Music: Glossary

Ars Nova
The new style of music composed in France and Italy in the fourteenth century. The name was coined by Philippe de Vitry in a tract, c. 1320.

Originally a song to accompany dancing, the thirteenth century Italian ballata were monophonic dance songs with choral refrains.

Bernart de Ventadorn
(d.1194/5) A commoner and a confirmed misogynist, Ventadorn was one of the greatest of the Troubadour poets.

Binchois, Gilles
(1400-1460) Trained at the cathedral of Cambrai, one of the foremost musical centres at the beginning of the fifteenth century, Binchois composed both sacred and secular music. His songs were typically written for a solo voice accompanied by two instrumental parts. The age of the poet-musicians like Machaut was past and the quality of poetry utilised by Binchois varied widely.

(c.480-524) Roman philosopher and statesman.

Caccia or chasse
Usually describing an animated scene, the caccia flourished in Italy between 1345 and 1370. Written for two equal voices in canon, the Italian version added a supportive instrumental part.

The method of composition for several voices in which different voices sing the same melody, one after the other, in either the same or different degrees of the scale.

(Flavius Magnus Aurelius) (c.490-C.585) Roman historian who wrote History of the Goths, of which only portions are preserved in the History of the Goths by the early medieval historian, Jordanes, who wrote later in the sixth century.

The technique of setting a melody or melodies in conjunction with another. Counterpoint melodies are composed according to set rules.

The Crusades were military or quasi-military expeditions launched by Christian secular and religious rulers against the Moslems in the Middle East from 1096 to 1291. The Albigensian Crusade late in the thirteenth century was launched against French heretics.

des Prez, Josquin
(c.1442-1524+) Considered one of the greatest musicians in history, Josquin trained at the school of Ockeghem. He worked at various odd-jobs in Italy until 1505, when he returned to France. He was Provost of the Collegiate Church of Condi-sur-Escaut at his death. Josquin was a prolific composer, leaving more than 29 masses, 119 motets and 86 secular works, including ballads and songs, nearly all written in vernacular French. Josquin's sacred works are the most brilliantly executed. His early works follow the poyphonic tradition but he later used more spontaneous melodic compositions, assisting in the development of the "chansons frangaise," characterised by simple and lively rhythms. Because of his popularity, Josquin's works were among the first musical scores to be printed.

Dufay, Guillaume
(c.1400-1474) Like Binchois, Dufay trained at Cambrai but travelled far more widely. His music reflects the broader cultural experience. He was often in Italy and mixed with musicians in Rome, Florence, Bologne and Naples as well as Franco-Flemish musicians from north of the Alps. Dufay's works combined harmony and counterpoint into lively polyphonies and his works clearly reflect Dunstable's influence. Dufay composed secular songs in a variety of styles but his best work was the sacred music. Dufay is credited with the use of open shapes for notes of long duration, blacked-in shapes being reserved for notes of short duration.

Dunstable, John
(1370?-1453) The greatest English composer of the time, Dunstable's influence reigned supreme throughout the first half of the fifteenth century. Although most of Dunstable's extant works are religious, it is obvious that he was familiar with all aspects of Continental techniques and was capable of employing them all without subjection to any single style.

A poetic and musical genre related to the sequence, it is sometimes found without words and is believed to have been danced.

St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)
The son of a wealthy Italian merchant, Francis rejected his family and devotes himself to a life of extreme poverty and the doing of good works. Francis soon had a large following. He and his followers were confirmed as a brotherhood by Pope Innocent III in 1210. Francis' preaching and simple lifestyle inspired a religious revival in northern Italy, and the Franciscan ideal of poverty and simplicity spread throughout Europe. The Franciscans became an order in 1223, but were unable to retain the rule of absolute poverty.

Clerks and monks who wrote a style of secular lyric poetry commending the pleasures of life - wine, women and song - in a humourous and satirical manner. The Church, whose officials were often the butt of these ribald commentaries, was not amused.

A musical composition for 2 or more parts with a single melody line, all other parts serving as accompaniments.

Hoquet or hocket
The musical technique in which the flow of the melody is interrupted by the insertion of rests and the missing notes are supplied by another voice, dividing the melody between two or more voices.

(Quintus Horatius Flaccus) (65-8 BC) Roman lyric poet and satirist.

Hundred Years War
A war fought on French soil between England and France. It was a war initiated by the French monarchy's expansionist policy and by the English king's resentme nt of having to recognise the King of France as his superior with regards to England's territory in France. The war was fought off and on between the years 1337-1453 and resulted in the loss of the majority of the English territory in France.

