Question 1:  Can you compare these Medieval secular pieces to any secular or folk musical style that you have heard in our contemporary music scene?  (think texture, subject matter, etc.)  If so, briefly elaborate. 

Machaut Notre Dame Mass

Machaut’s Notre Dame is one of the most famous pieces of music from the 14th century and is historically significant because it is the first mass to have the entire Ordinary of the Mass set polyphonically.    

Listen for the high male voice of the “counter-tenor”.  Remember that women were not permitted to perform music in the mass.  Boy sopranos would have performed the higher voices in this setting. Counter-tenors are tenors who have specifically developed their ability to sing in their “falsetto” register. Guillaume de Machaut – Messe de Notre Dame 

Question 2:  How does this composition by Machaut compare to the previous practice of simply chanting this text in monophonic texture? Do you think this polyphonic setting of the text enhances the text more than the original chant setting?  Why?  Why not?

Renaissance polyphony

The development of polyphony greatly influenced the music composed for the Catholic church during the late Middle Ages thru the Late Renaissance.  Many parts of the liturgy that had originally been set in monophonic chant, were expanded to polyphonic textures and more elaborate settings.  During the early 1500s, many in the Catholic Church felt that church music had lost its purity by using “noisy” instruments, “theatrical singing” and complex polyphony.  These issues were addressed at the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Listen to the following piece: Palestrina – Kyrie

Question 3: How did Palestrina respond to some of these concerns in his Pope Marcellus Mass?  How did musical elements and the use of texture help to “illuminate” the meaning of the words? How is this polyphony different from Machaut’s? Or is not different? Explain.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *