Sacred Music of the Medieval Ages (CUL 452)

Course Description

The sacred music of the Medieval Ages in Western Europe emerged at a time of significant transitions: the decline of the Roman Empire, the dawn of Christianity and the presence of the monastery. At a time of confusion, scarcity and ignorance, religious medieval music played an important role in fulfilling knowledge, artistic expression and spiritual enlightenment. This music was to represent divine worship in the celestial realm but also signified inspiration and temporal achievements. Music philosophy, greatly influenced by the Greeks, would encompass theology, music theory and mathematics. Boethius, a Neoplatonist philosopher, considered the instrumental, corporal and celestial methods as 3 different ways to approach music. Therefore, musical harmony was to be encountered universally: in common music, in the harmony of the soul and body, and in the order of the celestial spheres. The course will also help explore the roots of plainchant and its development through the centuries. Different methods of musical worship will be examined such as psalms and hymns. We will study the schools of St. Martial and Notre Dame and their innovations. We will revise the advent and philosophical significance of polyphony. Finally, we will touch on the musical transition of the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.

Course Sessions and Topics

This course is divided into ten, one-hour Lectures.

Week 1  |  Music Philosophy of the Middle Ages
Week 2  |  Foundations of Sacred Medieval Music
Week 3  |  Music of the Offices and the Mass
Week 4  |  Medieval Secular Music
Week 5  |  The Rise of Polyphony
Week 6  |  The Ars Nova in France
Week 7  |  The Italian Ars Nova
Week 8  |  France and Italy at the end of the Ars No
Week 9  |  English Music and the Old Hall Manuscript
Week 10  |  The Early Renaissance

Learning Outcomes for this Course

Outcome 1:   Students will explore and be able to articulate orally and in writing the philosophical and historical roots of sacred medieval music.

Outcome 2:  Students will be able to differentiate diverse worship methods of plainchant.

Outcome 3:  Students will be able to discuss the main ideals of the philosophy of medieval music and important music philosophers.

Outcome 4:  Students will identify different styles of polyphony and their significance in the sacred and secular realm.

Outcome 5:  Students will be able to identify and classify significant composers of the late medieval era.

Your Teacher

Juan Hernandez M.M. 

Juan Hernandez, M.M. Music Performance, California State University, Los Angeles. Studies in music aesthetics, music history, and the classical guitar. Vocal and instrumental performance of sacred music. Currently collaborating in projects specializing in classical, Latin American, and modern popular music. He performs with the Orange County Guitar Orchestra under the direction of Dr. David Grimes and participated in the release of the album Toccata. He’s currently on the faculty of 88 Keys Music Academy.