music of the middle ages

Music has been a great influence in the lives of many people for many years
and is constantly changing. Music has been divided into six periods: Medieval,
Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Twentieth Century.

The Medieval period was the longest and most distant period of musical
history and consists of almost a millennium’s worth of music. To examine the
music of this period we must first look at the influences or dominating factors
of medieval life.

In a political sense, as well as a spiritual sense, the Roman Catholic Church
was very much the focal point of a Medieval man\'s life. Between the collapse of
control of the Roman Empire around 500 A.D. and the Renaissance in the middle
1400s, the Church remained the most continuously powerful organization in

The great gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages help demonstrate how religion
had become the focus of the times. The thousands and thousands of hours of
labour, the tremendous cost involved, the extraordinary and detailed
craftsmanship without the use of cranes or power tools must give us an idea of
the effects of religion and the power of the Church. To worship God through
one\'s craft was the highest artistic ideal of the times. While some of the great
secular classic literature of the past was well known to many, it was considered
to be only a teaching tool to assist in the understanding of the Bible.

Music has always been an integral part of religious celebrations throughout
history, and for the Catholic Church of antiquity, it was a vital element.

The music of the Catholic Church absorbed Greek, Jewish, and Syrian
influences among others, through the teachings of :

Pythagoras 6th – 5th BCE, a Greek mathematician and a musical theorist who
believed that there were perfect intervals in music and introduced the 8ve, 5th,
4th, whole tone. Pythagoras’ ideas gave music scientific credibility through
numbers and allowed it to be introduced as one of the sciences.

Plato 427 – 347 BCE / Aristotle 384-322 BCE, Greek philosopher’s whose
teachings introduced the idea that music is ethical. Plato believed that music
could generate ethical space and could have an effect on the moral fibre of a
person. The power to cleanse, to create an ‘ethos’. He believed that the
idea is created by the thinkers (Speclatores) and that it’s interpretation is
a mirror of the idea (Speclum), and that the representation was carried out by
the doers, the musicians, artists etc (Cantores). Plato believed that thinkers
were more important than doers. Music was seen as one of the sciences and
therefore was controlled by the theorists (Speculatores) who decreed that music
should be good to transmit good things lest it should introduce impure thoughts.
Music in it’s most superior form could not be heard. Only by mirroring
(Speculum) could it be heard.

Aristoxenus 375 BCE, student of Xenophilus and Aristotle researched pitch,
intervals, scales, keys, modulation and constructed melodies. He introduced the
Tetrachord (4-note). Aristoxenus wrote books on both listening to and making
music and playing instruments. He examined the nature of rhythm (strong vs weak)
and supported division into 3 as perfect, and into 2 as imperfect using
Pythagoras’ ideas on number perfection.

Emperor Constantine 306 – 337 AD, became the emperor of Rome in 306, and
was the most powerful person in his part of the world. His conversion to
Christianity had far reaching effects on the common practice of the religion and
on all the factions of Christianity that are present today. His conversion
happened during a war with his brother-in-law and co-emperor, Maxentius.
According to the historian Eusebius , Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, before
the crucial battle of Milvian Bridge, Constantine was convinced that he needed
divine assistance. While he was praying for such assistance, God sent him a
vision of a cross of light at midday, bearing the inscription "in hoc signo
vinces " ("in this sign you will be victorious"). That night he
had a dream that reaffirmed his earlier vision. God told him to use the sign he
had been given as a safeguard in all of his battles. Thus, Constantine converted
to Christianity and ordered the symbol of his Savior\'s name (the intersection of
the Greek letter chi and rho) to represent his army. Constantine was victorious
in the battle of the Milvian Bridge, and he continued to wear the symbol for
Christ against every hostile power he faced.

At around 350 AD, the Schola Cantorum (singing school) was founded. This was
an idea picked up from the Jewish synagogues where the Levittes had special
training and took on the role of temple musicians.