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Illuminating Renaissance Obscurities

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Discuss about the Illuminating Renaissance Obscurities.



Music was an indispensable part of religious, civic, and courtly life in the Renaissance (1400-1600). The change and interchange of rich ideas in Europe, including political, economic, as well as, religious events led to the development of new music composing ideas and styles. Major changes were observed in the methods, styles, and composing of publicized music, distinct music genres, and the development of musical instruments. Composers moved away from biblical, numerical, complicated, academic and symbolism elitism into immediacy and simplicity for the mass enjoyment. Before the music was considered for the rich patrons of Northern Italian Court, but the new music was for masses to understand. The most important music that was composed in the early Renaissance was for the use of churches. Polyphonic Masses which was made from several simultaneous melodies and motets which were for the important churches and court chapels. However, by the end of the sixteenth-century patronage was divided into many areas like Protestant churches, Catholic churches, and courts.

This was the era which gave importance to the music instruments and the instrumental music. Instrumental music and instrument before this era were just a part of singing, but this era gave identification to the instrumental music, and it became famous. This essay throws light on the changes that happened, what were the reasons and how they happened. This will give an idea about the Renaissance music and the changes that took place in that time in the music and poetic taste of Northern Italian Courts.


The change that came in the Renaissance period

Vocal music was considered as the king of music before the Renaissance, but the instrumental music came to a rise in the 16th century. The composers of Renaissance period wrote music to vitalize the emotion and meaning of the text. They often referred musical representation of specific human emotions as a painting.  In the Renaissance period, most of the music was played and sung from memory of the performers, due to that little vocal music survived. Instrumental music was easy to change into notification and was kept safe in text form. This attracted performers towards the instrumental music. The Renaissance Courts of Northern Italy were the wealthiest and most sophisticated courts of Europe that attracted innovative performers and artists who created pieces of remarkable beauty. The performers used to come and perform in the courts which gave artists favourable contracts and social prestige. Their performance was displayed lavishly and given elite status. People with innovative music used to come and perform in the courts which increased the importance of instrumental music. Before Renaissance period the music was limited to the elite class only, but in the Renaissance period music became for masses. From churches, the music moved to the courts. For educated people, knowledge of music was considered important. It became a part of every household.

Renaissance means rebirth, and it is not wrong to say that this era gave rebirth to instrumental music. The statement is justified by Donald McComb and M Todd as they says that with the time the instrumental music began to survive in large quantities; especially the vocal works were transpired into instrumental forms for example, Buxheimer Orgelbuch (c.1450-c.1470). He also specifies that many instruments were brought into use in the Renaissance time like organ, harpsichord and clavichord that appeared in the 15th century, modern instruments like Alta Capella and Bassa Capella, and folk instruments like Shawns, Bagpipes, and Trumpets became common. The change was observed from the early Renaissance period as the famous writer John Aravosis says in his article that the performers and artists gradually dropped using the complex devices of isorhythm and extreme syncopation which resulted in more flowing and limpid style of music. He says that though the rhythmic complexity was lost from the music, it gained the rhythmic vitality, which developed as the prominent feature of mid-century. Next change was experienced in the middle of the Renaissance era that was between the years 1437-1564. According to Elroy Nazareth, with the end of the fifteenth century, once again complexity was found in the polyphonic sacred music. It was compared with the painting with stunning details in that time. Then again in the early 16th century a change was experienced, and simplification was found in the degrees of music. The late Renaissance era was the grandest and most impressive era for music. To justify it an article was published that states that the years 1534 to 1600, were the best years for Europe as an impressive style polychoral were developed that gave some of the sonorous and grandest music compositions of that time. This music composition spread all over the Europe in the coming years. A group of composers Roman School were found in the chapels and composed the church music in Rome. This group won a lot of fame during counter-reformation. This was the time when the intense emotional expression was given a form of music and song text. So over all the authors justify the change of music trend that took place in the Renaissance era.


Changes are an important aspect of all the approaches. Renaissance saw that how the music composers moved away from biblical, academic, numerical, symbolism elitism into immediacy and simplicity. The changes were enjoyed by the masses. The rebirth of classical Roman and Greek ideas gave composers newness and creativity through the variations in the music within the Motet, the chanson, and the cycle mass (Bevington 2012). Though difficulties were found when defining the beginning of the Renaissance, the clear definition included the birth or rebirth of music. Performers started using more and more instrument in their performance, as it was in the text form and easy to recognise, improvise, and rectify. The change that came in the style and trend that was being followed was the increase of reliance on the interval of the third as a consonance and it became one of the most pronounced features of early European art music in the Renaissance time. The music of Renaissance period and changes that took place in that time can be broadly divided into three sections (Brooks 2016). Those sections were the Early Renaissance music that happened in the year 1400-1467. The years of early Renaissance music saw a change in complexity. More simplified music was developed, and performers started giving importance to the instruments in the composition of the music. The second part was the mid-Renaissance period that was from 1467 to 1534. This was the time when the genre of scared music was in peak and music was performed in the churches and courts. This was also the time when music which was taken only for the elites was introduced to the masses. The compositions that were getting composed were for the masses (Bujic 2004). Though again a bit of complexity in the compositions was developed during this era, but again by the end of 15th-century, simplified complexity was found in the notation of music compositions. This was also the time when instruments became an important part of music. It found a new identity as the printing brought attraction towards it. The third part of the Renaissance music was the late Renaissance music era which was from 1534 to 1600 this was the time when music was at its best. Beautiful compositions were getting developed, and more and more talented performers busied themselves in creating grandest pieces of music using vocal and instruments.

