Form and Numbers: Culminating Information on Medieval Music

Entering my third week of research, I have been conducting structural analyses of 4 separate pieces written during the Ars nova¬†in order to be able to view the layouts of isorhythm and retrograde motion in a detailed, yet still concise, way. The 4 pieces are listed below: [Read more…]

Structure and Society: Understanding the Context of Medieval Music

As I am now about halfway done with my first week of research, I am gaining more of an idea of the background information necessary to guide my research goal. I have mainly been reading source materials and taking notes on what I feel may be applicable to my research and to my understanding of the time period. The majority of my sources so far have been print books, reference books, and journal articles. I have been reading information on the changes to music and society brought by the Ars nova. In addition, I am looking at the works and impact of composers Guillaume de Machaut and Philippe de Vitry and the different forms of motets during that time. My main obstacle for the next few days will be finding relevant source materials that provide more than just the same information and perspectives that I have already read. While the availability of sources is slightly limited by the time period (14thcentury), I feel like there will still be sources I can find.

[Read more…]

Coming and Going: Plotting Time, Space, and Direction in Medieval Music

In my Freshman Monroe Project, I intend to analyze two different types of procedures found in medieval musical compositions.The first procedure, called isorhythm, is a way of constructing larger compositions based on numbers, a common technique in the Middle Ages. The types of pieces that most frequently use isorhythm are called motets, musical compositions which feature 3 or 4 vocal parts. The bottom vocal part is nearly always a segment from a Gregorian chant. The voice parts over the chant line lay out phrases of varying lengths. These phrases often form particular patterns that may relate the voices to each other and to the chant part, forming a kind of large, numerological structure that presented numbers in terms of sound, duration, and structural organization. The second procedure that I would like to investigate is the use of retrograde melodic motion in a number of works from the 14th and 15th centuries. Retrograde motion is the way in which a melody, rhythm, or both can be presented in reverse, allowing composers to organize their material in ways that may strike us as rather strange today.

[Read more…]