The repetition of a phrase, usually at a different pitch, by another voice or part.

Lai or lay
A form of song popular in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, usually consisting of 12 unequal stanzas sung to different tunes. The lai was often composed as an instrumental piece.

Landino, Francesco
(c.1325-1397) Blind from childhood, Landino was also called Francesco Cieco, "the blind." A virtuoso on the flute, lute, and organ, his performance skills were legendary. About 150 of his works have been preserved.

A song of praise and adoration to Christ, Mary or the saints that became popular amongst the laity in the thirteenth century.

Machaut, Guillaume (c.1300-377)
French composer, cleric, poet, and diplomat, Machaut is considered the greatest practitioner of the Ars Nova. Among the first to compose polyphonic settings for fixed-form poetry, to write in 4-parts, and to compose an integrated setting for an entire mass, Machaut was also one of the last musicians to use the medieval musical form, the lai.

The name given to two different kinds of musical composition, one in the fourteenth century and one in the sixteenth century, which have nothing in common but their name. Extremely popular in Italy, the fourteenth century madrigal was usually written for two or three voices in two or three three-line stanzas, resembling the pastourelles of the Troubadours in both content and structure. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the madrigal meant a song for several voices arranged in complicated counterpoint and performed without musical accompaniment.

A musical composition with only a single melody line.

A musical composition that has only a single melody line, regardless of the number of voices or instruments in the performance.

Originally a short sacred musical composition, the motet was increasingly secularised during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

A slow musical composition with more than one group of simple time units in each bar, composed in Latin or vernacular, the pastourelle relates an encounter between a knight on horseback and a shepherdess.

Unaccompanied church music sung in unison and in free rhythm according to the accentuation of the words.

A musical form that gained popularity in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in which several vocal or instrumental parts or melodies are combined simultaneously.

A type of rondeau based on the poetic style of ten or thirteen lines with only two rhymes and the opening words used twice as a refrain.

A musical style popular with the Troubadours characterised as a song with a refrain. The rondel and virelai are two types of rondeaux and are considered to have been dances.

The repetition of a phrase or melody at a higher or lower pitch.

A composition based on progressive repetition, i.e. AA BB CC DD EE

The method of associating each note of a scale with a particular syllable. The modern series is usually doh-ray-me-fah-soh-lah-te, with doh as C in the fixed-doh system and as the key-note in a moveable-doh system. Solfhge is the descendant of sixnote solmisation and is named for the sol-fa of that sequence. See solmization.

A memory aid developed by Gui d'Arezzo. Since the seventh and eighth centuries, letters designated the first six notes of the scale. Arezzo added to each note the first syllable of a verse from the hymn to St. John the Baptist: Ut queant lacis Resonare fibris Mira gestorum Famuli tuorum Solve polluti Labii reatum. Each verse was to be sung a tone higher than the one before, except the fourth, which was separated from the third by only a semi-tone. This allowed the singer to remember the respective places of tones and semi-tones in the series ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la. This series of six notes forms the basis for solmization, derived from the sol-mi sequence.

A metrical or musical unit, it is typically repeated in a musical composition.

The upper, or higher, voice or melody in a musical composition of two or more parts, the superius was orginally only used as an accompaniment to the main melody, the tenor.

The displacement of beats or accents in a musical passage so that the strong beats become weak and vice versa.

The highest normal male voice, the name derives from mediaeval musical compositions in which the tenor carried the main melody line. Other voices typically served as accompaniments to the tenor.

Troubadours or Trouvères
Poets and poet-musicians who flourished in France between the end of the eleventh century and the end of the thirteenth. Among the first to use vernacular languages instead of Latin, the Troubadours created new musical forms that incorporated the informal music of the people. Troubadour music declined during the thirteenth century as the courts of southern France were destroyed in the course of the Albigensian Crusade.

A musical composition in the rondeau style based on poems with two rhymes in each stanza.

Virgil or Vergil
(Publius Vergilius Maro) (70-19 BC) Roman poet who wrote the Aeneid, the classic tale of the fall of Troy and the founding of Rome.

Vitry, Philippe de (1291-1361)
French composer, poet and theorist, de Vitry held numerous court posts before he became bishop of Meaux in 1351. Few of his works survive but he was instrumental in the spread of the Ars Nova, providing a name for the new musical style in an early fourteenth century tract and writing four treatises on the style.

Singing with several notes to a single vowel sound.

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The End of Europe's Middle Ages / Department of History / The University of Calgary
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