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The Renaissance was a majestic period characterized by a vivid revival of art and music. Musicians and artists of that age created and played music that contrasted with the notes of the Medieval times because of the impact of classical examples from Ancient Rome and Greece. Various investigations indicate that the music of the Middle Ages was more rigorous, while the music of the Renaissance, due to its prevailing ideology, was prosperous and displayed both individualism and distinctions with regard to artistic expression. This essay presents the features and influence of music in the Renaissance.
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The influence of humanism on Renaissance music
At the outset, it should be noted that humanism is a philosophical concept that denotes the responsibility and capacity of a person to conduct an ethical life, to be free and to strive for the benefit of oneself and all mankind. This philosophy is based on empathy and hope, and is further encouraged by art. In addition, it is grounded in the sciences and has a justification rooted in the inherent value of and faith in the human being. In the past, during the Middle Ages, social and political power belonged to the Catholic Church, which had an impact on music, which was performed primarily on sacred themes. However, the absence of the supernatural, inherent in humanism, encouraged the discovery, cultivation, and appreciation of the culture and practices of humankind through the use of scientific techniques and an emphasis on intellect and rationality.
Development of music with the spread of contemporary ideas
The Renaissance was marked by church music, which was counterpoint and had a polyphonic structure. The choral polyphonic church music typically consisted of monophonic and homophonic movements and was intended to be performed without any instruments. In addition to church music, artists of this period also played and recorded secular notes. Previously, even before the pre-Renaissance era, music was limited, with no humanistic touch that would capture the attention of the audience and affect the hearts of listeners. Humanism turned the music of the Renaissance from the disappointing music of the Middle Ages to one that was beautiful and filled with rhetorical eloquence. The musical stylistic transformations of this music arose from the musical humanism that manifested itself in the way composers skillfully linked music and words.
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Furthermore, humanism gave rise to imitative countermovement in Renaissance music. This was an art that was spread by Burgundian and French musicians. In contrast to church music, which was rigorous in its manifestations, humanism made room for the use of identical note combinations in music. Another noteworthy fact is that it influenced church music by altering the manner in which songs of glorification and adoration were performed in church. The influence of the reformation from humanism extended from the breakaway movements of the church, which contained Calvinism, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism to the Roman Catholic Church, which was headed by the German priest Martin Luther, who accomplished reforms in music. In the end, simpler tunes appeared in the Catholic Church. In addition, as noted earlier, church music in the Renaissance was predominantly a cappella. Thanks to humanism, the church started introducing musical instruments. By the mid-1500s, the presence of the organ, keyboard tools such as the harpsichord and clavichord, and wind instruments became crucial. What’s more, the lute was widely employed to provide accompaniment to instrumental music and singing.
Vivid forms of music of the Renaissance
It is essential to mention that secular music of the Renaissance was classified into two groups: instrumental and vocal. The representatives of secular vocal music were madrigals. They were performed in a cappella. In contrast, Italian madrigals were more refined than English ones from the perspective of the intellectual poesy that manifested itself in their sublime metaphors. English madrigals were based on the syllables “fa-la”. An instance of secular vocal music was John Farmer madrigal called Fair Phyllis, which consisted of a cappella and polyphonic compositions that alternated between polyphony and homophony. Instrumental secular music consisted of the traditional dance style. The dance, which was performed during performances at courts, involved the use of complicated moves. An example of dance music is Michael Praetorius called The Three Dances from Terpsichore.
Church music in the Renaissance was balanced and sophisticated in composition. It was composed of mass and motets. The motet was considered sacred and consisted of five parts: Agnus Dei, Sanctus, Credo, Gloria, and Kyrie. One of the most prominent authors of church music in the Renaissance was Palestrina. An excellent sample of a motet is the Ave Maria performed by Josquin des Prez. Church music of the Renaissance was produced at the courts of the nobility, in academies, churches, and private homes. It was inscribed in Latin to religious narratives. Both church and secular music were exceptional in the way that musicians and artists of that time created and played music distinct from medieval music, and showed individualism and artistic expression.