In the wake of the terrible attacks in Paris, I found myself listening to a lot of French music and thinking about the Leonard Bernstein
quote going around on Facebook: "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before." This list came to seem like my natural response. A very small response, I know. This list is chronological and leaves off people I should probably include. The forty [note: now forty-one] composers listed below are merely a start.
Léonin Aka Leoninus (c.1135-c.1201)
The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris in the 1100s was a major musical center, and Léonin (the first named composer from whom we have notated polyphonic music) was a crucial figure for defining the liturgical use of organum, the first polyphony. Earlier organum was fairly simple, involving parallel intervals and later contrary motion, but the mid-12th century brought