Wednesday, January 19, 8220

School of Notre Dame (b. c. 1220) - Clausula

School of Notre Dame Composer (b. c. 1220)
Flos Filius (Benedicamus Domino bass line set as
Clausula [3-part] and as
Latin [2-part] and French [3-part] Motets, c. 1250)

The group of composers working at or near the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris from about 1160 to 1250, along with the music they produced, is referred to as the Notre Dame school, or the Notre Dame School of Polyphony.

The only composers whose names have come down to us from this time are Léonin and Pérotin. Both were mentioned by an anonymous English student, known as Anonymous IV, who was either working or studying at Notre Dame later in the 13th century. In addition to naming the two composers as "the best composers of organum," and specifying that they compiled the big book of organum known as the Magnus Liber Organi, he provides a few tantalizing bits of information on the music and the principles involved in its composition. Pérotin is the first composer of organum quadruplum — four-voice polyphony — at least the first composer whose music has survived, since complete survivals of notated music from this time are spotty at best.
Léonin, Pérotin and the other anonymous composers whose music has survived are representatives of the era of European music history known as the ars antiqua. The motet was first developed during this period out of the clausula, which is one of the most frequently encountered types of composition in the Magnus Liber Organi.

While music with notation has survived, in substantial quantity, the interpretation of this music, especially with regard to rhythm, remains controversial. Three music theorists describe the contemporary practice: Johannes de Garlandia, Franco of Cologne, and Anonymous IV; however they were all writing more than two generations after the music was written, and may have been imposing their current practice, which was quickly evolving, on music which was conceived differently. In much music of the Notre Dame School the lowest voices sings long note values while the upper voice or voices sing highly ornamented lines, which often use repeating patterns of long and short notes known as the "rhythmic modes." This marked the beginning of notation capable of showing relative durations of notes within and between parts.

Contemporary composers such as Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt cite the music of the Notre Dame School as an influence on their work.


A clausula (plural clausulae) is a polyphonic composition performed as a musical alternative to the original plainchant passage that it is intended to replace.

Clausulae came into being as a result of the composition practice of musicians in the Notre Dame school period, during the 1200's or Ars Antiqua. Rather than composing new pieces, musicians concerned themselves with taking older compositions and developing them. These older compositions were the original plainchant melodies, only some of which were specifically set, and they were in an organum style that used monophony and polyphony as its principal means of contrast. The new compositions, specifically called ‘clausul sive puncta’, allowed the musicians of the time to be more inventive and to develop compositional techniques. They made use of the new modal rhythms that replaced monophony and polyphony as the principal means of contrast. The clausula was the first to use rhythmic modes that had a 6/8 feel. Leonin wrote two part Clausulas and Perotin wrote 3 part Clausula. Clausulae often involved melismatic polyphony being used against a tenor line that was repeated to allow for the expansion, and this lies at the roots of isorhythm.

Hundreds of clausulae in two, three and four parts were incorporated into the Magnus Liber and others into liturgical order with appropriate manuscripts and assembled into small collections so that they could be easily introduced into an organum setting or into a piece of plainchant. As they were notated separately, it was possible for them to be expanded and developed further, resulting in them becoming pieces in their own right which could be sung at certain points in the liturgy as independent compositions. The composition of clausulae died out in the mid 13th century as they were replaced by motets, which some scholars believe to have evolved from clausulae, as the main platform for the development of new compositional techniques.

[8221 Alfonso X / 8220 Notre Dame School / 8220 Ars Antiqua]