Advertisement Upgrade to remove ads


Earliest body of song preserved through notation. plainsong, plain chant. Different types: Ambrosian, Cistercian, Mozarabic, Gallican, and Gregorian.

Gregorian chant

named after Pope Gregory I who organized appr. 3000 church melodies. Latin text that dictates the rhythm and influences the contour of the melody. Set syllabically and melismatically. Monophonic and typically sung acapella by male singers. No dynamics or accents. Sometimes with responsorial passages and antiphonal sections. Modal, non-metric, monophonic, conjunct, Latin, used neumatic notation. Constitutes the majority of the music of the Middle Ages.

Formes Fixes

forms that affected musical forms of song setting during 14th and 15 centuries. Involved complex repetition patterns with a refrain. (Machaut) Virelais, Rondeau, Ballade


one of the formes fixes, cultivated in the 13th ,14th, 15th centuries. Strophic. AbbaA


the most long-lasting of the Fr. Formes-fixes, cultivated in the 13th, 14th, 15th centuries. AbaAabAB form (A and B are refrains)


one of the French forms fixes of the 13th, 14th, 15th centuries. Strophic, typically of love.

Antiphonal psalmody

chanting of psalmodic texts by alternating choirs or soloists with the addition of 1 or more refrains (antiphon/antiphona) after each verse.


section of chant sung as a REFRAIN to the verses of a psalm. Served as a frame to psalm verse (intro and end).

Ars Nova

Transitional era (14th century) between Medieval and Renaissance. Musical centers in France and Italy. Marked by developments in notation (Philippe de Vitry treatise, Ars Nova 1322). Use of isorhythm was an important development and a key characteristic. Characterized by the use of duple and triple meter, use of shorter note values, isorhythm, and harmonic development (use of open 5th for cadence point) Increased secular music. Less use of cantus firmus. Simpler textures. Florid vocal style. (Started in France, then Italy) (Beginnings of the madrigal). Major developments in secular music and in sacred (not to the same degree). First mass cycles - thematically related sections of Mass Ordinary - Messe de Notre Dame.


Technique using a repeated rhythmic (talea) and melodic (color) pattern as a structural element.

Cantilena Style

Predominant vocal top line supported by less complex and usually instrumental tenor and countertenor lines.


an English or Latin song with uniform stanzas with a refrain (after each stanza).

Ambrosian chant

Early chant repertory associated with Milan. Associated with St. Ambrose (1st century) who reorganized singing and tonality in the Christian Church.


Liturgical book of the Roman rite containing the chants of the Office Hours (Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline).

Ars Subtilior

Musical style of the late 14th century/early 15th century. French vocal music. Intricate rhythms, exotic harmonies. ('more subtle art') Isorhythmic motets and secular songs. Intricate notation.


poetic and musical form in Italian secular songs (14th/15th centuries). Form: (A) ripresa, 2 (B) piedi, (a) volta. AbbaAbbaA. Landini.


14th century canonic piece with Italian text. Often dealing with hunting or nature. Hunting style. Voices performed in strict canon with an underlying third part, followed by a ritornello. Often with "animated" additions: horn calls, bird calls, dialogue.

Cantigas de Santa Maria

(Canticles of the Virgin Mary) - Collection of 420 songs about the Virgin Mary (1270-1290). Most in the form of a virelai.

Carmina Burana

copied collection of music of Notre Dame school and troubadour music into 13th century German manuscript.

Choirbook format

large format manuscript used by choirs. Allows everyone to read from the single book.


1. (Notre Dame) The concluding of a passage, similar to the idea of a cadence but not a harmonic tool). 2. A polyphonic composition based on part melismatic fragments of chants. Developed into the 13th century motet and given words of its own.


Melodic repetition in the tenors of medieval motets and organa. Term originated in rhetoric (meaning repetition).


Metrical Latin sacred song originating in France in 12th century. Often written in the Notre Dame school. Superseded in 13th century by the motet.


any French-texted secular song. Strophic, through-composed, or in a formes fixe.


a type of (12th/13th centuries) medieval polyphonic technique using a melismatic plainchant tenor. Moves in a note-against-note, contrary movement between voices. Interchange of 5th, 4th, 8va. Used rhythmic modes, and formally balanced phrase-shapes.


melodically elaborated responsorial chant. Consists of a response and single verse.

Rhythmic Modes

rhythmic patterns governing performance of measured sections of Notre Dame organum, motets, conductus. All patterns employ triple meter


an extended song form with several stanzas each using a different metrical form, rhyme scheme, and melody (Lyrical Lai). Troubadours and trouveres repertory. Monophonic usually Machaut - monophonic and polyphonic.

Liturgical drama

sung religious dialogues, ceremonies, and plays in Latin


the central rite of the church, celebrating a reenactment of the Last Supper. 2 series of prayers: Ordinary and Proper. The Ordinary: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus dei.

Mass Ordinary

Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus dei. Texts don't vary


Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian


a polyphonic genre in which the upper voice or voices are texted (different texts) and the bottom voice (tenor) is untexted. Tenor is usually taken from a solo section of a chant and is set to rhythm and manipulated. Early motets were religious but later included secular texts. Developed in the 13th century from the Clausulae.