The changes were not only limited to the use of instruments and development of the instrumental music. There was a change in style and trend of the music; the genres were different, and theory and notation also changed. The change in style and trend was that Polyphony which was in vogue in the 12th century again its publicity increased in the 15th century. It became the elaboration of highly independent voices. The modal characteristics of Renaissance music began to change and towards the end of the period it broke-down and the use of root motions of fifths increased. This turned to be the defining characteristics of the tonality. The genres used in the Renaissance period were the mass, the madrigal spiritual, he motet, and the laude. Secular music widely spread with a variety as printing made the distribution of music easy and made the survival of music easy. Frottola, chanson, and madrigal were the few voice forms that were included in the secular music. Along with them secular vocal genres included the canzonetta, the villanelle, the villotta, the villancio, and the lute songs. Purely instrumental music was recorded and included consort music, other instruments, and dances. The common genres were the ricecar, intabulation, the toccata, the canzone, and the prelude. When used for dance the instrumental ensembles might play a pravane, a basse danse, an allemande, a galliard, or a courante. Towards the end of the era, the monody, the intermedio, and the madrigal comedy were seen that was the dramatic precursors of opera. In theory and notation there were many changes that took place. The notations of the Renaissance period were under-perspective by the current standard. The translation of those notations in the modern form distorted the original openness of the notation. The compositions of the Renaissance era also saw the change and notation were done only in individual parts in which score were very rare, and the use of barlines was not there. These were the major changes that were found in the music in Renaissance period performed in the courts of northern Italy. The changes experienced were welcomed by the masses and music got a new definition in Renaissance era.


Every change that takes place is due to reason. Here also the reasons were there that brought major changes in the music of Renaissance period and made it the grandest era of music. The music was considered to be holy and very important for the educated people in the Pre-Renaissance era. It was basically for the churches and the elite as there were no way to keep the words safe. The performers used to perform through their memory or even improvise during the performance. It was not easy for everyone to understand the music performed and the relation was limited to the enjoyment. Instruments were not considered important, and they just acted as a part of the performance. When in the 15th-century printing was developed, the music notations especially the instrumental which was easy to change into notations started spreading widely.

Change in the use of instruments was found and instruments found, a new worth for themselves. When it started reaching the masses, more compositions started coming from talented composers and performers.Every composition was different from the regular ones, and the change continued. Performers stared earning a new status in the courts and music got new definition. Efforts were made to bring the best music out for performances, concerts, dances, and singing. The change that happened during the Renaissance period regarding the music, instruments, genres, notations, and style is regarded as the best change for the music. Though this is also true that medieval period does not survive due to the lack of resources to keep it safe and thus its grandeur is not experienced and researched by the historians, but the Renaissance music development has a unique place in the music history.

Renaissance music was a welcomed change in the music history. Though, this was also true that the previous music history was not kept as securely as the Renaissance music history. The Renaissance period gave a base to the music to develop and explore the new ideas and experiments. When the masses got included in the development, new ideas came into existence. Choices derived exploration and experimentation of music. The reflection of the Renaissance music can be seen in the present times also. When music moved from churched to courts, it gave a chance to masses to understand and love the music which was before out of their reach. It was still a sacred thing and considered to be holy and valued by the people. But the change was in the number of people that had access to the music. Few noted, and popular composers of the Renaissance era were Josquin desPrez, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Thomas Morley, Thomas Weelkes, Andrea Gabrieli, Carlo Gesualdo, Luca Marenzio, Girolamo Diruta, Thomas Robinson, and Arnold de Lantins. These were the few famous composers that performed in the courts of northern Italy and brought laurels to the music and the talent they had in them.



Music plays a very important role in everyone life. The music what is today was not yesterday, but it was beautiful in all the times. Renaissance period is known to be one of the grandest eras in the music history. Before Renaissance period the music was limited to the elites and riches, this era brought music out of the churches, and it entered the courts where it received new social prestige and position. Composers stared using instruments and instrumental music earned its position in the music genres. There were many changes that were experienced in the style and trend of music in the Renaissance period. The sacred-secular music became the genre of the music. The notions were changed and recoded with the help of newly developed printing machines. This not only helped in theorising the notations and keeping it safe but also able to spread the music to the wide number of people. It brought a mannerism in the music that was continued in the Baroque era. The courts welcomed the change in the music, and it was spread with their help all along the population. In the end, the essay concludes that it was the courts like Northern Italian Courts that gave the music a new platform to perform and develop. It gave it a chance to experiment and that resulted in the greatest era of music in the Music history that was the Renaissance Period. The change of the taste of music and poetry helped in bringing the instruments and instrumental music into formal existence.



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