Like?

Leonin and Perotin: Musical Contributions, Polyphony & Ars Antiqua

Start Your Free Trial To Continue Watching
As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 8,500 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.
Free 5-day trial
It only takes a minute. You can cancel at any time.
Already registered? Login here for access.
Start your free trial to take this quiz
As a premium member, you can take this quiz and also access over 8,500 fun and engaging lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Get access today with a FREE trial!
Free 5-day trial
It only takes a minute to get started. You can cancel at any time.
Already registered? Login here for access.
  1. 0:05 Polyphony
  2. 1:17 Leonin and Perotin
  3. 2:13 Ars Antiqua
  4. 2:56 Organum
  5. 4:39 Rhythm
  6. 6:20 Lesson Summary
Show Timeline
Taught by

Liz Diamond-Manlusoc

Liz has taught music for K-12 and beyond. She holds a master's degree in Education Media and Design Technology.

The development of polyphonic, or multi-part music, was a fundamental part of the late Medieval period, and it forever influenced music thereafter. In this lesson, learn about how polyphony developed through the Medieval church composers Leonin and Perotin.

Polyphony

In the early days of the Medieval Church, music was regulated to have just one singing part. Eventually, singing the same thing as everyone else all the time became boring, and the Church decided that maybe two singing parts wasn't so bad, as long as it stayed within reason. So, around the middle of the 12th century, polyphony was allowed.

Polyphony is heard when two or more independent melodies are sung or played simultaneously. This makes sense, since 'poly' means 'many,' and 'phony' means 'to sound.' In polyphony, the pitches and rhythms of each musical part are different from one another, yet they are sung or played at the same time. Think of a round, like 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat'. If you and your friend are singing the song as a round, you are singing two different parts at the same time.

Leonin and Perotin

There is no specific date or documentation that shows exactly when polyphony started being used in the Church, but two French composers, Leonin and his student Perotin, of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, are generally credited with composing the first significant polyphonic church music.

Leonin

Leonin, sometimes referred to as 'Leoninus,' is thought to have lived from 1150-1201. He is known for being the first composer of polyphonic music that we can identify by name. Leonin's music was generally in two vocal parts.

Perotin

Perotin, sometimes referred to as 'Perotinus,' was Leonin's student. He is thought to have lived from 1170-1236 and he extended Leonin's efforts by composing music with three or four vocal parts.

Ars Antiqua

This new polyphony was extraordinary because it hadn't been done in church music before, and in medieval thought, anything new had to be founded on something old. This meant that any new compositions had to be based on a preexisting composition, such as church chants. This school of thought is known as Ars Antiqua.

Leonin and Perotin are often seen as representatives of this 'old school' mentality. Their work is seen as a bridge to the Ars Nova, or new school art, which would emerge late in the Medieval Period and lay the foundation for the musical transition to the Renaissance Period.

Organum

In order to achieve new music while adhering to the Church's strict music rules, both composers added additional vocal parts to what was previously a single line of church chant. Often times, the original chant was sung at an extremely slow pace, while a new, faster melody with more pitches was added at a higher pitch. This new type of multi-part chant was called organum.

Leonin used these techniques to write music with two vocal parts. This type of two-part organum is called organum duplum. Perotin also used these techniques, but went a step further and composed for three and sometimes four vocal parts. These are called, respectively, organum triplum and organum quadruplum.

Magnus Liber Organi

In fact, Leonin and Perotin were so good at writing organum that they wrote the first complete annual cycle of chants for the mass in two parts. The music was compiled as a book called the Magnus Liber Organi, or the 'Great Book of Organum.' Leonin wrote the original version, and later, Perotin edited and added new ideas afterward. By the end, it sounded something like this. It is said that other composers of the Notre Dame school also contributed, but Leonin and Perotin are the only ones credited by name.

Unlock Content Over 8,500 lessons in all major subjects

Get FREE access for 5 days,
just create an account.

Start a FREE trial

No obligation, cancel anytime.

Want to learn more?

Select a subject to preview related courses:

People are saying…

"This just saved me about $2,000 and 1 year of my life." — Student

"I learned in 20 minutes what it took 3 months to learn in class." — Student

See more testimonials

Did you like this?
Yes No

Thanks for your feedback!

What didn't you like?

What didn't you like?

Next Video
Create your Account

Sign up now for your account. Get unlimited access to 8,500 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more.

Meet Our Instructors

Meet all 53 of our instructors

Copyright