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Music of the
Middle Ages
450 AD-1450 AD
Monday: The Middle Ages are also known as
the Medieval Period.
There were three classes of people:
First Class: the nobility, these were the rich
Second Class: the clergy, these were priests
and monks that worked for the church
Third Class: the peasants, these were the
poor farmers. They rarely lived past the age
of 30 and ate bread and turnips for meals.
Tuesday: A Product of the Church
• Music during the Middle Ages was an
important part of Christian worship.
• The church served as an important supporter
of the arts, specifically music.
• Throughout the period, the majority of
composers were associated with and
supported by the church.
A Product of the Church
• People did not have a system of notation
(writing down music) in the early part of the
middle ages.
• Notating music was difficult and a timeconsuming process, so it was only in the
churches that such work could be done on a
regular basis.
Sacred Music
• During the Middle Ages, the church was very
important to the people.
• Music that is religious is called sacred music.
• Sacred music of the Middle Ages began with
plainsong- a simple type of chant in Latin, that
was easy for everyone to understand. The
words from the plainsong chant came directly
from the Roman Catholic Mass (church
Gregorian Chant
• Gregorian chant is the most well-known form
of plainsong chant.
• Chants began as a single melody, also known
as monophony, of sacred texts.
• Monks began to write down these chants on
four line staves using square notes called
• Over time composers embellished chant to
become more and more complex.
Secular Music
• Secular music is non-religious music.
• Secular music became popular towards the
end of the Middle Ages.
• Secular songs were simple and had only one
melody. They were usually faster than sacred
songs and used the common language instead
of Latin.
Polyphony is Born
• Polyphony is a texture consisting of two or
more melodies at the same time.
• Complex Polyphony demanded specialized
training for composers, and its development
became the primary focus for composers from
the thirteenth century (1400’s) on.
• Minstrels were people that travelled to
different castles and towns to perform. They
sang secular songs, told stories, and
performed tricks for people.
• Their songs and stories were about love and
• Sometimes they spread gossip from town to
town in addition to performing.
The End of the Middle Ages
• Towards the end of the Middle Ages life
became better and people became more
• People began to focus more on themselves
and less on religion.
• This is when polyphony and secular music
started to become more and more popular.