Born: c. 1135 in Paris, France
Died: c. 1201 in Paris, France
Nation of Origin: France
Leonin is the earliest known composer of polyphonic organum. His works and the works of his contemporary, Perotin, are classified as Notre Dame Organum.
Magnus liber organi de graduali et antiphonario pro servitio divino multiplicando (The Great Book of Organum), 2-voice organum settings for services throughout the church year
Alleluia Pascha nostrum
Haec dies quam fecit Dominus
Little is known about the life of Leonin. The writings of Anonymous IV, an English theorist who worked in the late 13th century, are the only source of information about Leonin. His birth and death dates are unknown but it is likely he was working even before the completion of the Notre Dame cathedral in 1163 and died near the end of the century. He worked in a church called "Beatae Mariae Virginis" and likely worked as a choirmaster in the completed Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. He is one of the earliest known composers of polyphonic church music known as "organum". Organum involved a simple doubling of the chant at an interval of a fifth or fourth above or below. As organum evolved, the voices became increasingly independent creating polyphony as we know it today. Below is a short summary of polyphony in early European music.
The evolution of organum follows this scheme.
Parallel Organum at the Fourth or Fifth - 10th century
Oblique motion to Parallel Organum at the Fourth - 10th century
Use of Oblique, Contrary, and Parallel motion - 11 century
Florid Organum - 12th century
In Florid Organum a highly ornamented second voice was set against long notes in the "tenor". After the advent of Florid Organum, the older style of note against note was referred to as "discant" organum.
12th - 13th c. measured organum involved the alternation of organal and discant sections. In the organal section each note of the syllabic/neumatic section of the chant or cantus firmus was set against up to 40 notes in the second voice. In the discant section each note of the melismatic section of the cantus was set against one to three notes in the second voice.
Notre Dame Organum is most important in that rhythm was introduced according to a system of rhythmic modes. Leonin (late 12th c.) began to use the rhythmic modes in his 2-part works (organum duplum). Modal rhythm was even more prominent in the 3-part works (organum triplum) of Perotin. Polyphonic treatment was restricted to plainchants of the Graduals, Alleluias, Responsories, and the "Benedicamus Domino," but only the soloist sections were used for polyphonic treatment.
Reese, Gustave, Music in the Middle Ages : With an Introduction on the Music of Ancient Times, W.W. Norton & Company, October 1940, ISBN: 0393097501
Sachs, Curt, The Rise of Music in the Ancient World, W. W. Norton & Company, 1943, ASIN: 0393097188
Seay, Albert, Music in the Medieval World, W. W. Norton & Company, 1943, ASIN: 0393097188
Slonimsky, Nicolas and Kuhn, Laura; Editors, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Gale Group, December 2000, ISBN: 0028655257
Sadie, Stanley and Tyrrell, John; Editors, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Groves Dictionaries, Inc., January 2004, ISBN: 0195170679
Rutherford-Johnson, Tim, Kennedy, Michael, and Kennedy, Joyce The Oxford Dictionary of Music, Oxford University Press, 6th Edition, 2012, ISBN: 0199578109
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Music in the Medieval World
by Albert Seay
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