MEDIEVAL MUSICAL STYLE CHARACTERISTICS
PERFORMING MEDIUM: During the Medieval period, music was primarily vocal. Instruments were used to accompany vocal lines or to improvise instrumental dances, and very little instrumental music has survived.
RHYTHM: Rhythm was not notated during much of this period, and traditions regarding the treatment of sacred text, the meter of the text, and the musical abilities of singers and instrumentalists often determined the rhythmic complexity and tempo of pieces.
MELODY: Melodic intervals and the range of melodies were generally small during this era (Hildegard of Bingen was an exception), and sacred melodies were often based on church modes (modes are notes arranged in a specific scale or pattern of intervals, and were often used to structure the melody or tonality of a piece).
HARMONY: Harmony and tonality as we know it today were not functional during the Medieval period. Music appears to have been constructed and heard as separate lines rather than vertical sonorities. Parallel fifths and octaves were favored, and triads or thirds were considered dissonant.
TEXTURE: Monophonic texture was predominantly used during the first part of this era, and polyphonic texture began to be used in the mid to late Medieval period. Heterophony may have been heard in performances.
FORM: Popular genres during this period included the following large forms: sacred vocal music such as plainchant, conductus, masses, and motets; instrumental estampies; and secular vocal songs.
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