The middle ages, (450- 1450), after the Roman empire fell this was a time of great change through chaos. The later part of the middle ages brought a period of growth with religious structures and universities. Most of society in the beginning of this era was influenced by the Roman Catholic church. During the middle ages the Roman Catholic church’s official music was the Gregorian chant, named after Pope Gregory I. This music was sung without instruments, set to sacred Latin texts. It was without meter, and a little sense of beat. The sound of this chant resulted in the unfamiliar scale also called, church mode. Music outside the church also greatly attributed to this era. These songs were usually preformed on court minstrels. Most of these compositions were about love, the crusades, dance songs, and spinning songs. Most of these songs had a regular meter and a clearly defined beat, unlike the Gregorian chant.
In the middle ages music was mostly monophonic, however, between 700- 900 the first steps were taken to transform music. Monks in monastery choirs began to add a second melodic line to the Gregorian chant. This music was called organum. Between 900- 1200, organum became polyphonic, and the melody added to the chant became more independent.
From about 1170- 1200, Notre Dame composers developed rhythmic innovations. They used measured rhythm with definite time and clearly defined meters. A chant used as a basis for polyphony is known as a cantus firmus (fixed melody). Near the end of this era, the church weakened after many suffrages, such as The Hundred Year War and the Bubonic plague. In this time secular music held more importance than sacred music. A new system of musical notations had emerged, and a composer could specify any rhythmic pattern. Now beats could be divided and sometimes use syncopation.