Periods in history do not change suddenly from one to the other, instead changes are gradual; however a new style in the arts called Baroque did emerge about 1600 AD.
The term “Baroque” is not used by historians as a label for a period in history like “Middle Ages” or “Renaissance,” but rather, the term “Baroque” is used by art and music historians as a label for a period which roughly spans from about 1600 AD until 1750 AD.
The terms “Middle Ages” and “Renaissance” are universally used as labels by all types of historians.
The word “baroque” was originally a derogatory term used by later historians to describe a style in the arts they found to be excessive
The word “baroque” originally meant bizarre, flamboyant, elaborately ornamented, overdone
Today, the word “baroque” simply describes an artistic style of the 17th and early 18th centuries that is dramatic, emotional, and elaborate.
In the visual arts, emotionalism and dramatic action is emphasized, along with grandeur. Artists tried to capture dramatic scenes on their canvases (see Caravaggio’s Conversion of St. Paul); Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles (in France) is often used to represent the elaborateness of baroque architecture
This is in contrast to Renaissance art which although is realistic and lifelike, is also calm and dignified (compare Bernini’s David (Baroque) on p. 102 of your book with Michelangelo’s David (Renaissance) on p. 72).
Early Baroque composers we will study
Giovanni Gabrieli (1555-1612)-Gabrieli was a musician at St.
Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, Italy
Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)- wrote the first important operas, including Orfeo (1607)
Henry Purcell-(1659-1695)-the most famous English composer of the Baroque, wrote the opera Dido and Aeneas (1689)
Venetian Polychoral Music
Gabrieli and others took advantage of St. Mark’s unusual shape (it was shaped like a cross) to write some unique music that is sometimes referred to as “Venetian polychoral music.”
Gabrieli and others would place choirs of voices and/or instruments throughout the various arms of the church and have them play alternately in something like a competition, then sometimes have them join together and play for massive sound effects
This idea of having contrasting/competing groups of instruments and voices would become popular in the Baroque and was known as the “concertato principle.” This is unlike the Renaissance which preferred all voices in a piece of music.
What will we hear as an example?
Gabrieli, "In ecclesiis"
Style Features of Early Baroque music
Rhythm and meter -the beat and meter is much more strongly emphasized than in Renaissance style
Texture: Basso continuo-the new Baroque style preferred an important melody accompanied by chords with a strong bass part. The inner parts were not as important (alto, tenor). The chords and bass part were often played by a keyboard instrument (organ or harpsichord) and some low instrument (often a cello). These parts and the instruments that played them were called the “basso continuo.” The melody could be sung by a soloist or played by an instrument.
Harmony and melody-in the Baroque major and minor scales begin to replace the old church modes and the use of chords become more organized and standardized; by the later Baroque pieces are said to be in a certain “key”
Timbre-the “concertato principle” is often in effect; this means competing/contrasting groups of instruments and sometimes voices are used, rather than all voices as in the Renaissance
Dynamics-terraced dynamics are often used-this means there are sudden shifts from loud to soft and back again for dramatic contrast
Devlopment of Opera
Opera is musical drama that is sung throughout-it fits perfectly with the baroque idea of dramatic artwork
Opera developed in Florence, Italy around 1600 and then in Venice, Italy in the early 1600s
The developers of opera felt that the current Renaissance style of music with its several melodies at once could not really convey the emotion and drama that music was supposed to communicate
They felt that the words and music should fit together much better to convey the real meanings of the words
They felt that the pitch and rhythm of the music should fit the words (re.mem.ber me)
They also felt that there should only be only one melody sung by a soloist with a simple chordal accompaniment (homophony, instead of polyphony, as in the Renaissance) so that the words could be understood easily
This new style of music was called monody and was like a sung style of speech used to convey dramatic action.
Solo singing in a speech-like style (monody) was used to create a new genre (type) of music in the Baroque called “opera” which were dramas that used continuous music
The first important opera was Monteverdi’s Orfeo (1607)
What will we hear as an example of opera?
Purcell, Dido and Aeneas, Act III, final scene ("Dido's Lament")
The first part is a recitative, a type of speech-like solo singing used to convey monologues and dialogues between characters
The second part is an aria, as solo song with orchestral accompaniment
The third part is a chorus