What is the trends that led to the fizzling of ars antique and to the rising of ars nova?


This has been discussed since the 1200s without coming to a unanimous conclusion. In practice, the minimum rather than the breve seems to be the main pulse note.

I have read various places that the big revolution (really a 200 year or so evolution) was the improvement in musical notation. As notation became able to show more complex rhythms and pitches, the limitations caused by only learning by ear could be relaxed. Thus composers could try more "interesting" compositional techniques and share these with everyone.

  • 1
    "Minimum" or "Minim"?
    – Aaron
    Apr 2 at 3:03
  • This is the brief and correct answer. The ars antiqua was a sort of "first draft" of rhythmic notation, a first attempt at fixing duration in a written form. As more flexibility was introduced into rhythmic notation, people started experimenting with it (and frankly going overboard with it). There's other stuff tied up in ars nova (the kinds of lyrics, genres, etc. used) but a lot of the stylistic change happened because of new rhythmic "technology," i.e., notation. (This was also driven by new math/philosophical ideas about the nature of time, etc.)
    – Athanasius
    Jul 4 at 15:14

I recommend looking at music as an alternation between the influences of Apollo and Dionysus (look up this term, it's very important in the arts).

Apollo is the sun god, and the god of music. In art, Apollo represents formalism, intellect, and artifice. Apollo represents GREEK ideals.

Dionysus is the god of wine, and of nature. In art, Dionysus represents freedom, emotion, and chaos. Dionysus represents ROMAN ideals.

Thus the Classical period of Mozart, which is not too flashy and is highly formal, is mainly Apollonian. The Romantic period of late Beethoven and Liszt, is passionate (like Italians, aka Romans), so can be thought of as largely Dionysian.

So you can see Ars Antiqua as representing formal traditions, with highly ceremonial music, and Ars Nova as representing highly expressive, new rhythms and sounds.

Then comes Renaissance, which is the rebirth-- of Greek formalism, aka Apollonian Then the Baroque, which is quite flashy (highly technical keyboard solos for example)-- Roman, aka Dionysian Then Classical-- Apollonian Then Romantic-- Dionysian

After that, there has been so much going on that you can't divide it so easily into periods any more. However, you can see VERY strong influences-- techno and electronic music is highly structural therefore Apollonian, and some types of jazz are ultra-Dionysian.

Pretty long answer, but your answer can be inferred: Boredom with overly structural and intellectual music eventually led to a focus on secular music-- dance rhythms, fast and exciting melodies, and so on.

I'll leave you with an Ars Nova song. This is NOT performed by Gregorian monks!

You can check out the English lyrics here: saucy, irreverent stuff! :D


  • 2
    This doesn't address the question of contemporaneous trends that influenced the transition from Ars Antiqua to Ars Nova.
    – Aaron
    Apr 2 at 3:53
  • 1
    "Boredom with overly structural and intellectual music eventually led to a focus on secular music-- dance rhythms, fast and exciting melodies, and so on." You might not feel that answer is detailed enough, but that's my thesis. You could name a couple names-- this or that influential artist, the emergence of this or that school or philosophy-- but when a pattern repeats that often, it's worth pointing out that the trends transcend individual details. Thanks for the downvote, though. I've come to know you as an almost perfect expression of the Apollonian in musical thought! Apr 2 at 4:16
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    If you're going to claim "boredom" as the motivation for a major musical evolution, you really ought to back that up with something. It's generally accepted that there are movements between Apollonian and Dionysian styles, but making a blanket claim that "boredom" is the overall motivator needs something beyond speculation.
    – Aaron
    Apr 2 at 4:22
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    I accurately outlined the defining features of the period: an increase in rhythmic complexity, and in secular lyrics, and linked a video demonstrating those features in a piece by one of the defining composers of that period, with a translation showing how VERY secular the lyrics were. As for saying you can infer that they were bored-- why does ANYONE, in any context, introduce radical change to the status quo? Because they love the status quo so deeply and want to conserve it? No-- because they want to be liberated. Well, when you crave increased stimulus, there's a word for that. Apr 2 at 4:49
  • "Fast and exciting" is not necessarily reserved for "Ars Nova". In the baroque period there were 3-part inventions ("sinfonias") which mixed 3 logical "channels" into 1 physical instrument (a piano or harpsichord). Jun 10 at 20:35

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