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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
April 2023
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Book description

What characterises medieval polyphony and song? Who composed this music, sang it, and wrote it down? Where and when did the different genres originate, and under what circumstances were they created and performed? This book gives a comprehensive introduction to the rich variety of polyphonic practices and song traditions during the Middle Ages. It explores song from across Europe, in Latin and vernacular languages (precursors to modern Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish); and polyphony from early improvised organum to rhythmically and harmonically complex late medieval motets. Each chapter focuses on a particular geographical location, setting out the specific local contexts of the music created there. Guiding the reader through the musical techniques of melody, harmony, rhythm, and notation that distinguish the different genres of polyphony and song, the authors also consider the factors that make modern performances of this music sound so different from one another.


‘This excellent new introduction will transform the appreciation of medieval song. Deeming and van der Heijden have written a brilliantly concise guide without compromising on meticulous scholarship and fascinating detail. Readers will find an engaging and historically grounded account of music making in the European Middle Ages, abundantly interspersed with freshly chosen examples expertly designed to be accessible and interactive.'

Ardis Butterfield - Yale University

‘Providing an expert introduction to seven centuries of European polyphony and song is a daunting task, but Deeming and van der Heijden meet the challenge in highly impressive fashion. Every chapter is chock-full of information, and the in-depth discussions of individual pieces provide micro-tutorials on all important aspects of medieval music theory and practice.'

Thomas Schmidt - The University of Manchester

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