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Renaissance Music: Style and Historical Perspective

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Todd Stalter

on 14 September 2016

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Transcript of Renaissance Music: Style and Historical Perspective

Renaissance Music: ca. 1450 - 1600
Overview of genre, style, and historical perspective.

Renaissance music has more diverse stylistic components,
while Medieval music tends to be in one unified style (this
is oversimplification, but you get the idea).
Composers are not content to remain anonymous, and begin to develop personally identified styles within the framework of current musical genres.
Patronage of wealthy nobles and courts increases opportunities and freedom to experiment, and encourages the use and application of new creative ideas.
Music is used more in official court/civic ceremonies and
entertainment, and the social status of musicians is elevated
(still pretty low, but getting better).
The invention of music printing by Petrucci makes music
more available than ever before; notation therefore becomes
more standardized.
Leading "center" of music moves from Northern France to Italy (specifically, Venice and Rome...it follows the move of the Papacy, which also means it is following the money).
The rise of Protestantism (Reformation) causes the Council of Trent to deal with a range of issues concerning church dogma, including music: the "polluting" of sacred plainchant with secular tunes, instruments, and complex polyphony. Thankfully, polyphonic music survives the chopping block.
Renaissance SHMRG

Sound: 4-voice (or more) texture, predominantly vocal, word painting,
generally no extremes in dynamics, an overall "fuller" sound than Medieval music,
use of the vernacular.
Harmony: consonant, very little dissonance (apart from
that which is used to emphasize important emotions in the text).
Melody: all voices treated as melodic, more diatonic
as contrasted with the Medieval modal approach.
Rhythm: driven by the imitation in the voices, usually
is steady and gentle.
Growth: Mass, Motet, Madrigal,
Dance forms.
Example: "If Ye Love Me,"
Thomas Tallis (ca. 1505 - 1585)
Renaissance Sacred Music
Mass: polyphonic choral composition of the five parts of the Mass Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei). Latin text. Considered very serious and "high art."
Motet: polyphonic choral composition that is set to a Latin text that is NOT used in the Mass (i.e. an Ave Maria).
Example: "Ave Maria Vergo Serena,"
Josquin Desprez (1450 - 1521), 1502
Renaissance Secular Music
Madrigal: song for several voices set to a poem in the vernacular. The style flowers due to a dramatic rise in the volume and quality of poetic verse. Extensive use of word painting.
Sung by aristocrats and nobles, it was "popular" music (after all, anyone who was considered educated and socially refined was a musician).
Italian madrigals are much more serious than the lighter English treatments.
Example: "As Vesta Was Descending," Thomas Weelkes (1576 - 1623),
Example: "Now is the Month of Maying," Thomas Morley (1557 (8) - 1602),
Renaissance Instrumental Music
There is a dramatic rise in the use of instruments, both in secular and in sacred music.
Instruments are not divided into families, but into "consorts," as to either being loud (haut) or soft (bas).
Some instruments do exist in families, such as the recorder. Important stringed instruments include the lute and viol.
Many modern wind instruments trace their lineage here...sackbut (trombone), shawm (oboe), recorder (flute).
For the first time, compositions appear that are written to be played by instruments only, with no voices or words.
Example: "Frog Galliard," John Dowland (1563 - 1626)
The Venetian School
...looking towards the Baroque

St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice has two separate choir lofts (each with an organ), which provided opportunity for use of Polychoral music, playing and singing both in imitation and together, to create incredibly thick textures of sound and new approaches regarding the use of acoustic space as an element that is vital to musical expression.
A very wealthy church, to be sure...it was in the economic center of Europe, and was a "must see" for tourists and visitors in the city on business.
Adrian Willaert, Andrea Gabrieli, and Giovanni Gabrieli used instruments specifically to color the sound, and often integrated them into vocal compositions by featuring them alone, and as accompaniment.
Use of a specific dynamic structure to vary the levels of sound is ground breaking in musical performance.

Example: "Canzon per sonare No. 2," Giovanni Gabrieli, 1597
Example: Gagliarda Seconda detta La Scabrosetta a5, by Giovanni Maria Trabaci (c. 1575-1647)

Performed by The Royal Wind Music, using original reproductions and modern recorders
If ye love me, keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may bide with you for ever, ev'n the spirit of truth.
(from John 14)
Now is the month of Maying, when merry lads are playing! Fa la la la la!
Each with his bonny lass, a-dancing on the grass, fa la la la la!

The Spring, clad all in gladness, doth laugh at Winter's sadness! Fa la la la la!
And to the bagpipes’ sound, the nymphs tread out the ground! Fa la la la la!

Fie! Then why sit we musing, youth’s sweet delight refusing? Fa la la la la!
Say, dainty nymphs and speak! Shall we play barley break? Fa la la la la!
Full transcript