TheDevelopment of Music History from the Medieval to the Baroque Eras

Musichas evolved tremendously through the years. Currently, the traces ofthe old music compositions can still be found dating back to thetwelfth century the period that was later identified as Medieval. Atthat time, the music was only present in the religious settings andincluded the Gregorian chants and plainsong, which were incomposition, monadic. The one lined music then evolved into Organum,which was two or three-lined music, in the thirteenth century. Eachof the lines in the music did not depend on another, and therefore,harmony started getting into music. In the fourteenth century,however, tight rules were introduced that guided melody and rhythm ofthe music. The period was later described as the Ars Nova. It hadgreat composers including Landini, Machaut, and Vitry (HistoryWorld). A study of the birth and evolution of music offers one abetter way to relate to the art. An examination of the journey ofmusic during this period will allow individuals to understand theevents and developments witnessed in each path dating to the modernday. Therefore, this paper will present a description of the historyof music during the Medieval Era, through the Renaissance (rebirth)to the time of Baroque.

Thetraditions of the Western music dates back to the social as well asreligious advances carried out by Europe during the 500-1400 A.D. TheCatholic Church being the most prevalent institution during this erasacred music was the first to be produced. Sacred music laterdeveloped into a polyphonic type of music entitled Organum, which wasperformed in Paris during the 12th century. Music is reported to haveexisted for centuries before the middle age. Artworks from differentexisting civilizations, such as Egypt and Ancient Greece, describepeople adapting to the use of the various instruments to make music. The study of music has been described to date back to around 500B.Cwhen Pythagoras tested the relationship between mathematics andacoustic tones. During the medieval era, the church had sole powerover all the lords of the land in Europe. The Catholic Church hadcontrol over the artists and the progress of arts and letters.Therefore, during the medieval era, music was almost the soleproperty of the church.

Earlymedieval music assumed numerous types of chants. A form of plainchantadopted during this period was the Gregorian chant. Supposed to havebeen coded by Pope Gregory 1 (590-604 A.C), the chant took amonophonic tone encompassing a single melody devoid of any harmonicbacking or accompaniment. By the eleventh century, melodic lines wereadded in contrary to each other producing isorhythmic motets, masses,and dance songs (ballade, virelai, and Rondeau) in the new arts of1300-1400.

Evidencehas shown that the control of the church over arts and letter led tothe birth of plaint chants as a mode of music. One would argue thatthe history of the Catholic Church being a sole owner of musicarguably influenced the path that music took during that particularperiod (Swain 57). The shift of power and development facilitated thebirth of musicians who were not bound by the church. The events ledto the growth of secular music from the 10th century onwards.

Throughoutthe Middle Ages, the development in music practice relied on sacredmusic. As centuries passed, these developments diffused to secularmusic. During the late medieval era, different groups joined incomposing and writing songs by use of more melodies rather than theknown plain chants that existed. These groups introduced polyphony tosecular music.

Comingas the second phase after the Ars Nova, the Renaissance periodevolved resulting from the freedom from the rules that had beenenforced in the organum. In this period, the composers of music, eventhough were not perceived to be, wrote music which had tonalvariations, or key. The music writers were also made separatemusical instruments from the vocal music. It is also in this periodthat the composers started writing music with notes. However, in thelast half of the sixteenth century, Capella was adopted. Capellainvolved no instruments accompanying the vocal composition. The mostknown composers of the period included Dufay, Dunstable, Alonso Lobo,Victoria, and Lassus (History World).

Renaissancedescribes the revival of the classical culture. Research shows thatthe revival of the Greco-Roman culture was rather direct (Kamien 64).With no surviving music to base their compositions, composers focusedon the study of ancient originals that involved the embrace ofbalance, simplicity, order, and clarity. Renaissance writersdeveloped music to staggering heights of complexity, preferringharmonies and melodies of a touch of simplicity and clarity.Renaissance music is noted for its use of imitation as a style.Imitation involves the repetition of a melody, often at a differentpitch. This technique is used to expand the effect of a melody andunifies the musical work up to the modern day.

TheRenaissance brought a new genre of music, which involved thedevelopment of sacred and secular varieties. Moreover, theintroduction of the writing press gave the composers a new angle onwriting music. The Renaissance is termed the rebirth of music becausenew genres were produced (Kamien 79). Furthermore, the ability of acomposer to write a song for the public to the press changed thenature of writing music. One would argue that development among otherpolitical factors led to the expansion of the means of writing music.The growth of technology is equally a significant element in theevolution of music.

TheBaroque period, which lasted between the seventeenth to eighteenthcenturies, was accompanied by significant transformations in music.For instance, orchestra, opera, modern cantata, concerto, and sonatastarted featuring in this period. It is this era that saw theintroduction and existence of classical music (Swain 95). Some of themajor composers of the time included Alessandro Scarlatti, and Handel(History World). Baroque, which means a deformed pearl, is an erathat covered many great styles and composition techniques that mirrorthe innovations in art, architecture, and literature. Music of theBaroque Era was intended to move the emotions in addition swaying thesenses of listeners, no more than the former Renaissance Age.However, this period led to the birth of many multi-movementcompositions, which resulted in the development of numerous genres inthe 17th century. The Baroque Era brought new musical instruments andformed the edge of technological growth, where music developed tohigher heights than ever before.

Inconclusion, the development of music history from the Medieval periodto the Baroque Eras offers an in-depth understanding of the art aswell as the composers in addition to the styles that emerged inhistory. These developments have immensely shaped the music in themodern age and continue to influence the way music is written andplayed at the present age.


History World. History of Music. History World, 2016. Web. 8 July 2016.

Kamien,Roger. Music:An Appreciation Brief Edition with 5-CD Set,7thed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2010. Print.

Swain,Joseph. HistoricalDictionary of Baroque Music.Plymouth, UK:Scarecrow Press, 2013. Print.