History of Classical Music

Middle Ages

Previous (20th Century) Next (Renaissance)
(400-1400CE)

Subtopics:

  1. Sacred Music
  2. Secular Music
  3. Polyphony
  4. Music Printing
  5. Composers
During the Middle Ages, there were three classes of people.  The first class was the nobility: kings, princes, and wealthy landowners.  They owned land and from these people came our legends of knights in shining armour.  The second class consisted of the clergy: priests who worked in the church and monks who lived in monasteries.  The rest of the people, poor farmers and peasants, made up the third class.  The average peasant lived to be 30 years of age and ate little more than black bread and turnips. The first great centres of music were in the churches.

During the Middle Ages, until 1100, the vast majority of music was monophonic, meaning a single line without accompaniment.  As life became better and more civilized in the Middle Ages people began to focus more on themselves and less on God and religion.  Toward the end of the Middle Ages, polyphony began to be used in music.  This was the use of more than one melodic line at the same time.

Two of the greatest composers of the new polyphonic music were Leonin and Perotin at the Notre-Dame in Paris.  Later important composers included Guillaume de Machaut.



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