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Chapter 2 - Monastic Centres in the Early Middle Ages

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 April 2023

Helen Deeming
Affiliation:
Royal Holloway, University of London
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Summary

Chapter 2 explores the music produced in the monastic institutions of ninth- to eleventh-century Europe. Describing the context of the Carolingian Empire, and the renaissance of learning, literacy, and writing that it brought about, we look at some of the earliest examples of musical notation from this vast region of Europe. We examine the Latin songs, or versus, produced in monasteries, charting their wide range of themes and their possible functions in monastic life. Our earliest evidence of polyphonic singing in church comes from music theory texts dating from the ninth century onwards: we consider what these texts can tell us about the improvised practice of organum (or parallel organum) singing, and provide a practical exercise for readers to try improvising organum themselves. Further music theory texts from the tenth and eleventh centuries document the changing approaches to organum singing over the period, and finally we consider how music theory related to actual practice, by looking at the first surviving examples of practical polyphony from medieval Europe.

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Chapter
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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References

Further Reading

Deeming, Helen, ‘Latin Song I: Songs and Songbooks from the Ninth to the Thirteenth Century’, in The Cambridge History of Medieval Music, volume 2, ed. Everist, Mark and Kelly, Thomas Forrest (Cambridge, 2018), 1020–47.Google Scholar
Fuller, Sarah, ‘Early Polyphony to c.1200’ in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Music, ed. Everist, Mark (Cambridge, 2011), 4666.Google Scholar
Hiley, David, Gregorian Chant (Cambridge, 2009) – see especially sections 3.ii on elaborations of the liturgy, and 4.iii on notation/neumes.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rankin, Susan (ed.), The Winchester Troper: Facsimile Edition and Introduction (Early English Church Music 53; London, 2007).Google Scholar
Ziolkowski, Jan M. (ed. and trans.), The Cambridge Songs (Carmina Cantabrigiensia) (New York and London, 1994).Google Scholar
On the tenth-century organum discovered in the British Library, see https://bit.ly/3L55uG1 and (with a recording of Sancte Bonifati) https://bit.ly/3Rxk5vd.Google Scholar
On the process of recovering early medieval songs from neumatic notation, and experimenting with performers to create convincing sung versions, see Restoring Lost Songs: Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, https://boethius.mus.cam.ac.uk/.Google Scholar

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