Early medieval motet

Toward the end of the 13th century, musicians began writing new scripts for the upper voices of organum, resulting in the motet.

The motet is a poly textual vocal composition, either sacred and or secular, which sometimes had instrumental accompaniment.

Sacred music was primarily vocal.

This was mostly due to the connection of instruments to pagan rituals.

Nevertheless, instruments did become more important over the span of the medieval period.

The most important instrument of sacred music in the medieval period is the organ.

Early organs are not like modern ones, though they were loud, they were much more difficult to operate and required a great deal of physical strength.



The combination of two or more simultaneous melodic lines.

Helped bring about meters, precise notation and pitch.

From 700-900, composers would write a line in parallel motion to the chant at a fixed interval of a fifth or fourth above the original line.

From 900-1200, the upper line moved independently of the original chant.

After 1100, upper lines even began gaining rhythmic independence.

Characteristics of Gregorian chants

  1. Melody

2. Very free flowing.

3. The chant moves up and down by steps and small leaps within a narrow range.

4. Some chants are responsive, soloist or chorus.

5. The three main classes.

6. Syllabic, one note set to each syllable of text.

7. Neumatic, a few notes set to one syllable.

8. Melismatic, many notes set to one syllable.


2. Harmony

2. Monophonic in texture, so have no harmony.

3. Melodies are modal, set in one of the church modes or scales.

4. No strong pull to tonic.


3. Rhythm

2. No precise rhythm, notes may be held for a duration of short or long, but no complex rhythms are used.


4. Form

2. Some Gregorian chants tend to be in ternary form. A cantor begins the piece with an introductory solo called an incipit. The choir then sings the piece and at the end, the cantor concludes with his solo, which was often in a reduced dynamic level and featured a narrower range of pitches.


5. Texture

2. Gregorian chants are one of the few pieces of music that are entirely monophonic. There is only one melodic line in a Gregorian chant.


6. Medium

2. Gregorian chants are traditionally sung by all male choirs. Some Gregorian chants, however, were written for women choirs.


7.  Context

2. Gregorian chants were used by the church to aid prayers. Monks would sing them.

3. The mass has two categories of prayers.

4. The proper, texts that vary according to day.

5. The ordinary, texts that remain the same for every mass.

Sacred music

Sacred music evolved from a form called a Gregorian chant.

Gregorian chants were named after the pope Gregory I and they are the official pieces of the catholic churches.

Originally handed down through oral tradition, later neumes, little ascending and descending symbols, were written above the words to suggest the contour of the melody.