History of Classical Music

Secular Music

(Middle Ages 2)
A secular musical tradition, simpler than the organum used by the church, existed outside the church. This was the monophonic music of itinerant musicians, the minstrels. Minstrels were also known as jongleurs and their successors, the troubadours and trouvères in France, and minnesingers in Germany.

The minstrels travelled from castle to castle singing songs, telling stories and performing tricks. Like plainsong, secular songs were simple and only had one melody. They were usually faster than sacred songs and used the common language instead of Latin. Minstrels gradually formed guilds and became more respected members of the growing middle class.

Stringed or percussion instruments often accompanied the minstrels' songs. Both sacred and secular music used a wide variety of instruments, including such string devices as the lyre and psaltery and the medieval fiddle, or vielle. Keyboard instruments included the organ. Percussion instruments included small drums and small bells.

Previous (Sacred Music) Overview of Middle Ages Next (Polyphony)

Sample Works:

MIDI Example Estampie (14th century)


Estampie- 14th c., MIDI sequence by Curtis Clark
   from Classical MIDI Connection

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