Introduction to Renaissance
The word Renaissance means “rebirth.” Rebirth of what? Answer: The past glories of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. What were these past glories? Answer: creativity and intellectual pursuits such as the arts, mathematics, science, and architecture
Intellectuals of the Renaissance looked at the Middle Ages as a dark period in history, they were more interested in the civilizations of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Renaissance ideas and events
Important ideals and events of the Renaissance: creativity, discovery and exploration, interest in ancient Greek and Roman civilization and humanism, rise of a middle class, Protestant Reformation, movable type, literacy and education
The following explore each one of these ideas or events in more detail
Discovery and exploration of American continents
Humanism means people and their life on earth, along with their creativity and accomplishments, becomes the primary focus rather than God, the afterlife, and salvation as in the Middle Ages; humanism is also related to the interest in ancient Greek and Roman civilizations-their arts, literature, and languages
Rise of a middle class of merchants and bankers who were now freed from blind allegiance to the Church by the new spirit of humanism, and freed from dependence on the rulers because they had their own wealth
Questioning of Catholic Church authority and practices lead to the Protestant Reformation which was quite successful in northern Europe
The Protestant Reformation began in 1517 when Martin Luther, a
German monk, criticized the Catholic Church with a series of 95
Luther was a devout Catholic and did not realize he was starting a religious revolution, he only wanted to reform the Catholic Church; however the time was ripe for such a revolt against Church authority
The Catholic Church’s authority was weakened because of the Protestant Reformation
Movable type invented in about 1450 AD
This meant that books could be easily printed rather than monks in monasteries copying them one at a time; this helped the spread of books and literacy; the first printed music was in 1501
Catholic clergy no longer held a monopoly on literacy and learning; literacy and education became a status symbol, literacy spread to the nobility and rising middle classes
Sometimes one is referred to as a “Renaissance man.” This refers to someone who is well-educated in all areas: science, mathematics, the arts, literature, philosophy, etc. During the Renaissance, a well-educated person was expected to be educated in all areas.
A good example of this type of person was Leonardo da Vinci who was a painter, sculpture, architect, engineer, scientist, and accomplished musician
During the Renaissance, the Church remained an important supporter of the arts, but nobles whose center of power was called the “court” also became an important supporter since it was considered a status symbol to have good artists, musicians, etc.
Two famous Renaissance composers were Josquin des Prez (1440-1521) and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594)
Most music of the Renaissance was written for voices (either choirs or small groups of singers), and it is still frequently performed today by choirs
Melody-tended to move by steps with some use of leaps, very singable since it was written with voices in mind; still used the Medieval church modes, but major and minor scales begin to develop
Rhythm-the music has a beat, but it is not strong, meters of two or three are used, sometimes changing from one to the other in a piece
Texture-imitative polyphony using four (SATB) to six voice parts was common, homophony was sometimes used, as well as thinning of voices (leaving some voice parts out for periods of time)
Ex. 1 The first 16 measures of "Ave Maria" by Josquin Des Prez. It is a good, clear example of the use of imitative polyphony.
Click on music to play
Harmony-composers began paying attention to the total harmonic effect of the voice parts, triads are used and dissonance carefully resolved to consonance
Timbre-a cappella choirs of men and boys in sacred music, small groups of men and women in secular; however, sometimes instruments played along to keep the singers on track
Text and music-composers sometimes tried to represent the words literally through the music in a technique called “text painting.” They would write high notes on the word “heaven,” for instance, rapid notes for the word “running,” or write dissonant tone combinations for the word “grief.”
All in all the music tends to be very calm and “laid-back” sounding, especially sacred music, which was supposed to sound reverent and dignified
Renaissance sacred music
Two main types-masses and motets
Masses-a setting the words of the ordinary of a Catholic Mass to music
Motets-any other sacred words set to music, mainly Latin
Catholic church services
The most important type of worship service of the Roman Catholic Church is the Mass
The Mass contained predetermined texts that fell into two categories called the Proper and the Ordinary
The text of the Ordinary ordinarily stayed the same from week to week, the texts of the Proper were proper to the season
The structure of a Catholic Mass
Sanctus and Benedictus
Ite, missa est
What do the Mass Ordinary titles mean?
Kyrie-Lord (have mercy)
Gloria-Glory (to God in the highest)
Credo -I believe (in one God)
Sanctus-Holy, (holy, holy)
Benedictus-Blessed (is he who comes in the name of the Lord)
Agnus Dei-Lamb of God (who takes away the sins of the world)
Ite, missa est-Go, you are dismissed
Why is the Ordinary of the Catholic Mass so important in the history of music?
The words of the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Mass were set to music by many composers over the centuries, including Palestrina, Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, and Bernstein
What will we hear as examples?
Musical Example: Josquin, Pange
lingua Mass, Kyrie
Musical Example: Josquin, Ave
Musical Example: Palestrina,
Pope Marcellus Mass, Agnus dei I
Renaissance secular music
Often love songs, women could sing them as well since they were not sung in church, but instead at court and in private homes for entertainment
Italian madrigals-sung in Italian by small groups of women and men
English madrigals-sung in English by small groups of women and men
French chansons-sung in French by small groups of women and men
Italian madrigals originated in Italy about 1520 during a time of creative explosion of Italian poetry.
After 1588 the idea of madrigals spread to England at a time when England was becoming the world’s superpower. This was the time of England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588), Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), and William Shakespeare (1564-1616), and was considered a golden age for music and literature in England.
What will we hear as an example?
Musical Example: Weelkes, "As Vesta Was from Latmos Hill Decending" An English madrigal with much word painting
music-mainly secular, and often used for dancing, but could
be meant for church performance as well; Renaissance instruments
were often built in families (soprano-alto-tenor-bass) called