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900 year-old Polyphonic Sheet Music Discovered

A section of sheet music, dated to be nine centuries old was recently discovered by a, Cambridge University, student. This discovery is believed to be the earliest example of polyphonic music ever to penned.


Music is large portion of many people’s lives. Some people may play instruments, some may sing or play drums, while others my only know how to play an Ipod, but very few people can admit that music has never played a role in their lives.

This pre-millennial musical composition was found when, Giovanni Varellui, a PhD student from the University of Cambridge,while reading through a manuscript dictating the life of Bishop Maternianus of Remis.

At the time, Varellui, who was participating in an internship for the British Library,  had found the piece tagged to pages of the manuscript, and imminently noticed the unusual style of notation that the song was composed with.

Varelli, being a student specializing in the field of early music notation, closely examined the sheet of music and observed that the arrangement consisted of two separate vocal lines, complementary to each other.

After even more research and investigation, Varelli, had theorized that the piece was written in an ancient ‘call and response’ style of vocal interactions, this technique known as an ‘antiphon’ had one vocalist sing a droning note while the other sang a melody.

The theory of polyphonic music was not believed to have been conceptualized for another 100 years,  after this piece was penned, around 1,000 AD. Not only does the composition predate researchers theories on when polyphonic theory was created, but also presents a concept that, musicians at the time were altering ideas in music theory as they were being conceived, much like jazz musicians today.

It is believed that the sheet music had gone unnoticed for so many decades, due to its antiquated system of notation, completely lacking the musical stave we use today.

Polyphonic music is a type of music that has to independent melody lines being voiced simultaneously, these lines interact with each other and at some points create harmony and at other times contour a melodic line creating dissonance, or not so smooth sounding parts.

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