The role of Pope Gregory I (the Great) in the creation of Gregorian chant. The earliest Western music notations The earliest chant notations The three types of chant notes The invention of the musical staff The role of women in Medieval music-making The social role of professional musicians More on the Notre Dame school
NO. Chanting was already part of the worship celebrations of the early Christian church. A popular legend states that Gregory I ordered that all liturgical music should be standardized throughout the Christian world, and that it should be written down. Actually, the texts and the melodies of the liturgy were not standardized throughout Europe until the 12th century.
The most recent scholarship suggests that at theearliest, monks in what is modern-day France startedto notate the chants in the 8th or 9th century.For comparison, Gregory I was pope from 590-604A.D.Most of the surviving chant manuscripts date fromthe 10th-13th centuries, and musical notation becamemuch more widespread throughout Europe.
When the chants were beginning to be written down, there WAS a pope named Gregory – but it was Gregory II. Gregory I was much more famous, and it’s likely that early “historians” just attributed the musical innovation to the more famous pope. The Church even added to the legend, stating that a dove descended from heaven to dictate all the chants to the pope. Greg the Great, taking dictation from a dove. Did NOT happen.
People had experimented with music notationfor thousands of years, but it wasn’t until theMedieval era that anyone came up with theconcept of representing high sounds by placingsymbols HIGHER on the page, and low soundsLOWER on the page.
Left: Ancient Egyptian notation.Above: Ancient Greek notation.Red = lyrics.Green = notes!
Found in a Roman ruin. Thetext looks to be Greek.Red = lyrics.Green = notes.
This example was copiedfrom an ancient exampleand put into a computerfont.Red = lyrics.Green – notes.These notes are actuallystarting to resemble theshape of some of theearliest “Gregorian” chantmelodic notation.
Monks.Anonymous monkstinkered around withthe existing notationsystems and decidedto go with the whole“draw shapes goinghigher when we haveto sing higher, anddraw shapes goinglower when we sing Thank you, guys for your innovations. I have a hardlower, and keep them enough time teaching kids how to read nice, neaton the same level modern notation. I would have gone insane teachingwhen we sing the them Egyptian dots or Byzantine squiggles.same note” – thing.
Lego Monks!!! Illuminating little Lego manuscriptsin a little Lego scriptorium!!!Moving on…
You can clearly make out the up and down shapes of the notes.The language is Latin.The note-shapes are called “neumes.”Notice the blue arrow and the green notes above it. There are nolyrics underneath the notes, because the singers are singing thenotes on the syllable “ah…” This is called a melisma.
Syllabic – One note per syllable.Neumatic – Sing 2-4-ish notes per syllable.Melismatic – Sing up to a bajillion notes per syllable.Melismas became such a popular compositional tool thatit was very easy to lose track of the sacred text that wasbeing sung because the singers were extending the vowelsfor so long. The Church actually, at times, had to issuedecrees banning or at least limiting the length of melismasso that the listeners wouldn’t lose track of the text!
Finally, in the 11th century, someone came alongwho came up with a brilliant-yet-simple system ofassigning those high-and-low notes to a system oflines or spaces, so that the performer wouldalways have a good visual frame of reference.His name?
Guido D’Arezzo devised the musical staff – that group of five lines and four spaces that you probably remember from general music class (were you ever quizzed on “Every Good Boy Does Fine?”) . If you’re totally confused – take a quick glance at pp. 32-33 in your text. Anyway, he created a staff with 4 lines, and a clef. This allowed composers to tell performers, you will sing the pitch “E” whenever the neume (note) appears on this line. The space above it with always be the pitch “F” (which comes after E in the musical alphabet). And the space below will always be the pitch “D” (which comes before E in theAlas, there is no record of how musical alphabet.impressive his abs were. Speaking of musical alphabets…
Guido also came up with thisnifty visual aid to helpmusicians remember the namesof the lines and spaces in hisnew staff notation.It was copied out anddistributed among the variousmonasteries, and made music-learning much more efficient forthe monks and nuns. Hence theexplosion of written chants.
Left: a page of neumatic music writtenon the 4-line staff that Guido D’Arezzoinvented.Above: detail from the same manuscript.Blue arrows show the lines of themusical staff.
St. Paul (one who wrote the Epistles) said inCorinthians I 14:34“Mulieres in ecclesiis taceant…”Or, “Let your women keep silence in thechurches.”Which was taken quite literally.
Nuns like Hildegard of Bingen lived in abbeys, separate from themonks and the general public, and they did in fact make music toworship in the privacy of their own religious communities.But if you could time travel and drop in on a medieval Mass, youwould hear all the music performed by men.The highest vocal parts were taken by young boys whose voices hadnot yet changed. This tradition persisted in all Catholic churches untilthe 20th century.And in fact, this past December, I happened to catch Christmas Massbeing celebrated by the current pope on TV. And there was not a ladyto be found in that choir. And yes, there were soprano and alto voicesto be sure, but they belonged to boys, not ladies.I will refrain from editorializing.
YES – Medieval women certainly did makesecular music. Aristocratic women would make music as a hobby. They may from time to time, have presented some music among their peers in an intimate gathering, but they would have NEVER performed publicly. And certainly not for money.
Certainly, there were women among the traveling troupesof jongleurs, but they were assumed to be prostitutes.Some of them surely did trade sex for money, as timescould be very tough on the road (going “on the road” isstill a huge challenge for anyone today who does not havesuperstar status). And many musicians (of both sexes)surely knew how to pick the pockets of their audience.Professional musicians (who did not belong to religiousorders) were a tight-knit group, and just like theblacksmiths and tailors of the time, taught their trade totheir children. So it made sense for them to make a lifewith someone who understood that life well. Thisphenomenon continues to this day in many branches ofthe performing arts – theater, music, dance and evencircuses are often family affairs.
A recurring theme throughout all of music historyif the artist struggling for public recognition. Notice the striped and parti- colored clothes of these jongleurs. Bright, clashing colors and stripes were reserved for Medieval social outcasts such as Jews, executioners, prostitutes, those with a known criminal history, the mentally ill, and um…. musicians. For more on the fascinating Like me :D history of colors and stripes in clothing, check out the works of hmm…I DO have a lot of stripes Michel Pastoreau. His books are in my closet… on Amazon. He’s amazing!
The most important thing about the Notre DameSchool is the invention of the rhythmic modes.Before this time, composers did not indicate howlong notes were to be held, so the choirmasterstook educated or stylistic guesses and theirrhythms were passed down over hundreds ofyears.Then along came Leonin and Perotin…
NO! NO! NO!Google Images!!! What good are you??? I’m trying to teach aserious class here!!!
sigh… Meow? Perotin looks depressed Leonin: NOT a cat-person that he doesn’t get to be on Magic cardsLeonin began using measured rhythm, called rhythm modes to specify toperformers exactly how long to hold their notes. Perotin, his successor,made the practice even more widespread.
Here are the six Notre Dame1 2 3 1 2 3 rhythmic modes.1 2 3 1 2 3 The composer would choose which one to use based on1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 56 which mode best fit the text.1 2 3 456 1 2 3 456 If you were to count these rhythms aloud, they would1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 456 all subdivide into 3, the1 2 3 1 2 3 number of the Holy Trinity.