medieval music notation

Modal Notation

6 sessions - Self-paced | Next offering in Fall Term 2021

Course Description

Towards the end of the twelfth century a composer known as Leoninus, canon of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, created a whole cycle of polyphonic settings (organum) for chants of the Mass and Office that was eventually called the Magnus liber organi. Thanks to his successor Perotinus, this repertoire was progressively enlarged to the extent that its four extant manuscripts include not only, but also clausulaeconducti and motets. This music was characterized by the use of certain rhythmic patterns called ‘modes’, which led to the development of one specific type of script: Modal Notation. For the first time in the medieval West, it was possible to record rhythmic durations, and this prompted the creation of progressively more complex polyphonic compositions. In practical terms, modal notation is the key to the vast repertoire of music associated to the so-called School of Notre Dame.

In this course, students will:


Study the different genres, manuscripts and theoretical treatises that record the theory and practice of Modal Notation


Apply the precepts of modal notation to actual polyphonic compositions of the era


Transcribe polyphonic pieces of the repertoire


Sight-read and perform different compositions directly from the original sources

Raul LacillaInstructor:
Raúl Lacilla



Open September 27 - December 27, 2021
6 sessions – Self-paced




Non-credit: 260€
1.5 credit ECTS: 310€


English - Spanish


Student must have basic musical knowledge and be able to read modern music notation.


Session 1The Modal Patterns (Sine littera notation) – The Clausula

Session 2From Clausula to Motet (Cum littera notation)

Session 3Cum cauda & Sine cauda – The Conductus

Session 4Concordance & Discordance – Reconstructing the Motet

Session 5 | The Instrumental Dances from Harley MS 978

Session 6Longs & Breves – The Twilight of Modal Notation

Teaching Methodology

This course will be comprised of:

    • 6 tutorial videos of 15 minutes each (total 1.5 hours)
    • 6 recorded lectures of 1 hour each (total 6 hours)
    • 3 live Q&A sessions of 1hour and 15 minutes each conducted biweekly through the first six weeks of the course and will be recorded so that students can access them at any time (total 3 hours and 45 minutes)
    • Downloadable materials and links to additional resources

Schedules and assignments:

    • The course is self-paced. The majority of lessons will be posted on the first day of the term and students can work at their own pace until the platform is closed for the semester, with access to the pre-recorded video lessons, accompanying materials, and the course forums
    • The student workload to review the materials and complete the assignments is approximately 6.25 hours per session
    • There will be some suggested deadlines to submit assignments
    • Homework will be accepted until a week before the end of the term
    • Students taking the course for credit must complete all assignments and class requirements

Technical Requirements

    • Broadband Internet connection / WIFI

    • External or internal webcam
    • External or internal microphone
    • Speakers or headphones
    • Possibility of printing downloaded materials
    • Possibility of scanning your assignments
    • Possibility of auto-recording (audio and video)

Enroll Now

Places are limited for each section, so sign up early.

The International Course of Medieval Music Besalú offers singers and instrumentalists the possibility of studying the repertoires of monodic and polyphonic music composed between the 11th and 13th centuries.

With the support of: