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Musical Eras...Renaissance


A rebirth of Classical learning The rediscovery and reevaluation of writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans suggested a "rebirth". Nineteenth-century historians seized on the idea to create our present image of "The Renaissance".

The gradual change from the feudal system to the modern state Starting in northern Italy, the hierarchical state -- led by either the urban bourgeoisie or despotic nobles -- replaced the fluid and often chaotic feudal system of the Middle Ages. For this reason, some historians refer to the Renaissance as the Early Modern Era.

A change in the views of the earth and the cosmos Christopher Columbus (1451?-1506) and Ferdinand Magellan (c.1480-1521) expanded Europe's view of the world. The astronomical studies of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) -- later championed by Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) -- called into question the old earth-centered view of the universe.


Increased Interest in Humanist Learning

* The arts became an important measure of learning and culture. * Music moved from the science of number to an expressive art viewed as an equal to rhetoric. * The rise and rapid spread of music printing increased access to music and books about music.

Increased Patronage of Music

* The rich courts and civic governments of the Renaissance supported music to a degree not previously seen. * This level of musical support was also provided by the religious institutions of the day.

Territorial Expansion and Increased Wealth

* As a result of colonial expansion, great wealth flowed into European cities and courts. * Travel and the resulting musical exchange became a driving force for the creation of a more international musical style.

The composers of the Renaissance concerned themselves with three different areas of music:

* Sacred music: Composers continued to work with the older forms such as the motet and Mass. It is in this music that we find the clearest international style. * Secular music: Composers created new forms that reflected national trends, such as the Italian madrigal and the French chanson. * Instrumental music: The rise of music printing encouraged the spread of instrumental music for amateurs, and more specific types emerged.

All three types of music share many musical features:

* The use of four-voice choirs or groups of like-sounding instruments (consorts) * Imitative or homorhythmic textures (often alternating within a single piece). * Smooth, gentle rhythms. * Melodies with balanced phrases. * Harmonies that use full triads. * Vocal forms tied to structure of texts. Dances based on simple binary forms.


Guillaume Du Fay (1397-1474)

Josquin Desprez (c.1440-1521)

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c.1525-1594)

John Farmer (fl.1591-1601)

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)

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