Medieval Music Timeline

Illustration of the Famous Chorister Dufay of Cambrai
Guillaume Dufay (d.1474) and Gilles Binchois (d.1460) from 'Le Champion des Dames' by Martin le Franc (1410-61) 1440 (vellum), French School, (15th century). Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

During the Middle Ages or Medieval period, musical notation began as well as the birth of polyphony. There was a remarkable continuity in musical styles categorized into monophonic and polyphonic styles. Here is a brief timeline of music events during this period.

590 - 604

Development of the ​Gregorian Chant. It is also known as plain chant or plainsong and named after Pope St. Gregory the Great. The said Pope was believed to have brought it to the West.


The development of ​​organum, an early form of counterpoint.


It was around this time when a new method to teach singing was invented by a monk and choirmaster named ​Guido de Arezzo.​​

1098 - 1179

Hildegard von Bingen

1150 - 1250

The Notre Dame school of polyphony was the center of activity. Rhythmic notation first appeared in this period. Also known as the ​​ars antiqua; it is during this time when the motet initially developed.

11th - 12th century

Time of liturgical drama, musical tradition of Europe. Also, the music of the troubadour and trouvère, a vernacular tradition of monophonic ​​secular song possibly accompanied by instruments and singers. Guillaume d'Aquitaine was one of the well-known troubadours. Themes were mostly of chivalry and courtly love.

12th - 14th century

  • (12th - 13th) - The age of the Goliards, a group of clergy who wrote satirical Latin poetry to mock the church. Some known Goliards were Peter of Blois and Walter of Châtillon.
  • {13th) - The spread of Geisslerlieder, these are songs of flagellants. Flagellants practiced self-mortification by whipping themselves with various instruments. Geisslerlieder music was simple and closely related to folk songs.
  • (12th - 14th) - Birth of Minnesang, lyric and song writing in Germany much like the troubadour tradition of France. Minnesingers mainly sang of courtly love and some known minnesingers were Henric van Veldeke, Wolfram von Eschenbach and Hartmann von Aue.
  • (14th) -The period of ars nova, coined by Philippe de Vitry. During this period, secular music acquired polyphonic sophistication. The most notable practitioner of this style was Guillaume de Machaut.
  • (1375 - 1475) - Known composers were Leonel Power, John Dunstable, Gilles Binchois, and Guillaume Dufay.