Medieval Music and Instruments – A Guide to Celtic Music

The introduction of instruments in the Celtic culture began in the 5th century A.D when the collapse of the Roman Empire kickstarted the ‘Dark Ages.’ It was during this time that Hun, Vandals, and Visigoths invaded Western Europe. With the absence of the Holy Roman Emperor, western Europe found an increase in warfare until the Christian church stepped up to become the most formidable force in the continent. The church then introduced music. Pope Gregory was responsible for creating the first piece of music that was approved by the church; it was called the Gregorian Chant.

Throughout the years following the creation of the Gregorian Chant, many individuals and groups banded together to create more music. One of the most successful kinds of music was the ‘Organum.’ The organum is a type of music that is based on a plainsong while being followed by an accompaniment. The accompaniment is usually sung above or below a melody.

Revival of Culture

The emergence of the Renaissance period marked the rebirth of culture. The renaissance period lasted for almost two centuries, from 1420 to 1600. This marked a rise in music and humanism, which started to break away the laws and order of the church. In addition to the increase in music, a large group of composers began their training for mastering polyphonic music. Some of the most renowned and famous composes from the renaissance period involved Josquin des Prez, Giovanni da Palestrina, John Dowland, and many other music composers. These composers found that if they placed a heavy emphasis on the vocal, they would create sometimes known as “word painting.” Word Painting is the term used for when music can create fantastic poetic images. Renaissance music also included a stable expression of variances between rhythm and tone.

Polyphonic Music

Polyphonic music is music that is performed mainly by choirs. It was a prominent feature in church music. It is a type of vocal music that produces or involves many voices and sounds. The idea of the type of music is to create a resounding voice with the use of multiple groups. Which makes the song and the music sound ethereal and almost holy.

Renaissance Instruments

Instruments during the Renaissance period were available in variety. The types of instruments were available, increased dramatically ranging from woodwind instruments to percussion and stringed instruments. Some of the most popular woodwind instruments in the Renaissance period was the Piccolino, Soprano, Alto, Sackbucks and more. Majority of musicians and music composers developed an affinity for playing string instruments such as the Harp and the Lute.

Some of the renaissance musicians also played and operated the portative organ or the harpsichord, which was held at the primary keyboard from 1500 to 1775. Percussion instruments such as the drums and tambourine also have accompanied musicians throughout the middle ages. These instruments were mainly used as dance music, however there was no standardized design for any of the instruments as they were always derived from a variety of materials and equipment.