Rhythm and Tempo: A Study in Music History

By Curt Sachs | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9

The Later Middle Ages

THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY, revolutionary in Italy, did not change the basic national concepts of France, which still adhered to the Gothic ideals that she had created. Even in the overdecorated, luxuriant forms of the so-called Flamboyant or Perpendicular, which took shape in the last quarter of the century, she stuck to, and overdid, the structural ideology of the preceding age.

The arts of the Middle Ages—all of them—had a very limited field outside the churches, convents, and monasteries. Sculpture, painting, metalworking, wood carving, glass staining, were almost entirely confined to the needs of ecclesiastical buildings. And the church building itself presented basically a problem of structure. The architect was in the first place an engineer. He would speak of thrust and counterthrust, of staticism and elasticity; more rarely, of symbolism; and hardly ever of beauty, of religious messages, of mystic oneness with God and Christ. These latter concepts existed, of course; but they were so much part and parcel of the time that they eluded the architects' discussion and possibly even awareness. They did not interfere with structural problems; indeed, they allowed the architect to freely expose the support of his flying buttresses and the skeleton of his ribs and piers, although none of them were either religious or mystical or even pleasant. In the absence of such very human qualities, the great cathedrals were dehumanized and carried away from petty, personal sentimentalism far up into the realm of superhuman, superpersonal ex

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