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    Essay on Music in The Middle Ages

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    Taking a look back into our history, it is very hard to graze over the fact that music has reigned as one of the most influential components of artistic expression in our time. It has been a part of numerous peoples’ lives across the globe since the beginning of time. Music has been able to not only define the people that craft it, but encompass and define a whole time period and culture in its own, leaving a very bold mark upon history. Two pieces of music that have played integral roles during their time are “In Paradisum” (by an anonymous individual) during the middle ages (600-1450), and “Same Love,” by Macklemore ; Ryan Lewis, featuring Mary Lambert during the 21st century (2001-2100, specifically released in 2012).

    These musical pieces, although from two very different spectrums in history, share a few notable similarities, as well as some remarkable differences that embody the ever so changing sound of art in time.  Emerging from the middle ages, “In Paradisum,” was one of various plainchants during its time. The middle ages was characterized by a very strong ruling hand in the church, in which all aspects of life revolved around. This is greatly reflected by the major music of its time.

    Upon listening to “In Paradisum,” it quickly becomes evident that it is a non-melodic piece; a customary aspect of Gregorian chants. This specific genre of plainchant, is characterized by its simplicity; antiphon. As far as the dynamics of this song, it is rather soft. A fair estimate of the magnitude of dynamics would be mezzo piano. Keeping in mind that “In Paradisum” was sung in a church during the final blessing of someone’s death, a relatively soft dynamic would be most appropriate within the church. With tone color, it is also important to take note that instrumental music was not incorporated into this piece (and most plainchants in general).

    With that being said, the central focus of the piece are the vocals which carry the chant all the way through. The human voice stands as one of the most universal and beautiful sources of music. It’s versatility is not displayed at its full potential in this particular piece, yet the smoothness of voice, and swift “jumps” in pitch are definitely exhibited. The texture in this plainchant is strictly monophonic. It describes the beauty and simplicity that is retained within the church.

    Although this piece is surely monophonic, the echoes of voice produced by the building in which the chant is sung tends to almost mimic the complexity of a harmonious piece. As far as the rhythm, although evident, it is not extremely definite; it has free rhythm. Plainchant was mainly guided by the syllables within the sacred text being sung, so rhythm in this piece is quite vague. The rhythm seems to be fairy slow in oscillating between a constant flow of sounds produced with voice (in various pitches), until it comes to a gradual halt upon a phrase.

    The durations of these lengths of sound, followed by silence (phrases), ranged from about 8 seconds to roughly 15 seconds. As far as the tempo, it is one aspect of this piece which is also relatively slow. One can think of the tempo as the speedometer of music. Once again, this tempo reflects the setting and event in which the piece is played – essentially a church funeral. It is relatively slow; roughly a pace called adagio.

    Then, there is harmony. Harmony is the vertical aspect of music, characterized by a combination of simultaneous notes played together to produce a very pleasant sound. Before the realization that the drone (an underlying note that is held constant throughout a musical piece) could move (as far as pitch variation) independently of a main tune or melody, there was little usage of it to produce harmonious music. In this specific piece, there are no harmonious elements incorporated. Lastly for this piece, there is musical form.

    The form in this piece consists of pairing different aspects, and contrasting others, in order to effectively convey a certain feeling. Although there is no definite rhythm or melody, due to its constrained pairing with sacred text to be sung, there is still strong feeling within this piece; an emotional quality. The short, transitionary phrases in the song make way for a nearly constant flow of soothing monophonic tones. In addition to the phrases, the tempo, dynamics, texture, and tone color all intertwine flawlessly to encompass a feeling of simplicity and peace, and connection to the church. These factors complement one another in order to create this effect.

    All of these factors contribute to the form of the piece. As we now depart from the middle ages, and fast forward to the 21st century, we come to appreciate a different, more modern idea of music. Here, we can proceed to compare and contrast the elements of “In Paradisum,” to “Same Love,” by Macklemore. Upon a first sampling of the songs, the immediate contrast that I made between the two was the fact that “Same Love” was very rich in sound combinations compared to the plainchant. Upon further analysis of “Same Love,” it is evident that the song’s melody is very distinctive.

    It keeps a consistent pattern of pitch and rhythm, that remains fairly predictable throughout the whole piece. This is unlike the Gregorian chant, which has no predictable pitch nor rhythm that remains consistent. With the dynamics, the same idea in the Gregorian chant of keeping it soft due to the subject matter is applied to this piece as well. In “Same Love,” Macklemore discusses beliefs he has on gay marriage; a sensitive topic.

    A loud dynamic would not hold appropriate in this song, so in both cases, opting for a range of mezzo piano/piano was most appropriate. A large difference that we find between these two pieces is tone color. “Same Love” is much more rich in tone color than “In Paradisum” is, yet the piece is still able to keep a similar factor of simplicity throughout. Macklemore utilizes keyboards (piano), strings (violin), brass (trombone), voice (homophony), and a soft component of percussion.

    Everything is tastefully pieced together, with different elements of sound flowing in and out gracefully; no component too overpowering or dominating. In tone color comparison with the plainchant piece, I believe that “Same Love” has much more substance, with much more elements coming together to form the song. Another contrast between the two can be indicated in texture. As stated previously, “In Paradisum” is a monophonic piece. On the other hand, “Same Love” is distinctively homophonic, which beautifully adds to the mood of the song.

    Another topic to point out is the rhythm. Where there is no rhythm evident in the plainchant, it is very apparent in Macklemore’s piece. Throughout the song, he has set up a rhythmic pattern in which the basic metric framework is established, one which is fairly predictable throughout. Another aspect of these songs that we can compare is in their tempo. This tempo, as well as the chant’s tempo, is relatively slow. This is an important aspect of both songs, due to its need to emphasize the important message contained in each song.

    By using a slow tempo, the composers are able to drive the idea of importance and meaning within the lyrics into its listeners. As far as harmon, this piece opts to utilize harmonious sounds to its advantage. Once again, emphasizing and encompassing the message by doing so, harmony is created through soft background voices that underly a main voice, as well as instruments that accompany the vocalists. Lastly in our comparison between these two pieces, we come to analyze the musical form of “Same Love,” in comparison to “In Paradisum. ” “Same Love” is able to take advantage of certain elements such as rhythm, melody and harmony, in which “In Paradisum” lacks.

    These three elements (along with tone color), in fact, are what helps the artist portray his message in the most tasteful, artistic way. The form sets a mood of hope, paired with some slight sorrow. The musical form in this piece creates an effortless ease in sounds by the organization and utilization of these different musical elements. In retrospect, both Macklemore’s “Same Love,” and “In Paradisum” were very prominent pieces for their time. “In Paradisum,” although a common plainchant, had an utmost importance to people due to its affiliation with the church. “Same Love,” on the other had, is also very prominent for this century.

    This song is very explicit, as far as the opinions sung in the lyrics. I do believe that although it takes a detour from the norms on what artists usually sing about today, it is very appropriate for our era. I enjoy listening to both pieces thoroughly, and find great pleasure in their simplicity. The first time I heard “In Paradisum,” it instantly brought me back to my childhood, when I went to church with my mother and sister. The piece sounded awfully familiar, and served as a soothing reminder of my past.

    The first time I listened to “Same Love,” I was in my car, listening to the radio. During that time, I was concentrating more on the lyrics. Once the chorus came in, it dawned on me how beautiful the piece was as a whole. Although these pieces might initially seem as though they stand apart and have no similarities whatsoever, with just a little bit of patience and concentration, it becomes clear to one that both pieces have the power to provide total simplicity and peace of mind.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Essay on Music in The Middle Ages. (2018, Aug 31). Retrieved from

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