Fr. Professional entertainer (secular vocal music). Sang, played instruments, juggled, and acrobatics.


student musicians (secular vocal music)


German - Of aristocratic origins. Sumer is icumen in


German - Merchant class

Musica Enchiriadis

9th century treatise by Hucbald. Earliest surviving source of polyphony.


chant sung with two distinct parts: melody (tenor) and harmony (duplum). Same melody separated by a 4th or 5th at first. (Beginning of polyphony and ultimately harmony.) As organum evolved, the duplum obtained independence. The borrowed tenor line was augmented, maintaining the cantus firmus, while the duplum became more active, ornamented, and florid. Notre Dame played a key role in the development of it in the 12th/13th centuries - 2 to 4 parts.

Modified organum

addition of a voice a 4th or 5th above melody.

Modified parallel organum

allowed the pattern to be broken at the beginning and ending of phrases.

Free Organum

contrary motion within a phrase.

Florid/Melismatic Organum

consists of a series of notes in the upper voice that are sung over longer notes in the lower voice (cantus firmus).


the use of isorhythm in all voices


type of sacred song dating back to antiquity.

Romanesque Style

(Balbulus, composer) following early Medieval Era. Plainsong, plainsong mass, passion, Sequence Trope, organum, liturgical drama, conductus.

St. Martial

Former monastery at Aquitaine in SW France. Important repertoire of polyphonic and monophonic music associated with it.


Italian period at the end of the Medieval Period


N. France. Nobility who composed secular songs. Adam de la Halle important. Wrote Le Jeu de Robin et Marion

Worcester Fragments

more than 100 anonymous polyphonic compositions between early 13th century and mid-14th century.

Ars Antiqua

a term used to refer to the "old style" typical of 12th century Notre Dame organum and of the 13th century motet and conductus. Characteristized by predominance of triple meter and limited rhythmic vocabulary rhythmic modes, mostly 3-part, "Perfect" rhythm.


style of Notre dame organum in which the top voice is measured but the bottom voice is unmeasured.

Gallican chant

early Medieval. France. Before the imposition of Roman chant.

Mozarabic chant

early Medieval chant. Spain


Polyphonic device where the melody is divided between two voice parts. Uses rests to facilitate the alternation of the notes. Many motets by Machaut contain hocket passages.


an elaborate melisma of the final syllable of the word "Alleluia".

Magnus Liber Organi

collection of 2-voice plainchant setting for liturgical use. Notre Dame. Attributed to Leonin and revised by Perotin. The most important surviving work of the period.

Mass proper

sections of the mass whose texts change according to the church calendar.

Mensural Notation

rhythmic notation using shapes. Divided into groups of 2 (imperfect) or 3 (perfect). Distinct from rhythmic modes.

Notre Dame School

(1150-1250) Cathedral in Paris in mid-12th century. Leonin and Perotin (successor). Cultivated organum, conductus, and liturgical motet. Large repertoire collected in Magnus Liber Organi. Transformation of polyphony from a performing practice into "composition", utilized multiple voices. Utilized rhythmic modes to coordinate voices and made other achievements in notation.

Old Hall Manuscript

15th century English manuscript

Rhythmic Mode

Divided music into beat groups: Perfect - 3 (for sacred - representing the trinity) and Imperfect - 2 (for secular)


a rhythmic pattern which is repeated exactly in an isorhythmic tenor.


an addition to a pre-existent chant. The insertion of extra texts and melodies between verses of well-know chants. May be monophonic or polyphonic, usually syllabic and sung by soloist. ex. Quem Queritis (trope and Introit)


instrumental dance from the ars nova.

Bamberg Codex

contains motets

Calixtinus Codex

12th century manuscript


Monastic order. Produced plainchant.


female composers of French secular music.


the four subjects, or arts, taught in medieval universities after the trivium. arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

Franco of Cologne

Theorist and musician. Devised rules for a system of notation referred to as Franconian Notation. "Ars Cantus Mensurabilis"

Adam de la Halle

Important trouvere. Work: Jeu de Robin et de marion which has songs for soloists and choruses, and instrumental dances.

Francesco Landini

primary Italian composer of the Ars Nova.


(Notre Dame Mass). Primary French composer of the Ars Nova. Brought Ars Nova to its height. Sacred and secular monophonic and polyphonic music. Built on the style of the late trouveres. Clarity of texture.


Key figure in the Notre Dame School. Successor of Leonin. Wrote liturgical music in style of Ars Antiqua. Important in the development of polyphony. More concerned with rhythm rather than harmony.

Leonel Power

important composer of Burgundian style

Philippe de Vitry

Treatise, Ars Nova. New techniques for notation - rhythm and harmony. Isorhythmic motets.


Greek philosopher and mathmetician. Related music of his time to theories of ancient Greek and Roman philosophers. "De Institutione"

John Dunstable

Primary English composer of the Ars Nova. ex. Quam pulcra es

Hildegard of Bingen

wrote para-liturgical music (monophonic music on sacred themes but not part of the liturgy)


Key figure in the Notre Dame School. Compiled Magnus Liber which contained polyphonic chants used at Notre Dame. Important in the development of polyphony, especially organum.

Petrus de Cruce

composer who brought the Ars Antiqua style to its height. Wrote motets with complexity.

Please allow access to your computer’s microphone to use Voice Recording.

Having trouble? Click here for help.

We can’t access your microphone!

Click the icon above to update your browser permissions above and try again


Reload the page to try again!


Press Cmd-0 to reset your zoom

Press Ctrl-0 to reset your zoom

It looks like your browser might be zoomed in or out. Your browser needs to be zoomed to a normal size to record audio.

Please upgrade Flash or install Chrome
to use Voice Recording.

For more help, see our troubleshooting page.

Your microphone is muted

For help fixing this issue, see this FAQ.

Star this term

You can study starred terms together

NEW! Voice Recording