Critical & Historical Essays eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 248 pages of information about Critical & Historical Essays.

To sum up, we may say, therefore, that up to the sixteenth century, all music was composed of the slender material of thirds, sixths, fifths, and octaves, fourths being permitted only between the voices; consecutive successions of fourths, however, were permitted, a license not allowed in the use of fifths or octaves.  This leads us directly to a consideration of the laws of counterpoint and fugue, laws that have remained practically unchanged up to the present, with the one difference that, instead of being restricted to the meagre material of the so-called consonants, the growing use of what were once called dissonant chords, such as the dominant seventh, ninth, diminished seventh, and latterly the so-called altered chords, has brought new riches to the art.

Instead of going at once into a consideration of the laws of counterpoint, it will be well to take up the development of the instrumental resources of the time.  There were three distinct types of music:  the ecclesiastical type (which of course predominated) found its expression in melodies sung by church choirs, four or more melodies being sometimes sung simultaneously, in accordance with certain fixed rules, as I have already explained.  These melodies or chants were often accompanied by the organ, of which we will speak later.  The second type was purely instrumental, and served as an accompaniment for the dance, or consisted of fanfares (ceremonial horn signals), or hunting signals.  The third type was that of the so-called trouveres or troubadours, with their jongleurs, and the minnesingers, and, later, the mastersingers.  All these “minstrels,” as we may call them, accompanied their singing by some instrument, generally one of the lute type or the psaltery.

[09] There is much question as to Hucbald’s organum.  That
     actually these dissonances were used even up to 1500 is
     proved by Franco Gafurius of Milan, who mentions a Litany
     for the Dead (De Profundis) much used at that time: 

     [G:  {f’ g’} {f’ g’} {g’ a’} {g’ a’} {g’ c’’} {e’ a’} {f’ g’}]
     [W:  De profundis, etc.]

[10] Counterpoint is first mentioned by Muris (1300).

[11] Only principal (tenor or cantus firmus) was sung to words.



In church music, the organ is perhaps the first instrument to be considered.  In 951, Elfeg, the Bishop of Winchester had built in his cathedral a great organ which had four hundred pipes and twenty-six pairs of bellows, to manage which seventy strong men were necessary.  Wolstan, in his life of St. Swithin, the Benedictine monk, gives an account of the exhausting work required to keep the bellows in action.

Project Gutenberg
Critical & Historical Essays from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook