Renaissance 1400 - 1600


The Sistine Chapel



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The word Renaissance in French means re-birth. Anything that makes big changes for the better is said to have gone through a Renaissance.

The Renaissance was a very exciting time throughout the World. It was a time of great explorers like Coumbus, Sir Frances Drake, Cortez and Magellan. There were great achievements in the arts with Michangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, and in science with Copernicus and Galileo. The great playright William Shakesphere was also from this time.

Sacred Music - the scared music of the Renaissance was a natural outgrowth of plainsong of the Middle Ages. The two voice polophony at the end of the Middle Ages led to four voices of equal importance called the Motet. Unlike the Middle Ages, the musi becomes more important than the words. Josquin de Pra and Giovanni Palestrina were the most famous composers of the style period.

Around 1500 many people broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. This era was called the Reformation. These Protestant churces had songs that were sung by the entire congretion rather than just the clergy or choir. The chorale style was the bases for many hymns still sung today.

Not all of the wealth belonged to the nobility in the Renaissance. There was a middle class that emerged as people moved to cities and attended plays and concerts. This middle class had more time for leasure. Music was part of a good education. Because of printing presses music was avaiable to everyone. By 1600 popuar music was available all across Europe and the middle class learned to play instruments from method books.

Secular Music- Madrigals were songs for small groups of singers without instruements. This was the most popular form of secular music. King Henry VIII of Engand was a fan of madrigals, and had them sung at feasts and weddings. Usually about love, madrigals became an important part of special occasions. They usually had verses with refrains like many songs of today.

Instrumental Music - Composers began to write polyphonic pieces just for instruments. These were used for ballroom dancing. Recorders and viols of many sizes played together to form consorts. Some of the instrumets that were popular included the lute, viols and krummhorn. Sometimes voices and instruments were combined for variety.