is a term used to describe a variety of styles within modern popular music
. A common characteristic of these styles is that they contain elements of Medieval music
and early music
in general. Music styles within neo-Medieval music vary from authentic performance
interpretations of Medieval music (understood as Classical music
) to crossover
genres that blend Medieval instruments
, such as bagpipe
with electronic music
and heavy metal
. In many cases, it is more or less overlapping with styles such as folk rock
, and Neofolk
Bands specializing in neo-Medieval music are particularly plentiful in Germany, although the genre also enjoys some popularity in North America, The Czech Republic, France, Great Britain, Italy, Brazil and the Scandinavian countries.
It is difficult to point to an exact beginning of neo-Medieval music. One could argue that all Medieval-sounding tunes written after the actual Middle Ages
are in some way neo-Medieval music; this definition would include music from as early as the Renaissance
and onwards. Other examples of early neo-Medievalism in music would also include a number of Romantic
composers such as Niels W. Gade
, Edvard Grieg
, and Felix Mendelssohn
(who often used Medieval- and folk-style tunes in their music), as well as parts of the Carmina Burana
by Carl Orff
, and many movie soundtracks
from the 20th century.
However, as a popular music term the birth of neo-Medieval music is closely connected with the folk rock and roots music movement of the 1960s and 1970s. In many countries in Europe musicians sought to find their cultural roots, reviving music that had largely died out as a result of centuries of industrialization, and decades of exposure to U.S. music styles like jazz and rock.
The founding of the German band Ougenweide in 1970 is particularly important in this respect. Ougenweide revived many distinctly German and European genres, such as the Minnesang, and other examples of courtly poetry and music. It is interesting to compare Ougenweide's approach to music with that of their contemporary kraut rock bands, especially Kraftwerk. Both sought to recreate German culture which they felt had been compromised by Nazism and World War II. But whereas Kraftwerk took music creation to an entirely new level, Ougenweide would revive ancient music and play types of instruments that, at least in Northern Europe, had been out of use for centuries.
In Great Britain, too, prog rock bands like Jethro Tull would often write songs with a Medieval touch to them. It was not until the late 1980s, however, that neo-medieval music would arise as an entire genre of its own, replete with a subculture following.
The Australian outfit Dead Can Dance who released most of their most famous works in the latter half of the 1980s was another early influence on the scene. Dead Can Dance had a far more pompous and symphonic sound than previous acts, and, although never considering themselves to be a Goth band, were mostly popular among Goths. This formed the precedence of neo-Medieval music being particular popular in the Goth scene.
It is also important to include the influence of heavy metal. With its modal scales and heavy reliance upon the use of open fifths, heavy metal shares a lot of characteristics with medieval and folk music, not to mention its visual affinity for Gothic settings.
1989 saw the formation of the German band Corvus Corax by two of its members, who were both on the run from the disintegrating East German regime. Throughout the 1990s Corvus Corax would go on to have a profound effect on the state of neo-Medieval music.
Corvus Corax, along with other bands, started the now immensely popular strategy of combining medieval music with electronic music.
Neo-Medieval music by country
Full article: see list of neo-Medieval artists
As already mentioned neo-Medieval music enjoys popularity in many countries. Most countries also have their own bands that differ slightly in style depending on nationality and individual artistic expression.
is by far the most active country in the neo-Medieval scene. Nowhere else in the world are the artists so plentiful and the styles of music so diverse. The country contains such acts as Ioculatores
(traditional Medieval music), In Extremo
(Medieval metal), Saltatio Mortis
, and more ambient
oriented bands like Helium Vola
, Love Is Colder Than Death
, and Estampie
to mention a few. A particularly popular line-up is a variation of a traditional pipe-and-drum band, consisting mainly of modified bagpipes and a davuul
drum, often backed up by shawms in a manner reminiscent of a Breton bagad
is home to the legendary folk rock band Hedningarna
whose music contains a fair share of Medieval influences, not least in their choice of instruments; their songs often contain hurdy-gurdy
. Whether the band is actually neo-Medieval or not may be a matter of debate. One could argue that they are merely infatuated with everything ancient. They have even been known to use Danish Bronze Age lurs
, as well as playing gigs in castle ruins. However, their influence on the neo-Medieval scene in Scandinavia
is arguably enormous.
is another important Swedish band in this context, as well as the Dead Cance/Qntal inspired act Arcana
Medieval music in Denmark, and to some extent the other Nordic countries as well, has almost always been synonymous with Nordic dancing ballads
. This particular type of ballad depends on cooperation between the lead singer and his audience. The singer narrates a story in song, to which the audience dances and falls in at the repeated chorus line which often predicts the end of the story (which is usually tragic). A song may last 20+ minutes. This tradition has been alive to the present day in the Faroe Islands
where it is entirely a cappella
, though this does not necessarily mean that it did not include instruments in its heyday. In Denmark the lyrics of most of the ballads, being always in the vernacular
, were recorded by the landed nobility
in the 16th century, and the melodies in the 19th and 20th centuries. Because of this vernacular ballad tradition, Danish and other Scandinavian neo-Medieval music is almost devoid of the Latin
lyrics of e.g. the German scene.
Probably the best-known neo-Medieval band in Denmark is Sorten Muld whose songs are primarily interpretations of the above mentioned dancing ballads. Although their music does contain hints of medieval instruments like hurdy-gurdy and nyckelharpa it relies heavily on trip-hop influences, and most of the Medieval elements are downplayed in favour of synthesizer sounds, double bass, and filtered breakbeats.
In recent years other Danish bands playing in a more international (and more aggressive!) Medieval style have sprung up. These include Virelai, Solhverv, Asynje, and Valravn. These bands may or may not integrate the ballad tradition in their largely instrumental music.
The well-known band Ataraxia
from Italy has started creating music and live performances inspired by early (Medieval and Renaissance) music in the mid 80s. Their most significant albums inspired by this genre are Historiae
(1998, CMI); Suenos
(2001, CMI) and the coming Kremasta Nera
Norway is famous for its thriving metal
culture, and it is mainly within metal genres that neo-Medieval music finds its outlet in a Norwegian context. Bands like Lumsk
are known for incorporating Medieval and folk elements into their music. More traditional folk-oriented bands like and Gåte
also exist. Many Norwegian bands, metal- or otherwise
oriented, have a remarkable Neo-pagan
Russian bands such as Moon Far Away
produce local inspired medieval folk music. Drolls
, a medieval folk band from Russian Karelia
presents a broader approach to early music heritage.