Nursery Rhymes

Middle Ages Music

Middle Ages - Lords and Ladies

Middle Ages Music
The Middle Ages saw the emergence of great changes in English culture including the music played during the Middle Ages. The violent times of the Dark Ages had led to a primitive society lacking in elegance or refinement. The Medieval music of the Middle Ages generally consisted of the secular music of the church. The Middle Ages saw society changing due to the influence from various foreign cultures.

Travel, prompted by the Crusades, led to a new and unprecedented interest in beautiful objects, elegant manners, poetry and music. Middle Ages music in Europe was influenced by Arab love songs. The ideals of courtly love were introduced further influencing the content and styles of the music of the Middle Ages.

Middle Ages Music - Courtly Love and the Troubadours
In the eleventh and twelfth centuries Troubadours, Trouveres and Minstrels were the poets and musicians who influenced Middle Ages music singing songs of courtly love. The aristocratic troubadours were poets who originated in the south of France where they wrote the lyrics in Provencal (langue d'oc). The troubadours of the north of France wrote in French  (langue d'oil)and were called called trouvères. The poetry of the troubadours and the trouvères was invariably linked with music. The songs of French troubadours were heard in English courts as a result of England's political affiliations and royal marriages. Since the Norman Conquest the language of the English court was French so the songs and music of the French troubadours and minstrels were easily assimilated into English society. The tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, originating with  music and the poems of the English and Welsh Bards, were themes which were included in the lyrics of the Troubadour and minstrels songs. Noble ladies of the Medieval period were famous for their patronage of Middle Ages music. Eleanor of Aquitaine married King Henry II of England in 1152 and brought her love of music and the troubadours to the English court transferring the tradition to England.

Musical Instruments in the Middle Ages
Blondel the Minstrel

Foreign Influences over the Middle Ages Music of England
Some of the important influences over English Middle Ages Music can therefore by summarised by the following events:

  • The crusades and Arab love songs

  • Middle Ages culture change

  • The ideals of courtly love

  • The music and songs of troubadours and minstrels

  • The patronage of Medieval nobles  and women including Eleanor of Aquitaine

Traditional English Influences over the Middle Ages Music
Traditional English influences over the Medieval music of the Middle Ages include the following:

  • The growth of Christianity in the Dark Ages leading to the introduction of secular music

  • The stories and legends of the English, Welsh and Scottish bards

  • The ideals of courtly love

  • The poets and authors of the era including Geoffrey Chaucer

  • The music developed by the Medieval waits

The Style of Middle Ages Music
Early Middle Ages music was first performed in unison. The notes were usually the same length and song, or played, in the Key of C. Harmony was gradually introduced and by the 12th century a method of music notation developed which indicated the length of each note and the pitch.

Life in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages Index

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