Musical/Historical Overview

By Dr. Greg Pepetone

I. 800-1400 CE, Original Gothic

1. Plainchant/Gregorian Chant, or Plainsong: unmeasured, unaccompanied monody (one sound), the basic musical unit of the Catholic liturgy, codified ca. 600 CE by Pope Gregoriy I (hence the term Gregorian)

2. The Mass: the musical equivalent of the cathedral, invariably divided thus,

The Ordinary: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei

The Proper: variable texts and music which later included the Deus Irae (Wrath of God)

3. The invention of polyphony (many sounds) by the composers of the Notre Dame School of Paris (Leonin and Perotin): crude harmony in parallel fourths and fifths without rhythmic independence

4. Diabolus in musica (the devil in music): the late medieval name for the tri-tone, a forbidden interval

5. Tempus perfectum/imperfectum: a Gothic rhythm division into three, symbolic of the Holy Trinity

6. Missa de Notre Dame: a composition by the most important of the Gothic composers, Guillame de Machaut (1300-1377), the first complete setting of the ordinary of the mass by a single composer

7. Missa Papae Marcelli: a Renaissance setting of the ordinary of the mass by Giovanni Palestrina in which he set out to prove to the Council of Trent the legitimacy and spirituality of counterpoint (another term for polyphony)

Parallels Between Gothic Architecture and Music:


II. 1685-1750, Johann Sebastian Bach (Baroque Neo-Gothic)

1. Sometimes referred to as the last of the great Medieval composers

2. Christian Mystic (passions, cantatas)

3. Music of unparalleled grandeur, intellectual complexity, expressive depth and range, and virtuosity

4. Spontaneity (fantasies, preludes and toccatas--free form compositions)

III. 1740-1830, Empfindsmer Stil (Sensitive Style): Musical Neo-Gothic or Classical Gothic

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1744)

1. Son of J. S. Bach

2. Composer of radical, emotive, and improvisatory fantasies and sonatas

3. Musical equivalent of German Sturm und Drang and the neo-gothic literature of Horace Walpole, Matthew "Monk" Lewis, and Mrs. Radcliff

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

1. Overt Classicist/Overt gothicist

2. Fantasies, minor key sonatas, symphonies, concertos, masses, and operas

3. Along with Beethoven, a primary source of inspiration for later gothic writers such as E. T. A. Hoffmann and other gothic composers such as Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, and Wagner

Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)

1. Direct heir of C. P. E. Bach

2. A gothic/classicist

3. Starting point for the later musical gothicists of the Romantic era

IV. 1830-Present, Romantic/gothic

A. 1830-1900, The Golden Age of the Neo-gothic

First Generation Romantics: Franz Schubert, Carl Maria Von Weber, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Fredric Chopin, Guiseppi Verdi, and Richard Wagner

Second Generation Romantics: Johannes Brahms, John Knowles Paine, Cesare Franck, Peter Tchaikovsky, Edvard Grieg, Modest Mussorgsky, Camille Saint-Saens

B. 1900-Present

Nineteenth and twentieth century Post-Romantic gothicists: Anton Bruckner, Gustav Mahler, Wolfgang Eric Korngold, Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokovief, Alban Berg, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Howard Hanson, Samuel Barber, Robert W. Smith, and Robert Moran