The Middle Ages
The Baroque Era
The Classical Era
The Romantic Era
The 20th Century
The Middle Ages
In an exploration of medieval music, we encounter the the most distant and longest era of "real" musical history. Saint Gregory (Svaty Rehor in Czech)
is credited with arranging a large number of choral works, which arose in the
early centuries of Christianity in Europe. He was pope (Pope Gregory I) from
the year 590 AD to 604 AD and from his name we get the term Gregorian chant.
The Medieval era lasted until the 14th century, which means it covers a period
of history of almost 1,000 years.
One problem, in fact an essential one, which has to be dealt with in the study
of medieval music is that the system of musical notation developed only slowly,
if it was even in use at all. The first preserved finds of musical notation come from the 9th century. Rhythmic notation wasn't developed until the 12th -
Pict. - Chart of the Evolution of Musical Notation
Gregorian chant is monophonic, that is, music composed with only one
melodic line without accompaniment. The authors of the melodies of the
Gregorian chants remain unknown. As with the melodies of folk music, the chants
probably changed as they were passed down orally from generation to generation.
Polyphony is music where two or more melodic lines are heard at the same
time in a harmony. Polyphony didn't exist (or it wasn't on record) until the
11th century. Although the majority of medieval polyphonic works are anonymous
- the names of the authors were either not preserved or simply never known -
there are some composers whose work was so significant that their names were
recorded along with their work.
Czech Music in the Middle Ages
The history of music in the Czech, Slovak and Polish regions, whose political
and cultural fortunes in the early centuries were closely connected, we can
somewhat more safely follow after the arrival of Christianity, which was
brought to these countries around the year 830 by German missionaries. The
knights of Rastislav attempted to resist this encroachment by summoning
a Slavic mission led by Constantine and Methodius in 863. They introduced to this country the liturgy sung in Old Church Slavic, which was at that
time understandable to laymen, unlike that in Latin. The fall of the Great
Moravian Empire, however, led to the victory and re-introduction of the Latin
liturgy. In spite of this, however, the Old Church Slavic songs survived in
The spiritual song is represented in the Czech area by relics of exceptional
value, especially Hospodine, pomilu ny! (Lord, Have mercy). It is
unmistakeably the oldest and most faithfully preserved popular spiritual song
to have survived to the present. Its singing is recorded historically with
great probability in the Year 1055 in the writing of the chronicler Kosma.
Another surviving record is the song Svaty Vaclave (Saint Wenceslas),
which is mentioned in the chronicles of Benes Krabice of Veitmil as well-known
of old, certainly by the end of the 13th century.
In the writing of first chroniclers, for example in those of Kosma, they
speak on many occaisions about secular folk songs and professional musicians.
Political and cultural orientation opened Bohemia and Moravia up to the influence of German aristocratic arts, such as minnesang (hence Minnesingers minstrels and musicians of this period.)
Pic. - Musical notation of the song "Hospodine, pomiluj ny"(Lord, Have mercy)
(Earliest recorded musical notation in the Czech lands)
A famous period of spiritual songs was the Czech Reformation. In the Bethlehem chapel, Master Jan Hus consistently devoted his attention to popular songs and old traditions, and he's named as the composer of a number of songs by the Jistebnice hymn book, such as Jezu Ktriste, scedry kneze , Navstev nas a Kriste zaduci. From Hus' contemporaries, the book presents the work of the composer Jeronym Prazsky. The basic record of Hus' songs is the above-mentioned Jistebnice hymn book, which was compiled sometime in the 1420's. It contains songs for Mass, Vespers, and a furthur collection of martial and spiritual songs. The only author whose name is known is a priest from Tabor named Jan Capek .
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