Lesson 2: The Renaissance ( )

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1 Lesson 2: The Renaissance ( ) Remembering the Medieval Period Monasteries central to European culture, and Gregorian chant is center of monastic ritual. 13th. Century "Notre Dame School" writes counterpoint, weaving lines over the chant melody. Chant melody is always present as structural "bedrock" of composition. Counterpoint rules were somewhat gnarly. 4th, 5th, and 8ve were preferred consonances, some collision of lines. Two kinds of sacred music, the Mass and the Motet, which stands alone. Some secular music, esp. the troubadours. Beginning of the Renaissance Composers write counterpoint in a fuller, more harmonious style. Using thirds and sixths, with voices more thoroughly coordinated. We now have three possible textures: monophonic - one voice only, as in Gregorian chant. polyphonic - the combination of multiple voices that remain somewhat independent, creating a counterpoint homophonic - the combination of multiple voices so that they blend harmoniously in chords. Guillaume Dufay (c ) Dufay is the first great master of the Renaissance period. His greatest hit (meaning the piece that receives the most attention today) is the motet Nuper rosarum flores, which was written for the consecration of the Cathedral Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy in The piece is thought to be carefully designed to mimic the proportions of the cathedral with its famous dome, designed by Brunelleschi.

2 However, I'm going to play my personal favorite, Dufay's "paraphrase" of the chant hymn Alma Redemptoris Mater (II). Performed by Pomerium on Dufay: The Virgin and the Temple [Archiv]. John Dunstable (c ) and Gilles Binchois (ca ) are two more notable early Renaissance composers. The High Renaissance As we arrive at 1500 the technique of imitation has taken over sacred composition. This means that, rather than leaving one chant melody as a fixed bedrock that the other parts will freely swirl around, musical material is broken into short figures and distributed through all the parts. The same short idea cycles through each voice, transposed to different pitch levels, and thus the parts can be said to be imitating each other. The most successful composers of this time all originated from the same region, which was North of the main power centers in Italy and France. This was modern-day Northern France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and thus they are known as the Franco-Flemish generation of composers.

3 Josquin des Prez (c ) Josquin is the most celebrated figure of the Middle Renaissance. We will look at the Pange Lingua Mass, which is also featured in our book and CDs. Each movement in the mass is based on the Pange lingua Gregorian chant, a hymn for the Feast of Corpus Christi. Here it is in the traditional notation, plus a little bit in a more recognizable transcription. Listening to the chant melody. I ve got the score to the Kyrie movement of the mass, and we can compare the initial melody to the chant. Also, let s try to mark the patterns of imitation, both in the beginning and at the various points when a new idea appears. Listening to the Pange Lingua Mass: Kyrie, performed by The Tallis Scholars, Listen CD 1, Track 10. Josquin left behind a wealth of masses, motets, and secular pieces in French called chansons. Other notable composers from this generation include Johannes Ockeghem (ca ), Jacob Obrecht (1457/8 1505), Heinrich Isaac (ca ), Pierre de al Rue (ca ), and Adrian Willaert (ca ).

4 Late Renaissance The major event in sacred music of the late renaissance was the Counter-Reformation, which sought to purge overly-elaborate music from the church. Thus, late Renaissance music is written with simpler, clearer textures and fuller harmonies. Giovanni de Palestrina (1525/6 1594) is the most notable figure in this period, as he was in Rome at the time of the Council of Trent, and composed the Pope Marcellus Mass as a demonstration that polyphonic music could conform to the new desire for clarity and simplicity. His work was very well regarded in later generations, and it is considered to be the model for the discipline of counterpoint as we study it today. Other notable composers from this period include Roland de Lassus (c ), Tomás Luis de Victoria (c ), William Byrd ( ), and Thomas Tallis (c ). Madrigals Sacred music remained supremely important throughout the Renaissance, and most of the great composers focused primarily on work for the Church. However, if you ve ever participated in a chorus, it is likely that you ve sung another kind of Renaissance music, the secular madrigal. These are polyphonic works with texts in Italian, French, German, or English, which were composed to entertain the nobility at social functions. They developed during the Late Renaissance, from 1530 onwards. While some madrigals can sound quite serious this genre is capable of a wit and liveliness that is absent from church music.

5 Tone Painting Our anthology includes As Vesta Was from London Hill Descending, by Thomas Weelkes, and it calls particular attention to the practice of Tone Painting within. Tone Painting is simply an attempt to imitate the words in the text with music. The authors create a great chart highlighting passages in the Weelkes, and I ll reproduce it here. Listening to Weelkes, "As Vesta...", either performed by Consort of Musicke, Listen CD 1, Track 13, or performed by the King's Singers on DVD (Byrd to the Beatles). One More Piece: Thomas Tallis s Spem in Alium Tallis was a Late Renaissance English composer whose work is often particularly melancholy or intense. Spem in Alium is a particularly famous piece because it uses not the standard 4-6 vocal lines but rather 40 individual parts, which overlap in a massive, babbling ocean of sound. Listening to Tallis, "Spem in Alium," hopefully on DVD (King's Singers: Byrd to the Beatles). Or, off of a boring old CD.

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