Chapter 7
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CHAPTER 7. EARLY POLYPHONY. ORGANUM IN MUSIC THEORY SOURCES. Western art music is marked by one important characteristic: polyphony—not melody, not rhythm but polyphony (the simultaneous sounding of two or more independent musical lines). Musica enchiriadis ( Music Handbook ; c890s).

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  • Western art music is marked by one important characteristic: polyphony—not melody, not rhythm but polyphony (the simultaneous sounding of two or more independent musical lines).

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Musica enchiriadis (Music Handbook; c890s)

  • Ascribed to Abbot Hoger (d. 906)

  • First surviving written description of early polyphony, or organum (pl. organa).

  • Intended to teach church singers how to improvise polyphonic music on the spot—to take a given Gregorian chant and make it sound more splendid by adding one or more lines around it.

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  • A term used to connote all early polyphony generally.

  • Most organum in the Musica enchiriadis is parallel organum (organum in which all voices move in lockstep, up or down

  • Parallel organum at the fifth and then with voices doubled at an octave. The existing Gregorian chant is to be found in vox principalis (principal voice).

  • Micrologus (Little Essay; c1030) written by Guido of Arezzo (d. c1033): allows for contrary motion in organum and discuss the occursus—the coming together of voices at cadences.

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An example of two-voice organum from Guido’s Micrologus showing a clear occursus at the end

De Musica (On Music; c1100) by John of St. Gall: situates the vox principalis (chant) as the lower voice and the vox organalis (newly added voice) above. The chant was now, and would remain, in the lowest voice.

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  • Winchester Troper (c1000): a book of tropes written in Winchester, England, that also includes the organal voice for about 150 two-voice organa—Kyries and Alleluias for the Mass, for example. The exact pitches of the polyphony cannot be determined with certainty.

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Aquitanian polyphony

  • A collection of some sixty-five pieces of two-voice organum originating in monasteries in the southern French province of Aquitaine. The notation of these manuscripts gives precise indication with regard to pitch. Acquitanian polyphony often involves a style called sustained-tone organum—the bottom voice holds a note while the fast-moving upper voice embellishes it in florid fashion. The end of the opening phrase of the anonymous two-voice organum Viderunt omnes exhibits such a moment of sustained-tone organum.

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Viderunt omnes

An anonymous example of two-voice

Aquitanian polyphony Viderunt omnes

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The anonymous Viderunt omnesas it exists in the original twelfth-century manuscript coming from southern France

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Codex Calixtunus

  • (c1150; named after Pope Calixtus II) A liturgical book and travel guide that includes twenty polyphony pieces for the liturgy of St. James the Apostle. The church of St. James (Santiago) in Compostela, Spain, was a pilgrimage site in the West second in importance only to Rome.

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An opening in the Codex Calixtinus

Showing the three-voice organum Congaudeant catholici by Master Albertus of Paris.

The Codex Calixtinus is the first manuscript to ascribe composers’ names to particular pieces.

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Congaudeant catholoci

A transcription of Master Albertus’ Congaudeant catholoci, the first example of three-voice music to survive in a practical source.