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Music in the middle ages  

The Middle Ages (5th to 15th Century) was characterized by changes in the English culture. This also included music of the period. The Middle Ages was a period of refinement and elegance of the primitive culture of the dark ages. The music of the time was mainly dominated by the French composers from Paris which was major place of musical influence to the period.  the Middle Ages main music was the church’s secular music. The main influence of the cultural change in the middle ages was mainly attributed by foreign cultures. This included the Europe and Arab music especially the love songs.

The content of music and songs styles was adopted from these external origins. The musicians and poets who greatly influenced the Middle Ages music include, Minstrels, Trouveres and Troubadours. The troubadours were the aristocratic from South of France.  They mainly wrote Provencal lyrics which greatly influenced the music of the medieval period. Trouveres and troubadours poetry was directly to music of the time. The troubadour’s French songs were played in English Courts due to the political roles, marriages and affliction of England.  

 The English courts mainly used French language after the Norman Conquest.  This meant that French music and Songs became assimilated into the English society. these were the songs from the French minstrels and troubadours.  The themes which were included into the songs were the tales of the knights and those of King Arthur (Butterfield, 2002).

Music in the Renaissance period

The renaissance period was the time 1400 to 1600. One of the composers of the time was Guilllaume Du Fay (13-1474).  His music was mainly the masses, the lude, madrigale spirtuale and the motets for chapel and mass services.  His music was influenced by the French setting giving it sweet lyrics of melody which was a new aspect in the renaissance in the period. Du Fay set the stage to the next generation of new renaissance composer with his attention to large scale music. By 1500, the renaissance music was  mainly  by  Franco –Flemish composers;  the most prominent one being Josquin des  Perez (1450-1521).

With his wide travels,  he was able to adopt the multi voiced music or polyphony styles which later continued with its complexity. He adopted the northern style by use of canons to create polyphony and the Italian frottage and from French popular songs. A third composer of this period was Duke Federico da Montefeltro of Urbino (1476-82).  He  mainly introduced  new  musical  instruments  like the  fiddle,  the  cornet  the  portative organ  and lutes among others. Secular music became more distributed during this period (Atlas, 1998).


Atlas, W (1998). Renaissance Music. New York: W.W. Norton.

Butterfield, A (2002) Poetry and Music in Medieval France, Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press.


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