UNIT2.Renaissance Music  

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1. Religious vocal music
2. Secular vocal music
3. Instrumental music


Renaissance is the polyphony and counterpoint eraera de la polifonía y el contrapunto. Voices achieve an elaborate independence throughout the 14th century. The importance of the interval of the third as a consonance is one of the most pronounced characteristics of Renaissance European music as well. The lyrics are very important and the musicians try to reflect the meaning of the text as best as they could.

1.     Religious vocal music

Religious music in the Renaissance period achieved an international character. The main composers travelled and worked throughout Europe.

The most important composers of religious vocal genres were Josquin des Prez, Orlando di Lasso, Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina, and Cristobal de Morales, Francisco Guerrero and Tomás Luis de Victoria from Spain.

2.     Secular vocal music

Secular vocal music style is associated with the different national styles. Principal secular vocal genres included the madrigal and the chanson.

In a madrigal the number of voices varies from two to eight. It’s written in Italian and normally the lyrics are about love. Marenzio and Gesualdo were important composers of madrigals. A chanson is a piece of music with lyrics in French. In general, chansons are easier than madrigals.
The most important characteristic of a madrigal or a chanson is the relationship between text and music: the music is a reflection of the text.la música es un reflejo del texto


Il bianco e dolce cigno
cantando more, ed io
piangendo giung' al fin del viver mio.
Stran' e diversa sorte,
ch'ei more sconsolato
ed io moro beato.
Morte che nel morire
m'empie di gioia tutto e di desire.
Se nel morir, altro dolor non sento,
di mille mort' il di sarei contento.


The white and sweet swan
dies singing, and I,
weeping, reach the end of my life.
Strange and different fate,
that he dies disconsolate
and I die a blessed death,
which in dying fills me
full of joy and desire.
If in dying, were I to feel no other pain,
I would be content to die a thousand deaths a day.


El blanco y dulce cisne
cantando muere, y yo
llorando alcanzo el fin de mi vida.
Extraña y distinta suerte,
que él muere desconsolado
y yo muero bendito.
Muerte que en el morir
me llena de alegría y de deseo.
Si en el morir no siento otro dolor,
de mil muertes al día estaré contento.

3.     Instrumental music

The need to group instruments by family, as we know them today, began in the Renaissance. However, the concept of the orchestra as we know it didn’t exist yet. How, then, did they group instruments to play? Basically, in two ways:

a) By families; to obtain a full and homogeneous instrumental sound, they began to construct families of instruments; that’s to say, they grouped the same instruments that had different sizes together.

b) As a function of their power or intensity of sound; we have a group of high music instruments for the most powerful instruments, like wind and percussion instruments (which are suitableapropiado to play in outdoor celebrations), and also a group of low music instruments for the weaker or softer sounds, like strings (appropriate for indoor and more intimate environments).

Purely instrumental music included consort music for recorder or viol and other instruments. A consort is an ensemble of different instruments that could be broken consort (if there are instruments from different families), or whole consorts (if all the instruments were from the same family). Common genres were toccata, prelude, ricercar, canzona and, for sure, dances (basse danse, pavane, galliard, saltarelo allemande, courante, etc). Variation was one of the most important techniques of the composers and players. In Spain, we called them diferencias.
The main brass instruments in the Renaissance were the cornet, the trumpet and the sackbut. In the woodwind family we could find recorders and traverse flutes.
The string family was used in many circumstances, both sacred and secular. A few members of this family include viol, lyre, lute and harpsichord.
Some Renaissance percussion instruments include the triangle, the tambourine, the bells and various kinds of drums.
In different zones of Europe, there were different specific styles of instruments. In Spain, they developed an important school of vihuela, with composers like Narvárez o Luys de Milán.

The vihuela

Pavana and Gallarda

World music: Chinese music

The music in Asia which includes China, Japan or Korea is very similar but the most influential is Chinese music.
Chinese people have protected their culture for a long time and they have old traditions where the music is a focal pointpunto central with unique characteristics.
One of the important elements is the absence of harmony which makes music stagnantestática. The rhythm is regular and they normally use 2/4 and 4/4 measures. They compose their melodies using a five sound scale (pentatonic scale). The instruments that they use creates a very particular sound, especially their string family (pipa, guzheng or erhu). Also they play modern instruments which is producing a progressive westernization of the Chinese music.


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