Gregorian Chant and Charlemagne

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Gregorian Chant began in the 9th century and was greatly developed when Charlemagne, the Emperor of the Romans in 800, used it as a form of religious power and decided to forcefully spread Gregorian Chant throughout the empire. Churches used Gregorian Chant primarily to reinforce certain prayers. The chants were strictly sung by male choirs, in this case, monks, and became recognized as the official music of the Roman Catholic Church. As sheet music was not a thing at the time, all Gregorian Chants were passed down orally. The texture consists in a free-flowing melody with no harmonies except a common drone sound that occurs in chants quite often. 

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There is no precise rhythm as the soloist is free to sing at his own pace, however, there is often a ABA-type form, where the soloist begins and is later joined by the rest of the choir, only to finish with the soloist singing the original theme by himself at the very end. Gregorian Chants are one of the very few pieces of music that contain a monophonic texture. In today’s world, this type of texture isn’t usually considered strong, but back then it captured a whole continent and was the driving force of religious ceremonies and gatherings. As most people back then saw religion as the most important aspect of life, Gregorian Chants were heavily valued, especially by families, as they instilled certain morals that were key to living a quality life in that time period.

Throughout the 11th and 12th centuries, vernacular songs in Western Europe consisted mostly of Goliard Songs and poems that were written and sang in newer forms. The music of this time, as opposed to the Gregorian Chants, was seen as music that entertained the audience for the sole purpose of fun. There were some religious themes, however most themes consisted of love, eating, drinking, and earthly pleasures. These songs were almost considered fictional, as their messages were far from serious. 

This was a more pleasing way for societies to communicate through music, however, most people were illiterate therefore there are almost no physical texts of these songs. Certain themes in these songs ultimately instigated protests against the church and aristocracy. The texture of this music had free-sung melodies but was not monophonic as people would often sing together. Jongleurs, for example, were low-class traveling musicians who earned a living from singing, playing instruments, performing tricks, and telling stories.

In present day society, the concept of having music be a form of power in a religious and non-entertaining way is no more. Gregorian Chants had their place in history, however, I believe music should be mostly for pleasure and entertainment therefore the concept of Goliard Songs applies better to the idea of music and entertainment today. Even Jongleurs for example, the idea of low-class musicians performing any form of entertainment just in order to make it through the day and ultimately life. I feel like people today could relate to the concepts they had in Vernacular Songs in Western Europe back in the 11th and 12th centuries. 

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