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History Of Music

The Renaissance

Course Outline
About your Teacher
Musical Links
Introduction to the Class
What is Classical Music?
Elements of Music
The Middle Ages
The Renaissance
The Baroque
Take home Work
The Classicism
The Romanticism
Contact Me

History, Music and Arts

 Renaissance: (1450-1600)


The Renaissance may be describe as an age of Curiosity and individualism, Exploration and Adventure, The rebirth of human creativity.


-The Renaissance is the time of the Humanism. The intellectual movement called humanism focused on human life and its accomplishments. The humanists were captivated by cultures of ancient Greece and Rome. The humanist treated the Virgin Mary as a beautiful woman.


Many prominent Renaissance composers, who held important posts all over Europe, came from Flanders.


Due to the lost of power of the church and the new humanistic ideas, musical activity gradually shifted from the church to the court. Education was considered a status symbol by aristocrats and the upper middle class. Also, every educated person was expected to be trained in music.


Musically, the Renaissance period is sometimes called the golden age of  a capella choral music because the music did not need instrumental accompaniment. The texture of the Renaissance music is chiefly polyphonic. Renaissance composers often used  word painting, a musical representation of specific poetic images.

Certain elements made Renaissance music sounds fuller than medieval music:

            -Composers considered the harmonic effect of chords rather than superimposing one melody above another.

            -Typical choral pieces have four, five, or six voices parts of nearly equal melodic interest.

            -The bass register is used for the first time.

            -Renaissance melodies are usually


A Capella: refers to unaccompanied choral music.





The two main Forms of sacred Renaissance Music are the mass and the motet

            The Motet is a polyphonic choral work set to a sacred Latin text other than the ordinary of the mass.


Josquin Desprez:

            -He spent most of his life in Italy

            -Josquin Desprez  was a contemporary of Christopher Columbus.

            -Josquins composition strongly influenced other composers, and were enthusiastically praised by music lovers.

            -Josquins compositions include masses, motets, and secular vocal pieces.

            -In his works , like for example Ave MariaVirgo Serena, Desprez uses polyphonic imitation, a technique typical of the period.


Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina:

            -His career centered in Rome

            -His music includes 104 masses and some 450 other sacred works

            His Pope Marcellus Mass sounds fuller than Josquins Ave Maria because it is set for six voices instead of four.



The Council of Trent attacked the church music of the Renaissance because it used secular tunes, noisy instruments, and theatrical singing. As a result of the deliberations of the Council of Trent, an attempt was made to purify Catholic Church music.



-Renaissance secular vocal music was written for groups of solo voices and for solo voice with instrumental accompaniment.

-Secular music contained more rapid changes of mood than sacred music.

-A wealth of dance music published during the sixteenth century has survived.   


The Madrigal:

            -Is a vocal composition that combines homophonic and polyphonic textures.

            -The madrigal is a piece for several voices set to a short poem, usually about love.

            -The Renaissance Madrigal began around 1520 in Italy.

-It differs from the motet in that it uses a vernacular rather than latin text.

It also differs from the motet in its often use of word painting and unusual harmonies.

-The development of the English Madrigal can be traced to 1588 and considered a result of the publication in London of a volume of translated Italian madrigals.

-The Madrigal anthology The Triumphes of Oriana was written in honor of Queen Elizabeth I

-Thomas Weelkess As Vesta Was Descending is notable for its word painting.



            -Much of the instrumental music composed during the Renaissance was intended for dancing.

            -Lute: A versatile plucked string instrument with a body shaped like half a pear, was popular during the Renaissance.

            -Terpsichore: A collection of over 300 dance tunes, arranged for instrumental ensemble by Michael Praetorius

            -Passamezzo: Is a stately dance in duple meter, similar to the Pavane