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Musical Eras...Baroque


The increasing importance of scientific investigation Scientists such as Galileo Galilei (1564-1622) and Isaac Newton (1642-1727) broke away from the older model of science, whose purpose was the proof of an a priori assumption. Instead, through observation and experimentation, scientists devised hypotheses about why things happened.

The culmination of royal despotism A small group of leaders (kings, queens, and emperors) wielded enormous power in Europe. Such was their power that Louis XIV (1638-1715) was to declare, "L'Útat š'est moi" ("I am the state").

Development of the New World The English, French and Spanish holdings in the New World continued to supply Europe with wealth. But as the generations passed, colonists began to feel a growing allegiance to their new homes. Ultimately, such feelings would lead to the independence of these lands.

Artificiality and marvelous effect were valued in the arts Sculptors, building on the techniques of artists such as Giovanni Bernini (1598-1680), found ways to create the illusion of energetic and even violent movement in their works. Painters created larger and more crowded canvases.


A Time of Experimentation

* Musicians embraced the idea that music could move the listener in a real and physical way. * Opera, with its blend of music and drama, was the full realization of this ideal. * In instrumental music, no less than in opera, composers experimented with ways of creating impressive effects.

Expanding Roles for Music

* Music continued to be used as an important tool of statecraft. * The new and extravagant styles served as a rich adornment to religious services in both Catholic and Protestant traditions. * Music, especially opera, was as an important source of entertainment to the growing merchant and landed classes.

A Growing Awareness of National Styles

* Distinct styles of both vocal and instrumental music developed in Italy, France and Germany. * Composers were aware of these differences and made use of them in their music. A French composer, for example, might label a piece "In the Italian Style". * The question of the superiority of various styles was often the subject of heated debate.

The Full Equality of Instrumental Music

* New instrumental forms, such as the concerto and sonata developed. * Instrument makers created new types of instruments (especially wind instruments). * The violin moved to center stage as the most important string instrument. * Performers reached new heights of expression and technique. Virtuoso players (such as Archangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi) reflected these abilities in their own compositions. * Even in vocal music, instruments played an important role. Instruments not only served as accompaniment, but often played equal roles with the voices.


* The basso continuo is ever-present in Baroque music. * Textures are primarily melody and accompaniment or contrapuntal. * Voices and instruments were freely mixed. * Newly developed instruments provided a rich palette of tone color. * Rhythms are often derived from dance rhythms. * Melodies are ornate and often make use of dramatic leaps. * Harmony is based on major/minor tonality, and dissonances become more common. * Repetition and simple binary and ternary forms provide the basis for musical structure.


Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)

Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre (c.1666-1729)

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

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