Medieval music

Medieval music encompasses the sacred and secular music of Western Europe during the Middle Ages, from approximately the 6th to 15th centuries. It is the first and longest era of Western classical music and followed by the Renaissance music; the two eras comprise what musicologists term as early music, preceding the common practice period. Following the traditional divisions of the Middle Ages, medieval music can be divided into Early (500–1150), High (1000–1300), and Late (1300–1400) medieval music.

Troubadours entertaining a monarch

Medieval music includes liturgical music used for the church, and secular music, non-religious music; solely vocal music, such as Gregorian chant and choral music (music for a group of singers), solely instrumental music, and music that uses both voices and instruments (typically with the instruments accompanying the voices). Gregorian chant was sung by monks during Catholic Mass. The Mass is a reenactment of Christ's Last Supper, intended to provide a spiritual connection between man and God. Part of this connection was established through music.[1]

During the medieval period the foundation was laid for the music notation and music theory practices that would shape Western music into the norms that developed during the Common Practice period of shared music writing practices which encompassed the Baroque era (1600–1750), Classical era (1750–1820) and Romantic era (1800–1910). The most significant of these is the development of a comprehensive music notational system which enabled composers to write out their song melodies and instrumental pieces on parchment or paper. Prior to the development of musical notation, songs and pieces had to be learned "by ear", from one person who knew a song to another person. This greatly limited how many people could be taught new music and how wide music could spread to other regions or countries. The development of music notation made it easier to disseminate (spread) songs and musical pieces to a larger number of people and to a wider geographic area. However the theoretical advances, particularly in regard to rhythm—the timing of notes—and polyphony—using multiple, interweaving melodies at the same time—are equally important to the development of Western music.