The history of music can be dated back in the Middle Ages, circa AD 450-1450, although in anything to do with history, it should be noted that the dates of different periods are approximate. For example, periods did not simply end on December 31, AD 449.




The Middle Ages is the period between the fall of the Roman Empire, roughly AD 476 to 1453, and the Renaissance, roughly the cultural movement that spanned through the 14th to 17th century.  It is in the Middle Ages that the spread of Christianity and the rise of the Catholic Church occurred. Music was primarily written for the church . The cathedrals were the center of the musical life, and composers proliferated as employees of the church authorities.


Religious Music and Plainsong

The first church music was called "plainsong" which was a single line of notes that was chanted without any instruments. As music developed, it gradually became complicated.  As in any enhancement or progression, other lines were added to the original one-line of notes. The resulting composition was called "organum." Generally, an organum is a plainsong melody with at least one voice added to enhance the harmony. If effect, organum was the first music that exhibited harmony.  

Secular Music of the Medieval Period

The court entertainers and wandering minstrels also provided numerous love songs, drinking songs, dances, and yes, songs and music about the crusades.  Most of them primitive, the instruments included the early violin, lute, bagpipes, harp, medieval guitar, the organ and trumpets. 

An interesting piece of music from the Medieval Period which lasted from around AD 400-1300 is widely known as the "Song of the Ass" since it was used in the play showing the mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, riding into the Cathedral on an ass.  A related account goes that during this period an annual holiday was celebrated to represent the Virgin Mary's flight to Egypt.   

 An interesting reading about "The Song of the Ass" was written by Henry Copley Green in Speculum, volume 6, No. 4 (October, 1931). 


Note:  The articles on this site may contain referral links to sites such as Amazon and other online retailers.  The small amount of income received from these links has helped keep up and running for over ten years now.  Thank you for your support!