Article

Musical Instruments

Timothy J. McGee

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online December 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0009
Musical Instruments

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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Musical instruments had a constant presence during the Middle Ages. They were a part of many activities and occasions, both formal and informal, and were played by professionals and amateurs. Very few instruments survive from the period, and therefore, most of our information about instruments and their use comes from literature, historical accounts, archival documents, theoretical treatises, and iconography. There was an enormous variety of instruments and very little standardization in terms of size, shape, range, or playing technique. Many of the instruments were developed in the Middle East, and once imported into Europe, they were modified and transformed to fit the needs of the various European societies; the type of change and relative popularity of instruments varied with each geographical area and level of society. The history of medieval musical instruments, therefore, is a study of constant change as the instruments were adjusted to meet the demands of the changing society and evolving musical tastes.

Article.  11100 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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