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Music in The Renaissance (1450-1600). Music before 1750 Dr. Amante Community College of Rhode Island. Renaissance time line. 1450-1500 Josquin Desprez: Ave Maria…Virgo Serena (c. 1475) Arts and letters: Botticelli, La Primavera (1477) Historical events:

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music in the renaissance 1450 1600

Music in The Renaissance (1450-1600)

Music before 1750

Dr. Amante

Community College of Rhode Island

renaissance time line
Renaissance time line


  • Josquin Desprez:

Ave Maria…Virgo Serena (c. 1475)

    • Arts and letters: Botticelli, La Primavera (1477)
    • Historical events:
      • Fall of Constantinople (1453)
      • Gutenberg Bible (1456)
      • Columbus reaches America (1492)
renaissance time line3
Renaissance time line


  • Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina:

Pope Marcellus Mass (1563)

    • Leonardo Da Vinci, Mona Lisa (c. 1503)
    • Michelangelo, David (1504)
    • Raphael, School of Athens


    • Titan, Venus and the Lute Player

(c. 1570)

renaissance time line4
Renaissance time line


  • Thomas Weelkes: As Vesta Was Descending (1601)
    • Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (1596)
    • Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses, start of the Reformation (1517)
    • Council of Trent (1545-63)
    • Elizabeth I, queen of England (1558-1603)
    • Spanish Armada defeated (1588)
the renaissance
The Renaissance
  • Rebirth, or renaissance of human creativity
  • Period of exploration and adventure (Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan)
  • Curiosity and individualism (Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci). Interest in realism
  • Humanism
  • Catholic Church is less powerful than during Middle Ages – Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation
  • More books are printed in Europe
music in the renaissance 1450 16006
Music in the Renaissance 1450-1600
  • Every educated person is expected to be trained in music
  • Renaissance town musicians: higher pay and status
  • Flemish composers: parts of the Netherlands, Belgium, and northern France. Germany, England and Spain – other countries with a vibrant musical life
characteristics of renaissance music
Characteristics of Renaissance music

Words and music

  • Vocal music is more important than instrumental
  • Music enhances the meaning and emotion of the text. Word painting: musical representation of specific poetic images
  • Moderate, balanced way of expression: no extreme contrasts of dynamics, tone color or rhythm
characteristics of renaissance music8
Characteristics of Renaissance music


  • Chiefly polyphonic. 4, 5 or 6 voice parts with equal melodic interest
  • Imitation is common
  • Homophonic texture is also used
  • Fuller sound than medieval: bass register
  • Mild and relaxed: consonant chords.
  • Golden age of a cappella
characteristics of renaissance music9
Characteristics of Renaissance music

Rhythm and melody

  • Rhythm is a gentle flow: Each melodic line has great rhythmic independence
  • Melody usually moves along a scale with few large leaps
sacred music in the renaissance
Sacred music in the Renaissance

2 main forms: Motet and Mass

  • Motet – polyphonic choral work set to sacred Latin text other than the ordinary of the mass
  • Mass – polyphonic choral work with 5 sections:
    • Kyrie
    • Gloria
    • Credo
    • Sanctus
    • Agnus Dei
josquin desprez 1440 1521 and the motet
Josquin Desprez (1440-1521) and the Motet
  • A Flemish composer from Belgium, contemporary of Leonardo Da Vinci and Columbus
  • Ave Maria…virgo serena: 4-voice motet
  • Texture is varied: polyphonic and homophonic
  • Duple/triple meter change
palestrina 1525 1594 and the mass
Palestrina (1525-1594)and the Mass
  • Italian Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
  • 104 masses and some 450 other sacred works
  • For centuries, his masses are regarded as models of church music
palestrina s pope marcellus mass
Palestrina’s Pope Marcellus Mass
  • A capella choir SATTBB
  • Kyrie – 1st section of the mass:

Kyrie Eleison

Christe Eleison

Kyrie Eleison

secular music
Secular music
  • Vocal music: groups of solo voices with the accompaniment. Word painting was common
  • Madrigal – a piece for several solo voices set to a short poem, usually about love. Combines homophonic and polyphonic textures. More unusual harmonies
  • Originated in Italy around 1520. Became popular in England. English madrigals are lighter and more humorous than Italian
  • As Vesta Was Descending by Thomas Weelkes (1575-1623), and organist and church composer
the renaissance ballet fa la
The Renaissance Ballet (Fa-La)
  • A simpler type of secular vocal music
  • A dance-like song for several voices
  • Mostly homophonic in structure. Fa-la syllables are used as refrain
  • Now Is the Month of Maying (1595) by Thomas Morley (1557-1603), English composer
  • Each stanza:

AA – refrain – BB - refrain

instrumental music
Instrumental music
  • Instrumental music becomes more independent
  • Most music is for dance:
    • Pavane or passamezzo– duple meter
    • Galliard – triple meter
  • Harpsichord, organ, lute, recorder, trumpet, cornett, sackbut (early trombone), viol, regal (small organ with reed pipes), shawm (ancestor of the oboe)
  • Instrumental form of theme and variations
the venetian school from renaissance to baroque
The Venetian School: from Renaissance to Baroque
  • 16th century Venice – a center of instrumental and vocal music
  • Venetian School – music directors and organists of St. Mark’s Cathedral and their colleagues
giovanni gabrieli 1555 1612 and the polychoral motet
Giovanni Gabrieli (1555-1612)and the polychoral motet
  • The most important Venetian composer of the late Renaissance before Monteverdi
  • Polychoral motets – motets for 2 or more choirs, often with instrumentalists
  • Plaudite (Clap Your Hands), 1597. Written for a large vocal and instrumental ensemble of 12 voice parts divided into 3 choirs: low, middle and high register choirs
  • The homophonic structure of this piece brings it closer to Baroque style