Music History is Thrilling!

Organum and Haec Dies


The first emergence of polyphony is revealed in organum where an upper voice ran above the original plainchant music at an interval of a fifth or fourth. As polyphonic texture developed the voices began to move in greater independence, not only in parallel motion but also in contrary.
Polyphonic texture
Polyphonic texture is an important feature in Western music which began to develop near the end of the 800s. Polyphonic texture is one that combines two or more melody lines simultaneously.
Rhythmic modes
In the “Haec dies” organum, the upper voice moves in a rhythmic mode, which is a fixed rhythmic pattern of long and short notes which is repeated.
Organal style
An organum performed in organal style is when the harmonies run rapidly above the slow drawn out tenor voice which is carrying the cantus firmus.
Discant style
The harmonies are applied note-against-note in an organum in discant style.
As organum began to expand, polyphonic compositions began to replace the original plainchant. They were called “clausula”.
Musica Enchiriadis
An important anonymous historical treatise from the 900s, “Musica Enchiriadis”, contains the first recorded polyphonic compositions.
Notre Dame school
A school of composers which were employed under the patronage of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris included Léonin and Pérotin. Léonin is the first composer of polyphonic music whose name is known to us. This school stretched from the 1100s into the 1200s.

  • Léonin He is the first composer of polyphonic music whose name is known to us. He limited his polyphony for only two parts.
  • Pérotin He built his polyphony on the foundation of Léonin\’s innovations writing polyphony for three to four parts.

Haec Dies organum

This anonymous organum was written in 1175 for two voices, Léonin style. The tenor carries the cantus firmus, Haec dies, while the upper voice, the duplum, runs freely above it. This polyphonic organum is written in organal style as while the tenor presents “Haec dies” in a slow, drawn out manner, the upper voice moves freely above it in a melismatic manner. The most prominent interval between the two voices is a perfect fifth.

All information on this article is derived from: Joseph Machlis and Kristine Forney. The Enjoyment of Music, Eight Edition, Standard Version, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1999. Janet Lopinski, Joe Ringhofer, and Peteris Zarins. Exploring Music History, A Guided Approach, Mississauga, Ontario: Frederick Harris Music Co., Limited
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5 comments (show) ▼


do you mean perfect fifth when you say major fifth or is this a specific medieval interval?


Hi, yes, you’re correct, a fifth is a perfect fifth, medieval or not! Thanks for mentioning that! I’ve fixed it.


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