Rhythm and Tempo: A Study in Music History

By Curt Sachs | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8

The Early and High Middle Ages

DIVISION OF THE MIDDLE AGES. The so-called Middle Ages reach from the end of Roman antiquity to the advent of the Italian Renaissance. Exact dates cannot be given because the countries of Europe necessarily differed in chronology. The nations whose general character was at bottom opposed to medieval ideologies were eager and early to drop them as quickly as possible; those whose character agreed with the spirit of the Middle Ages were reluctant to adopt the novel trends of the Renaissance. This is why the Middle Ages lingered in the North about two hundred years or more after they had been brought to an end in Italy. But we can approximately lay the beginnings of the Middle Ages in the fourth century, and the end in the fifteenth or sixteenth, which would cover a span of eleven or twelve hundred years.

The subdivision of the earlier Middle Ages during the first millennium A. D., dependent on similar national conflicts, is highly controversial and in the context of this book irrelevant. At least from 1000 A. D. on, we speak of the Romanesque Age, which in France yielded to the Gothic Age during the twelfth century, while it lasted a century longer in Germany.

LACK OF INTEREST IN RHYTHM. In early times Europe seems to have been little interested in rhythm. No drum or other tool of rhythm appears in ancient sources. At most, the ancient Britons, Gauls, and Germans might have seen the shallow timbrel from Semitic countries which itinerant jugglers carried occasionally on

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