Monday, February 28, 2011

Renaissance Music

Renaissance music is European music written during the Renaissance. Defining the beginning of the musical era is difficult, given the gradually adopted "Renaissance" characteristics: musicologists have placed its beginnings from as early as 1300 to as late as the 1470s.
The growing emphasis on individualism during the Renaissance began a change of status for composers of music in society. Unlike their medieval predecessors, Renaissance composers were recognized more often during their lifetimes. The technology of printing permitted a much wider distribution of their works and enabled a larger public into the study of music. 
Even when spiritual music was still in a dominant position, secular music was becoming more common and its forms more cultivated than in the previous era. The repertoire of instrumental music became more varied, along with the invention of new instruments - such as the clavichord and the virginal (a keyed instrument resembling the harpsichord) - and many of the instruments of the period were improved. 
Masses and motels were the main forms of the spiritual vocal polyphony. Secular vocal forms included motets, madrigals, and songs (mostly accompanied by the lute or a small orchetra). Instrumental works were largely short polyphonies, or dancing music.


In comparison with medieval music, Renaissance harmony was more unrestrained and more expressive - the period between Josquin Deprez and Palestrina is known as "the golden age of polyphony." Imitation - where one musical line shares or imitates the same musical theme of the preceeding line - became an important polyphonic technique. Imitation was used to introduce complexitities by simpler means and at the same time give listeners the ability to perceive the structureof the composition. Polyphonic imitation can be heard in the masses and motets of practically all the composers beginning with Desprez, and in the instrumantal music of William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, and Andrea and Giovanni Gabrielli.