Posted by Mindy


Featured above is a segment of the Bayeux Tapestry which chronicles the account of William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings. Here you see simply a very short portion of the entire amazing piece of needlework.

If you would like to see more of this long, intricate banner, click here.   Not only will you see more of this artwork, but you’ll also hear a rather curious piece of music which sounds like a train wreck between history facts, chant, and digital “trance” music.  (I can’t get “I’m William the Conqueror, Britain’s first Norman King. I found renown and won my crown at the Battle of Hastings” out of my head.)

Rick Steves’ the travel guide has a very interesting video clip here discussing the events of 1066 and the Bayeux Tapestry.  The music in the background is fun, too!

As for music, the people of William’s day continued to hear and sing plain chant, or “Gregorian” chant, as we tend to call it. Gregorian chant refers to Pope Gregory of the 6th century who was concerned about losing a vast musical heritage. He commissioned the monks to develop a system of notation for music and lyrics which could be passed down to subsequent generations. Even as during the time of Charlemagne, the people of William the Conqueror’s time didn’t have a great deal of actual music information on their musical scores. Consequently, we don’t exactly know what the music sounds like.  We’ve been given the notes; however, scholars have no real knowledge as to what the rhythm was.

A sample of Plainchant:  Angelis Domini


Plainchant activity:

Pretend you’ve just heard a great song!   You want to write it down (notate it) in order to remember it.  Draw four horizontal lines across your page, rather than the five lines of today.  Above your notes use “/ ” and “\” to indicate “up” and “down” movements of notes, “—” to indicate same note and ^ between words to indicate skips between notes.

Try notating “Baa Baa Black Sheep” using this system OR devise your own way of notation.

Pass your music score to another family member to read. See how music notation was used as a guide for a piece which you had already memorized?   That early notation didn’t contain a great deal of information did it?