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Renaissance Music. (1450-1600). Early and High Renaissance (1450-1530). Introduction Definition: rebirth or revival, a restoration of vitality after a time of decline.

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Renaissance Music


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Early and High Renaissance(1450-1530)

  • Introduction

    • Definition: rebirth or revival, a restoration of vitality after a time of decline.

    • Process of Rebirth: turned from austere medieval thought with its emphasis on religious authoritarianism to an emphasis on the pleasure of the senses (modeled in classical Greece and Rome).

    • Humanism: an attitude placing human dignity and humane values foremost.

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Florence: Lorenzo Medici

Ferrara: Ercole Este

Milan: Ludovico Sforza

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Magellan’s Voyages

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Drake’s West

Indian Voyage




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Copernicus’ Universe


95 Theses

Martin Luther

Huldrych Zwingli

John Calvin

Henry VIII

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  • Catholic Counter-Reformation

    • a movement within the Catholic Church to reform itself in the wake of the Protestant Reformation

    • Palestrina’s compositions became the musical model

  • Monarchs


And Isabella

Phillip II

Henry VIII

Elizabeth I

Charles V

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  • Inventions

    • Printing press: Chinese, Johannes Gutenberg

    • Clear glass and mirror

    • Table fork


Printing Press

Gutenberg Bible

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  • The Visual Arts

    • Architecture

      • Return to Greek and Roman models

      • Movement away from Gothic pointed arches, flying buttresses and ribbed vaulting



Brunelleschi’s Florence Cathedral

Bramante – St. Peter

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St. Denis - Paris

St. Mark’s - Venice

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  • Sculpture

    • Important in the early and high Renaissance

    • Movement toward portraying the body as though it were made of real muscle and bone



Donatello - David

Michelangelo - David

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  • Painting

    • While Medieval artists represented their ideas as symbols, Renaissance painters aimed for realism.

    • Medieval painters gave us stereotypes; Renaissance, individual people.

    • Medieval artists organized space in succeeding planes; Renaissance artists gave depth and perspective.

    • Leonardo da Vinci

The Last Supper

Mona Lisa

Da Vinci

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Raphael - Parnassus

Raphael - Parnassus


Sistine Chapel


Michelangelo – Creation of Adam

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  • Literature

    • England: Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe

    • France: Clement Marot, Pierre de Ronsard

    • Italy: commedia dell’arte




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  • Music in the Renaissance

    • Style

      • Unlike visual arts, no extant Greek and Roman music models

      • What they did know from the past was in two areas:

        • stories of music’s compelling effects (Doctrine of Ethos)

        • Greek descriptions of their scales and modes

    • Renaissance culture permeated with music

    • Musical Genres

      • Vocal: Mass, motet, madrigal, chansons, chorale, anthem, hymn

      • Instrumental: dances, ricercar, chaconne

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  • Musical Elements

    • Melody: small ranges, “updated” chant

    • Harmony: modal (early) to tonal (late), emergence of the triad

    • Rhythm: steady (metered), dance rhythms (instrumental)

    • Texture: Age of vocal polyphony; alternated homophony and polyphony (late Renaissance)

    • Timbre: vocal and instrumental

    • Form: binary (dances)

    • Dynamics: blocked

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  • Composers

    • Early Renaissance: Guillaume Dufay (c.1400-1474)

      • Sound Hallmark: Burgundian consonant sound (3rds, 6ths), fauxbourdon

      • Kyrie

      • Gloria

      • Credo

    • High Renaissance : Josquin des Prez (c. 1440-1521)

      • Sound Hallmark: imitative polyphony; balance, purity, control and clarity; integrity of the text and unstressed dissonance

      • Ave Maria


Des Prez

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Late Renaissance(1530-1600)

  • Style

    • Overview of Early and High Renaissance

      • Early: clear melodies, sharply defined rhythms, fauxbourdon - use of 3rds and 6ths

      • High: balance, purity, control and clarity, integrity of the text, unstressed dissonance, imitative polyphony

    • Late Renaissance

      • composer reveals a desire to create an emotional response in the listener

      • composer offers a more sensuous, sonorous experience(i.e. consonant harmonies )

      • Textures increased from 3 or 4 to 5 or 6 voices

      • Antiphonal choirs or instrumental groups were common

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  • Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525-1594)

    • universally acknowledged Renaissance master

    • Most of his life was in the service of the church

    • first Renaissance composer whose entire work was published as a complete edition

    • Created an exemplary style of church music (counter reformation model)

    • Kyrie from Pope Marcellus Mass


Pope Marcellus Mass

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  • Madrigal

    • new Italian polyphonic, secular, a capella vocal genre

    • late Renaissance’s entertainment music

    • rapidly spread north to England, France and the Netherlands

    • Madrigal texts offered unique opportunities for composers to aptly fit the music to the text – text painting, called madrigalism

    • Thomas Morley (c. 1557-1602)

      • Now is the Month of Maying

    • Thomas Weelkes (c. 1575-1623)

      • As Vesta was from Latmos Hill Descending

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  • Instrumental Music

    • subordinate to vocal music ; yet growing greatly

    • first body of solely instrumental music originates within the Renaissance

    • instruments mostly doubled the vocal parts

    • In solely instrumental music, the instruments usually played together as families

    • Instrumental Families

      • String : viol family, lute

      • Woodwind : transverse flute, recorder

      • Double Reed : shawm (ancestor of the oboe, bassoon, English horn); crumhorn (reed in the mouthpiece)

      • Brass : cornets (trumpets), sackbutt (trombone)

      • Percussion : tambour (hand drum), tamborine, finger cymbals

      • Keyboard : organ, harpsichord

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  • viol family, lute, harp




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  • transverse flute, recorder, shawm, crumhorn

Flute Family

Recorder Family



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  • cornets (trumpets), sackbut (trombone), serpent (baritone)




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  • tambour (hand drum), tamborine, finger cymbals

Tabor and Pipe


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  • organ, harpsichord, virginal

Table Organs



Organ, Germany, 1425

Organ, Switzerland, 1435

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