistication previously found only in sacred music; and new techniques and forms, such as isorhythm and the isorhythmic motet, became prevalent. The overall aesthetic effect of these changes was to create music of greater expressiveness and variety than had been the case in the thirteenth century.
Formes fixes
Formes fixes (English: fixed forms) are French poetic forms of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries which were translated into musical forms, particularly the forms of songs. Specifically, these forms were the ballade, rondeau, and virelai.
Roman de Fauvel
The musical accompaniment to Roman, mostly composed by Philippe de Vitry, is usually cited as the beginning of the Ars Nova movement.
Messe de Notre Dame
Messe de Nostre Dame (Mass of Our Lady) is a polyphonic mass composed before 1365 by the French poet, composer and cleric Guillaume de Machaut (circa 1300-1377). One of the great masterpieces of medieval music and of all religious music, it is the earliest complete setting of the Ordinary of the Mass attributable to a single composer.
Musica ficta
Musica ficta (from Latin, ‘false’, ‘feigned’, or ‘contrived’ music) was a term used in European music theory from the late twelfth century to about 1600 to describe any pitches, whether notated or to be added by performers in accordance with their training, that lie outside the system of musica recta or musica vera (‘correct’, or ‘true’ music), defined by the hexachord system of the Guidonian hand.
Mensural notation
Mensural notation is the musical notation system which was used in European music from the later part of the 13th century until about 1600. “Mensural” refers to the ability of this system to notate complex rhythms with great exactness and flexibility. Mensural notation was the first system in the development of European music that systematically used individual note shapes to denote temporal durations.
Landini cadence
In a typical Medieval cadence, a major sixth musical interval is expanded to an octave by having each note move outwards one step. In Landini’s version, an escape tone in the upper voice narrows the interval briefly to a perfect fifth before the octave.
Double leading tone cadence
Cadence popular in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, in which the bottom voice moves down a whole tone and the upper voices move up a semitone, forming a major third and major sixth expanding to an open fifth and octave.
A clausula (plural clausulae) is a polyphonic composition performed as a musical alternative to the original plainchant passage that it is intended to replace.
In medieval music, conductus (plural: conductus) is a type of sacred, but non-liturgical vocal composition for one or more voices.
Organum in general is a plainchant melody with at least one added voice to enhance the harmony, developed in the Middle Ages.
Parallel organum
Organum counterpoint where the melody is followed in parallel motion
Florid organum
The basic principle of florid organum is that there are anywhere from two to six notes in the organal voice sung over a single sustained note in the tenor.
In music, a voice exchange (German: Stimmtausch, also called voice interchange) is the repetition of a contrapuntal passage with the voices’ parts exchanged; for instance, the melody of one part appears in a second part and vice versa. Voice exchange first became common in the Notre Dame school, who used both double and triple exchanges in organa and conductus (in particular the wordless caudae).
The practice of descant over a cantus firmus marked the beginnings of counterpoint in Western music. From these first motets arose a medieval tradition of secular motets. These were two or three part compositions in which several different texts, sometimes in different vernacular languages, were sung simultaneously over a Latin cantus firmus that once again was usually adapted from a passage of Gregorian chant.
In music, hocket is the rhythmic linear technique using the alternation of notes, pitches, or chords. In medieval practice of hocket, a single melody is shared between two (or occasionally more) voices such that alternately one voice sounds while the other rests.
Discant organum
Discant (Latin: discantus, meaning “singing apart”) was a style of liturgical setting in the Middle Ages, associated with the development of the Notre Dame school of polyphony. It is a style of organum that includes a plainchant tenor part, with a “note against note” upper voice, moving in contrary motion. It is not a musical form, but rather a technique.
The Cauda is a characteristic feature of songs in the Conductus style of a cappella music which flourished between the mid-12th and the mid-13th century. The conductus style placed strict rules on composition, and some such rules were devoted to the cauda, which came at the penultimate syllable of each verse. It takes the form of a lengthy section of counterpoint – where several simultaneous melodies are combined into one – slurred over the one syllable. The cauda was repeated in each verse.
The ballade (pronounced /bəˈlɑːd/; not to be confused with the ballad) is a verse form typically consisting of three eight-line stanzas, each with a consistent metre and a particular rhyme scheme. The last line in the stanza is a refrain, and the stanzas are followed by a four-line concluding stanza (an envoi) usually addressed to a prince. The rhyme scheme is therefore usually ‘ababbcbC ababbcbC ababbcbC bcbC’, where the capital ‘C’ is a refrain.
In rondo form, a principal theme (sometimes called the “refrain”) alternates with one or more contrasting themes, generally called “episodes,” but also occasionally referred to as “digressions,” or “couplets”. Possible patterns in the Classical Period include: ABA, ABACA, or ABACAD’A. The number of themes can vary from piece to piece, and the recurring element is sometimes embellished or shortened in order to provide for variation.
A virelai is similar to a rondeau. Each stanza has two rhymes, the end rhyme recurring as the first rhyme of the following stanza. The overall musical structure is almost invariably ABBA, with the first and last sections having the same lyrics; this is the same form as the Italian ballata. The first stanza is known as the estribillo, the next two as mudanzas, and the fourth as the vuelta.
The ballata (plural: ballate) is an Italian poetic and musical form, which was in use from the late 13th to the 15th century. It has the musical structure AbbaA, with the first and last stanzas having the same texts. It is thus most similar to the French musical ‘forme fixe’ virelai (and not the ballade as the name might otherwise suggest).
In the 14th century many canons were written in Italy under the name caccia, and occasionally French chansons of that period used canon technique.
A madrigal is a type of secular vocal music composition, written during the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Throughout most of its history it was polyphonic and unaccompanied by instruments, with the number of voices varying from two to eight, but most frequently three to six. Unlike many other strophic forms of the time, most madrigals are through-composed, with music being written to best express the sentiment of each line of a poetic text.
Isorhythmic motet
Increasingly in the 14th and 15th centuries, motets tended to be isorhythmic; that is, they employed repeated rhythmic patterns in all voices—not just the cantus firmus—which did not necessarily coincide with repeating melodic patterns. Philippe de Vitry was one of the earliest composers to use this technique, and his work evidently had an influence on that of Guillaume de Machaut, one of the most famous named composers of late medieval motets.