French Music

French Music
  • Medieval music
  • Renaissance music
  • 17th, 18th and 19th century music
  • 20th century music

Medieval music in France

It was during the later Middle Ages that France essentially headed the development of music throughout Europe, both sacred and secular. Manuscripts dating back as early as the 10th century were found in numerous towns and cities in France, and groups of composers and musicians were associated with the Abbey of St. Martial in Limoges and the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

Secular music was made up mostly of the lai, the ballade and the chansons de geste (“songs of deeds”), which were epic poems sung and performed by minstrels, troubadours and jongleurs. The most common themes used in the lyrics of this sung poetry included courtly love, war and heroic nights and nature.

In the 14th century one of the most important musical forms of the century, the motet, was created by Philippe de Vitry and later perfected by Guillaume de Machaut, who is said to have been a leading poet and the most influential French composer of his time.