Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

Haiku Wednesday: Christmas 1198



North transept rose window, Notre Dame, Paris

It was Christmastime
In 1198,
Notre Dame, Paris

Through the church rang notes,
Twining around each other,
Viderunt omnes.

Jaunty rhythm; tune
As kaleidoscopic as
A stained glass window

Thank you, Perotin,
for stunning polyphony
From the depths of time.

Viderunt omnes started out as a plainchant.  Before Perotin got ahold of it, it sounded like this (here’s a chance to practice reading that old notation too!)

Along came the Notre Dame school of composers.  Perotin and his predecessor, Leonin, started adding new elements to plainchant.  First they added one voice, moving very slowly (or not at all) against the main melody.  This was called organum.  Then they added another voice…and another.  By Christmas 1198 they were up to four voices.  And now Viderunt omnes sounded like this.

Can you imagine living in that time, shuffling into the vast cathedral, still under construction, looking around, amazed, and hearing those notes bouncing around the sanctuary?  It must have been stunning.  And that was before the dazzling stained glass windows were installed (they weren’t in until around 1250; and it still seems amazing to me to toss around these dates, so long ago).

Polyphony would continue to be refined over time, but the Notre Dame school took a great step forward in the development of music.

Catapulting into Classical will be taking a short break this holiday season and will return in the new year.  Of course, if I find something I can’t wait to tell you about, I might pop in briefly with that.  I’ll be taking some time to work on that quartweet and other projects and spend time with family.

In the meantime, I wish you peace and joy and a happy and healthy new year.


Image attribution: The north transept rose stained glass window at Notre Dame, Paris.  Photograph by Oliver J. Mitchell via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0].



2 thoughts on “Haiku Wednesday: Christmas 1198

  1. Fine work, Chris! You have the history right. The relation of the Perotin to the chant may not be immediately obvious to folks, but the_cantus firmus_ is buried in there, in the tenor. I’ve been wanting to do some conductus and organum, and maybe an early motet (ars antiqua) sometime. Maybe even a music history Music Service… The later conducti, with the rhythmic modes applied, are stunning and even dance-like. But we need to learn how to do chant first. Yes- take a little break-

    Thanks lots and hugs-


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember hearing Perotin for the first time. I did not know what to think. Wild stuff.

    Merry Christmas, and thanks for all the musical journeys!!

    Liked by 1 person

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