Development of Western Classical Music Essay

Development of Western Classical Music Essay

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Current western classical music did not occur overnight. It was a long process that had its beginnings in the sacred music of the Middle Ages. War, disease, famine, political unrest and advancements in science brought changes, to not only how music was perceived, but also in how it was presented, giving modern western classical music its rich history today.
In medieval times the Catholic Church controlled every aspect of life. The church educated the nobles, advised the rulers, presided over judgments and was the spiritual guide for the people. The church itself was usually the only stone building in the village and it was central to the lifestyles of the time as it was where festivals, baptisms, marriages and death rites were held. While there was some secular music in the courts of the nobles, most music was sacred. Plainchant was the official music of the church and each chant had a specific time or condition of use according to the liturgy. The pitch the chant was sung on was referred to as the reciting tone. The simplest form of the plainchant was a short phrase sung before or after a psalm, called an Antiphon. A more complicated plainchant form was the sequence, where a melody is sung twice to different words. An early form of organum, the parallel organum, is where the plainchant was sung to two different melodies at the same time. According to Timothy Dickey, the four-voice organum is generally attributed to Perotin, a twelfth century composer of the Notre Dame School, whose works are recorded in the Magnus Liber located in the Notre Dame Cathedral. The three and four voice organum is referred to as the Notre Dame Organum. An example of this is Perotin’s Alleluia. Diffusa est gratia, which is a song composed to revere the ...

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The evolution of music, from the single note plainchants of the Middle Ages to the complex multiple instrumental symphonies of the Classical Era, was a long process. Each age built on the advances of the previous age, even as some parts were rejected by the following age. In the end the advancements and changes to the ways and means to combine rhythm, melody and harmony makes for a rich music heritage and a foundation for future musicians to build on.

Works Cited

Dickey, Timothy. "Pérotin (12th C.-13th C.); FRA ." Pérotin. Classical Archives, 2008. Web. 08 Nov. 2013.
Kerman, Joseph, and Gary Tomlinson. Listen. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2011. CD.
Kerman, Joseph, and Gary Tomlinson. Listen. 7th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2012. Print.
Oakley, Thomas P. "Religion and the Middle Ages." Catholic Culture. Trinity Communications, 2013. Web. 08 Nov. 2013.

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