Renaissance Music Essay

The Renaissance was a period by which modern scholars consider as that between 1350 ?1600. Abundant in this new age was inventions and individualistic beliefs. Changes in music and cultural behavior were some of the most evident development from its predecessor of the Middle ages.

Period of new inventions, belief, musical styles of freedom, and individuality. It was a period of exploration and adventure from 1492-1519, which saw the likes of Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, and Ferdinand Magellan. This was a drastic difference from the Middle Ages where the church held most of the power. The power was slowly transferring to the artist, musician, and people of high society. The word ? Renaissance? means rebirth. Used by artist and musician to recover and apply the ancient learning and standards of Greece and Rome.
Rich Italian cities, such as Florence, Ferrari, and milanland Venice started the Renaissance Age. Because these cities were very wealthy, people started spending money on different things, such as painting, learning materials, and new systems of government. These were good times for most and because of the ever-changing styles and attitudes towards culture and the church, music was the best buy for the money. This all gave rise to a new type of scholar, called the humanist. Humanism was a subject concerned with human kind and the culture. Painters and sculptors now used subjects from classical literature and mythology such as characters from Homers epic poems. Painters like Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci were more interested in realism and used linear perspective in creating their subjects. The nude body was a favorite theme of the ages where as in the Middle Ages was an object of shame and concealment.Artist was no longer regarded as mere artisans, as they were known in the past, but for the first time emerged as independent thinkers.

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The Catholic Church was far less powerful now than they had been in the Middle ages. The church no longer monopolized learning or the minds of the common worshiper.Aristocrats and the upper middle class now considered education a status symbol and music was an intricate part of that status quote. The invention of print accelerated the spread of learning. Johan Gutenberg was credited with printing the first Bible during this period, which gave this excellent piece of literature a wider audience. The printing press made books much easier to come by which made them cheaper. Now common people could afford a literary luxury, which was once only accessible to the rich. Therefore, literacy became more widespread since common people had access to all forms of print to include music.

With the Renaissance was the idea of the universal man, every educated person was expected to be trained in music. As in the Middle Ages, the musicians worked in churches, courts and towns. The church remained an important patron of music, but musical activity gradually shifted to the courtyards. Kings princes and dukes competed for the finest composers. With this, new found fame musicians enjoyed higher status and pay than ever before. Composers were regarded higher and held important positions throughout Europe. Many musicians became interested in politics in hopes that their status as a musician or composer would help to foster ones careers. This was a sharp contrast from most of the Renaissance composers and musicians. Most were from the Low Countries and from families that were not of prominate nobility.

In the renaissance, as in the Middle Ages vocal music was more important than instrumental music. The humanistic interest in language influenced vocal music in a new way. As a result, an especially close relationship was created between words and music. Composers often used word painting, musical representation of specific poetic images. Renaissance music sounds were more full than medieval music and had a more pleasing affect to the ear. New emphasis was put on the bass line for a richer harmony. Choruses music did not need instrumental accompaniment. The period was called the gold age of unaccompanied “a Cappella” choral music. This is where the present day barber shops quartet originated. This new technique made renaissance music both a pleasure and challenge, for each singer had to maintain an individual rhythm. This must have been an innovation and refreshing change from the old monotone chanting choruses.

A new style of relating to the counterpoint was now spawning, in which bass voices were given greater independence. This took the average Mass to a different level of complexity and meaning. It created two forms of sacred music of the renaissance, which were the Motet and the Mass. The Motet was a polyphonic choral composition made up of five sections: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus. Josquin Desprez was a master of renaissance music. His compositions, which strongly influenced other, and were enthusiastically, welcomed by music lovers.

Among the most important renaissance composers was Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrine, who devoted himself to music for the catholic church. During the early 1500’s, Protestants who sought to correct abuses within the structure that occurred in the past challenged the church. This led to the founding of the Jesuit order in 1540, which considered questions of organization with in the church. They discussed church music, which they felt lost its purity and wholesomeness that was essential to a place of worship. Church music was attacked because it used tunes, noisy instruments, and theatrical singing portraying the church as being just a place for entertainment. The council finally decreed that church music should be composed not to give empty pleasure to the ear, but to inspire religious contemplation. Palestrina’s pope Marcellus Mass was long thought to have convinced the council that masses should be kept in catholic worship. Although it is now known that it did not play a role in the council decision, it does reflect the council’s desire for a clear projection of the sacred text.

During the renaissance secular vocal music became increasingly popular. This was music written for groups of solo voices with the accompaniment of instruments. Composers delighted in imitating natural sounds such as birds or animals that were more serene. Madrigal was an important vocal music, which had a piece for secular solo voices set to short poems. Madrigal originated in Italy around 1520 and was published by the thousands in sixteenth century Italy. Among many Italian madrigalists were Luca marenzio and Carlo Gesualdo the prince of veno who had his wife and her lover murdered after finding them in bed together. In 1588 the year of the defeat of the Spanish armada, a volume of Italian madrigals was published in London. This triggered a spurt of madrigal writing by English composers, and for about thirty years, there was a steady flow of English madrigals and other secular vocal music.

Traditionally instrumentalist accompanied voices or played music intended for singing. During the sixteenth century however instrumental music became increasingly emancipated from vocal models. Renaissance musicians distinguished between loud outdoor instruments like trumpets and the shawm, which was a double reeded ancestor of the oboe, and soft indoor instruments like the lute and the recorder (an early flute). Large courts might employ thirty instrumentalists of all types. On state occasions such as Royal wedding, woodwinds, plucked bowed strings, and keyboard, instruments all playing would entertain quest together.

In conclusion, the renaissance gave way to a new generation of music, musicians and composers. During the Renaissance, music were no longer regarded as mere skilled craftsman, as they had been in the medieval past, but for the first time emerged as independent personalities. The Renaissance was a time of new awakening in Europe.

Work Cited
Perry, Marvin, Chase Myrna, Jacob James R, Jacob Margaret C, Von Laue Theodore H.Western Civilization. New Jersey, Princeton, 1996
Kamien, RogerMusic, an appreciation, Boston, 1998
Mc Comb, Todd M.A Selection of Renaissance Music, Internet,,


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