Keeping the score
Music in the Library
The middle ages and the Reformation
Long before music was written down it was part of the thought world of the middle ages. Medieval theorists’ main concerns were the division of the octave by proportion, and the structure of the modes, an early form of musical scale. These concerns were largely mathematical, and related to the other parts of the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry and astronomy).
During the same era, practical musicians were beginning make a written record of music. The earliest form to be written down was chant, for the more efficient performance and propagation of the large repertoire of liturgical music across Europe. The subsequent development of musical notation to accommodate both rhythm and pitch led to a new range of practical treatises.
The melodies of secular song, both in Latin and the vernacular, also began to be written down, but the survival of notated examples is very rare. The Library holds three important manuscripts of early secular song, two with Latin words and one with English.